Making the best of a balcony

WartoleDaTortle

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Nov 10, 2020
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Des Moines, IA, United States
We rescued an 11 year old Russian tortoise in September. Unfortunately my husband lost his job around Thanksgiving and due to COVID has only now found a new one. Due to this we moved into a small apartment and are trying to figure out a good set up for him. During the winter we had him indoors in a temporary bin enclosure. But now that its warming up we want to do our best to make him an enclosure on our balcony. Space is a major issue. Our balcony is about 8'x4' but not all of it can be used for his enclosure. I grow plants on the balcony and the pots take up space,and sometimes we let our cats on the balcony to enjoy the sun.
What kind of enclosures would work for the balcony? If we can't provide him the 8'x4' space recommended, can he still be happy? He lived in a 40 gallon with no uvb for his first 11 years of life. Sometimes they would let him wander on the floor, but they kept their AC down often. We know this because we went to their house to pick him up and it was cold in there and they admitted to us how they kept him. I want his life going forward to be happy, and so I feel bad we can't give him the space he needs but my husband adores him and we don't want to give him up. He's become a major part of our family.
If we make an enclosure for him on the balcony, can we have part of it be a dirt enclosure, with a ramp down to the wood floor and then have him able to crawl around there? He would have about 2.5'x5' dirt area, and then a carefully tortoise proofed wooden deck for the rest of the area. We could set up some extra water bowls for him outside too.
Another concern is hawks. We have a ton of hawks and have already seen many of them on the roof of the building next door. Will they attack him? If we need to hawk proof, would having bird proof netting (like for fruit trees) around a pvc frame work to keep him safe? We need something movable if we do need a net.
Any examples would be very much appreciated!
 

Lyn W

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Hi,
Sorry to hear of your problems caused by covid.
The minimum recommended space for an adult of the smaller species is 4 x 8 but because they are roaming creatures the bigger the better.
I have heard of people using balconies but they aren't ideal and I don't know how successful they have been.

Here is the most up to date caresheet for his species in case you haven't already found it.

The hawks could be a problem, but it depends on his size and you would have to make sure that he couldn't climb or get under any railings around your balcony.
Do you have a spare room that you could convert for him and still give him supervised outdoor time on your balcony?
 

WartoleDaTortle

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Des Moines, IA, United States
Hi,
Sorry to hear of your problems caused by covid.
The minimum recommended space for an adult of the smaller species is 4 x 8 but because they are roaming creatures the bigger the better.
I have heard of people using balconies but they aren't ideal and I don't know how successful they have been.

Here is the most up to date caresheet for his species in case you haven't already found it.

The hawks could be a problem, but it depends on his size and you would have to make sure that he couldn't climb or get under any railings around your balcony.
Do you have a spare room that you could convert for him and still give him supervised outdoor time on your balcony?
No the best we can do inside is a 2x4. Like I said its a really small apartment. And we have cats so he can only stay in the study since the cats are in the bedroom and the bedroom only fots our bed and just enough room to walk.
 

DLF

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Nov 3, 2020
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47
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SPRING VALLEY CA
We rescued an 11 year old Russian tortoise in September. Unfortunately my husband lost his job around Thanksgiving and due to COVID has only now found a new one. Due to this we moved into a small apartment and are trying to figure out a good set up for him. During the winter we had him indoors in a temporary bin enclosure. But now that its warming up we want to do our best to make him an enclosure on our balcony. Space is a major issue. Our balcony is about 8'x4' but not all of it can be used for his enclosure. I grow plants on the balcony and the pots take up space,and sometimes we let our cats on the balcony to enjoy the sun.
What kind of enclosures would work for the balcony? If we can't provide him the 8'x4' space recommended, can he still be happy? He lived in a 40 gallon with no uvb for his first 11 years of life. Sometimes they would let him wander on the floor, but they kept their AC down often. We know this because we went to their house to pick him up and it was cold in there and they admitted to us how they kept him. I want his life going forward to be happy, and so I feel bad we can't give him the space he needs but my husband adores him and we don't want to give him up. He's become a major part of our family.
If we make an enclosure for him on the balcony, can we have part of it be a dirt enclosure, with a ramp down to the wood floor and then have him able to crawl around there? He would have about 2.5'x5' dirt area, and then a carefully tortoise proofed wooden deck for the rest of the area. We could set up some extra water bowls for him outside too.
Another concern is hawks. We have a ton of hawks and have already seen many of them on the roof of the building next door. Will they attack him? If we need to hawk proof, would having bird proof netting (like for fruit trees) around a pvc frame work to keep him safe? We need something movable if we do need a net.
Any examples would be very much appreciated!
My Russians love to climb. Make a bridge with rails to get a double decker
 

Lyn W

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No the best we can do inside is a 2x4. Like I said its a really small apartment. And we have cats so he can only stay in the study since the cats are in the bedroom and the bedroom only fots our bed and just enough room to walk.
I'm not sure how you could effectively keep him in a small space.
Maybe others who have had similar problems can suggest ways to overcome your problem.
Sorry I have no other ideas.
Maybe post pics to give members an idea of his size?
 

