Need to upgrade indoor redfoot tortoise enclosure

chipperchip

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Hi, I am a redfoot owner and am looking to upgrade Chip's indoor tortoise enclosure. I got him when he was a little guy around 6 years ago, and he is roughly 12 years old. During the summer he is in an outside enclosure placed around a shrubby treed area where he can hide under cover or bask in the sun. I bring him in the house nightly due to the wildlife that regularly passes through my yard...coyotes, foxes, racoons, opossums, hawks, owls, turkeys, and cats to name a few. Chip is an escape artist and has escaped many times, and has caused me great anguish and a couple sleepless nights. He doesn't dig out of his enclosure, but he rams the walls until he moves them enough to slip out. I put bright tape on his back so he is easily spotted. I also know where he tends to hide, but he moves way faster than anyone can anticipate and he covers much ground in a short time. I also do not leave him outside if I am not home, so sometimes between work and errands, he doesn't always get outside on a daily basis.

Because chip is rather large now, and weighs over 10 lbs., I am looking to drastically improve his indoor enclosure, as well as his outdoor. However, because he is inside for another 5-6 months I really need to make improvements to his indoor enclosure first. I am hoping the many tortoise experts and tortoise lovers on this forum can give me some great suggestions.

Presently Chip has his own bedroom. His enclosure is a 6' x 3' wooden enclosure with 18" walls. He is in the house roughly October through May. I have done many things to try to "embellish" his enclosure, such as plants, water features, etc., but he tends to trample the plants and either spill all the water out or poop in any water fixture. I know he does not get enough humidity when indoors, but I try to spray him or pour warm water daily. He does have basking lights and a ceramic heat lamp in his enclosure as well as a portable heater in his room to keep it at a constant 80 degrees.

I would like to know what kind of materials I can use to make life a little simpler. His enclosure is made of plywood and I line it with plastic. However, Chip likes to rip the plastic sides and go behind the plastic. Water has leaked out and ruined my hardwood floors. I tried plexiglass sides inside the box with silicone sealer, but did not work. He is also very destructive, so pretty much everything I do to try to make it nice is destroyed.

My plans are to increase the size of the enclosure by a few feet both lengthwise and widthwise as well as put a hinged entry/exit area where he can leave the enclosure when he feels like walking around the room. This way, if he gets bored, he can go in and out. I also want to put a stationary hinged hide area in his box so he cannot move it around the enclosure, and I have easy access to clean it.

Any suggestions on what kind of materials to use? Also about what size should it be? Best way to add some extra humidity to the enclosure? I might add that Chip is still growing and I know he needs the room to walk around, and that is why I want to make the little hinged drawbridge so he is not cramped all day and bored.

I feel bad that he is imprisoned in a box all winter long. I want to make it so his quality of life during the winter months is as good as when he spends most of his summer days outdoors. I have been researching enclosures on Pinterest, but they all seem to be for smaller tortoises as well as mostly warmer climate tortoises. Can I force him into any type of hibernation so he doesn't have to be so bored for so many months?

Again, just trying to improve his quality of life for the long winter. Any suggestions offered will be greatly appreciated.
 

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maggie3fan

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He's destructive because he is simply (in my opinion) too big to live in the house. I realize you said he has to be in for the long winter. Can't you build an outside tort shed and pen? Mine is a heated and insulated 20'x12' shed, built for Sulcata in the PNW. You don't say where you live, but that's my suggestion. You don't have to make it as big as mine, just trying to give you ideas...
100_6311.JPG
 

chipperchip

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I am in Northeast Ohio. Our winters are long and cold with a lot of snow. I don't think an outdoor heated shed would work for our long snowy winters. I would even hesitate to keep him outside all the time during the summers as well, because as I mentioned, we have a lot of wildlife around here that wouldn't hesitate to try to have a tasty tortoise meal. There's no way that I will take that chance. He goes outside during the summers for around 8-12 hours a day and is brought in when it starts getting dark. I would feel horrible if a coyote or fox injured or killed him while trying to eat him. In Jan & Feb, our temps drop down into single digits and below 0 degrees. Right now, we are having a "mild" winter with average daily temperatures around 25 degrees. The bedroom he is in is around 12' x 14' so I feel if he has in/out access to his enclosure and some safe areas with some plants to wander around the bedroom, it should help his boredom. I love your idea, but I think your weather is milder in PNW.
 

crimson_lotus

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First off, I feel your pain. It is sad to know my tortoise loves to go outside but cannot for the majority of the year. She destroys anything and everything nice in her enclosure, so she can't have plants and dislodges everything.

