Do you regret not going bigger?

Nanoty

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Southeast Texas
The wife and I have been looking at getting a tortoise for sometime now but were unsure of which species. She wants as large as we can get which would mean sulcata but I am worried about a few things that comes with them. 1) We have a good sized backyard with chain link fence but I am worried about too much digging and potential escapes, 2) while a friend a few streets over has kept one for years outside year round I worry about the humidity in the area being more than is usual for a sully. For those reasons I have about talked her into a red foot due to their naturally humid niches and the fact that they are less likely to burrow. All that being said, with such a large commitment for their lifestyle I don't want to make a mistake because I am not in a habit of rehoming or giving away pets. Do you regret getting something smaller and not "going big" the first time?
 

TeamZissou

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If maximizing size is your goal, you should look into a true giant like an Aldabra or Galapagos tortoise. Being in Tx you are in a unique position that you can obtain a Galapagos.

Sulcatas would not suffer in your humidity. It's a misconception that they need dry conditions. They would probably not be able to stay out year round in your climate, given that they need a minimum of 80 F at all times.

If I were you, I would buy a Radiated tortoise, which is another species with state purchasing restrictions that you don't have to worry about being from Tx. The do not burrow and end up a reasonable 16-18" in length, at about 35 lbs. They can also handle lower temps down into the mid 50's, though it's not recommended often.

You will need to upgrade the security of your yard. A simple chain link fence is not good for any species. You need to create a visual barrier for the tortoise.

Here are some threads with care requirements for different species:
 

Nanoty

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You will need to upgrade the security of your yard. A simple chain link fence is not good for any species. You need to create a visual barrier for the tortoise.
I was worried about the chain link. I am looking into ideas for a visual barrier that doesn't look tacky in my neighborhood. My neighbors probably wouldn't be too keen with 2 foot tall strips of plywood around my backyard fence. Might just have to have a closed off area of the backyard to barrier them in with unless we are outside with them.
 

Tom

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The wife and I have been looking at getting a tortoise for sometime now but were unsure of which species. She wants as large as we can get which would mean sulcata but I am worried about a few things that comes with them. 1) We have a good sized backyard with chain link fence but I am worried about too much digging and potential escapes, 2) while a friend a few streets over has kept one for years outside year round I worry about the humidity in the area being more than is usual for a sully. For those reasons I have about talked her into a red foot due to their naturally humid niches and the fact that they are less likely to burrow. All that being said, with such a large commitment for their lifestyle I don't want to make a mistake because I am not in a habit of rehoming or giving away pets. Do you regret getting something smaller and not "going big" the first time?
Your climate will be excellent for a sulcata. Your yard will likely be destroyed by a sulcata. Some burrow and some don't. Most burrow sometimes, but are easily discouraged. Some are persistent. You'll need a visual barrier around the bottom of the fence for any species.

Unless you are really really into it, large tortoises are a real pain in the arse. When they get too big for one person to pick them up and move them, things can get real challenging. I'm really into it, and there are days that I question why I keep sulcatas. Those are usually hot day when one of them started digging and went unnoticed while I was at work for a few hours, and I'm out there filling in a burrow with a shovel, and dragging something large and heavy to put over the hole. I've had some sulcatas that hardly ever dug, and others that would dig almost every day.

I don't want to talk you out of a sulcata. They are awesome. Best personalities of any species except a galap. But I do want you to know what you are in for. You'll need bales of horse hay, lots of spineless opuntia, endless grass, mulberry trees, grape vines and more to keep one fed. You'll also need to build a large heated shelter for when it gets too big to live inside. They eat and poop more than a large Great Dane. Yet they are relatively easy to keep in the right climate, with the right enclosure and night house.

I have baby sulcatas for sale right now if you want one. Be careful where you buy one. Almost no one in the entire country starts them correctly. I have regular ones and the Sudan giants:

Another one to consider is the South African Leopard. Again, be careful where you get one, because no one starts them correctly AND most of the ones I see for sale are mixes. These get big, up to 40-60 pounds, and they eat grass hay like a sulcata. They are temperature tolerant, do fine with humidity, and tend to be bold and outgoing as adults.

Ask questions. We are here to help. I can't answer your initial question, because I went big to begin with. I can tell you that I love some of my smaller species just as much as the big ones, and the smaller ones are a heck of a lot easier to deal with and manage in the long run. Burmese stars have been one of my favorites for years. Love everything about them. Redfoots are great too, but my experience with them is limited as my climate isn't suitable for them. There are many great species to choose from. Best to go see some in person yourself, but beware of anything you are told in a pet store. Its almost always wrong. Are you near Brownsville? They have tortoises at the Gladys porter Zoo.
 

