Help Moving EBT Outdoors For First Time

K1LOS

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We're considering moving our 3yr old EBT outdoors for the summers now that it's gotten older and bigger. I know it's the best thing for it, but I've got a few concerns with the environment we can provide though.

Thinking about building something out of pressure treated landscape timbers. Exact location hasn't been confirmed yet and that will dictate size, but the leading contender would be ~8x2'. We would use chicken wire underneath and on a hinged lid to prevent unwanted escapes and entries. Wherever it goes I'll make it as big as I can.

Our backyard only gets direct sun in the afternoons. I understand constant direct sunlight wouldn't be desireable for a boxie, but this lowers temperatures and could reduce the outdoor season and limit basking opportunities through the day. The front yard is not an option for obvious reasons. Do you think this would be an issue?

What is the minimum acceptable air temp over night for an EBT? Its not something I've dealt with housing indoors and I see different answers when googling. We probably only have the end of June through the end of August where the night time low stays over 15C (60F), even then there will be some exceptions. Will EBTs seek out heated hides when needed? It would probably be an insulated box with heat tape inside, unless somebody has a better suggestion for outdoor heating. I don't want to risk a URI or worse because we forgot him out on a cool night, or went away and the temp dropped. If he won't seek out the warm hide it could be a deal breaker.

Do people use those automated garden misters for outdoor boxie habitats? Do they make a fine enough mist or is it basically just hosing down the habitat? Thought I could set a few of those nozzles up for misting, and have another tube to flush out and fill the water dish daily.

Thanks for any input.
 

mark1

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i live in northeast ohio , on the shore of lake erie …… the box turtles are native to this area …... they are normally down here by early November , late October , they don't come up until early may , 6-7 months .. the winter temps here often get below 0 F* sometimes for a week straight ……. we have been below freezing for a solid month in a really cold winter , I think one year we were 2 months without getting above freezing ……… the temp here has gotten like -20 , I doubt your temps would be a problem , the length of your season could be a problem , the depth and length of the ground freeze …….. i'm on the southern shore of lake erie 41.5 lat , they are also native to the northern shore of lake erie southern Ontario as far north as 43 lat ……… you may be in or close to their range , I don't believe they are found in the interior of Ontario , i'd imagine the lake has an effect on the ground temps .....if you provide optimum conditions , south facing enclosure that gets lots of sun , a really good hibernacula , high ground , well drained easily dug soil , south facing , all day sun ….. they'd probably do well ……. southern Ontario is a northern limit of their range for a reason , i'd guess season length , your ground temps are borderline acceptable for their reproduction and hibernation ………. you could always dig them up in the early winter and hibernate them in a fridge , wake them early and keep them in the house for a month or two …….. there are turtles like spotted turtles , blanding's, and painted turtles that can have an active season of 3 months or so , I don't think box turtles are among those , those turtles hibernate in the water , it's a very different environment , and a very much more active hibernation …… if you spend the time learning how wild box turtles live in their northern range , and then just make it easier for them then their wild counterparts , give them optimum conditions and they are easily kept ……. I see eastern box turtles basking at 40 F* , touch their shells and they'll be warm to the touch …….. when the nights here are staying in the 40's , I put any I took in for the winter back out …….. sunny and 65 is a good day for them , they know how to get warm and stay warm …. a good south facing grass leaf pile over top some good loose dirt protected on the north side will keep them warm at night …... decomposing vegetation gives off heat .......

DSCF5274.jpg
 

K1LOS

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Thanks for the reply.

The turtle will come indoors for winter for sure, it gets far too cold for them here. We get down to -40C/F at our worst. It was actually below zero last night and was snowing here today, granted that's not normal this far into spring.

South facing is not an option unfortunately. I have a small yard with houses, fences, gazebos, etc casting shade everywhere.
 

mark1

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you must live pretty far north , I had family in peterburough , it didn't seem any colder than here , just longer ......… ebt's are native to Ontario , regardless , they need sun ……. they certainly will not thrive outside in the shade , I've used mvb lights outside in the spring when the temps are irregular and it tends to be overcast ...........................we also had snow last night and this morning , my turtles been eating for near 2 weeks ……...….. EBT's are native to a couple counties in the UP in Michigan I would think those see temps like you describe …. it's not the air temp that affects them , it's the ground temp they're in ……….obviously extended cold air temps relate to colder ground temps ........ snow cover is an excellent insulator ......
 

K1LOS

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Not so far north really, but north of Peterborough yes. I'd be in line with the UP of Michigan, not sure if our weather is the same though. We don't have the lakes moderating temperatures here.

Historically EBTs lived in Ontario, not in my lifetime though. There are none in the wild here now.