For the liner, if you do not want to replace the overall structure at all (like making your own PVC enclosure), I personally use and recommend pond liner. My tortoise is around the same age as yours and she absolutely cannot rip a hole in it.

I had a larger enclosure built for my tortoise recently with significantly higher walls. 18 inches sounds pretty short (given a few inches for the substrate, the tortoise itself, and distance from the light to the top of the tort's shell). Do you have a pic of your current set up?

I can suggest ways to increase humidity if you provide the pic - it gets tricky when the enclosure is made of wood. I had to tweak mine for condensation and mold multiple times. This is why, if I could recommend anything to a tortoise keeper that has a primarily indoor habitat, I always suggest not building with wood and going with PVC.

For the hide, I bought the top of a cat litter box and dug it into the dirt, then placed rocks around the perimeter. She cannot push it out or move it around, and I consider this a small but significant victory.
 

chipperchip

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First off, I feel your pain. It is sad to know my tortoise loves to go outside but cannot for the majority of the year. She destroys anything and everything nice in her enclosure, so she can't have plants and dislodges everything.

For the liner, if you do not want to replace the overall structure at all (like making your own PVC enclosure), I personally use and recommend pond liner. My tortoise is around the same age as yours and she absolutely cannot rip a hole in it.

I had a larger enclosure built for my tortoise recently with significantly higher walls. 18 inches sounds pretty short (given a few inches for the substrate, the tortoise itself, and distance from the light to the top of the tort's shell). Do you have a pic of your current set up?

I can suggest ways to increase humidity if you provide the pic - it gets tricky when the enclosure is made of wood. I had to tweak mine for condensation and mold multiple times. This is why, if I could recommend anything to a tortoise keeper that has a primarily indoor habitat, I always suggest not building with wood and going with PVC.

For the hide, I bought the top of a cat litter box and dug it into the dirt, then placed rocks around the perimeter. She cannot push it out or move it around, and I consider this a small but significant victory.


Last year I bought the PVC shower liner that goes under the shower pan. It smelled so full of chemicals that I could not personally tolerate the smell as well as have the heart to leave the poor animal in the same room with it. It literally smelled up my entire house and caused me to have headaches as well as eyes watering. If it was causing those irritations to me in a completely different part of the house, I could not imagine what it would do to the tortoise being on top of it. It also had warning labels on the back of it that it had cancer causing carcinogens in it. I rolled it up and returned it to the store. So it did not work out. At this point, I am not too concerned about cost because I want it to be the right habitat for Chip. Do pond liners have that same chemical smell? Pond liners also tend to be black, so I'm not sure it would be too stimulating for him to be surrounded in black all the time (if you went up the sides with it). I have enclosed a photo of the inside of his enclosure, however, he was just a tiny guy at the time.
 

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chipperchip

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Have you thought about getting a small greenhouse/ grow tent and modifying it? It could keep in humidity and grow plants, etc


Yes, I have thought about making another larger box, and making a greenhouse type top for it so that it can keep humidity in. Unless I put a whole greenhouse type structure in my basement, which I don't want to do because it tends to be mildewy down there, and also colder in the winter, I would have to set it up in the bedroom that he is already in. I would be concerned that it would cause moisture problems with the walls, as well as my beautiful hardwood floor that is now stained and warped where the water leaked from his present enclosure. My husband is becoming somewhat "irritated" by my animals damaging the house! (Our one dog finally stopped eating everything and now my senior citizen cat is having hairball issues). The sacrifices we make for our pets!
 

