Escape proof, predator proof outdoor enclosure

biochemnerd808

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
Messages
1,287
Location (City and/or State)
SW WA
Last year we moved from suburbian SW WA to rural central AR. Of course I brought my tortoises with me, and initially set them up in temporary enclosures. Over the Fall and Winter I then proceeded to build their permanent outdoor habitats.

(Ps: if you don't feel like reading and just want to look at photos - scroll down!)

We are out in the boonies, and wildlife abounds. We have bears, cougars, bobcats, raccoons, possums, weasels, coyotes, and rats the size of bunnies. Plus various hawks and buzzards and crows, and a plethora of useful and also of venomous snakes that could definitely make a meal out of a juvenile or baby tortoise. I didn't want to have to bring the tortoises inside every night, so their habitats needed to be absolutely escape proof, as well as predator proof from below and above. In WA, a year before moving, I lost several of my beautiful adults to a male raccoon who developed a taste for tortoise meat... It was heart breaking. He got 2 before I realized what was happening (it was normal for them to dig down in the Summer for days at a time... So I didn't think anything of it when 2 disappeared... Until I found their empty shells below a tree on the other side of the yard). I started to bring everyone inside at 5pm, but he got another one between 2 and 5pm. Then he tore up the (empty) enclosure in the following nights, tipping over their little greenhouse, toppling rocks and logs, digging in the soft dirt. The tortoises only spent mornings and early afternoon outside after that. Here in our new home I wanted them to safely be able to spend the entire warm season (March-Oct) outside.

The previous owners of our property had goats, so there is a large area that has an electric fence around it. This would keep the larger animals out. Within this area, I laid out large 10ft x 10ft squares into which I built the designated tortoise enclosures. First I dug a trench, minimum of 12" deep, but because there is a slight incline, it's 18" at the deepest point. Our soil up here is hard packed clay with veins of shale (slate) at an angle. Most of the digging happened with a 50lb iron break bar and a big old pick axe. Never mind that gyms were closed for Covid, I have never been so ripped in my life after all that trench digging!
Because we get torrential rains here fairly regularly, drainage was very important. I dug a french drain through each of the enclosures, which would guide the water into a gravel filled large hole downhill of the habitats. I also filled the bottom 4" of each trench with drainage rock.
Then I built the walls. We have LOTs of termites out here, so the cedar sides I used in WA would have lasted only weeks or months. I decided to use corrugated metal roofing instead. I built the frame out of treated lumber (which I expect to have to replace about every 5 years), and screwed the roofing panels to that. The 2x4x 10ft lumber top edges are reinforced by braces.
Each 10ft x 10ft enclosure has 6 hinged, lockable lids with hardware cloth, and a solid piece in the middle, also with hardware cloth. The hasp closures are kept locked with a steel quick link.

Inside each enclosure, I added dirt hills, a stone cave with soft diggable dirt inside, a water dish, and lots of plants, some transplanted, some seeded woth tortoise safe weeds and wildflowers. The juveniles have one enclosure, the adult females have one, and each male has a separate 5ft x 10ft male jail.

Here in centeal AR the weather gets very hot in the summer. It easily stays 110+ for weeks on end! Until the fruit trees we planted in the area around the enclosures are larger, I have to create artificial shade. I hung 80% shade cloth, and also zip tied pieces of shade cloth into some of the lids. Additionally, each enclosure has a stone hide that has soft, diggable dirt that goes deep into the ground. With these layers of shade, plus hosing down the area with cold water, I've been able to manage the heat.

A final issue I ran into were insects and arachnids. We treated the whole area eith beneficial nematodes (HB and Sc type) to prevent ticks and fleas. However, chiggers were not affected, and neither were non-ground-dwelling spiders. I have had to remove 3 black widows from the tortoise hides so far, and in May, the chiggers bit the tortoises pretty badly. I sprinkled the whole area in and around the enclosures with diatomaceous earth, and also sprinkled the armpits of each tortoise, as well as their shells (because the chiggers were biting them on the new growth lines too!) with DE as well. This Fall I'm treating all tortoise enclosures with sulfur, which will rain into the soil and kill larval chigger mites. The sulfur, once rained into the soil, will not harm the tortoises once they are back outside in Spring. Hopefully this works - if not I may have to treat with permethrin, but I really don't want to use chemicals... We work so hard to garden organically!! After treating with DE twice more, I saw no more bites on the tortoises.