Sun will be directly shining in the enclosure for parts of the day, is that sufficient? It wouldn't be dark in there the rest of the day, just not direct sun.

Any input regarding boxies knowing to go to a heated hide when necessary or not? Some reptiles will, some won't. My indoor enclosure always has the desired temps so I have no experience with this.

I looked up the locally available pressure treated lumber, they sell MicroPro Sienna PT wood here. Looks like this is a copper azole treatment and is suitable for use in raised vegetable gardens etc. I'll likely use this, I may still line the interior with plastic for peace of mind though.
 

mark1

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they will find heat , they'll find the sun if it's available .... I keep CA wood turtles here outside for 5-6 months every year soon as the nights stay over 40 ..... looks like i'll be putting them out next weekend , they won't come in before sometime next October …… I use a infrared heat lamp over their water , a che in a box , and a clear plastic cover I can put over the pen in the end and beginning of their season ….. it rolls up , I unroll it when it gets too cold at night , 35-40 ...….. I've always used pressure treated wood on all the pens……… as far as chicken wire on the bottom , would be better to just bury the walls 6-8 inches deep , they use the ground for regulating their temp ……..
 

Tom

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We're considering moving our 3yr old EBT outdoors for the summers now that it's gotten older and bigger. I know it's the best thing for it, but I've got a few concerns with the environment we can provide though.

Thinking about building something out of pressure treated landscape timbers. Exact location hasn't been confirmed yet and that will dictate size, but the leading contender would be ~8x2'. We would use chicken wire underneath and on a hinged lid to prevent unwanted escapes and entries. Wherever it goes I'll make it as big as I can.

Our backyard only gets direct sun in the afternoons. I understand constant direct sunlight wouldn't be desireable for a boxie, but this lowers temperatures and could reduce the outdoor season and limit basking opportunities through the day. The front yard is not an option for obvious reasons. Do you think this would be an issue?

What is the minimum acceptable air temp over night for an EBT? Its not something I've dealt with housing indoors and I see different answers when googling. We probably only have the end of June through the end of August where the night time low stays over 15C (60F), even then there will be some exceptions. Will EBTs seek out heated hides when needed? It would probably be an insulated box with heat tape inside, unless somebody has a better suggestion for outdoor heating. I don't want to risk a URI or worse because we forgot him out on a cool night, or went away and the temp dropped. If he won't seek out the warm hide it could be a deal breaker.

Do people use those automated garden misters for outdoor boxie habitats? Do they make a fine enough mist or is it basically just hosing down the habitat? Thought I could set a few of those nozzles up for misting, and have another tube to flush out and fill the water dish daily.

Thanks for any input.
This doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. What I like to do is have an outdoor enclosure and also an indoor one. When the weather is nice, the turtle can be outside in the warm sunshine. When it snows in May, you can just bring the turtle in. I do this daily with many of my tortoises. (Not the snow in May part... :) )

Its not obvious why you can't do this in the front yard if it is warmer with more consistent sun there. The turtle will be in a secure enclosure with a lid. You could add a latch and padlock if theft is a concern.

I think 8x2 is a little bit too narrow. Can you stretch it to 3 or 4 feet wide? Maybe go a little longer too? I make 4x8' temporary enclosures for baby tortoises. Even 4x8 will be a little crowed for an adult box turtle. I'd rather see something 10x10 or 15x15, when possible. I have a 1000 gram 6-7" baby tortoise that I'm making a 30x40' enclosure for right now.
 

Yvonne G

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they will find heat , they'll find the sun if it's available .... I keep CA wood turtles here outside for 5-6 months every year soon as the nights stay over 40 ..... looks like i'll be putting them out next weekend , they won't come in before sometime next October …… I use a infrared heat lamp over their water , a che in a box , and a clear plastic cover I can put over the pen in the end and beginning of their season ….. it rolls up , I unroll it when it gets too cold at night , 35-40 ...….. I've always used pressure treated wood on all the pens……… as far as chicken wire on the bottom , would be better to just bury the walls 6-8 inches deep , they use the ground for regulating their temp ……..
This was a 'face/palm' moment for me. How dumb can I be? It never occurred to me to drag out the extension cord and heat lamp on cold days after the box turtles had come out of brumation. This spring I had to set up three indoor enclosures for different species of box turtles that developed swollen eyes because the weather turned cold after they woke up.
 

