Daisy's New Enclosure

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Tom

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This is a very hot, sunny part of the ranch. Great in the winter, but darn hot in the summer. I wanted to give her all the benefits of a burrow, but without all the substantial risks. Here is what I see as potentially dangerous with "natural" burrows: They can flood or collapse. They are too cold most of the year here. And once a sulcata is down a burrow, even a few feet, there is no access to them. However, the benefits of a burrow are substantial. Very stable temps all year. Good humidity. Simulates what they would do in nature and, this is just a guess, I'm certain that they "like" the security of being underground. So I set out to design and build something that would give me the benefits of a burrow, but none of the risks. This one is my third attempt. The first was a small in ground, but level with the surface, prototype that has been in use for about a year now. The second is in my Tegu cage and it is working better than I could have ever hoped for. Since the Tegu hibernates and prefers cooler underground temps, I used no electricity or heat of any kind in Clyde's burrow. I wanted the ability to control the temp in this burrow and the pics will show the result.

This is the "Before" shot.
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Here are my friends Gus and Cory "breaking ground" for me.
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Getting closer.
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Here's the box.
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The Hole.
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The electrical stuff. I've got an outlet, so I can change things around or add an "appliance" if I need to. I've got a thermostat. And I've got a 60 watt, 20 year old, Pearlco in a ceramic fixture. The lamp fixture is mounted with bailing wire to those metal strips and there is an 18x24" metal heat shield on the wooden roof above the fixture.
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Here's the box with 8' tunnel attached and partially buried.
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Top in place now.
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Here's me inside making sure the silicon is all good inside. I sealed the whole box and every joint with silicone.
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This is a tortoise eye view, looking down the tunnel.
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This one show's the total depth of the box. I'm standing on the ground here.
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Here's another wide shot of the whole thing coming together.
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This one shows the above ground chamber/rain cover in place before burying. It also shows the "shade table" I built to cover her water pan. This area is in full sun from sun up 'til sun down.
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Here's what the inside of the cover looks like.
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Finally finished.
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Wide view.
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Other side.
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Daisy partaking.
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I let it sit there unplugged for a couple of days and the temp stabilized at 72. I decided to bump it up just a little to 75. I have an electrical appliance meter inline that measures how much electricity is used. After three weeks of maintaining a temp of 75 in a 4x4x2' underground box, I've spent a whopping .42 cents. And that's on CA's ridiculously high rates. The temp is completely stable down there. We've had nights in the low 40's and days over 100 and it just stays 75 ALL of the time. Humidity is stable at 71%, but that is easy to increase, if I wanted to.

Now I just need to find some sort of plants that won't fry in that spot to give some shade and make it look a little nicer.

Daisy took a couple of weeks to learn to go down the hole every night, but she's got it now. I had to put her in there and block the entrance every night for two weeks.

So collapse, flood and cold are all fixed, and through my portal, I have access to her anytime I need it. At the same time, she gets warm winter nights, cool summer days, and I don't have to carry her in and out every day.:D Hope y'all like it.
 

dmmj

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Looks nice but are you concerned about daisy knocking over the brick walls, it does not look like it is cemented or anything like that.
 

ascott

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Very nice Tom.....The tunnel is perfect length/width/depth...awesome.

Tom, I have one thing that I am going to throw out there simply as a friendly sharing, given from my past experience in building these types of structures.

I use to work at a park/wildlife area. In that area my prior supervisor had two CDT's (both of which I now host as he has moved out of state) and decided that it would be fun to have them at the park for people to see our state reptile..so we set out to build our first 24/7 habitat for two male tortoises (as one was obviously the leader and the other one really did not care--so we thought, later is when I realized what bullies they can be without ever a sign to the human eye, but that's another thread)

so the two of us dug down 5 feet below ground level and dug out about 4 foot wide by 3 feet front to back and a tunnel that ran the length of about 5 feet right into the "sleeping quarters" then we shored up all of the earthen walls with 6x6x4 posts narrowing the entrance to the same width as the tunnel which was approx 2 feet wide..then once all sleeping quarters and tunnel walls were shored up we then layed 3/4 plywood (untreated as it is illegal to build or put in contact with CDT any treated wood) across the sleeping quarters then a layer of 1/4 " aluminum sheets to assure water would not rot through the wood then over the aluminum another 3/4 plywood as well as the same all the way up the tunnel ceiling...then we proceeded to bring in all dug out dirt and cover the entire structure....well it held up well...now this entire structure was located in what later we realized was a higher mix of sand than viable soil, which helped to keep the rodents out( but the older tortoise ended up impacted again another thread, wait..I think I already shared that story)

