Hello from George, the 6 month old horsefield tortoise.

George Horsefield

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Mar 30, 2021
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Burnley
Hello, our names are Jill & Mike and we a week ago purchased George, a 6 month old horsefield tortoise. Bought from a local reptile centre from a knowledgeable shop keeper, who has his own pet tortoise. George is our first tortoise as a pet, but my wife Jill had them in her house as a child, when tortoises were kept outdoors and left to roam the garden, little did people know back then. Our substrate is sand, cool side is 22°, warm side 32°. Fresh water daily. Today's food is finely sliced butternut squash along with watercress and rocket leaves and a sprinkle of calcium. George has a warm bath each night to help hydrate and help "go to the toilet". Lamps are currently on for 12 hour days, both UV and heat lamp. George is coming out of vivarium for approx 20 minutes each day for a big walk round on the carpet and a bath. Thank you in advance for any advice. 20210330_102310.jpg
 

George Horsefield

New Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2021
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Burnley
Hello, our names are Jill & Mike and we a week ago purchased George, a 6 month old horsefield tortoise. Bought from a local reptile centre from a knowledgeable shop keeper, who has his own pet tortoise. George is our first tortoise as a pet, but my wife Jill had them in her house as a child, when tortoises were kept outdoors and left to roam the garden, little did people know back then. Our substrate is sand, cool side is 22°, warm side 32°. Fresh water daily. Today's food is finely sliced butternut squash along with watercress and rocket leaves and a sprinkle of calcium. George has a warm bath each night to help hydrate and help "go to the toilet". Lamps are currently on for 12 hour days, both UV and heat lamp. George is coming out of vivarium for approx 20 minutes each day for a big walk round on the carpet and a bath. Thank you in advance for any advice. View attachment 322121
Forgot to add. Living in the UK and also in food plate is kale.
 

Lyn W

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Jul 22, 2014
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Hi and welcome
Yes things certainly have changed since the days of leaving torts to barely survive in gardens and animal welfare has thankfully moved on for these amazing animals.

Unfortunately you have been given a lot of outdated information so it seems the shopkeeper is still giving out old advice. There are a few things you need to change but thankfully you've come to the right place.
Here is the most up to date caresheet for Russians so please read it carefully and ask as many questions as you need.

Sand should never be used as substrate - it can irritate skin, noses and eyes and cause the gut to become impacted if it gets on food and is eaten which is very painful and can be fatal.
Russians (Horsefields) like to dig so need a deep moist substrate - the caresheet will help you there.

The dishes you have look nice but are not practical for such a little tort, cheap terracotta plant saucers sunk level with the substrate have more traction and will be easier for him to access and exit safely without the risk of tipping back and ending up on his back or drowning.

You will soon find that he is going to need a bigger viv to give him the space he needs to roam. Letting him walk on the carpet isn't a good idea as it is too cold at floor level and there are all sorts of hidden hazards plus he won't settle in his viv if he knows there is a much bigger world out there and you'll find him clawing at the glass and climbing the walls.

A digital thermometer/hygrometer with probes at tort level will help you make sure he isn't too cold or hot.

We all make mistakes and have been given bad advice but it's things that can be easily corrected to ensure our torts are safe and healthy.
 

Walnut's_pet

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Mar 12, 2021
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Welcome to the forum. George is certainly a cute little guy. You'll find lots of helpful information here and the folks are always willing to answer questions so do take advantage.
 

George Horsefield

New Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2021
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Burnley
Hi and welcome
Yes things certainly have changed since the days of leaving torts to barely survive in gardens and animal welfare has thankfully moved on for these amazing animals.

Unfortunately you have been given a lot of outdated information so it seems the shopkeeper is still giving out old advice. There are a few things you need to change but thankfully you've come to the right place.
Here is the most up to date caresheet for Russians so please read it carefully and ask as many questions as you need.

Sand should never be used as substrate - it can irritate skin, noses and eyes and cause the gut to become impacted if it gets on food and is eaten which is very painful and can be fatal.
Russians (Horsefields) like to dig so need a deep moist substrate - the caresheet will help you there.