mark1

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our spring weather is normally pretty erratic here , I believe the first week of april we had 60-75 degrees , then we got temps at or below freezing for weeks , couple more 60-75 degree days , then 30's and snow , lots of 50 degree highs mixed in , it snowed here 2 days ago ……. the water turtles here are more affected by the erratic temps than the land turtles , the water temp changes faster than the ground temps ...….some of the water turtles here were eating the first week of april …I often give them a spot to warm up at this time of year when we get long stretches of cold after it had already warmed up ….. below is a graph of the water temps of a river by me , a tributary of lake erie , some may not realize the temp swings , and the speed at which they happen , that these turtles deal with naturally …... when I was a kid this river had natural populations of midland painteds , eastern softshells , snapping turtles , and blanding's turtles ….. you can see how erratic the temps of these rivers can be , on may 3rd the river went from 71 to 58 overnight , it was like 45 today .......
USGS1.jpg
 

K1LOS

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Decided to go for it yesterday, built a 4'x8'x18" enclosure out of pressure treated lumber. It's not as big as some enclosures, but it's probably already bigger than my backyard can really accommodate. I've got chicken wire fastened to the bottom so the turt can't escape from below. I'll be leveling it out and adding 6-8" of 2:1 soil:sand mix to the interior for the substrate.

I haven't exactly decided how I'll do the lid yet. Likely some sort of 2x2" frame and chicken wire, but 2x2s warp like crazy so I'm hoping I come up with something better. My son does the feeding etc so the lid needs to be light enough he can easily move it around, and more importantly not so heavy that it hurts when it inevitably falls on him. We aren't ready to move the turt out full time yet so I've got awhile to figure out what I want to do.

Plants, water bowl, hides, mister & waterbowl overfill, etc all still to be determined. Good progress but still a ways to go.
 

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ColleenT

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i am in Eastern Pa and i have 4 Three-toed boxies which are NOT native to Pa. It is colder here than their natural territory. I have successfully let them hibernate for 4 winters. I have softer dirt in the den area, so they can burrow down as far as they prefer. They do pretty well and my enclosure is next to the garage, so it does NOT get full sun. and they only have a few hours of FULL sun. they do great. Good luck!!
 

K1LOS

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Helpful info, thank you Colleen. What time of day does the turtle pen get sun? Mine won't have direct sun until about noon, which is less than ideal. I wish I had somewhere to put it that had morning sun but this property just can't accommodate that.

Today we put in 1/2 yard of top soil, tomorrow I'll add 1/4 yard of sand. Not sure why I'm doing this manual labour in a heat wave, I must really love that little turt. The place I went had concrete sand but not play/pool filter sand, does it matter?

We let Spike roam around in the habitat for an hour or two after adding the soil. He used every inch of it and did so many laps of the interior walls. I can see how much better this will be for Spike, can't wait to get him (more likely "her") moved in.

Is there a list of suitable outdoor plants that somebody can recommend? We are hoping to get planting and decorating this weekend.

Any thoughts on releasing a tub of fishing bait nightcrawlers into the soil mix? Will they just dig their way out and into the surrounding soil or would they stay in the 6+" inside the enclosure? Would they need to be fed or something?

Thanks!
 

K1LOS

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Helpful info, thank you Colleen. What time of day does the turtle pen get sun? Mine won't have direct sun until about noon, which is less than ideal. I wish I had somewhere to put it that had morning sun but this property just can't accommodate that.

Today we put in 1/2 yard of top soil, tomorrow I'll add 1/4 yard of sand. Not sure why I'm doing this manual labour in a heat wave, I must really love that little turt. The place I went had concrete sand but not play/pool filter sand, does it matter?

We let Spike roam around in the habitat for an hour or two after adding the soil. He used every inch of it and did so many laps of the interior walls. I can see how much better this will be for Spike, can't wait to get him (more likely "her") moved in.

Is there a list of suitable outdoor plants that somebody can recommend? We are hoping to get planting and decorating this weekend.

Any thoughts on releasing a tub of fishing bait nightcrawlers into the soil mix? Will they just dig their way out and into the surrounding soil or would they stay in the 6+" inside the enclosure? Would they need to be fed or something?

Thanks!

Meant to include an updated picture.
 

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ColleenT

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Lehigh Valley Pa
Helpful info, thank you Colleen. What time of day does the turtle pen get sun? Mine won't have direct sun until about noon, which is less than ideal. I wish I had somewhere to put it that had morning sun but this property just can't accommodate that.

Today we put in 1/2 yard of top soil, tomorrow I'll add 1/4 yard of sand. Not sure why I'm doing this manual labour in a heat wave, I must really love that little turt. The place I went had concrete sand but not play/pool filter sand, does it matter?

We let Spike roam around in the habitat for an hour or two after adding the soil. He used every inch of it and did so many laps of the interior walls. I can see how much better this will be for Spike, can't wait to get him (more likely "her") moved in.

