Leonardo's night box/winter house

Critta

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So I had been here on this forum around July of this year with a Leopard tortoise we had found at my work. Originally, I had been looking for someone to rehome him to but in the end my now 4 year old son really wanted to keep his ninja turtle he named Leonardo. I had planned on building a night box for the colder days and nights. However, my youngest son had come down with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease along with a MRSA staph infection on top of that in late August. Of course he passed it on to me and apparently the strain of Coxsackie virus we had is a newer strain being seen from other countries and is very harsh on adults when they get it. So it wasn’t until early October that I started gathering the supplies and began on my night box. I intended on taking pics along the way but it never really worked out like that. Part of the deal my son and I made is that he would actively help me with the construction of the box since it was his idea that we keep Leonardo and he did – at least as much as a 4 year old can help when building something like this. It was fun and for the first time doing it not as difficult as I had imagined it would be.

Here is the finished product. I mainly tried to make a 4x2 box similar to the one in a thread created by Team Gomberg. I already have a Hydrofarm thermostat and am waiting for a 700W oil filled heater I ordered from Amazon to arrive in a day or two since I could not find a small one or any oil filled heater locally that was less than 1500W. I’m also waiting for 8” wide x 1/8” thick vinyl door strips to arrive since those could not be found locally either. I added vinyl tiles to the bottom of the floor hoping it would make cleaning it out a little bit easier. Right now the top just lifts off but I intend on putting on hinges so I don’t have to always lift the entire top off of it. The box is built using 2x2’s as the frame and 3/8” plywood for all walls except one 4’ side of an interior wall. For that one I just used 3/8” OSB since the Home Depot was out of everything except 2’x 4’ long pieces of OSB, particle board or MDF. Hopefully, moisture won’t be an issue but if it becomes an issue I’ll just switch out that one sheet. Between each interior and exterior wall is 1” foam sheets. I tried to find 1.5” but once again no one around here seems to carry that thick of foam sheeting. So I also added some spray foam insulation as well. I’ll probably add some paint to the exterior walls and maybe some waterproofing or a sealant to the OSB board on the interior. Once the heater arrives I’ve already got a way to separate the heater from the rest of the compartment and I’ll install everything. I also plan on putting a shelf with water to help raise the humidity. If there’s anything else I should add just let me know this is my first time and doing this and any help is appreciated.
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Yvonne G

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Wow. For a recovering sickie with a 4 year old helper, you've done a remarkable job!! (I hope you know I'm just teasing on the name-calling).
 

Critta

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I don't mind the name calling. Just glad I'm over it now. I still have lingering effects though. The nasty strain of Hand Foot and Mouth I got left me with a few parting gifts. Now 5 of my fingernails are beginning to peel away and are going to fall off and I'm expecting a few of my toe nails to follow suit also - all of which I was told to expect with the form of HFM I had.
 

Critta

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So the box is totally finished now minus the paint. The heater is installed and the plastic flaps are installed. I have two questions.

I plugged everything in tonight and it seems to work very well. The temps are 65 here and I set the thermostat to 80. The heater is plugged into the thermostat. Once the thermostat reaches 80 the heating light on the thermostat cuts off and I thought so does the heater. When I took the top off the box the power light to the heater was still on. If I turn the thermostat on the heater itself lower that light goes off. So is the heater still getting power? I thought once the thermostat heating light goes off it shuts off the power to the heater. I'm using a Hydrofarm thermostat.

Secondly, I put the tortoise in the night box and he soon walked right back out. It's cool here but not cold yet. I put him in a second time and he walked back out again and out into the yard under his favorite hiding spot. It's supposed to get in the 40s this weekend and don't want him out in that cold weather. Will he eventually learn to stay inside by himself when it's cold outside or will I always have to close the door and lock him inside?
 

Jodie

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I have one leopard that won't go or stay in the box, but the others have learned to. I always lock them in at night. Nice job by the way.
 

BetZBear1

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Hey, Critta. I'm new to the site, but seeing how close we live, perhaps we could learn something from each other as we go. I just adopted a Russian and have him inside a terrarium most of the time since its been so cool and wet lately. Will spend the next month or so on his more permanent outdoor habitat for when it warms up. I have a similar design in mind for an outdoor insulated box.
Do you have pics of Leo?
Does he roam freely in your yard when not in the box?
 

Critta

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Hey, Critta. I'm new to the site, but seeing how close we live, perhaps we could learn something from each other as we go. I just adopted a Russian and have him inside a terrarium most of the time since its been so cool and wet lately. Will spend the next month or so on his more permanent outdoor habitat for when it warms up. I have a similar design in mind for an outdoor insulated box.
Do you have pics of Leo?
Does he roam freely in your yard when not in the box?

He roams outside all year long and he grazes on the grass in the yard. I leave cuttlebone all over for him to find and I also supplement his diet with calcium and vitamin powder sprinkled over bits of canteloupe. This is his first winter with me so that's why I built the night box. This was him during the summer.
image.jpg
 

BetZBear1

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Wowzers! He just wandered into your life? That's great!
Hope he keeps the grass well cut LOL
Hopefully he will come back to the box when he needs it and you won't need to lock him in. Will he be able to go in and out when he wants?
 

Critta

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Wowzers! He just wandered into your life? That's great!
Hope he keeps the grass well cut LOL
Hopefully he will come back to the box when he needs it and you won't need to lock him in. Will he be able to go in and out when he wants?

He can come and go as he pleases. His box is inside a screened in patio and I'm going to leave the door open for him. I had closed the door tonight to see if he'd go in and stay in the box after the first time he got out - but I have cameras around my house and one is in the patio. I saw that he had gotten out for the second time so I just opened the patio door and let him go hide in the yard where he wanted since it's going to be in the around 77 tomorrow. Tomorrow night though I may put him in and close the patio door but leave the door to the box open and see if he'll go back in the box and stay there during the night. If not I'll probably just lock him in the box when it gets cold Sat and Sun night.
 

Critta

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Looks awesome! How heavy is it?
Not sure of the exact weight but it's definitely very heavy. The top alone is pretty heavy but manageable for just myself. What I've done is put 4 bricks under it and when I need to move it I slide two small dollies with wheels under it, take out the bricks and wheel it where I want it. That works great since its on cement. If it were in the grass it would probably take at least 3 or 4 people to carry it.
It made off of Tom's original insulated design and following TeamGombergs thread as well. It's a really great design and keeps the temps pretty well and steady so far.
 

Gillian M

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He roams outside all year long and he grazes on the grass in the yard. I leave cuttlebone all over for him to find and I also supplement his diet with calcium and vitamin powder sprinkled over bits of canteloupe. This is his first winter with me so that's why I built the night box. This was him during the summer.
View attachment 156197
A wonderful pic!
 
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