Leopard Tortoise Outdoor Enclosure

Krupbot20

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Hi everyone. As I stated in my introduction, I live in Southern California and am looking to own some leopard tortoises, specifically GPPs.

I originally planned on raising two tortoises together, but I was informed that is not the way to go for the tortoise' s sake. I plan on getting a hatchling at the beginning of next year and am already working on a 4'x8' closed top enclosure for its first year or so.

So the reason for this post is the outdoor enclosure. I plan on making an outdoor enclosure out of my 5.5' x 80+' raised plant bed. It's raised about 3' off the ground. It's sloped so I'm going to get it professionally leveled flat. Then I'll install a wall (I'm thinking 1 foot tall) on the open side to prevent the tortoise (It will be named "Bowser") from falling out.

It gets direct sunlight from about 11am to 5pm.

Once the current plants and wood chips are removed and it is leveled, I will put in grass, a sprinkler system for higher humidity levels, plants, shade areas, and a house for heat. I'm brainstorming on predator proofing it.

I'm open to suggestions, but a few questions I do have:

Is this too narrow of an area? (5.5 feet)

Is it too large for a juvenile leopard and would I be better off dividing it in two separate enclosures for two tortoises?

Would this be large enough to house three adult tortoises if there was visual barriers and they were monitored?

Is that enough time in the direct Sun? (11am to 5pm)

Again, the welfare of the tortoise is my number one priority so please don't be afraid to provide critisim. I can take it!

That's just one area of my backyard and I have other options. That just seemed to be the best because it had tons of space and is out of the way in a sense.

Thanks again.

-Steve

(Trying to upload photos of the area)
 

wellington

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Your baby should live in a closed chamber for two years. Then you can house him in the outdoor enclosure. If it's not predator proof at that time, house him outside during the day and bring him in at night. During those first two years, he could have short daily visits in the outdoor enclosure, but to make it easier for you to find him, I would make it smaller. The width is fine.
 

Krupbot20

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Your baby should live in a closed chamber for two years. Then you can house him in the outdoor enclosure. If it's not predator proof at that time, house him outside during the day and bring him in at night. During those first two years, he could have short daily visits in the outdoor enclosure, but to make it easier for you to find him, I would make it smaller. The width is fine.
Thank you for the great advice Wellington. Do you think a 4'x8' closed chamber enclosure will be big enough for the first two years?
 

wellington

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You could do as small as a 4x6. I raised my hatchling in a 2x4 for about a year then opened it to 4x4 until s/he was about a year and a half then put her/him in a 4x6. Mine will be 2 this month and s/he moved out to the winter shed in october, which his/her area there is about a 4x8. Then in the summer s/he will be moved to the yard which is very big, and will have a portion of a summer shed as a hide to go into at night.
 

teresaf

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I recommend that you skip the hatchling phase altogether. Get about six month or a year old leopard tortoises. Hatchlings are cute and all but they're very fragile. The six months or a year old have gone past the possible failure to thrive faze.
You can keep them in the 4 x 8 closed enclosure for longer than just a year if you'd like. The higher humidity stops pyramiding and pyramiding is possible for as long as they're growing... Maybe days outside and nights inside in high humidity high heat. Just remember that with high humidity you need high heat above 80 at all times in EVERY corner of his habitat or he'll get a respiratory infection.
 

Krupbot20

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You could do as small as a 4x6. I raised my hatchling in a 2x4 for about a year then opened it to 4x4 until s/he was about a year and a half then put her/him in a 4x6. Mine will be 2 this month and s/he moved out to the winter shed in october, which his/her area there is about a 4x8. Then in the summer s/he will be moved to the yard which is very big, and will have a portion of a summer shed as a hide to go into at night.
Thank you Wellington. So he/ she will eventually free roam in your yard? I have a large and secure yard that he/she could roam when he or she is an adult and that would be great.
 

Krupbot20

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I recommend that you skip the hatchling phase altogether. Get about six month or a year old leopard tortoises. Hatchlings are cute and all but they're very fragile. The six months or a year old have gone past the possible failure to thrive faze.
You can keep them in the 4 x 8 closed enclosure for longer than just a year if you'd like. The higher humidity stops pyramiding and pyramiding is possible for as long as they're growing... Maybe days outside and nights inside in high humidity high heat. Just remember that with high humidity you need high heat above 80 at all times in EVERY corner of his habitat or he'll get a respiratory infection.
I agree Teresaf. I was hoping to purchase a tortoise from a member here who stated he would have hatchlings in February. Ideally I would love a slightly older (or even subadult) tortoise. I have not been able to locate one for sale and don't want to purchase any thing from an online bulk breeder. Any suggestions?