Is there a list of suitable outdoor plants that somebody can recommend? We are hoping to get planting and decorating this weekend.

Any thoughts on releasing a tub of fishing bait nightcrawlers into the soil mix? Will they just dig their way out and into the surrounding soil or would they stay in the 6+" inside the enclosure? Would they need to be fed or something?

Thanks!
My sun is actually brightest in the late mornings. I plant Hostas, bc the slugs like them, and boxies like Slugs, but also they make a great place to hide. i have strawberry plants in there, Pachysandra, grass, ferns, lamium, clover.
 

ZappCatt

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Everything I have read on this site says to not use Sand for Turtle/Tortoise enclosures. Is there any particular reason why you are planning to add sand to the soil you already have?

I am new here(have an Ornate Box Turtle) and am genuinely curious.
 

K1LOS

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Ontario
Everything I have read on this site says to not use Sand for Turtle/Tortoise enclosures. Is there any particular reason why you are planning to add sand to the soil you already have?

I am new here(have an Ornate Box Turtle) and am genuinely curious.
I imagine what you're talking about is impaction concerns. This isn't straight sand, it's soil and sand mixed 2:1, so Sandy soil . Sand increases the drainage of the soil and will better hold the shape of tunnels etc the turt digs.
 

K1LOS

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Added the sand today and mixed it all together. Phase 1 is now complete after a ton of work in the middle of a heatwave over 3 days. Day 1 was sourcing lumber and building it. Day 2 was sourcing top soil (twice because they shorted me on the first trip) and shovelling & wheel barrowing it over to habitat, day 3 was sourcing sand, shovelling/wheel barrowing, and mixing it into the soil. Could be done in 2 full days, if you got the sand and soil delivered, definitely if you had an adult helping you. I'm at about $290 CAD in expenses to this point.

On to planting, decorating, as well as sorting out a hide, shade, and a proper water bowl!

There was a foot of sunshine in the enclosure at 1130 today when we started working. So probably 1100 or so for the first bit to hit it. Once some shade gets to it this afternoon we will put the turt in for awhile to explore his new digs.
 
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LasTortugasNinja

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I imagine what you're talking about is impaction concerns. This isn't straight sand, it's soil and sand mixed 2:1, so Sandy soil . Sand increases the drainage of the soil and will better hold the shape of tunnels etc the turt digs.
Placing a sideways pot half buried in the soil under a bush or long grass is a great hide that box turtles will use. They will dig their own, but they aren't careful not to damage the plant roots. I had wild box turtles that lived in my parents' garden as a kid and they stayed in the pots we had lying around or under the railroad ties we had bordering the garden. They'd sun on a large cinderblock we used to tie the guide wire for our baby apple tree. When it started getting chilly, they buried completely under the ground, about 6 or 9 inches below the surface. We'd find them the following spring when we were turning the soil for a new year of gardening.
 

K1LOS

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I'd seen it done but wasn't sure about the look of the pots on their sides, putting it under tall grass is a good idea. Might just do that.

Found a nursery that is actually open to the public in town, might go plant shopping this afternoon. Considering Blue Fescue, Scottish Moss, sedum, and purple thyme (if they actually have them as their website suggests). All are listed as turtle safe as per thetortoisetable.org.uk.

Out of lack of a better idea I'm thinking I'll get a big clay pot saucer for the water bowl. Googling suggests they are about 2" deep, I'd rather deeper so the carapace can be fully submerged but haven't thought of anything better. A sunken paint roller tray was another idea but it wouldn't have much deep area anyway and wouldn't look very good.

We've been putting Spike in the cage a few hours a day, basically whenever we can supervise and the cage still has shaded areas. Love that he uses all the space available, he's all over the place in there. He's been testing the security, he likes trying to climb this corner which so far has contained him, sometimes resulting in him flipping over. For the most part we've been waiting and letting him sort flips out on his own, we need to be sure it won't be a problem when we aren't watching. Sometimes we can't resist and take pity on him to help out though, don't like seeing him in distress.

Grabbed this log from a nature trail parking area nearby and threw it in. Spike seems to climb and fall over it for fun, it's like he's on a sledding hill. He climbs up, falls over, walks around to get back to the start, repeats. I wouldn't have thought turtles do things for fun, but it sure seems like it in this instance. Doesn't appear to be any other purpose, he isn't heading to something else, just falls over it and then goes back to do it again. I don't know what type of log it is, but now that I've stopped to look at the bark I'm thinking it might be some sort of pine. Pine oils aren't good for turtles... This looks pretty old and dried out though, should I remove it?
 

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