crimson_lotus

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Last year I bought the PVC shower liner that goes under the shower pan. It smelled so full of chemicals that I could not personally tolerate the smell as well as have the heart to leave the poor animal in the same room with it. It literally smelled up my entire house and caused me to have headaches as well as eyes watering. If it was causing those irritations to me in a completely different part of the house, I could not imagine what it would do to the tortoise being on top of it. It also had warning labels on the back of it that it had cancer causing carcinogens in it. I rolled it up and returned it to the store. So it did not work out. At this point, I am not too concerned about cost because I want it to be the right habitat for Chip. Do pond liners have that same chemical smell? Pond liners also tend to be black, so I'm not sure it would be too stimulating for him to be surrounded in black all the time (if you went up the sides with it). I have enclosed a photo of the inside of his enclosure, however, he was just a tiny guy at the time.

I would scrap the wood and get an animal plastics enclosure, though they take a while to build and ship. https://apcages.com/collections/terrestrial-cages

markw84 from the forum makes some pvc enclosures, or you could make your own: https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/building-your-own-expanded-pvc-enclosed-chamber-–-for-beginners.159220/

or opt for a grow tent / indoor greenhouse and modify it. something like this but larger: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08LSFL2PY/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

the reason I suggest something else is because your tortoise needs humidity and I just can't imagine dealing with it with all your exposed wood. You would need to do some origami folding to make sure none of the wood is exposed if you used pond liner
 

chipperchip

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I would scrap the wood and get an animal plastics enclosure, though they take a while to build and ship. https://apcages.com/collections/terrestrial-cages

markw84 from the forum makes some pvc enclosures, or you could make your own: https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/building-your-own-expanded-pvc-enclosed-chamber-–-for-beginners.159220/

or opt for a grow tent / indoor greenhouse and modify it. something like this but larger: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08LSFL2PY/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

the reason I suggest something else is because your tortoise needs humidity and I just can't imagine dealing with it with all your exposed wood. You would need to do some origami folding to make sure none of the wood is exposed if you used pond liner


Thank you so much. I love your responses. You gave me three great alternatives that I can research further, and quite possibly find a way to combine one or two and tweak them to Chip's comfort and ideal enclosure. My son also got me three very large pieces of plexiglass that I was thinking of building a frame for and sealing with aquarium silicone. I would not keep it clear, I would cover the exterior with paper so that he isn't constantly running in to the sides. My husband is handy at building. Chip's original enclosure was nice and big for him, but he has grown so much since I got him. I always feel very guilty this time of year knowing he is cooped up in his box with not a whole lot to stimulate his senses. And poor guy, he comes running to me when I go in to feed him, probably thinking he is going to go outside. That is our summer routine....I go in and tap on his box and he comes to me and I pick him up to go outside. He loves being held and having his head scratched and his shell rubbed. I don't care what anyone says, God's creatures all have their own distinct personalities, right down to the reptiles that people think aren't too smart or aren't able to show affection.
 

crimson_lotus

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Thank you so much. I love your responses. You gave me three great alternatives that I can research further, and quite possibly find a way to combine one or two and tweak them to Chip's comfort and ideal enclosure. My son also got me three very large pieces of plexiglass that I was thinking of building a frame for and sealing with aquarium silicone. I would not keep it clear, I would cover the exterior with paper so that he isn't constantly running in to the sides. My husband is handy at building. Chip's original enclosure was nice and big for him, but he has grown so much since I got him. I always feel very guilty this time of year knowing he is cooped up in his box with not a whole lot to stimulate his senses. And poor guy, he comes running to me when I go in to feed him, probably thinking he is going to go outside. That is our summer routine....I go in and tap on his box and he comes to me and I pick him up to go outside. He loves being held and having his head scratched and his shell rubbed. I don't care what anyone says, God's creatures all have their own distinct personalities, right down to the reptiles that people think aren't too smart or aren't able to show affection.

oh yes, my tortoise loves leg rubs :) they certainly have their own personalities.