Also thanks for the temp advice. I'm able to get my dart frog tank in the 90% humidity range, but that's in a moist jungle environment. Im sure it will take some experimentation to get the tortoise enclosure right. My plan is to build my indoor enclosure and ensure I can maintain proper temps and humidity BEFORE I obtain my new friend.
 

Markw84

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I agree Teresaf. I was hoping to purchase a tortoise from a member here who stated he would have hatchlings in February. Ideally I would love a slightly older (or even subadult) tortoise. I have not been able to locate one for sale and don't want to purchase any thing from an online bulk breeder. Any suggestions?

Also thanks for the temp advice. I'm able to get my dart frog tank in the 90% humidity range, but that's in a moist jungle environment. Im sure it will take some experimentation to get the tortoise enclosure right. My plan is to build my indoor enclosure and ensure I can maintain proper temps and humidity BEFORE I obtain my new friend.
I believe you are referring to @Tom that you will be getting the hatchlings from? If so, I would not worry about the "failure to thrive". The problem is getting hatchlings that are not started right, or where incubation temps spike too much in the development or are just too high in efforts to try to get more females. Both of those scenarios can cause organ and/or neurological development problems. Properly incubated and started hatchlings are not fragile when set up correctly. With your closed chamber, and hatchlings from Tom, you will not have problems.
 

Krupbot20

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I believe you are referring to @Tom that you will be getting the hatchlings from? If so, I would not worry about the "failure to thrive". The problem is getting hatchlings that are not started right, or where incubation temps spike too much in the development or are just too high in efforts to try to get more females. Both of those scenarios can cause organ and/or neurological development problems. Properly incubated and started hatchlings are not fragile when set up correctly. With your closed chamber, and hatchlings from Tom, you will not have problems.
Very intuitive Mark! Yes I was referring to Tom, just wasn't sure if he'd want me name dropping! That is good to know. I have heard a lot of great things about him. Thank you Mark.
 

Krupbot20

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That being said, I still am still not opposed to paying for a well taken care of older tortoise that needs a loving home.
 

wellington

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I recommend that you skip the hatchling phase altogether. Get about six month or a year old leopard tortoises. Hatchlings are cute and all but they're very fragile. The six months or a year old have gone past the possible failure to thrive faze.
You can keep them in the 4 x 8 closed enclosure for longer than just a year if you'd like. The higher humidity stops pyramiding and pyramiding is possible for as long as they're growing... Maybe days outside and nights inside in high humidity high heat. Just remember that with high humidity you need high heat above 80 at all times in EVERY corner of his habitat or he'll get a respiratory infection.
They should be in a closed chamber for two years. Then usually they are pretty big for most indoor enclosures other then a room. Depending on how they grow, fast or slow. Mine has been in a closed chamber the whole time, until only one month shy of two years. Actually not a whole month. Then they can with humid hide or like mine a shed that still carries a good amount of humidity, around 50-60%.
I think hatchling can be more fragile. However, bought from a good breeder and setting them up with proper temps and humidity in a closed chamber and it's quite a breeze.
 

Tom

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Hi everyone. As I stated in my introduction, I live in Southern California and am looking to own some leopard tortoises, specifically GPPs.

I originally planned on raising two tortoises together, but I was informed that is not the way to go for the tortoise' s sake. I plan on getting a hatchling at the beginning of next year and am already working on a 4'x8' closed top enclosure for its first year or so.

So the reason for this post is the outdoor enclosure. I plan on making an outdoor enclosure out of my 5.5' x 80+' raised plant bed. It's raised about 3' off the ground. It's sloped so I'm going to get it professionally leveled flat. Then I'll install a wall (I'm thinking 1 foot tall) on the open side to prevent the tortoise (It will be named "Bowser") from falling out.

It gets direct sunlight from about 11am to 5pm.

Once the current plants and wood chips are removed and it is leveled, I will put in grass, a sprinkler system for higher humidity levels, plants, shade areas, and a house for heat. I'm brainstorming on predator proofing it.

I'm open to suggestions, but a few questions I do have:

Is this too narrow of an area? (5.5 feet)

Is it too large for a juvenile leopard and would I be better off dividing it in two separate enclosures for two tortoises?