ZEROPILOT

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Generally I reccomend two barriers. Such as a sturdy out doors enclosure inside of a sturdy gated yard.
Russians are very active and are some of the most skilled climbers/escape artists.
Whatever enclosure you use, make sure that if he/she escapes, he can't also breach the guardrails and fall out.
I once saw a Russian tortoise escape a 4' tall, square plywood box.
Have an insurance plan.
 

ZEROPILOT

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I'm not sure how you could effectively keep him in a small space.
Maybe others who have had similar problems can suggest ways to overcome your problem.
Sorry I have no other ideas.
Maybe post pics to give members an idea of his size?
Russians are some of the smallest tortoises. But they roam for miles in nature.
Providing as much room as possible is a good general rule
 

Lyn W

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I don't think the enclosure pictured above is big enough for an adult Russian or many other adult torts.
Have a look at the Enclosures thread to see if there are any better examples of specially made double decker enclosures which give the maximum space possible.
 

Blackdog1714

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How handy are you? Maybe start with a sturdy storage rack and put a tub on every shelf with a tunnel from one to the other. Then as Zero said enclose the whole thing with maybe a grow tent.
 

Maro2Bear

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Glenn Dale, Maryland, USA
We rescued an 11 year old Russian tortoise in September. Unfortunately my husband lost his job around Thanksgiving and due to COVID has only now found a new one. Due to this we moved into a small apartment and are trying to figure out a good set up for him. During the winter we had him indoors in a temporary bin enclosure. But now that its warming up we want to do our best to make him an enclosure on our balcony. Space is a major issue. Our balcony is about 8'x4' but not all of it can be used for his enclosure. I grow plants on the balcony and the pots take up space,and sometimes we let our cats on the balcony to enjoy the sun.
What kind of enclosures would work for the balcony? If we can't provide him the 8'x4' space recommended, can he still be happy? He lived in a 40 gallon with no uvb for his first 11 years of life. Sometimes they would let him wander on the floor, but they kept their AC down often. We know this because we went to their house to pick him up and it was cold in there and they admitted to us how they kept him. I want his life going forward to be happy, and so I feel bad we can't give him the space he needs but my husband adores him and we don't want to give him up. He's become a major part of our family.
If we make an enclosure for him on the balcony, can we have part of it be a dirt enclosure, with a ramp down to the wood floor and then have him able to crawl around there? He would have about 2.5'x5' dirt area, and then a carefully tortoise proofed wooden deck for the rest of the area. We could set up some extra water bowls for him outside too.
Another concern is hawks. We have a ton of hawks and have already seen many of them on the roof of the building next door. Will they attack him? If we need to hawk proof, would having bird proof netting (like for fruit trees) around a pvc frame work to keep him safe? We need something movable if we do need a net.
Any examples would be very much appreciated!

Greetings.... are you sure you are seeing hawks gathering like that on a rooftop? I’m guessing, not hawks. Regardless, large predatory birds could be an issue, but easily thwarted with bird netting like you propose.

Just be careful with whatever you construct on your deck/balcony - as others have said. Russians are great climbers and given enough time can crawl up out and over fencing. So, be careful and “think like a tortoise” who has all day long to figure out how to get out.
 

maggie3fan

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I am extremely proud of you!!! Most people will automatically rehome their throw away animals in your situation. To me, you took on these lives until death do you part. It is not an ideal situation, it's a crappy, lousy situation, however, it sounds like you are making the best of it and it will get better. I feel bad for you, and the cats.

ok...I gotta know...do you have other pets you are hanging on to? Dog? (grin).

Maybe one of our TFO members in Iowa could foster the tort. Fostering would help you greatly, I think
 

WartoleDaTortle

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Des Moines, IA, United States
Greetings.... are you sure you are seeing hawks gathering like that on a rooftop? I’m guessing, not hawks. Regardless, large predatory birds could be an issue, but easily thwarted with bird netting like you propose.

Just be careful with whatever you construct on your deck/balcony - as others have said. Russians are great climbers and given enough time can crawl up out and over fencing. So, be careful and “think like a tortoise” who has all day long to figure out how to get out.
Not gathering, but sometimes we'll see one hanging around the roof. Or once on our balcony itself. Definitely hawks though we've gotten more than a few close looks. We have so many here! I think they live off the enormous rabbit population in the area.

