Need Advice: Nesting Ornate

Bibbit

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Hello. I need advice again from some of the long-tooth keepers out there. I am at a quandry. I have a great natural outdoor enclosure where I keep my 5 male and 1 female boxies. About three weeks ago I noticed the female (Xena) digging test nests. She's had babies before so I figure she's due again. Complication: we are moving at the beginning of August. So, I decided to bring her in the house about 2 weeks ago and set her up in an enclosure I last used for her prior batch of babies. I am afraid that if she digs a nest outside and we move, the babies will not hatch before we move and I won't be able to find the eggs. So, the inside enclosure has a peat moss base that I keep semi-moist. She digs occasionally, but has not laid any eggs.

My plan at the new place is to set up tubs outside until I can build a new enclosure, probably by Spring 2022, so they can at least be outside. Until then, though, will she lay the eggs or just retain them? Is there something I should be doing to the peat moss to make it more hospital for her to lay eggs? Any other advice?
 

ZenHerper

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Egg-laying, in part, is about choice. A female chooses locations that are optimal for the development of her young. You must first be sure that the indoor enclosure is large enough for her to do the walking/shopping through a range of temperatures and humidity levels. Soil quality, depth, odor, temperature, humidity, cover, food - all of that potentially matters to her.

I would take soil from the places she was digging and mix that into the enclosure to a good depth. As you find the outdoor nest sites, evaluate what is there that she was choosing so that you can replicate that indoors. Bring in earthworms and isopods so that the soil has baby food in it. Clumps of grasses or other edible plants for cover (she'll wreck them - use pots if you can't replace them).

Since she was outdoors she may be waiting to get back there...but she may also not be exactly ready yet. If you can recreate the outdoors indoors, you've done what you can to have things ready when she's ready.

Peat alone is not the greatest for nests - it is extremely acidic. Are you planning to use an incubator?

(Aside: a ratio of 5 males to 1 female is upside-down and a recipe for constant rape of the female in an enclosed set up.)
 

Bibbit

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5 Year Member
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Messages
87
Location (City and/or State)
Dallas, Texas
Egg-laying, in part, is about choice. A female chooses locations that are optimal for the development of her young. You must first be sure that the indoor enclosure is large enough for her to do the walking/shopping through a range of temperatures and humidity levels. Soil quality, depth, odor, temperature, humidity, cover, food - all of that potentially matters to her.

I would take soil from the places she was digging and mix that into the enclosure to a good depth. As you find the outdoor nest sites, evaluate what is there that she was choosing so that you can replicate that indoors. Bring in earthworms and isopods so that the soil has baby food in it. Clumps of grasses or other edible plants for cover (she'll wreck them - use pots if you can't replace them).

Since she was outdoors she may be waiting to get back there...but she may also not be exactly ready yet. If you can recreate the outdoors indoors, you've done what you can to have things ready when she's ready.

Peat alone is not the greatest for nests - it is extremely acidic. Are you planning to use an incubator?

(Aside: a ratio of 5 males to 1 female is upside-down and a recipe for constant rape of the female in an enclosed set up.)
Thanks. Maybe a better option would be to go ahead and get the tub I plan to use when we move and set it up outdoors? I get what you are saying about the soil, but I think I'll buy some top soil and mix it with the peat. The soil here is hard clay that I hate and won't mix. I feel like she would have laid them already if she had been able to dig decent holes outside. With that said, I've had two clutches before, so it can be done but the clay is gross. She's in a reptile aquarium right now that is 50 gallons, but I'll get one of those giant rubbermaids and make a top for it.

On the ratio, I know. I originally had two boys and two girls. Then we had three babies. When they were about two, we had a bad storm that destroyed part of the enclosure. My other girl ran away in the aftermath. The babies have now all grown (they're 5). 2/3 were sexed as boys last year and I thought the last was a girl. He proved this year he is very boy. So, now I'm 5/1. I just built this awesome enclosure last year. 16 x 16 naturlistic. Last year I kept the little ones isolated, but I opened it up this year and things have been going fine. I thought the attacks on her would be an issue, but she manages to stay away from them pretty well. Given that she has eggs she's not completely isolated, but I keep an eye on things and I think it has been okay. Anyway, I plan for my next enclosure to be even bigger and I'll have contingencies for any groups that need to be separated. And I might decide to acquire another boxie or two depending on the egg situation.

And I did figure I would incubate eggs if I get any. I've never done that, but given the upcoming move, I'm not sure what else to do.
 

ZenHerper

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You don't want to incubate a nest in the peat moss (I'm concerned the egg shells will be compromised by the high acidity), so you have to decide about that before amending the tank substrate.

This is a good way to go for incubating outside the habitat:

In terms of the sex ratio (reptiles don't show signs of stress until they have been pushed to the limits of their ability to cope - why should a single female have to hide and fend off advances all day every day?), if you continue on with male-dominant numbers, the female(s) should be kept in a separate territory and matched with males for mating purposes only. Male-male competition for mates can cause serious fights...I have heard of instances of dominant males killing other males (sitting on them in water to drown them, for instance). It's not a fun thing to watch happen to a group that you've gotten very attached to.

The side benefit of matching females on dates is that you can make note of their breeding behaviors and are able to more easily predict when they should lay. This then lets you know when an individual is past her "due date" and potentially in need of medical assistance with a clutch.
 

Bibbit

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5 Year Member
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Location (City and/or State)
Dallas, Texas
You don't want to incubate a nest in the peat moss (I'm concerned the egg shells will be compromised by the high acidity), so you have to decide about that before amending the tank substrate.

This is a good way to go for incubating outside the habitat:

In terms of the sex ratio (reptiles don't show signs of stress until they have been pushed to the limits of their ability to cope - why should a single female have to hide and fend off advances all day every day?), if you continue on with male-dominant numbers, the female(s) should be kept in a separate territory and matched with males for mating purposes only. Male-male competition for mates can cause serious fights...I have heard of instances of dominant males killing other males (sitting on them in water to drown them, for instance). It's not a fun thing to watch happen to a group that you've gotten very attached to.

The side benefit of matching females on dates is that you can make note of their breeding behaviors and are able to more easily predict when they should lay. This then lets you know when an individual is past her "due date" and potentially in need of medical assistance with a clutch.
Thanks. I'll look at that article. And thanks for the info on the ratio. I kept the boys and girls separated previously when the enclosure was smaller and I had a separate section for the young ones. I was hoping with the new garden being big enough it would reduce issues. I'll consider that in my next iteration of their environment. I really don't intend to be a full time turtle breeder, though at the same time I love the babies. I've had my eldest two for 20 years now, so safety is key. They're not warm and fuzzy, but I couldn't love them more.
 

ZenHerper

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They're so terribly unique and fascinating!

Sexual maturity and scarcity of resources (including potential mates) brings in the potential for issues. It's that One Thing That Goes Wrong that breaks our hearts, especially when they are pets that are doted on and appreciated as individuals.

Research and become acquainted with your state and local laws (things change frequently and on a dime)...with a successful breeding group, you will need to make some decisions about the increasing numbers in general. In some states it is permitted to trade/gift or adopt out a small number of animals per year without special permits, but others are more strict and complex, and even more so with native species.

Best of luck with Egg Watch 2021!
 
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