Would this be large enough to house three adult tortoises if there was visual barriers and they were monitored?

Is that enough time in the direct Sun? (11am to 5pm)

Again, the welfare of the tortoise is my number one priority so please don't be afraid to provide critisim. I can take it!

That's just one area of my backyard and I have other options. That just seemed to be the best because it had tons of space and is out of the way in a sense.

Thanks again.

-Steve

(Trying to upload photos of the area)

Hi Steve! I'll put in my two cents for each question and each point of discussion here:
  • About the length of time in the closed chamber… Some things get repeated here over and over, and I don't always know where they came from or how they started. I don't know where the two year thing came from, but I go by size. Since they all grow at different rates, some might last two years, some only one, and other slower growers might be able to stay in it for 3-4 years. You won't know until yours reach "that" size. What is "that" size? Glad you asked… For me, using a 4x8 closed chamber, "that" size is around 8-10". There will come a time when they are just too big, rambunctious, destructive and messy to live indoors any more. I usually feel this tremendous sense of frustration at having to clean up horrible messes day after day for several days in a row, and that is when I realize, its time for them to move outside full time.
  • Related to the above point, my general rule of thumb is one hour of sunshine per inch of tortoise. The rest of the time is spent in the closed chamber. Once they reach about 5-6 inches, I leave them outside most of the day in warmer weather and bring them in at night. During our hot summers, that might mean a 6-7" tortoise would go out at 7 or 8 am and not come back in until 9-10 at night when I get around to bringing them in. This method has served me well in our climate here.
  • I agree with @Markw84 that babies have a bad rep because of "Breeder Failure Syndrome" where so many breeders start them on rabbit pellets, eating mostly romaine and getting soaked once a week, if they are lucky. Babies started this way have a 50/50 chance of survival on a good day, and sometimes 100% are going to die weeks or months later in some cases. Babies started the right way have a 100% survival rate unless the new keeper puts them on rabbit pellets in a 10 gallon tank under a red bulb that is on 24/7 and feeds them mostly romaine and soaks once a week if the tortoise is lucky. You are not that kind of tortoise keeper, so you should not have that kind of problem.
  • I think 5.5x80' is large enough, but I don't think you'll be able to maintain a 1.2 trio full time. Males of this variety are aggressive and brutal. Since you will most likely need to separate your male from the females, and you don't want just two females living together, you might need three enclosures. Doing it that way, you could just pop the male in for breeding visits from time to time, when that time comes. Usually about 7 years from hatchling to breeding for females. On a related note, the males get randy much sooner than the females, so be prepared to have each male living alone after about 12-18 months, which would usually equate to a 6-8" tortoise.
  • I think sunshine from 11-5 will be too hot in summer and too cool in winter. They need morning sun to warm up. Making them wait until 11 is no bueno. Likewise, in cooler weather, they need that sunshine to keep warm as the day comes to an end. This pen idea you have will work great in the juvenile phase because they will always have their warm closed chamber to spend time in, and you'll only put them outside in this pen when the weather and temperatures are right. Too hot or too cold, and you'll leave them inside. Once they reach "that" size and you move them outside full time I think you will need something a little better suited. Another tidbit that I can share from first hand experience, is that slumpstone wall is going to reflect that summer sun heat back into that enclosure and make it feel like an oven. They can't stay in that area in mid summer heat, mid day. But, I have a solution…
  • A 12" high wall will be good for juveniles, but you'll want at least 16-18" for adults. To solve the heat and sun issues, I think it would be super-duper cool if you made a dirt ramp from the upper planter area down to the grass over on that right side, and then enclose the whole grass area for them. Their heated night house could be right next to the ramp on the lower portion. Having that sort of two level separated enclosure will allow them to get away from each other and keep the peace more. Plus the SA leopards eat grass like a sulcata, and if you seeded the area with mallow, plantain, clover and dandelions, your tortoises could just feed themselves. That grassy area looks like a way better place for tortoises to my eye, and its already enclosed on two sides! All you'd need is some slumpstone block from Home Depot lined up three blocks high on the concrete along the edges of the grassy area. Its like that area was designed for tortoises… Here is an example of what I mean for the blocks: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/enclosure-expansion.38788/ Remember when I said I know about slumpstone walls and heat??? :)
  • Going back to your 5.5 x 80' area: I think this will be an excellent area to start babies and juveniles for their sunning hours. You can easily divide this area up into smaller sections for little ones and expand as they grow. You could make dividers and have twenty 5.5 x 4' sections and grow different things in each one. The babies can be in a different pen every day and eat a wide variety of good stuff. This will allow each area time to recover as the tortoises graze in new areas. Once the tortoises hit 3-4 inches, you can remove a divider and let them have 5.5 x 8'. At 5-6", remove more dividers and have three 5.5 x 26' enclosures. The heat factor will make these areas great in the cooler weather and summer mornings, but you'll have to watch the temps carefully mid day on hotter days.
You've got a great yard for tortoises there. I'm excited for you! Lots of potential. I don't think I realized you were so close. You are only about 30 minutes form me. I'd be willing to bring the tortoises to you when the time comes. I have a falconer friend that I work with sometimes who lives off Tapo, so I could make it a double visit! Not having to ship is a HUGE benefit for the babies and my stress level too.
 

