new adult Sulcata: light / heat q's outdoor

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Man, I have gone down the rabbit hole of Forum posts, trying to absorb much needed info. Huge thanks to all these experienced owners. I feel like Im on a first named basis with folks Ive never even met! My husband keeps asking who TOM and Yvonne are!

I skipped an intro post before, so I figured I'd start over: I will soon be adopting a beautiful 4 yo , approx. 20" Sulcata ( from a rescue). We will name him Monty Chello..and call him Chello. He is great looking and I have been told heathy. My husband is building his outdoor structure/yard and I still wanted to clear up some things to advise him.

The plan now: We will build at least an 8x4 closed house, much like @Tom 2.0 design for night box, but we want to bury all but the openable top in the dirt..to look kinda mound like. We do get snow off and on (here in Virginia) so heat and light are an issue. The dirt will further insulate.

Just to confirm..

1. Oil Radiators for ambient temps inside the enclosure are safe, especially with a barrier.

2. Still not sure if a pig blanket is needed..but willing to get one if the structure measures cold. Would this go under a light or on the cooler side? I assume the hot side is under a light.

3. Speaking of lights..The UV vs UVB info is confusing me. I can get him outside ( he will have a yard of course) and he will have the plastic strips to exit the structure (and a door to seal up as needed)...but I do want to provide the correct light in winter. I assume he will choose to be in most of the day when its cold.

What is safest for basking and lighting in a closed house? The height will be 24"

..Im perfectly fine with exact recommendations. I have 2 pages of cut and pasted information from previous forums and its too much to determine what is best. What is in my head now... "No LED..yes, florecent. No coil, yes flood. No halogen basking. Yes to regular fixtures...CHE's could burn Chello in an outside set up...no plastic on the fittings, only ceramic". I am officially a forum robot! Would love help honing in all this info.

I am grateful and excited about this whole process. Thanks for any expertise!
-ellis ann
 

Cheryl Hills

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Man, I have gone down the rabbit hole of Forum posts, trying to absorb much needed info. Huge thanks to all these experienced owners. I feel like Im on a first named basis with folks Ive never even met! My husband keeps asking who TOM and Yvonne are!

I skipped an intro post before, so I figured I'd start over: I will soon be adopting a beautiful 4 yo , approx. 20" Sulcata ( from a rescue). We will name him Monty Chello..and call him Chello. He is great looking and I have been told heathy. My husband is building his outdoor structure/yard and I still wanted to clear up some things to advise him.

The plan now: We will build at least an 8x4 closed house, much like @Tom 2.0 design for night box, but we want to bury all but the openable top in the dirt..to look kinda mound like. We do get snow off and on (here in Virginia) so heat and light are an issue. The dirt will further insulate.

Just to confirm..

1. Oil Radiators for ambient temps inside the enclosure are safe, especially with a barrier.

2. Still not sure if a pig blanket is needed..but willing to get one if the structure measures cold. Would this go under a light or on the cooler side? I assume the hot side is under a light.

3. Speaking of lights..The UV vs UVB info is confusing me. I can get him outside ( he will have a yard of course) and he will have the plastic strips to exit the structure (and a door to seal up as needed)...but I do want to provide the correct light in winter. I assume he will choose to be in most of the day when its cold.

What is safest for basking and lighting in a closed house? The height will be 24"

..Im perfectly fine with exact recommendations. I have 2 pages of cut and pasted information from previous forums and its too much to determine what is best. What is in my head now... "No LED..yes, florecent. No coil, yes flood. No halogen basking. Yes to regular fixtures...CHE's could burn Chello in an outside set up...no plastic on the fittings, only ceramic". I am officially a forum robot! Would love help honing in all this info.

I am grateful and excited about this whole process. Thanks for any expertise!
-ellis ann
Now there is an idea I never thought about, burying the night box. I wonder if that would work here in the cold!
 

NorCal tortoise guy

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maybe someone with the same weather as you will offer different advice but I don't use UVB bulbs in night boxes. they get the sun when they go out and when they stay in they do without until they go out again. I kind of think of my night box like a burrow they would dig in the wild. The oil filled radiator is a very good option and yes I would put a barrier around it so the tortoise wont push it around. I don't think you will need a pig blanket. I used to use them but found them expensive to run and less heat then the radiator. I hope this helps
 

Tom

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That type of night box is designed to help them make it through cold nights and an occasional cold rainy day in an otherwise warm climate. I don't think it will be suitable for a climate with a real winter, like yours. Its not meant to have lighting in it and no UV is needed for a tortoise that lives outside.