My enclosure is 4ft x 8ft and I can tell you, once she moved from a 4x4 enclosure she stopped being so restless. She is about 14 inches right now so probably comparable to yours
 

chipperchip

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Where do you live? Maybe we should get them together, lol! I haven't measured him lately, but he had a growth ring around his shell recently. I think he was around 5 years old when I got him and have had him for almost 7 years. He has grown so much since then. I think he was around 6 inches when I got him. I did not purchase him for myself. My son and I went to a reptile show to replace his bearded dragon that died on my watch when son went away to college. I caved in to his argument that the tortoise would be way easier to care for than the dragon, because while he was away at school I would be the caretaker. Well you know the rest....kind of like the dog my daughter brought home from college that ended up as mine too (no complaints there....I loved that dog). Well long story short, my son lives out of state now, and I most likely will have to make provisions in my will for Chip. I think a 4 x 8 is the size my husband suggested. This new one is going to go on the floor, with lots of plastic under it of course. Do you use a "mister" for the humidity? Right now I am hand spraying him a couple times a day, but would like to purchase one with a timer so I don't have to worry about it if I should forget. This is my new year's resolution....to get him in a new enclosure ASAP, so I am hopefully going to get this done within the next couple of weeks. Thank you again for all of your great suggestions.
 

crimson_lotus

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I live in MA so my weather is similar to yours. I did not purchase my tortoise for myself either :rolleyes: I talked the office into letting me take her for christmas break 6 years ago when the lights and heat would be off, and she just never went back. She is wonderful to have though, and I am glad it all worked out.

I did have a mister for a while, but once I sealed the enclosure (previously I just covered the top with tin foil) I realized it was too much and not required. The pieces of the mister also clogged despite me using distilled water. Seems to have been mineral buildup. I tried to clean them off with vinegar but the nozzles were never the same after that, and the water output is restricted.

Now my enclosure is also closed but, like I said earlier I had condensation problems on the exposed wood. I had to wrap the wooden door in a shower curtain and it seems to have worked. What I do now is mix the soil under the heat emitters with warm water every few days or once a week.
 

Blackdog1714

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What about an above ground pool set on top of foam board insulation (2" thick) underneath. You could cover the whole thing with a heavy MIL poly.
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chipperchip

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Interesting pool idea. I know from experience, however, there is literally a pool shortage, and if I buy a pool, it will definitely be for me and not Chip, lol.
I like the frame of the pool, however, getting in and out to feed him and clean it out might be difficult, so it would have to be a really low, children's pool.

I will definitely look into the plastic though.

I love the suggestions I am receiving from everyone. Good brainstorming. I think, hopefully, with all the great ideas, I might be able to come up with a great design that will make both Chip and my husband happy, lol.
 

COmtnLady

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Thank you so much. I love your responses. You gave me three great alternatives that I can research further, and quite possibly find a way to combine one or two and tweak them to Chip's comfort and ideal enclosure. My son also got me three very large pieces of plexiglass that I was thinking of building a frame for and sealing with aquarium silicone. I would not keep it clear, I would cover the exterior with paper so that he isn't constantly running in to the sides. My husband is handy at building. Chip's original enclosure was nice and big for him, but he has grown so much since I got him. I always feel very guilty this time of year knowing he is cooped up in his box with not a whole lot to stimulate his senses. And poor guy, he comes running to me when I go in to feed him, probably thinking he is going to go outside. That is our summer routine....I go in and tap on his box and he comes to me and I pick him up to go outside. He loves being held and having his head scratched and his shell rubbed. I don't care what anyone says, God's creatures all have their own distinct personalities, right down to the reptiles that people think aren't too smart or aren't able to show affection.
My redfoot has a clear sided enclosure and watches us. She's really very expressive. Because its basically a plastic it will get scratched and become opaque in a couple years, but (a) it will need to be enlarged every once in a while anyhow, and (b) she seems to like being aware of what's going on.
 