Krupbot20

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Hi Steve! I'll put in my two cents for each question and each point of discussion here:
  • About the length of time in the closed chamber… Some things get repeated here over and over, and I don't always know where they came from or how they started. I don't know where the two year thing came from, but I go by size. Since they all grow at different rates, some might last two years, some only one, and other slower growers might be able to stay in it for 3-4 years. You won't know until yours reach "that" size. What is "that" size? Glad you asked… For me, using a 4x8 closed chamber, "that" size is around 8-10". There will come a time when they are just too big, rambunctious, destructive and messy to live indoors any more. I usually feel this tremendous sense of frustration at having to clean up horrible messes day after day for several days in a row, and that is when I realize, its time for them to move outside full time.
  • Related to the above point, my general rule of thumb is one hour of sunshine per inch of tortoise. The rest of the time is spent in the closed chamber. Once they reach about 5-6 inches, I leave them outside most of the day in warmer weather and bring them in at night. During our hot summers, that might mean a 6-7" tortoise would go out at 7 or 8 am and not come back in until 9-10 at night when I get around to bringing them in. This method has served me well in our climate here.
  • I agree with @Markw84 that babies have a bad rep because of "Breeder Failure Syndrome" where so many breeders start them on rabbit pellets, eating mostly romaine and getting soaked once a week, if they are lucky. Babies started this way have a 50/50 chance of survival on a good day, and sometimes 100% are going to die weeks or months later in some cases. Babies started the right way have a 100% survival rate unless the new keeper puts them on rabbit pellets in a 10 gallon tank under a red bulb that is on 24/7 and feeds them mostly romaine and soaks once a week if the tortoise is lucky. You are not that kind of tortoise keeper, so you should not have that kind of problem.
  • I think 5.5x80' is large enough, but I don't think you'll be able to maintain a 1.2 trio full time. Males of this variety are aggressive and brutal. Since you will most likely need to separate your male from the females, and you don't want just two females living together, you might need three enclosures. Doing it that way, you could just pop the male in for breeding visits from time to time, when that time comes. Usually about 7 years from hatchling to breeding for females. On a related note, the males get randy much sooner than the females, so be prepared to have each male living alone after about 12-18 months, which would usually equate to a 6-8" tortoise.
  • I think sunshine from 11-5 will be too hot in summer and too cool in winter. They need morning sun to warm up. Making them wait until 11 is no bueno. Likewise, in cooler weather, they need that sunshine to keep warm as the day comes to an end. This pen idea you have will work great in the juvenile phase because they will always have their warm closed chamber to spend time in, and you'll only put them outside in this pen when the weather and temperatures are right. Too hot or too cold, and you'll leave them inside. Once they reach "that" size and you move them outside full time I think you will need something a little better suited. Another tidbit that I can share from first hand experience, is that slumpstone wall is going to reflect that summer sun heat back into that enclosure and make it feel like an oven. They can't stay in that area in mid summer heat, mid day. But, I have a solution…
  • A 12" high wall will be good for juveniles, but you'll want at least 16-18" for adults. To solve the heat and sun issues, I think it would be super-duper cool if you made a dirt ramp from the upper planter area down to the grass over on that right side, and then enclose the whole grass area for them. Their heated night house could be right next to the ramp on the lower portion. Having that sort of two level separated enclosure will allow them to get away from each other and keep the peace more. Plus the SA leopards eat grass like a sulcata, and if you seeded the area with mallow, plantain, clover and dandelions, your tortoises could just feed themselves. That grassy area looks like a way better place for tortoises to my eye, and its already enclosed on two sides! All you'd need is some slumpstone block from Home Depot lined up three blocks high on the concrete along the edges of the grassy area. Its like that area was designed for tortoises… Here is an example of what I mean for the blocks: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/enclosure-expansion.38788/ Remember when I said I know about slumpstone walls and heat??? :)
  • Going back to your 5.5 x 80' area: I think this will be an excellent area to start babies and juveniles for their sunning hours. You can easily divide this area up into smaller sections for little ones and expand as they grow. You could make dividers and have twenty 5.5 x 4' sections and grow different things in each one. The babies can be in a different pen every day and eat a wide variety of good stuff. This will allow each area time to recover as the tortoises graze in new areas. Once the tortoises hit 3-4 inches, you can remove a divider and let them have 5.5 x 8'. At 5-6", remove more dividers and have three 5.5 x 26' enclosures. The heat factor will make these areas great in the cooler weather and summer mornings, but you'll have to watch the temps carefully mid day on hotter days.
You've got a great yard for tortoises there. I'm excited for you! Lots of potential. I don't think I realized you were so close. You are only about 30 minutes form me. I'd be willing to bring the tortoises to you when the time comes. I have a falconer friend that I work with sometimes who lives off Tapo, so I could make it a double visit! Not having to ship is a HUGE benefit for the babies and my stress level too.
Tom! What an amazing response to my post. So many things I would not have thought about in a million years. Plus the dirt ramp idea is amazing! As if I wasn't excited enough BEFORE, now I'm even more excited to get started. Bringing the tortoise would be great. I'll even throw some rib-eye on the grill if you'd like.