The only downside to these enclosures is that it's harder to see the tortoises through the hardware cloth. It's also kind of a pain to have to unlock the hasps every time I want to do something... But at least I know they are safe!
20210303_174033.jpg 20210303_174101.jpg 20210306_131044.jpg FB_IMG_1632363689594.jpg FB_IMG_1632363682525.jpg 20210313_091629.jpg 20210408_161920.jpg 20210529_131206.jpg IMG_20210319_202358_871.jpg FB_IMG_1632363593411.jpg FB_IMG_1632363570090.jpg FB_IMG_1632363483019.jpg FB_IMG_1632363339081.jpg FB_IMG_1632363334732.jpg FB_IMG_1632363329817.jpg FB_IMG_1632363325757.jpg FB_IMG_1632363316098.jpg FB_IMG_1632363305172.jpg FB_IMG_1632363291178.jpg FB_IMG_1632363270067.jpg FB_IMG_1632363285012.jpg 20210923_105034.jpg IMG_20210315_161340_018.jpg IMG_20210720_123312_026.jpg IMG_20210329_133258_119.jpg
20210614_121711.jpg
 

Attachments

  • FB_IMG_1632363689594.jpg
    FB_IMG_1632363689594.jpg
    123.6 KB · Views: 20
Last edited:

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
89,558
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Now I see why you haven't been on the Forum. What a BIG job! Looks good!!
 

biochemnerd808

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
Messages
1,287
Location (City and/or State)
SW WA
Now I see why you haven't been on the Forum. What a BIG job! Looks good!!
Yeah, sorry. The past 6 years have been a bit of a whirlwind. We moved twice, so this enclosure is the most recent one... I had to build another 3.5 years ago. Plus: First our human family grew by another kid, and then family moved in with us, and I took a teaching job at the college, then Covid hit and I homeschooled the kids, and we moved across the country last year. I stepped down as admin in FB tortoise groups and needed to focus on my family. Things are good, just so darn busy.
 

Krista S

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Messages
910
Location (City and/or State)
Saskatchewan
Last year we moved from suburbian SW WA to rural central AR. Of course I brought my tortoises with me, and initially set them up in temporary enclosures. Over the Fall and Winter I then proceeded to build their permanent outdoor habitats.
That’s incredible!! Thanks for sharing the story and all the pictures. I especially love the rock caves you built. Sorry to hear about the tortoises you lost before the move. That’s heartbreaking. The backbreaking work you did with the new enclosures must bring a lot of peace of mind. It looks awesome!
 

biochemnerd808

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
Messages
1,287
Location (City and/or State)
SW WA
That’s incredible!! Thanks for sharing the story and all the pictures. I especially love the rock caves you built. Sorry to hear about the tortoises you lost before the move. That’s heartbreaking. The backbreaking work you did with the new enclosures must bring a lot of peace of mind. It looks awesome!
Thank you!
 

Mrs.Jennifer

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jul 22, 2020
Messages
479
Location (City and/or State)
Norwich CT
What a dedicated tort owner you are! I hope all your hard work brings you joy and peace of mind. I’m pretty sure your tortoises must be loving it.
 

biochemnerd808

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
Messages
1,287
Location (City and/or State)
SW WA
What a dedicated tort owner you are! I hope all your hard work brings you joy and peace of mind. I’m pretty sure your tortoises must be loving it.
Thank you! They do seem to love it. Except about 5 mins after finishing, I wished I had built them twice as big ...
 

biochemnerd808

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
Messages
1,287
Location (City and/or State)
SW WA
At least you don't have bears! You don't do you? 🤣
We totally have bears. Blackbears used to burgle the previous owner's bee hives. We saw one cross the road a mile from here.
The electric fence around the outside of the area the enclosure is in will keep bears out.
 

Karen(pebbles)

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
Joined
May 14, 2021
Messages
192
Location (City and/or State)
Bristol Uk
Last year we moved from suburbian SW WA to rural central AR. Of course I brought my tortoises with me, and initially set them up in temporary enclosures. Over the Fall and Winter I then proceeded to build their permanent outdoor habitats.

(Ps: if you don't feel like reading and just want to look at photos - scroll down!)

We are out in the boonies, and wildlife abounds. We have bears, cougars, bobcats, raccoons, possums, weasels, coyotes, and rats the size of bunnies. Plus various hawks and buzzards and crows, and a plethora of useful and also of venomous snakes that could definitely make a meal out of a juvenile or baby tortoise. I didn't want to have to bring the tortoises inside every night, so their habitats needed to be absolutely escape proof, as well as predator proof from below and above. In WA, a year before moving, I lost several of my beautiful adults to a male raccoon who developed a taste for tortoise meat... It was heart breaking. He got 2 before I realized what was happening (it was normal for them to dig down in the Summer for days at a time... So I didn't think anything of it when 2 disappeared... Until I found their empty shells below a tree on the other side of the yard). I started to bring everyone inside at 5pm, but he got another one between 2 and 5pm. Then he tore up the (empty) enclosure in the following nights, tipping over their little greenhouse, toppling rocks and logs, digging in the soft dirt. The tortoises only spent mornings and early afternoon outside after that. Here in our new home I wanted them to safely be able to spend the entire warm season (March-Oct) outside.