TimR

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I keep a redfoot, a yellowfoot and a burmese in Northern Virginia. They spend the Summer and most of the Spring and Fall outdoors with the help of a heated night box.
 

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TimR

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They spend the Winter in the furnace room, in the basement, in an easy enclosure under the stairs.
 

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maggie3fan

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I keep a redfoot, a yellowfoot and a burmese in Northern Virginia. They spend the Summer and most of the Spring and Fall outdoors with the help of a heated night box.
Hi Tim Your night box is wonderful. And you didn't ask, but I will tell anyway. It is VERY BAD to mix species the way you have. The Burmese and RF/YF care is different. Your tortoises look very dry and I am suggesting you change things around and make it better for them. RF and YF live on the forest floor with DIM lighting and lots of plants for cover etc and humidity. You cannot create humidity with such and open table, and they all need more humidity. Please read this and most importantly, separate the 3 and change other stuff

 

crimson_lotus

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Hi Tim Your night box is wonderful. And you didn't ask, but I will tell anyway. It is VERY BAD to mix species the way you have. The Burmese and RF/YF care is different. Your tortoises look very dry and I am suggesting you change things around and make it better for them. RF and YF live on the forest floor with DIM lighting and lots of plants for cover etc and humidity. You cannot create humidity with such and open table, and they all need more humidity. Please read this and most importantly, separate the 3 and change other stuff


looks like there are box turtles too. lot of mixing going on from different continents
 

TimR

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Hi Tim Your night box is wonderful. And you didn't ask, but I will tell anyway. It is VERY BAD to mix species the way you have. The Burmese and RF/YF care is different. Your tortoises look very dry and I am suggesting you change things around and make it better for them. RF and YF live on the forest floor with DIM lighting and lots of plants for cover etc and humidity. You cannot create humidity with such and open table, and they all need more humidity. Please read this and most importantly, separate the 3 and change other stuff


Thanks for your thoughts. I take in rescued turtles and tortoises and house them in our large fenced in backyard (110' x 70') in Northern Virginia. I keep them outside as long as possible in the Fall and as early as possible in the Spring with the help of the heated night box. I have had the Burmese for 6 or 7 years from a hatchling. The box turtles are rescues from shell cracks (car strikes or lawnmower strikes). The yellowfoot and the redfoot are rescues from locals that could no longer care for their tortoises.

The box turtles have a hibernation pin in the back corner of the yard and have overwintered for 8 years now, with no losses.
The Burmese has overwintered in this enclosure for 7 years now.
The Yellowfoot has lived in our backyard for 2 summers and is overwintering in this enclosure under the stairs for the third time.
This Redfoot was rescued this Spring and spent the summer in the backyard and is spending it's first winter in the under stair enclosure.

This under stair enclosure is in the basement furnace room of our house and I, also, have several fish tanks in the room. It does maintain quite a bit of heat as well as humidity. The tortoises, also, get weekly soaks. Redfoot, Yellowfoot and Burmese come from different continents, but share very similar habitats, as do Eastern Box Turtles.

I have 2 male EBTs and 2 female EBTs, I do see aggression with the 2 males EBTs, but each of them develop their own territory in the backyard and both of them breed with the 2 female EBTs.

I have witnessed no aggression between the Yellowfoot, Redfoot, Burmese or EBTs (other than above). The Yellowfoot is a female, the Redfoot is a male, and the Burmese is a female (I suspect, still very young). All of the turtles and tortoises are healthy and eating well. The heated night box is divided and has 2 opening sizes, which only allows the Yellowfoot to enter one side of the box. The EBTs and Burmese were originally, placed, only in the side with the smaller opening, but they now will enter the side with the larger opening. If they felt harassed, they would avoid entering this side of the box.

I keep an eye on the male Redfoot and am still watching the Burmese, as it matures, for any signs of aggression, but for now everything is fine and the turtles and the tortoises are healthy. I care a great deal for the welfare of my animals. If any problems arise, I will make adjustments, but for now everything is fine.

Tim
 

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