I'm going to be building my closed chamber (just like the one you posted) soon then starting the backyard. I'm sure I'll have some more follow up questions and I'll post the builds on this thread to keep you all posted. Thanks again Tom.
 
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Krupbot20

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Wait… Rib eye??? How did you know the magic words??? :D

May I bring the frosty beverages?
Tom if you bring the tortoises, we've got the steaks, frosty beverages, and of course the compensation! Now the true question will be what's the frosty beverage of your choice? [emoji481]
 

Tom

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Here's the rest of the backyard that I can work with.

Steve, Is there a wife involved that has some say-so in this matter? If not, I see an excellent tortoise breeding compound in the making there…

If yes, then we need to enlist the help of @Markw84 to make the whole yard a tortoise breeding compound, AND still keep the wife happy. Can't have an unhappy wife. That just won't do. Check out what Mark did in his yard:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/new-outdoor-enclosure-for-limited-space.156371/
Be sure to read all the way to the end of the second page of the thread and see ir with all the growth up and running. Not just inspiring, but also awe-inspiring.

More of Mark's amazing artistry:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/new-gazebo-finally-finished.161034/
I would call this professional-level work, except that would be an insult as I don't think most professionals would achieve this level of excellence in either design or execution.
 

Tom

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Tom if you bring the tortoises, we've got the steaks, frosty beverages, and of course the compensation! Now the true question will be what's the frosty beverage of your choice? [emoji481]
My favorite beer is anything Mexican. Haven't found one Mexican beer I don't like. The cheap and/or popular ones are great, the more expensive ones are great… I like them all.
 

Krupbot20

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Steve, Is there a wife involved that has some say-so in this matter? If not, I see an excellent tortoise breeding compound in the making there…

If yes, then we need to enlist the help of @Markw84 to make the whole yard a tortoise breeding compound, AND still keep the wife happy. Can't have an unhappy wife. That just won't do. Check out what Mark did in his yard:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/new-outdoor-enclosure-for-limited-space.156371/
Be sure to read all the way to the end of the second page of the thread and see ir with all the growth up and running. Not just inspiring, but also awe-inspiring.

More of Mark's amazing artistry:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/new-gazebo-finally-finished.161034/
I would call this professional-level work, except that would be an insult as I don't think most professionals would achieve this level of excellence in either design or execution.

WOW! Yes, there is a wife involved and she has all the say! lol. She's pretty supportive of my crazy ideas (She was hesitant at first, but LOVES my 120 gallon dart frog tank now.) If you or @Markw84 can convince her to do a yard like that, well I'll be a life time supplier of Rib Eye and frosty beverages of you guys. Beautiful work Mark! Truly inspiring!
 
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