5 Year Member
- Feb 20, 2016
- Location (City and/or State)
- Lewisville, Texas
A lot of tortoise keepers struggle with finding ways to allow their tortoise the space that they so desperately need. Further, outdoor keeping allows for tortoises to bask in true sunlight, which there is no perfect alternative to, and really brings out their natural behaviors and personalities. I hope that this guide will allow more owners to give their shelled friends a safe outdoor experience.
This specific enclosure works great for any smaller or young tortoise, including adult testudos like russians, Hermann’s, and greeks, as well as being the bare minimum for an adult redfoot. However, for anything larger than about 6-8 inches, you’ll want to go for 16 inch walls or taller, or at least create a lip around the top of the inside of the enclosure.
I spent a total of about 16$ on just the pen itself, and it only took me 20 minutes to put together. If you don’t have screws or a drill, it may cost you more, unless you find alternatives.
• A 4x8 sheet of plywood (note that if you get if from Home Depot, they’ll cut it for you)
• 4 feet of a 2x4 (you may have to cut this yourself if your store does not have some sort of cutting tool available. I cut mine with a chop saw.)
•16 Screws and a drill. I just stole a drill from my dad and used some 1 1/4 inch drywall screws I had on hand. You’ll want to make sure that your screws are 2 inches or shorter if you use the same plywood I did. If you don’t have a drill, you could potentially use nails and a hammer, a nail gun, These stacked 2 high per corner, or maybe even something like liquid nails.
1) Cut your sheet of plywood into four 8x1 foot strips. This will give you four 8 foot long walls. Alternatively, you could have the sheet cut into three 16 inch high strips, and cut one in half to make an 8x4 foot enclosure with 16 inch high walls. I would go no smaller than this.
2) have your 2x4 cut into four 1 foot tall sections. If you chose to make a 16 inch tall enclosure, make 16 inch cuts.
3) on only TWO of the plywood strips, screw a 2x4 piece onto each end.
I did this by laying the strip on the ground, sliding the 2x4 under the end and making sure that it was flush with the side, and drilling a screw though both pieces at the top and bottom. Be careful to make sure the screws do not stick out at the ends, and make sure you drill the screw so that it goes through the plywood first and then the 2x4, and not the other way around.
4) hold the side with the 2x4s up, and screw one side onto the 2x4. Again, put a screw on the top and the bottom. Make sure that the screws are not going to hit each other on the way in. It’s much easier to do this with 2 people, but I managed to prop one up with my feet and drill with my hands.
5) repeat step 4 for all sides. Do your best to keep the plywood flush with the 2x4s, and keep it level or flush to the ground where you want the enclosure to be.
6) cap the corners. In the rare case that your tortoise does manage to find a way to climb over the corners, the cap will keep them in. If you want to be more thorough, create a ledge that juts out along the entire edge of the enclosure by lining it with 2x4s. You can use anything for the caps as long as you’re sure it won’t fall in. I used bricks, but you could easily cut plywood corners that look better.
(7) fill the enclosure with hides, at least one water bowl, and make sure that there is some form of shade. I just have deep, dirt covered hides for now that keep the insides 70 degrees on a 90 degree day, but I’m going to plant a few small trees.
And you’re done!
Now you have a safe, secure outdoor enclosure!
If your tortoise is less than 5-6 inches, you may want to consider making a cover out of a frame made from 2x4s and hardware cloth to keep hawks out. If you are choosing to keep your tortoises outside overnight (temperature permitting), you either need to lock the tortoises in a night box or have a strong, heavy or locking cover to keep raccoons and other nocturnal predators at bay.
Please be sure to ask any questions you have, and share pictures of enclosures you create!