Nesting

BobG

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I have two mature female red footed tortoises and I've seen them bred by my mature male. I have never had tortoises nest and I built them a new indoor enclosure 3 feet by 12 feet and planning on having 8 to 12 inches of substrate. I wanted to find out from someone with experience with nesting tortoises. Will that amount of substrate be sufficient?
Should I have them in a separate nest box?
Should the nesting box need to be lit or dark?
Any advice would be appreciated.
 

G-stars

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Hello,

I would place at least 12 inches of substrate that when they dig won’t collapse. I find that the soil in my area holds up well, it all depends on where you live if you can use outside soil or have to buy something from a local hardware store/ nursery. When your putting it in an indoor enclosure make sure it’s packed tightly to hold its shape and it’s somewhat moist, not soggy or swamp like. They will nest wherever they like, that may be right under the heat lamp or in a shaded corner.
 

BobG

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Thanks, it sounds pretty straight forward. No need to separate any of them?
 

G-stars

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Thanks, it sounds pretty straight forward. No need to separate any of them?
Only if the male or the other female are disturbing the egg laying female. My tortoises nest outdoors with plenty of room, so the other tortoises don’t disturb the nesting process.
 

Yvonne G

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I have two mature female red footed tortoises and I've seen them bred by my mature male. I have never had tortoises nest and I built them a new indoor enclosure 3 feet by 12 feet and planning on having 8 to 12 inches of substrate. I wanted to find out from someone with experience with nesting tortoises. Will that amount of substrate be sufficient?
Should I have them in a separate nest box?
Should the nesting box need to be lit or dark?
Any advice would be appreciated.
@BobG : Sorry to be so late with a response to this thread.

The female digs with her back legs. As the hole gets deeper than the length of her back legs, her whole body tips towards the hole, making her back legs longer, to dig the hole deeper. So you take a look at how long her legs are, and add a couple inches to that, and that's how much substrate you need. Also, the 'dirt' needs to hold its shape so it doesn't keep falling into the hole she's digging.

When you say 'nest box' that conjures up an image of a separate place for them to go lay eggs. It has been my experience that a female in nesting mode finds the place SHE wants to lay eggs, NOT the place you want her to lay them. I don't know about redfooted tortoises, but my desert tortoises and leopard tortoises most often choose a spot near the mouth of their cave (read doorway to their shelter). When I had a female sulcata, she would dig anywhere in the yard. When I had RF tortoises here I never saw eggs in their yard, only inside their shelter on top of the ground, so I have no experience with RF tortoises.

The female doesn't care if it's light or dark. In nature, they start digging in daytime, so the sun is shining on them. The nest digging sometimes lasts until dusk and after. The only thing you worry about is the other tortoises bothering her while she's digging. The nest digging sometimes causes the male tortoise to become a bit more interested in breeding, so you may have to remove him until she's finished.

Good luck with your new breeding enterprise. Keep us informed. We're all rooting for you!
 

Markw84

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@BobG I have indoor nesting enclosures for my adult Burmese Stars. The females are 4000g - 5000g and about the size of most adult redfoot. I have about 10" of substrate in the enclosure for nesting areas. I use a mix of a very fine fir mulch that is used as a soil conditioner, peat moss, and sand to create a soil that compacts to hold shape but is fairly easy to dig. You need to wet it down quite a bit at first and compact it with your hand a lot to get it packed enough to be a good nesting site. It you don't it will be too loose and the hole they dig will not hold shape. As the female digs, if the hole does not hold shape at the top, it will create a larger hole her whole back end sinks into and then needs to dig deeper to create her nest chamber. If you have the enclosure set up and they can trample around for a month or more first, it will compact pretty well that way. Otherwise, just be sure to compact the soil well and be sure it is moist throughout its depth. Test it yourself and see that you can dig a nice hole with your fingers that holds it shape well at the very top as you dig down. The soil should compact into a nice ball in your hand when you grab a handfull and squeeze.

They like to lay under or partially under plant cover, or next to a wall. I think most tropical species that have nests less than 12" deep at the top are "programmed" to use shade to protect their nests from the extreme temperature swings a full sun exposure would give. SO I find if I provide a couple barriers they can nest against, or even better a hanging plant they can nest under, it is almost always those sites they prefer and it will almost always be next to a side of the enclosure. So watch that other tortoises if kept in the same enclosure when nesting, don't pace the enclosure constantly trying to squeeze between the nesting female and the enclosure wall, collapsing the nest. The female can be quite determined and undisturbed, but it can make the nesting process much more difficult.
 

George & mildred

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Hello,

I would place at least 12 inches of substrate that when they dig won’t collapse. I find that the soil in my area holds up well, it all depends on where you live if you can use outside soil or have to buy something from a local hardware store/ nursery. When your putting it in an indoor enclosure make sure it’s packed tightly to hold its shape and it’s somewhat moist, not soggy or swamp like. They will nest wherever they like, that may be right under the heat lamp or in a shaded corner.
Hi if buying a soil from a hardware shop what's best to buy.?
 

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