The dishes you have look nice but are not practical for such a little tort, cheap terracotta plant saucers sunk level with the substrate have more traction and will be easier for him to access and exit safely without the risk of tipping back and ending up on his back or drowning.

You will soon find that he is going to need a bigger viv to give him the space he needs to roam. Letting him walk on the carpet isn't a good idea as it is too cold at floor level and there are all sorts of hidden hazards plus he won't settle in his viv if he knows there is a much bigger world out there and you'll find him clawing at the glass and climbing the walls.

A digital thermometer/hygrometer with probes at tort level will help you make sure he isn't too cold or hot.

We all make mistakes and have been given bad advice but it's things that can be easily corrected to ensure our torts are safe and healthy.
Hello, Lyn and everyone. I am starting to look at the changes the sheet suggests, such as tomorrow new water bowl also going to add a piece of slate to help with George's claws being kept trim. A wider selection of feed, maybe better than supermarket greens, will hopefully find some more natural grasses for george to eat. Already bought some seends to grow some fresh weeds, especially dandelions. The 1 worry is the substrate. I have been looking at orchid bark as suggested and the advice some others give is not suitable for a tortoise, others even saying will contain mites, which I definitely dont wish to bring in, and be around George. The substrate we used I described as sand, however reading the packaging is described as the best for a tortoise, I have attached pictures. I really am struggling as this area seems to be a minefield and everyone has different suggestions. I trust all advice given, my problem I know but please you advise if what I am currently using is indeed sand and shouldn't be used, even if the packaging says it's ok. I don't wish any of my comments to undermine or offer any insult to any advice given on here. Thank you in advance x
 

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Lyn W

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HI again,
It is difficult trying to get everything right and there is conflicting advice on many of the other websites which is confusing but most of those are still giving out of date advice so it's better if you stick to the advice given here rather than mix and match. It is up to date and provided by keepers with many years of experience, some of who have been involved in research and thankfully they share their findings with us. As new issues arise we are able to hear about them and adapt quickly so that our torts aren't affected. There can be differences of opinions and debates here. It's up to us and our circumstances what we chose to follow but it's good to learn from other people's mistakes too. The main thing I like is that everyone here has the best interest of torts at heart and wants to see their torts thrive rather than just survive. (I should be on commission for this!) :)

I've never used the substrate you have there so can't comment on it but anything with sand or white bits in it could cause impaction problems. Some may use them and say they've not had problems but if I know of any risks I won't take them.

A lot of people use coco coir with a layer of orchid bark on top to help retain humidity in the coir and make it less messy. The coir is sold in blocks which you have to soak to expand - I use boiling water for this to kill any bugs that may be in it - some people, bake it in the oven to do that. I've not had a a problem with bugs in the orchid bark but maybe a soaking with boiling water before use may help with that too. There are other options on the caresheet I think.

I don't know if Russians are grass eaters but you'll find this useful for IDing tort safe plants www.thetortoisetable.org.uk .
My tort had his first taste of this years dandies today. When they go to seed I collect fluffy dandelion heads and plantain seeds to scatter in my garden. Clover is a favourite. When you collect weeds make sure they are from chemical and fume free sources.
 

George Horsefield

New Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2021
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Burnley
HI again,
It is difficult trying to get everything right and there is conflicting advice on many of the other websites which is confusing but most of those are still giving out of date advice so it's better if you stick to the advice given here rather than mix and match. It is up to date and provided by keepers with many years of experience, some of who have been involved in research and thankfully they share their findings with us. As new issues arise we are able to hear about them and adapt quickly so that our torts aren't affected. There can be differences of opinions and debates here. It's up to us and our circumstances what we chose to follow but it's good to learn from other people's mistakes too. The main thing I like is that everyone here has the best interest of torts at heart and wants to see their torts thrive rather than just survive. (I should be on commission for this!) :)

I've never used the substrate you have there so can't comment on it but anything with sand or white bits in it could cause impaction problems. Some may use them and say they've not had problems but if I know of any risks I won't take them.