Now, when I did similar structure at my house ( clay type soil, compacts really well, but gets a little soft when saturated with a week of nonstop rain...the problem that I ran into Tom and the part I am sharing is that I never thought about gophers at my house, that was until the first CDT burrow I made similar to yours (open bottom) was invaded by gophers and they completely backfilled the tortoise out solid...from the inside out.....then the next tortoise that this happen to was done during the end of winter, the gophers filled in the burrow completely around the tortoise while he slept...I mean near solid pack. The worst part of this happening is that unless you know it can happen, unless you can somehow reach the tortoise you would never know it was happening until you get a weird feeling...which is what I got, don't know why but just did...luckily the first time it happened was right after the tortoise came out from winter sleep and the second one it happen to I had to dig him out in the cold and thought I was on a recovery mission vs rescue. The gophers are fast too (as they don't sleep during the winter) I realized that the first burrow to have been back filled had to have happened within 1-2 days...the second time it happened was less than one day --as I checked into his burrow opening every day because of prior experience...and that I believe was the reason I was able to rescue Ghamara was because I looked in on his everyday, rain or shine...so that was my sharing...I am not saying this WILL happen to you but just mention as a heads up....I LOVE YOUR BURROW STRUCTURE, Fancy:p

The sand while bad aided in the fact that it is not good for digging a burrow that will be sound in structure but is really bad for impaction if ingested.

The clay soil is fantastic in that it can be a great solid structure in the non rainy season. This is why Tom I have decided that since the weather the last two years has brought tremendous rainfall/desert flooding and then freezing temps I will block the entrance to my one guys self dug burrow come sept/oct so he can not get himself in for the winter and I will bring them all in to a winter box....the last two years were extremely harsh of them as well as extremely stressful on me...I am sorry that this was such a long post...really just needed to share this with you...I love the idea of a burrow/ I love the way they know exactly how to construct one but with our weather patterns changing as in the past couple of years I don't want to leave them in their in the winter months...
 

Tom

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Thanks for all that info. The soil here is sort of a mix and it changes layer by layer too. Some layers are sandier or rockier than others, but all the layers can hold a burrow. The gophers have been a problem in the past, but I have been VERY proactive this year. At any above ground sign of them the traps come out and so far not a single won has escaped me. I've got about 30 of them in my freezer. My lizards and snakes love them.

My prototype did get a ground squirrel in it last fall (he's in my freezer too), but that's why I build in the access portals on the tops of my enclosures. It is a good cautionary tale and I'll definitely keep an eye out for that problem.

About the sand impaction, I fill the bottoms of these enclosures with coco chips and I feed her off of a plate, except for what she grazes. How were the CDTs ingesting sand? This is a problem I would much rather AVOID than deal with.

Lastly, I too worry about our crazy weather lately. I tried to incorporate ANYTHING that could go wrong weather wise into these enclosures and burrows, but I always have an indoor back up plan, in case Mother Nature outsmarts me yet again.

Thanks for the input. Good stuff.
 

ascott

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Awesome recycle program with the snake food :) I am all for recycling anywhere it is beneficial....so if you want to come on over and collect more food from my yard....you are invited!!

We have that annoying layering ground as well...really a pain when trying to plant trees/large shrubs...the rate of success is for every 3 I plant I may get one that makes it....

The sand seemed to keep the rodents from burrowing but bad for the tortoises. One of the two males my prior boss had came to him with this small bump on the side of his head (very small) and his eyesight was poor (this tortoise is the one I have posted health updates after abscess removed from side of his head, Humphry)...so unbeknownst to him when Humphry would strike to get his food he was missing and taking in the sand...so combination of his eyesight being poor along with he did not feed on concrete/slate tiles set him up for the sand ingestion then impaction. But I worked it through, so to speak...TONS of soaks (like two a day for 4-5 weeks) and bite by bite (by hand) and daily shell rubs as this seemed to perk him up and seem to cause him to get up and be motivated...he finally stopped pooping sand balls...I mean perfectly round marble sized sand balls. I would walk into my office at the park and start yelling at everyone for tracking in sand:p (Humphry resided in my office for the entire nursing time..now he is living at my home/yard) then I came into work one day and found a PERFECT tortoise tootsie roll poo..I left that poo in view all day just to show everyone (i am sure I was more thrilled than anyone else:p)

My reference to the "open bottom" was regarding the gophers...but sounds like you have that in check...:D I use to blame the squirrels but quickly realized it was these huge gophers (they are biggins here, almost prairie dog size, pests) I was in my yard watching one of my tortoises just walking and grazing, there was a plant that I planted, near my foot, all of a sudden the plant started wiggling, which caught my attention, so as I watched it, it suddenly disappeared straight into the ground, seriously like a cartoon, that dang gopher snatched it from under ground...also did that to a dozen other plants...so now I use alot of seeds to get weeds etc going in the tortoise enclosures to give the buggers a run for their money (or mine?).

