How to make a cheap 8x8 foot outdoor enclosure

TechnoCheese

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5 Year Member
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Feb 20, 2016
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4,162
Location (City and/or State)
Lewisville, Texas
C1ADEBEC-FF56-4B7F-8733-97BE13718BEA.jpeg
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.

MATERIALS

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.

INSTRUCTIONS

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.
46AB15E5-5E1B-401E-97A5-D7232278E92D.jpeg

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.
40C003DF-1957-40BB-AE74-920C202F02A8.jpeg

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.
F7ABBB86-29BC-4534-A970-80F1B6084383.jpeg

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.
736C7B7A-E73D-4070-AF31-61C6358939F2.jpeg

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.
1119E0A2-CD34-4574-A64F-DC3B1AE69F15.jpeg

(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.
C1ADEBEC-FF56-4B7F-8733-97BE13718BEA.jpeg

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!
 

ISU

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Joined
Feb 25, 2020
Messages
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South Korea
I'm so jealous because I have lived in an apartment all my life. Amazing enclosure!
 

turtlesteve

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5 Year Member
Joined
Sep 23, 2012
Messages
500
I really love tutorial, but I do have a couple suggestions for anyone embarking on building one of these:

1. 12” is a bit short. It might be ok for a male Russian, but 15-16” is much better. Short walls are less concern if very smooth (plastic, etc.) so as not to be climbable.

2. If the wall is not sunk into the ground, line it with pavers. If the soil is soft, a tortoise or box turtle could dig out of this. Wider walls such as cinder block or railroad ties would be harder to dig under.

3. In my humid climate it would not be durable unless made with ground contact treated lumber...

Don’t take this the wrong way, just trying to raise a couple points to consider.

Steve
 

TechnoCheese

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5 Year Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2016
Messages
4,162
Location (City and/or State)
Lewisville, Texas
I really love tutorial, but I do have a couple suggestions for anyone embarking on building one of these:

1. 12” is a bit short. It might be ok for a male Russian, but 15-16” is much better. Short walls are less concern if very smooth (plastic, etc.) so as not to be climbable.

2. If the wall is not sunk into the ground, line it with pavers. If the soil is soft, a tortoise or box turtle could dig out of this. Wider walls such as cinder block or railroad ties would be harder to dig under.

3. In my humid climate it would not be durable unless made with ground contact treated lumber...

Don’t take this the wrong way, just trying to raise a couple points to consider.

Steve
I’m specifically using this for a male Russian in a dryer climate, but thank you for the tips for other readers! I’ll see if I can get a mod to help me edit it now that it’s been to long for me to.
 
Last edited:
L

LasTortugasNinja

Guest
I was debating making something similar, but with hinges instead of screws, as a portable tortoise enclosure.
 

MichaelL

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
876
Location (City and/or State)
Ocala, Fl
This is great! It looks awesome too. Someone should sticky this. One thing, to add icing to the cake, would be to make a chicken wire roof thing. Get 8x8 very thin wood pices, then staple in the chicken wire and put little safety hasps or something if you want to lock it on. That may hinder the ability of a predator or bird of prey to enter, at least more than it would without. Great job, this also helps kids who can't just go and spend a ton to make an enclosure, and only can do the cheapest possible that is allowed by their parents.
 
Joined
Mar 20, 2020
Messages
86
Location (City and/or State)
Denver, Colorado
View attachment 295872
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.

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.

MATERIALS

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.

INSTRUCTIONS

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.
View attachment 295873

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.
View attachment 295874

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.
View attachment 295875

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.
View attachment 295876

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.
View attachment 295877

(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.
View attachment 295872

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!
I'm asking for future reference, but I live in a place with mostly dirt and patches of wild grass (we can't really grow regular lawn grass). What would you recommend I do to compensate? Also, nights get cold out here. Is it still healthy to transfer before night?
 

TechnoCheese

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2016
Messages
4,162
Location (City and/or State)
Lewisville, Texas
I'm asking for future reference, but I live in a place with mostly dirt and patches of wild grass (we can't really grow regular lawn grass). What would you recommend I do to compensate?
Plant some stuff! I recommend the broadleaf testudo seed mix from tortoisesupply.com. You can also try their dry climate mix if you don’t get much rain :)
 

deee-deee

Member
Joined
Jun 20, 2020
Messages
35
Location (City and/or State)
Los Angeles, CA
that looks amazing!!! Nice job
I see a lot of pics without tops on outdoor enclosures... i'm building one now (live in southern california) and will bring him in at night, does anyone have feedback on if a secured top is needed?
 
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