A lot of people use coco coir with a layer of orchid bark on top to help retain humidity in the coir and make it less messy. The coir is sold in blocks which you have to soak to expand - I use boiling water for this to kill any bugs that may be in it - some people, bake it in the oven to do that. I've not had a a problem with bugs in the orchid bark but maybe a soaking with boiling water before use may help with that too. There are other options on the caresheet I think.

I don't know if Russians are grass eaters but you'll find this useful for IDing tort safe plants www.thetortoisetable.org.uk .
My tort had his first taste of this years dandies today. When they go to seed I collect fluffy dandelion heads and plantain seeds to scatter in my garden. Clover is a favourite. When you collect weeds make sure they are from chemical and fume free sources.
Thank you again for your comments and reply. It is much appreciated and yes, what is best for our tortoises is the main priority.

I have purchased a small block of coco coir to grow the seeds in, again reptile friendly and didn't want to pick "wild" weeds from areas that could have caused contamination but other pets, pesticides and exhaust fumes.

I will search again for the orchid bark as the substrate and probably boil soak first and give that a try.

Some shopping to do today for me.

Thank you again for taking time out to reply it really does help x
 

Sarah2020

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Hello, Lyn and everyone. I am starting to look at the changes the sheet suggests, such as tomorrow new water bowl also going to add a piece of slate to help with George's claws being kept trim. A wider selection of feed, maybe better than supermarket greens, will hopefully find some more natural grasses for george to eat. Already bought some seends to grow some fresh weeds, especially dandelions. The 1 worry is the substrate. I have been looking at orchid bark as suggested and the advice some others give is not suitable for a tortoise, others even saying will contain mites, which I definitely dont wish to bring in, and be around George. The substrate we used I described as sand, however reading the packaging is described as the best for a tortoise, I have attached pictures. I really am struggling as this area seems to be a minefield and everyone has different suggestions. I trust all advice given, my problem I know but please you advise if what I am currently using is indeed sand and shouldn't be used, even if the packaging says it's ok. I don't wish any of my comments to undermine or offer any insult to any advice given on here. Thank you in advance x
Hi and welcome. Orchid bark is a good switch as they trample on the food and sand gets on it and then it gets consumed and eventually you get a sandpit in their stomach. Have a look on swell reptiles Web site for orchid bark and other supplies. Garden centres or aquarium fish shops are good for low rocks. Avoid in the early days anything they can climb and topple or you get an upside down tortoise. Enjoy
 

George Horsefield

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Burnley
Thank you both again for your replies, went on swell for fine grade orchid bark but currently out of stock, but the online reptile centre has some. Reasonable price, I thought, so 30L ordered on first class delivery. Now to change the water dish, and plant some seeds, especially the dandelion.

Have a great day everyone x
 

Lyn W

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Messages
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Thank you again for your comments and reply. It is much appreciated and yes, what is best for our tortoises is the main priority.

I have purchased a small block of coco coir to grow the seeds in, again reptile friendly and didn't want to pick "wild" weeds from areas that could have caused contamination but other pets, pesticides and exhaust fumes.

I will search again for the orchid bark as the substrate and probably boil soak first and give that a try.

Some shopping to do today for me.

Thank you again for taking time out to reply it really does help x
You're welcome - I needed all the help I could get when my leopard adopted me and it can be quite daunting. There's more to keeping a tortoise than you think and I still learn something new everyday!

Pets at Home sells orchid bark but I'm not sure if it's the fine grade that is preferred by many members especially for young torts. You may get it a garden centre - just check its not got anything else in with it.
The Range and PaH as well as smaller pet shops sell the reptile coco coir blocks.
Happy shopping!
 

