Hermann's outdoor enclosure (work in progress)

DPtortiose

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Joined
Sep 16, 2015
Messages
97
Hallo all,

I’m currently building a Hermann's outdoor enclosure and I'm looking for some advice and tips how I'm doing so far. Forgive if I'm over explaining, but I find it beneficial to explain what my thought process was.

So, the enclosure is about 20 square meters and is facing south. It's build on south facing sloap with on a mostly sandy soil. The back of the enclosure has a thin organic soil layer with a PH of around 4.5, with more sand underneath. I choose this spot because of the long sunlight hours (about continuously in high summer and from about nine o’clock in very late fall/winter. Further, the sandy soil drains really well, while the PH of soil is perfect for growing native flora (read weeds). The draw backs is that there is an apple tree nearby (which my dog loves to hide all over the place) so I might have to watchful in which way the wind blows the apples from the tree. The soil is pretty poor in calcium too.

All plants in the enclosure are picked based on information provided by the tortoise table plant database (Link)
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So the big hiding hole was made from a large plantpot that ('exedenitly') fell. I used to create a burrow inside the hill and a dry hiding spot for rainy days.

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The purple plant on the left side of the shot is Erica cinerea and should remain a bit of a ground dwelling species. The white one is Empetrum nigrum, which will grow more upright. Which is excellent since this species apperantly sprouts (eatable albeit very foul tasting) berries. This will mostly grow out of tortoise reach and is a favorite among birds. Both species are frequently visit by a range of insects and are part of the heather familly and edible but not very tasty.

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The greenhouse is about 2 sqaure meters and is constructed from 18 mm concrete plywood (I think that's the correct in english term). I've chosen for this material since it's epoxy covering is weatherproof and safe to use with animals. It isolate's pretty well and it's dark surface warm's up quickly in the sun. It also generates some shade in the greenhouse. The top is made from polycarbonate and wll be completely removed once average temps hit suitable levels.

The plant with purple flowers is Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender). The logs are either cut from birch or apple tree.

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The row of bricks near the upper corner of the greenhouse separates the hatchlings from the main enclosure for now. When the tortoise are outside a cage is secured on top of the stone to protect them from predators. This area is quite small for now but will continue to grow larger until they reach appropriate sizes to be released in the full enclosure. This give the plants time to settle in and grow.

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Please ignore the big red apple, my dog likes to place them in the most randomly spots possible. I've found them scattered and jammed between rocks, logs and in my shoe.

The big stone on the left is climbable from the other side. Unfortunately I didn't have a dark colored one, but it still soaks up warmth quite well. I've noticed one of my tortoises seems to enjoy sitting on high objects and watch what is happening. So hopefully this will be right up his alley.

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The other half of the plant pot has been put here. I've knockout the bottom part of this one so it acts like a tunnel between grazing meadows.

The plant in the lower-left corner of the shot is called Campanula addenda (the ground swelling variant), this one is mostly picked to outcompete some naturally growing weeds in this meadow. Most notably the Glechoma hederacea growing on the left part of the shot. This plant is poisonous, but quite difficult to eradicate in the garden. Though the tortoises shouldn't eat them I'd like to reduce the size of the population anyway.

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The plant on the left with the purple flowers is Hebe addenda. This one should grow till a nice shrub that should provide some shelter. As a bonus it's swarmed by bees and other insects and grows attractive flowers.

The meadow in the enclosure contains about ten different edible weeds, just to name a few different groups:
Trifolium (Clovers both red and white)
Plantago (Fleaworths about two different species)
Crepis (Hawk's-beard)
Taraxacum officinale (Common dandelion)

This is supplemented by about twenty other different weeds and plants that grow around the yard like:
Carduus (Thistels, about two different species)
Urtica dioica (Stinging nettle)
Hosta
Lonicera
(Honeysuckle)
Alchemilla (Lady's mantle)
Potentilla (Silverweed)
Matricaria chamomilla (Chamomile very sparsley though)
Zea mays (Corn/Maize, but only young leaves and from a pesticed free plants)
Achillea millefolium (Common yarrow)
Viola (Violets)
Geranium (Cranesbills)
Stellaria media (Chickweed)
Hypochaeris radicata (Cat's ear)
Hieracium (Hawkweed)

Unfortunately I can’t remember everything I feed from the top of my head, but it’ll do as an indication. Anyway, I’m think of adding a small part with some small pebbles. Wild tortoises have been observed to swallow small stones, supposedly to aid in digestion just like crocodilians are known to do. Has any keeper observed this kind of behavior?

Comments and points of improvement are greatly appreciated.
 

WithLisa

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Jan 3, 2015
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Looks wonderful so far, I'm sure your torts will be very pleased with their enclosure. :D
But I would recommend to add an automatic window opener to the cold frame, my hatchlings seem to be too stupid to leave their cold frame when it's overheating.

Where are you from?
 

DPtortiose

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2015
Messages
97
Looks wonderful so far, I'm sure your torts will be very pleased with their enclosure. :D
But I would recommend to add an automatic window opener to the cold frame, my hatchlings seem to be too stupid to leave their cold frame when it's overheating.

Where are you from?

I'm from the Netherlands.

The large frame you'll see now will be replaced by a mesh one in full summer and a half mesh/poly carbonate one when temps increase above 20 degrees Celsius. Depending on the weather either the lower part of the enclosure will be mesh or the higher part. I'm afraid it'll get way to hot otherwise, even with a self-opening door and I prefer provide as much unfiltered sunshine as possible. I might choose to go for self-opening system though and keep it covered year round.
 

Yvonne G

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I'm not sure about the surrounding fence line. I'm not able to see how you are planning to keep the tortoise inside this beautiful habitat.
 

DPtortiose

Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2015
Messages
97
I'm not sure about the surrounding fence line. I'm not able to see how you are planning to keep the tortoise inside this beautiful habitat.

Woeps, I've completely forget to mention that. I've dug in some concrete slabs that go about 30 cm deep into the ground. I'll put up a fence about 50 cm high to keep the turtles from escaping. The fencing is smooth from the inside and can't been seen through. I haven't put up the fencing yet because the animals won't have free range of the enclosure yet and once I put it in, it will start decaying. While the fencing should last more than a decade, But i rather have it last a couple years more when it's actually needed, then use it now.

The total costs of building this enclosure was about a 100 euro's. Pretty much the entire enclosure has been built from the junk I had laying around the house and in the neighborhood.
 
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