Well Tom, your burrow construction looks fantastic and so fancy with the electrical :) I am sure Daisy will enjoy it for years to come...great job!
 

Tom

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Thanks for the compliments. Here the gophers like to get under a new tree or plant or cactus and build an entire hollow chamber under the root ball, where they sit and eat all of the roots until there are none left, then they move on. I never realized how much damage they do. Now, every time we see a little gopher mound, the traps come out.
 

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Very Nice, As You Can Tell Alot of Hard Work Went Into It! The Tort Will Love It :)
 

Jacqui

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Tom, every time I see one of your threads on building a sulcata burrow, it comes to mind I should ask if you ever saw the ones another member in here made for his adults. For the life of me, as I sit writing this, I can't recall his name. He is from Iowa and has sulcata, alli snappers, homes hingebacks, and Egyptians. Maybe somebody else can recall his name, before it comes to me at some odd moment. :p

Any how, he used big cement culvert type pieces and made it too so he could get down inside the end of the tunnel. He's was very impressive and he did some great pictures showing the work in progress. Just thought I would ask now as I thought about it, if you ever saw his pictures.
 

Tom

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That doesn't ring a bell, but I would sure like to see it. I'm trying to figure out how to do this on a much larger scale for the adults. So far cinderblocks seem like the way to go, but I'd love to see some other examples.

Most of what I do is inspired by others who have done something similar. Tyler Stewart is the one who really got me thinking underground with his sprinkler boxes in Vegas. I just built upon that idea.
 

dmmj

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In regards to plants are you looking for shade plants or just plants in general? because as you probably know cactus would probably do good there but they don't really provide much shade.
 

Kristina

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Jacqui said:
Tom, every time I see one of your threads on building a sulcata burrow, it comes to mind I should ask if you ever saw the ones another member in here made for his adults. For the life of me, as I sit writing this, I can't recall his name. He is from Iowa and has sulcata, alli snappers, homes hingebacks, and Egyptians. Maybe somebody else can recall his name, before it comes to me at some odd moment. :p

Any how, he used big cement culvert type pieces and made it too so he could get down inside the end of the tunnel. He's was very impressive and he did some great pictures showing the work in progress. Just thought I would ask now as I thought about it, if you ever saw his pictures.

Larry? (Itort)
 

Tom

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dmmj said:
In regards to plants are you looking for shade plants or just plants in general? because as you probably know cactus would probably do good there but they don't really provide much shade.

That is a great are to grow cactus. I'll probably put the ones in the pots pictured there on the hill side, but I have to surround them with blocks or wire so she won't eat them. I was thinking of a bush of some sort for down on the open area. I pplan to go ask an "expert" at a local nursery what kind of bush will survive out here in the heat and dryness, in full on scorching sun all day. I might do a free standing grape vine trellis. Shade and food in the summer and no shade in the much cooler winters.
 

dmmj

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I saw cory there, is that what happens when people visit you? you put them to work? :)
 

Tom

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dmmj said:
I saw cory there, is that what happens when people visit you? you put them to work? :)

Yeah. Wanna come "visit"? I just put a new popper on the end of my whip and I need someone to break it in on.

I need to bury my monitor lizard's box too. Don't worry. I provide the shovels and some bread and water, if you do a good job. Gus and Cory dug a 4x4x3' deep hole in an hour. Gus got a slice of bread for that. Cory got water only for too much talking during the job.
 
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Maggie Cummings

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Wow, that is very impressive and the secondary advice is equally impressive...thanks ever so...
 

Yvonne G

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Anything you plant will have to be watered pretty good the first year until it gets established, but I was thinking along the lines of a mulberry tree. If you plant it outside the pen, on the west side, you can water it a lot and it wouldn't get too wet at the burrow. Mulberry trees grow very large and provide great shade. My rain forest is shaded mainly by a big mulberry tree.
 

Jacqui

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Kristina said:
Jacqui said:
Tom, every time I see one of your threads on building a sulcata burrow, it comes to mind I should ask if you ever saw the ones another member in here made for his adults. For the life of me, as I sit writing this, I can't recall his name. He is from Iowa and has sulcata, alli snappers, homes hingebacks, and Egyptians. Maybe somebody else can recall his name, before it comes to me at some odd moment. :p

Any how, he used big cement culvert type pieces and made it too so he could get down inside the end of the tunnel. He's was very impressive and he did some great pictures showing the work in progress. Just thought I would ask now as I thought about it, if you ever saw his pictures.

Larry? (Itort)

Nopers, not him.
 
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