Tom

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Hello, Lyn and everyone. I am starting to look at the changes the sheet suggests, such as tomorrow new water bowl also going to add a piece of slate to help with George's claws being kept trim. A wider selection of feed, maybe better than supermarket greens, will hopefully find some more natural grasses for george to eat. Already bought some seends to grow some fresh weeds, especially dandelions. The 1 worry is the substrate. I have been looking at orchid bark as suggested and the advice some others give is not suitable for a tortoise, others even saying will contain mites, which I definitely dont wish to bring in, and be around George. The substrate we used I described as sand, however reading the packaging is described as the best for a tortoise, I have attached pictures. I really am struggling as this area seems to be a minefield and everyone has different suggestions. I trust all advice given, my problem I know but please you advise if what I am currently using is indeed sand and shouldn't be used, even if the packaging says it's ok. I don't wish any of my comments to undermine or offer any insult to any advice given on here. Thank you in advance x
I can't find anywhere on the package that shows the ingredients of that substrate. If its plain coco coir, then it is good. Keep it lightly damp and hand pack it down. If there is sand or soil mixed in, then it would be a no go.

There are no mites in orchid bark. People just don't know better and sometimes draw the wrong conclusions, then post their incorrect info on the internet where it is repeated over and over for years. ANY warm damp substrate will attract phorid flies and/or springtails. Not "mites". Happens in potted house plants too. Both of these insect species are harmless detrivores and they actually serve a useful purpose. They keep the environment much cleaner which reduces mold, mildew, fungus and bacteria. Many people nowadays are moving to "bio-active" substrates and pay money for colonies of these insects to introduce to their little eco-systems.

If you are going on FB for tortoise info, realize that those people are nuts. They promote and repeat backwards info and then ban anyone who tries to tell the truth. When you encounter contradictory info, please come here and ask. We will explain how we've reached the conclusions we've reached, and give you examples of success with the correct info. Lyn gave you great advice, and we all want to see you succeed.

P.S. Russians aren't grass eaters, but eating fresh grass as a way of adding much needed fiber to grocery store greens won't hurt them either. :)
 

George Horsefield

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I agree, I gave up FB a while ago, nothing to do with advice, but similar. Seeing posts from people on how their life is just amazing, and knowing the truth isn't that. Ordered some orchid bark, hopefully arrive soon. When I told about greens, we don't have a garden so no problem there, I just want a varied diet other than watercress, rocket, kale and treats like butternut squash and apple all bought from a store. Don't wish also to pay the high prices also of some pet store chains, who put prices up as people pay it for their pets. Home grown weeds, natural and fresh I know is the best.

Thank you again for everyone taking time to read and reply to my comments and questions.
 

Lyn W

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Lambs lettuce is good to feed. You can buy bags of it in Sainsbury and some branches of Tesco but you can get the seeds to grow your own. I've even heard of people who use the living salad trays as starter kits to grow their own in bigger containers. There's also hydroponic systems which some people have had success with. Whatever soil you use make sure it's chemical and safe as possible.
Fruit isn't good for most species of torts as they can't deal with the sugars so best not to feed at all.
 

George Horsefield

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I can't find anywhere on the package that shows the ingredients of that substrate. If its plain coco coir, then it is good. Keep it lightly damp and hand pack it down. If there is sand or soil mixed in, then it would be a no go.

There are no mites in orchid bark. People just don't know better and sometimes draw the wrong conclusions, then post their incorrect info on the internet where it is repeated over and over for years. ANY warm damp substrate will attract phorid flies and/or springtails. Not "mites". Happens in potted house plants too. Both of these insect species are harmless detrivores and they actually serve a useful purpose. They keep the environment much cleaner which reduces mold, mildew, fungus and bacteria. Many people nowadays are moving to "bio-active" substrates and pay money for colonies of these insects to introduce to their little eco-systems.

If you are going on FB for tortoise info, realize that those people are nuts. They promote and repeat backwards info and then ban anyone who tries to tell the truth. When you encounter contradictory info, please come here and ask. We will explain how we've reached the conclusions we've reached, and give you examples of success with the correct info. Lyn gave you great advice, and we all want to see you succeed.