Whatever we make is going to have a lid, and possibly some extra bird netting for safety. I don't want him to make a jump for it!
 

WartoleDaTortle

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I am extremely proud of you!!! Most people will automatically rehome their throw away animals in your situation. To me, you took on these lives until death do you part. It is not an ideal situation, it's a crappy, lousy situation, however, it sounds like you are making the best of it and it will get better. I feel bad for you, and the cats.

ok...I gotta know...do you have other pets you are hanging on to? Dog? (grin).

Maybe one of our TFO members in Iowa could foster the tort. Fostering would help you greatly, I think
Our animals are our babies. Unless we 100% have to we don't rehome.

We have a lot of rodents right now. Hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, one elderly rat. And also a couple of fish, two parakeets and a ball python. It... may also be why we're tight on space. Gerbils and hamsters have their own 40 gallons, ball python is in a 40 gallon sized tub, 2-5 gallon tanks, a flight cage, a large rat cage, and a double decker 12 sqft cage for the pigs. But we're unwilling to rehome them, and the only one we can't figure out is the tortoise because of the insane space need. No dog though. It's our dream to one day adopt an older dog though! But a dog needs a big backyard, even old dogs deserve room to run and play.
 

maggie3fan

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Crazy Train
Our animals are our babies. Unless we 100% have to we don't rehome.

We have a lot of rodents right now. Hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, one elderly rat. And also a couple of fish, two parakeets and a ball python. It... may also be why we're tight on space. Gerbils and hamsters have their own 40 gallons, ball python is in a 40 gallon sized tub, 2-5 gallon tanks, a flight cage, a large rat cage, and a double decker 12 sqft cage for the pigs. But we're unwilling to rehome them, and the only one we can't figure out is the tortoise because of the insane space need. No dog though. It's our dream to one day adopt an older dog though! But a dog needs a big backyard, even old dogs deserve room to run and play.
FYI the biggest predator of captive tortoises is the family dog. Dogs and tortoises do not mix...I raise parakeets and breed some and sell them to my local mom and pop pet store. This is my living room. I so understand what you are doing. It hurts when one dies, but it' feels pretty good when it works out for them. I used to operate a small special needs turtle and tortoise rescue, and people would just leave sick animals in a box at my door.
100_4911.JPG
 

Pretty Scary Author

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We rescued an 11 year old Russian tortoise in September. Unfortunately my husband lost his job around Thanksgiving and due to COVID has only now found a new one. Due to this we moved into a small apartment and are trying to figure out a good set up for him. During the winter we had him indoors in a temporary bin enclosure. But now that its warming up we want to do our best to make him an enclosure on our balcony. Space is a major issue. Our balcony is about 8'x4' but not all of it can be used for his enclosure. I grow plants on the balcony and the pots take up space,and sometimes we let our cats on the balcony to enjoy the sun.
What kind of enclosures would work for the balcony? If we can't provide him the 8'x4' space recommended, can he still be happy? He lived in a 40 gallon with no uvb for his first 11 years of life. Sometimes they would let him wander on the floor, but they kept their AC down often. We know this because we went to their house to pick him up and it was cold in there and they admitted to us how they kept him. I want his life going forward to be happy, and so I feel bad we can't give him the space he needs but my husband adores him and we don't want to give him up. He's become a major part of our family.
If we make an enclosure for him on the balcony, can we have part of it be a dirt enclosure, with a ramp down to the wood floor and then have him able to crawl around there? He would have about 2.5'x5' dirt area, and then a carefully tortoise proofed wooden deck for the rest of the area. We could set up some extra water bowls for him outside too.
Another concern is hawks. We have a ton of hawks and have already seen many of them on the roof of the building next door. Will they attack him? If we need to hawk proof, would having bird proof netting (like for fruit trees) around a pvc frame work to keep him safe? We need something movable if we do need a net.
Any examples would be very much appreciated!
You’re wonderful to try so hard to make him happy when you’re having such a tough time. I also live in a small place, and YES use that vertical space! They love climbing. But definitely make sure it’s enclosed enough that he can’t dive. (Think of a tall ferret cage as a guide?) What’s worked for me is a raised garden bed with wooden ramps (make sure he can get traction on them), crates, rocks, branches, and secure them together to create levels. I use things I can trade out a lot so I vary his place up. But also we love to take him out on field trips and after that he’s pretty beat for a day or two and does nothing 😂 he’s seen a variety of parks and yards. You can enrich his life in more ways than just having a huge home for him when that’s just not possible. Best of luck!
 

shellcior

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For the plants, can you get a few cinder blocks and a 2" x 12" board to put them up off of the ground on? The tort would have more room and a "covered" spot as well.
 
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