The previous owners of our property had goats, so there is a large area that has an electric fence around it. This would keep the larger animals out. Within this area, I laid out large 10ft x 10ft squares into which I built the designated tortoise enclosures. First I dug a trench, minimum of 12" deep, but because there is a slight incline, it's 18" at the deepest point. Our soil up here is hard packed clay with veins of shale (slate) at an angle. Most of the digging happened with a 50lb iron break bar and a big old pick axe. Never mind that gyms were closed for Covid, I have never been so ripped in my life after all that trench digging!
Because we get torrential rains here fairly regularly, drainage was very important. I dug a french drain through each of the enclosures, which would guide the water into a gravel filled large hole downhill of the habitats. I also filled the bottom 4" of each trench with drainage rock.
Then I built the walls. We have LOTs of termites out here, so the cedar sides I used in WA would have lasted only weeks or months. I decided to use corrugated metal roofing instead. I built the frame out of treated lumber (which I expect to have to replace about every 5 years), and screwed the roofing panels to that. The 2x4x 10ft lumber top edges are reinforced by braces.
Each 10ft x 10ft enclosure has 6 hinged, lockable lids with hardware cloth, and a solid piece in the middle, also with hardware cloth. The hasp closures are kept locked with a steel quick link.

Inside each enclosure, I added dirt hills, a stone cave with soft diggable dirt inside, a water dish, and lots of plants, some transplanted, some seeded woth tortoise safe weeds and wildflowers. The juveniles have one enclosure, the adult females have one, and each male has a separate 5ft x 10ft male jail.

Here in centeal AR the weather gets very hot in the summer. It easily stays 110+ for weeks on end! Until the fruit trees we planted in the area around the enclosures are larger, I have to create artificial shade. I hung 80% shade cloth, and also zip tied pieces of shade cloth into some of the lids. Additionally, each enclosure has a stone hide that has soft, diggable dirt that goes deep into the ground. With these layers of shade, plus hosing down the area with cold water, I've been able to manage the heat.

A final issue I ran into were insects and arachnids. We treated the whole area eith beneficial nematodes (HB and Sc type) to prevent ticks and fleas. However, chiggers were not affected, and neither were non-ground-dwelling spiders. I have had to remove 3 black widows from the tortoise hides so far, and in May, the chiggers bit the tortoises pretty badly. I sprinkled the whole area in and around the enclosures with diatomaceous earth, and also sprinkled the armpits of each tortoise, as well as their shells (because the chiggers were biting them on the new growth lines too!) with DE as well. This Fall I'm treating all tortoise enclosures with sulfur, which will rain into the soil and kill larval chigger mites. The sulfur, once rained into the soil, will not harm the tortoises once they are back outside in Spring. Hopefully this works - if not I may have to treat with permethrin, but I really don't want to use chemicals... We work so hard to garden organically!! After treating with DE twice more, I saw no more bites on the tortoises.

The only downside to these enclosures is that it's harder to see the tortoises through the hardware cloth. It's also kind of a pain to have to unlock the hasps every time I want to do something... But at least I know they are safe!
View attachment 333370 View attachment 333371 View attachment 333372 View attachment 333368 View attachment 333367 View attachment 333373 View attachment 333374 View attachment 333375 View attachment 333377 View attachment 333366 View attachment 333365 View attachment 333364 View attachment 333363 View attachment 333362 View attachment 333361 View attachment 333360 View attachment 333359 View attachment 333358 View attachment 333357 View attachment 333356 View attachment 333355 View attachment 333353 View attachment 333378 View attachment 333379 View attachment 333380
View attachment 333376
i so wish i had the outside space to do this for my little tort, makes me so envious when i see pics like this :(
 

biochemnerd808

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
Messages
1,287
Location (City and/or State)
SW WA
i so wish i had the outside space to do this for my little tort, makes me so envious when i see pics like this :(
Even if you are only able to provide a skinny 2ft x 8ft strip of outdoor space or a balcony enclosure.... Natural sun is SO good for tortoises. Doesn't have to be giant to begin with.
 

Dragonflii

New Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
UK
What is a chigger? and is that a courgette flower in one photo please?
 

biochemnerd808

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2012
Messages
1,287
Location (City and/or State)
SW WA
What is a chigger? and is that a courgette flower in one photo please?
The yellow flower is a daylily.

Chiggers or chigger mites are the larval stage of a mite. They bite people and other animals in the larval stage. Later, they only drink plant juice... But they make some very itchy awful welts. Google can give more info. ;)
 

Dragonflii

New Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
UK
The yellow flower is a daylily.

Chiggers or chigger mites are the larval stage of a mite. They bite people and other animals in the larval stage. Later, they only drink plant juice... But they make some very itchy awful welts. Google can give more info. ;)
I see, thank you.
 

Gijoux

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
May 28, 2014
Messages
415
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
The yellow flower is a daylily.

Chiggers or chigger mites are the larval stage of a mite. They bite people and other animals in the larval stage. Later, they only drink plant juice... But they make some very itchy awful welts. Google can give more info. ;)
I thought I read that Daylilies were not good for tortoises to eat.
 
TortoiseSupply.com

New Posts

Top