P.S. Russians aren't grass eaters, but eating fresh grass as a way of adding much needed fiber to grocery store greens won't hurt them either. :)
Hello all again, it has taken a few days, mainly to get delivery of the bark I ordered. First the water and feed bowls changed and now pushed down into sub strait. Then George's second hide in the cool side changed for a smaller darker hude which he is yet to use. He spends little time on the cool side. A piece of slate added, for his claws and a small piece of cuttlefish for his beak which George nibbles now and then.

The main thing was the sand, it has gone. Been replaced by orchid bark chips, fine grade which I ordered. I went against the advice on the site, and also the recommendation of the packaging and trusted you all that this stuff is better for George to have as a substrait. Over the next few days I will check and see that he is with walking over this.

We have noticed he now at least acknowledged his water dish, before he ignored the last one, so that is a plus.

He walks on the slate, which is not a massive plus, but at least he is ok with it and not walking round it. The cuttlefish nibbling is a bonus.

We cannot get George to spend much time in the cooler side, even putting dandelions in his hide, he just doesn't want to go in and much prefers the warm side of his viv, but we persevere and time will tell.

I know people have said not too but just to add, after his nightly soak we still sit with George for 10 minutes and let him run on the carpet. We wanted him as a pet to hold as such and not just in a viv. We understand that some may still say dont as it could make things worst in the future, but we will have to address that then. For now we like the 10 minutes of holding and allowing George to have a run.

Thank you all again for your comments and advice, again it is much appreciated. Most we have done, we just want also to have 10 minutes our time.

Regards

Jill & Mike, and of course George xx
 

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ZenHerper

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The point of having a temperature gradient is so that the tortoise may choose how to regulate its own body heat. Babies need more heat since their metabolisms are running much harder than in adults. As long as the cool relief is available, that's fine.

Vacuum the area of carpet where you let him run every day before putting him down. Hairs, old staples, pins, pebbles, threads, loose rug fibers, etc.. are just a few of the high-risk items that may be present dangers. If any of George's human friends are immune-compromised, be aware that the infective critters that naturally live in and on reptiles will shed onto the soft carpet surface.
 

George Horsefield

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Oh also, forgot to add. Maybe not the best, doesn't have probes but also bought a Hygrometer to monitor the humidity in the viv. Slightly high due to new bark chips being put in, hopefully will come down in a day or 2 and can lift again if needed by spraying bark chips with some water. Thanks again
 

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Sarah2020

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Hello all again, it has taken a few days, mainly to get delivery of the bark I ordered. First the water and feed bowls changed and now pushed down into sub strait. Then George's second hide in the cool side changed for a smaller darker hude which he is yet to use. He spends little time on the cool side. A piece of slate added, for his claws and a small piece of cuttlefish for his beak which George nibbles now and then.

The main thing was the sand, it has gone. Been replaced by orchid bark chips, fine grade which I ordered. I went against the advice on the site, and also the recommendation of the packaging and trusted you all that this stuff is better for George to have as a substrait. Over the next few days I will check and see that he is with walking over this.

We have noticed he now at least acknowledged his water dish, before he ignored the last one, so that is a plus.

He walks on the slate, which is not a massive plus, but at least he is ok with it and not walking round it. The cuttlefish nibbling is a bonus.

We cannot get George to spend much time in the cooler side, even putting dandelions in his hide, he just doesn't want to go in and much prefers the warm side of his viv, but we persevere and time will tell.

I know people have said not too but just to add, after his nightly soak we still sit with George for 10 minutes and let him run on the carpet. We wanted him as a pet to hold as such and not just in a viv. We understand that some may still say dont as it could make things worst in the future, but we will have to address that then. For now we like the 10 minutes of holding and allowing George to have a run.

Thank you all again for your comments and advice, again it is much appreciated. Most we have done, we just want also to have 10 minutes our time.

Regards

Jill & Mike, and of course George xx
Well done lots of change. Let him get used to it now as they hate change. They will work out where to sleep and bask and let them decide as temperature based and what is comfortable. Just to add they tend to burrow so pile some orchid bark higher in an area to let that happen.Enjoy.
 
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