Cathie G

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The wife and I have been looking at getting a tortoise for sometime now but were unsure of which species. She wants as large as we can get which would mean sulcata but I am worried about a few things that comes with them. 1) We have a good sized backyard with chain link fence but I am worried about too much digging and potential escapes, 2) while a friend a few streets over has kept one for years outside year round I worry about the humidity in the area being more than is usual for a sully. For those reasons I have about talked her into a red foot due to their naturally humid niches and the fact that they are less likely to burrow. All that being said, with such a large commitment for their lifestyle I don't want to make a mistake because I am not in a habit of rehoming or giving away pets. Do you regret getting something smaller and not "going big" the first time?
Hello and welcome. I decided on a Russian which is really small. I would have loved to go big but... I had a lot to consider too. I'm a small person. Also the ease of taking good care of them. I don't regret that decision in any way. Even a little one is just as interesting as a big one maybe even more. You can't believe what a little tortoise can do.🤣🐢
 

maggie3fan

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No doubt about it, SULCATA. They have more personality of all species, they are very intelligent, they are fun, frustrating, extremely stubborn, scary at times and they can be very irksome.
I am old and skinny, but I always find a way or other person to move them. They can be kind of a problem until you learn how to stay one step ahead of them. They are very easy to keep once they are set up correctly.To me, they are fun and funny...
Go big or go home lol
100_6308.JPG
 

Turtulas-Len

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If you want a sulcata get one. I have a 25 year old male that I raised from a hatchling. He is living in a chain link fence enclosure without a visual barrier around the yard. You will have to secure the bottom of the fence so it can't push the fence out and go under it. That is a simple procedure to accomplice by using something like top rail fence piping, electrical conduit, or even 1 x 6 lumber laid flat on the ground all laid between the line post which are usually 10 feet apart. The 1 x 6 in boards will have to be drilled with small holes to wire them to the fence. any piping can be wired by just wiring around the pipe to the fence. A lot of people don't like chain link fence or glass enclosures for tortoises, but I've personally have never had a problem using either one of them. The most important thing in my opion is having a well insulated house for it, big enough for it to be confined in for a few days it if something unusual happens weather wise. Like that freak cold spell that happened in your part of the country a few months ago. along with the power outages. I'm located a short distance down the Potamic River from Washington D C to give you an idea of my climate. At a point a few years ago I had 4 other adult sulcatas and they all lived in the same chain link fenced yard. the only diggers were the females. If I didn't like where they were digging I just layed a piece of plywood on that spot. Just remember they can grow quick so they may out grow the indoor enclosure pretty fast. So spend your time and money on the heated house.
 

Livinlavitaboca

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The wife and I have been looking at getting a tortoise for sometime now but were unsure of which species. She wants as large as we can get which would mean sulcata but I am worried about a few things that comes with them. 1) We have a good sized backyard with chain link fence but I am worried about too much digging and potential escapes, 2) while a friend a few streets over has kept one for years outside year round I worry about the humidity in the area being more than is usual for a sully. For those reasons I have about talked her into a red foot due to their naturally humid niches and the fact that they are less likely to burrow. All that being said, with such a large commitment for their lifestyle I don't want to make a mistake because I am not in a habit of rehoming or giving away pets. Do you regret getting something smaller and not "going big" the first time?
Hello- I have two of each. My redfoots are more personable. The come to me when I go in their enclosure or if I’m outside they wait to see if I’m coming over. My sulcutas just do their own thing. The also aren’t as active as the redfoots. Now my redfoots are both 5 and my sulcutas are two.
 

Obbie

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The wife and I have been looking at getting a tortoise for sometime now but were unsure of which species. She wants as large as we can get which would mean sulcata but I am worried about a few things that comes with them. 1) We have a good sized backyard with chain link fence but I am worried about too much digging and potential escapes, 2) while a friend a few streets over has kept one for years outside year round I worry about the humidity in the area being more than is usual for a sully. For those reasons I have about talked her into a red foot due to their naturally humid niches and the fact that they are less likely to burrow. All that being said, with such a large commitment for their lifestyle I don't want to make a mistake because I am not in a habit of rehoming or giving away pets. Do you regret getting something smaller and not "going big" the first time?
No I don’t regret getting Mali. She’s about 45-50 pounds. She was a rescue. You know when you’re deciding, how much you can handle. Please read everything you can on them, from the Tortoise experts here. You’ll need to pour concrete or use cinder blocks maybe 2-3 courses high inside the fence line. They will push through anything to get to where they want to !!!
 

wellington

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Get the one you want the most or you will end up with more then one. If you decide to go with smaller ones, a herd of leopards or redfoot make a nice group of tortoises.
 

Obbie

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I think Sulcatt, I’m very fond of them. I never think about getting another, they DO NOT like to be around other tortoise. I can’t stand the thought that she would be worried about sharing her home. The head bobbing is just such a violent response.
 

Nanoty

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Southeast Texas
Your climate will be excellent for a sulcata. Your yard will likely be destroyed by a sulcata. Some burrow and some don't. Most burrow sometimes, but are easily discouraged. Some are persistent. You'll need a visual barrier around the bottom of the fence for any species.

