How to access a low-to-the-ground wooden enclosure?

Flanman

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I am planning on making an outdoor enclosure for my tortoises. I will always go to great lengths to protect them from wild animals (there are lots of raccoons where I live) and I want to use chicken wire or some other alternative to cover the top and bottom of the enclosure. Now I have one last problem I need to address - How am I going to access the inside of the enclosure? I can't put a hinge on a huge enclosure like this and just make the top a hatch. The enclosure will be about 16x16 feet (~15.8x15.8 on inside) and 6-8 inches walls.
 

Byron Todd

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I am also wondering if there is a technique for this. My enclosure is much smaller, but it's difficult to make a single-part roof that doesn't weigh a ton.

It would be great if the roof could be divided into sections where each is independently openable. However, I can't think of a way to make a roof have multiple sections without water getting in. The only idea I had was to have overlapping shingles at the joints between the different sections, but I'm not sure if this would work, and I would guess that some leakage would still occur.

I currently just use heavy-duty struts to assist in opening. There are a variety of methods for assisted opening. Have you considered just a giant lid with some type of assisted opening?
 

Maro2Bear

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I am planning on making an outdoor enclosure for my tortoises. I will always go to great lengths to protect them from wild animals (there are lots of raccoons where I live) and I want to use chicken wire or some other alternative to cover the top and bottom of the enclosure. Now I have one last problem I need to address - How am I going to access the inside of the enclosure? I can't put a hinge on a huge enclosure like this and just make the top a hatch. The enclosure will be about 16x16 feet (~15.8x15.8 on inside) and 6-8 inches walls.

One way is to not think of the lid as one big lid, but many smaller areas. I’m sure you will be sectioning it up just so you have locations to staple down the chicken wire. So, break up the top into liftable sections. You could even run one center piece (left to right or top to bottom) and have your lids all pivot from this. Good luck
 

Flanman

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One way is to not think of the lid as one big lid, but many smaller areas. I’m sure you will be sectioning it up just so you have locations to staple down the chicken wire. So, break up the top into liftable sections. You could even run one center piece (left to right or top to bottom) and have your lids all pivot from this. Good luck
I think I'm going to either just segment it in to a 2x2 and have each have its own hatch, or use trapezoidal hatches connected to the center.
 

Tom

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I am planning on making an outdoor enclosure for my tortoises. I will always go to great lengths to protect them from wild animals (there are lots of raccoons where I live) and I want to use chicken wire or some other alternative to cover the top and bottom of the enclosure. Now I have one last problem I need to address - How am I going to access the inside of the enclosure? I can't put a hinge on a huge enclosure like this and just make the top a hatch. The enclosure will be about 16x16 feet (~15.8x15.8 on inside) and 6-8 inches walls.
A couple of things:

  • 8 inch walls are too low. Go at least 12-16 inches for a Russian tortoise. They are masters of escape.
  • Chicken wire will keep chickens out, but not raccoons. Use welded wire or hardware cloth if you are going to go that way.
  • I don't worry about predators in the day time once tortoises are about 4 inches or larger. I live out in the country and we have raccoons, possums, coyotes, bears, bobcats, mountain lions, hawks, eagles, etc... I've never had one problem with predators. My tortoises put themselves away in their heated shelters every night and I latch them in. Then I open the doors every morning and they come out when they want.
  • Making a top on a large outdoor enclosure makes access difficult and limits plant growth. They need bushes and what not for cover and shade. Tops work fine for juvenile and baby enclosures, but once you start moving beyond multiples of 8 feet, it begins to get difficult. If you want the whole thing covered, start thinking in terms of large walk in cages. I'll post a pic of one of mine at the end of the thread.
  • If you insist on low walls and a wire mesh cover, make a series of covers that are 4x8 feet and hinged in the middle. This way you can walk all around the outside of an enclosure that is 16 feet wide, and as long as you want. Just lift and prop up the lid where you need to work.
This is a typical 4x8 foot covered baby enclosure. Bottom is 2x12 and top is made of 2x4s. Nothing is getting in or out. You can see two more in the back ground that are divided into 4x4s for sunning babies. It was relatively cool when these pics were taken, so no need for a lot of shade.
IMG_2516.JPG

Same concept but with slumpstone block, and three pens all together.
7907461_orig.jpg




Here is a pen for a small species to be housed in as adults. Each row is about 8 feet across and 28 feet long.
IMG_0045.jpg
IMG_0046.jpg


Here is a large open pen with no cover built around the previous shown cages. This tortoise has a heated night box to retreat to in colder weather and every night:
March.jpeg
 

Yvonne G

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If at all possible, don't make it short. Make it tall enough that you can walk into it. Years and years ago I made a chicken coop and I made it short. It was a terrible pain to get in there and do anything to the yard. You'll be sorry if you make it short.
 

Flanman

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A couple of things:

  • 8 inch walls are too low. Go at least 12-16 inches for a Russian tortoise. They are masters of escape.
  • Chicken wire will keep chickens out, but not raccoons. Use welded wire or hardware cloth if you are going to go that way.
  • I don't worry about predators in the day time once tortoises are about 4 inches or larger. I live out in the country and we have raccoons, possums, coyotes, bears, bobcats, mountain lions, hawks, eagles, etc... I've never had one problem with predators. My tortoises put themselves away in their heated shelters every night and I latch them in. Then I open the doors every morning and they come out when they want.
  • Making a top on a large outdoor enclosure makes access difficult and limits plant growth. They need bushes and what not for cover and shade. Tops work fine for juvenile and baby enclosures, but once you start moving beyond multiples of 8 feet, it begins to get difficult. If you want the whole thing covered, start thinking in terms of large walk in cages. I'll post a pic of one of mine at the end of the thread.
  • If you insist on low walls and a wire mesh cover, make a series of covers that are 4x8 feet and hinged in the middle. This way you can walk all around the outside of an enclosure that is 16 feet wide, and as long as you want. Just lift and prop up the lid where you need to work.
This is a typical 4x8 foot covered baby enclosure. Bottom is 2x12 and top is made of 2x4s. Nothing is getting in or out. You can see two more in the back ground that are divided into 4x4s for sunning babies. It was relatively cool when these pics were taken, so no need for a lot of shade.
View attachment 321776

Same concept but with slumpstone block, and three pens all together.
View attachment 321780




Here is a pen for a small species to be housed in as adults. Each row is about 8 feet across and 28 feet long.
View attachment 321778
View attachment 321779


Here is a large open pen with no cover built around the previous shown cages. This tortoise has a heated night box to retreat to in colder weather and every night:
View attachment 321781
I don’t have to be worried about things like birds or raccoons trying to snatch my tortoises? I can go without a cover on it?
 

Sterant

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I don’t have to be worried about things like birds or raccoons trying to snatch my tortoises? I can go without a cover on it?
Tom was suggesting that once the tortoises are over 4", you don't have to worry too much about predators DURING THE DAY.
 

Flanman

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Tom was suggesting that once the tortoises are over 4", you don't have to worry too much about predators DURING THE DAY.
Got you. I think he meant I didn’t need covering to protect them in the day so long as I locked them in their shelter at night
 
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