Unless you are really really into it, large tortoises are a real pain in the arse. When they get too big for one person to pick them up and move them, things can get real challenging. I'm really into it, and there are days that I question why I keep sulcatas. Those are usually hot day when one of them started digging and went unnoticed while I was at work for a few hours, and I'm out there filling in a burrow with a shovel, and dragging something large and heavy to put over the hole. I've had some sulcatas that hardly ever dug, and others that would dig almost every day.

I don't want to talk you out of a sulcata. They are awesome. Best personalities of any species except a galap. But I do want you to know what you are in for. You'll need bales of horse hay, lots of spineless opuntia, endless grass, mulberry trees, grape vines and more to keep one fed. You'll also need to build a large heated shelter for when it gets too big to live inside. They eat and poop more than a large Great Dane. Yet they are relatively easy to keep in the right climate, with the right enclosure and night house.

I have baby sulcatas for sale right now if you want one. Be careful where you buy one. Almost no one in the entire country starts them correctly. I have regular ones and the Sudan giants:

Another one to consider is the South African Leopard. Again, be careful where you get one, because no one starts them correctly AND most of the ones I see for sale are mixes. These get big, up to 40-60 pounds, and they eat grass hay like a sulcata. They are temperature tolerant, do fine with humidity, and tend to be bold and outgoing as adults.

Ask questions. We are here to help. I can't answer your initial question, because I went big to begin with. I can tell you that I love some of my smaller species just as much as the big ones, and the smaller ones are a heck of a lot easier to deal with and manage in the long run. Burmese stars have been one of my favorites for years. Love everything about them. Redfoots are great too, but my experience with them is limited as my climate isn't suitable for them. There are many great species to choose from. Best to go see some in person yourself, but beware of anything you are told in a pet store. Its almost always wrong. Are you near Brownsville? They have tortoises at the Gladys porter Zoo.
Thanks for all the info everyone. We went to visit our neighbor a few streets over yesterday and see her sully. He is about 8 years old and doesn't seem to burrow, she also has portions of "see through" fencing and while he does push on it he doesn't seem too interested in leaving. Her and her husband are vets and pretty big on reptiles which is handy.

Still some research to do and decisions to make but in addition to our 30x40 metal shop we have a 12x24 foot storage building on the property which would make for a nice heated house once we add a ramp, door and enclosure inside that can be heated well. I am actually located almost to Louisiana on the Texas coast so we get tons of rain and our grass grows to the point it needs to be mowed almost twice a week. Our lot is half an acre but even with the shop our backyard is pretty good size. I'd prefer to have several medium sized tortoises to one large one but really it is up to the boss (wife). I tried to talk her into a Galapagos but apparently the $25k price tag was a bit much to her lol.

Thanks again everyone for the advice, we are looking at different breeders and what is available and looking at adding a pond to the backyard soon. Hopefully we can incorporate some type of shallow water feature for the tort.
 

wellington

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I think Sulcatt, I’m very fond of them. I never think about getting another, they DO NOT like to be around other tortoise. I can’t stand the thought that she would be worried about sharing her home. The head bobbing is just such a violent response.
Head bobbing is nothing compared to what they can do.
 

wellington

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Thanks for all the info everyone. We went to visit our neighbor a few streets over yesterday and see her sully. He is about 8 years old and doesn't seem to burrow, she also has portions of "see through" fencing and while he does push on it he doesn't seem too interested in leaving. Her and her husband are vets and pretty big on reptiles which is handy.

Still some research to do and decisions to make but in addition to our 30x40 metal shop we have a 12x24 foot storage building on the property which would make for a nice heated house once we add a ramp, door and enclosure inside that can be heated well. I am actually located almost to Louisiana on the Texas coast so we get tons of rain and our grass grows to the point it needs to be mowed almost twice a week. Our lot is half an acre but even with the shop our backyard is pretty good size. I'd prefer to have several medium sized tortoises to one large one but really it is up to the boss (wife). I tried to talk her into a Galapagos but apparently the $25k price tag was a bit much to her lol.

Thanks again everyone for the advice, we are looking at different breeders and what is available and looking at adding a pond to the backyard soon. Hopefully we can incorporate some type of shallow water feature for the tort.
If you are looking for a hatchling, you will have approximately 3 years before its 10 inches and can live outside 24/7 if properly raised, according to our caresheets. Be careful of the neighbors advice. Be sure they know of and recommend the new proper way of raising tortoises. Many are stuck on the old wrong way. If you want a larger one now, look into adoption and even craigslist. There are always ones looking for a good home.
 

zovick

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Head bobbing is nothing compared to what they can do.
Yes, wellington, you are indeed correct. Large males especially can be downright nasty at times. I know this from personal experience.

Also to the OP: if you do not do as Tortulas-Len suggested and reinforce the entire bottom perimeter of your chain link fence, a 12" to 15" sulcata will have no trouble pushing its way under it and getting away. I know this from personal experience also.
 
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