If you bury the box, how will you keep it from flooding with all your rain and snow? It can be done, but you'll need a tunnel to separate the entrance from the lid, and then you'll have to cover the opening and make sure it slopes down hill.
 

Turtulas-Len

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I'm a little north of you and have a sulcata that lives outside all year. He is a little bigger than yours but yours will grow. I built his house about 10 years ago, here is a pic taken last month Picture 001.jpg He has free run of the yard and comes out almost daily. In our climate proper insulation is very important so I went with 6 inch walls and floor and didn't use a flat roof so I could hang a che high enough so as not to do damage to his shell when it is turned on. there is a oil filled heater and a 3x4 ft stanfield heat mat on the floor in opposite corners of each other.Earlier this year I posted a thread about his house but I don't know how to post a link to it here.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi, and welcome to the Forum!

I don't think the night box would work as an outdoor shelter. And I especially don't like the idea of covering it with dirt. How would you get inside to clean it out or to check on the tortoise? Plus, the dirt would degrade the wood in a year or less.

The type of house Len has would work, if big enough, or an insulated shed like I use would work. The tortoise is going to be stuck inside on real cold days, so he'll need some 'moving around' room inside the shelter. I chose a 'shed' because I got tired of opening the roof, then leaning in with my rake and shovel. It was hard on my back. With a shed I just open the people door and walk in with my rake, broom and shovel. In my shed, there's a pig blanket on the floor (I started with it on the wall, but didn't like how that worked), a 250 watt brooder light hanging from the ceiling (about 4' from the floor, so there's no danger of it burning his back), and it's very well insulated. Here's a link to my sulcata's shed: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/dudleys-rebuild.111350/

I do have a night house for one species of tortoise, but it's inside a greenhouse. It wouldn't work without the greenhouse:


night house a.jpg
 
Joined
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Good morning all. I am so excited to get responses from the pros!

So- I was sorely mistaken about my understanding of the use of a night box. I couldn't find these alternative pictures, so thanks so much. My husband (a builder by trade) was pushing for a taller structure, but I had explained the hight heating costs for a high roof. Now I get it! He originally wanted to do a four foot door opening out from the structure (downhill side of the mound, opening out to avoid water coming in.) We will go back to this design, thus providing more room to hand a lamp or CHE IF needed, but also big enough to walk into to clean easier.

My husband is curious about the best flooring for a hut. Has anyone used vinyl flooring over plywood, to make it easier to clean? Is a hard surface with substrate comfortable enough for them?

@Turtulas-Len - Seeing photos of this working even further north is super comforting! How are your heat bills and what are the dimensions of this hut? Yvonne said 4 feet off the ground is good for her brooding lamp..what wattage is your CHE? Just to be clear, you do not provide UV for your guy...he gets out enough even in the winter?

@Tom thanks for clearing that up, no more night box design for us...but the insulation lesson was invaluable. So, we understand the challenges of burying the home. My hubby is pretty set on this...and I do think the natural look of it is appealing. Being a builder he understands the water / flooding potentials, so we will build it accordingly. He has the master plan, but from my understanding, he wants to use cinderblock walls (with plywood interior barrier on Chello's level) and wood roof...no 'lid'...just a door opening out on the downhill side. We will see! If it fails, I will be sure to report.

also, good to hear outside tortoises get enough UV without a lamp, but Id feel more comfortable having one, if needed, when we have weeks of cold (Chello's rescue said he is pretty sluggish right now, from the colder season- so I am guessing he may not venture out enough)

@Yvonne G Thanks for the detailed info! 4 foot off the ground info...very helpful. So, 250 watt brooder light is for heat and UVB, correct? Is the below link like yours? I have a fixture for this already if this is acceptable.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OJ31X5U/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Thanks again guys. We are getting so excited to do this! I cant wait to see how Chello likes his new home :)
 

Tom

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also, good to hear outside tortoises get enough UV without a lamp, but Id feel more comfortable having one, if needed, when we have weeks of cold (Chello's rescue said he is pretty sluggish right now, from the colder season- so I am guessing he may not venture out enough)

Be careful. The above quote from the rescue is a real red flag. This species doesn't have a cold time of year over there. This is one of the challenges of keeping a giant tropical reptile in a temperate colder climate. They have to be kept warm all year round. Many people let them get too cold in the winter here in the states. A large percentage of them mange to survive these poor and inappropriate conditions, but its not good for them. Coupled with the stress of moving, the cold temps could cause a respiratory infection and eventually kill him. Once you get him, I should soak him daily in warm water in a warm area, and not let him drop below 85-86 degrees day or night. This will help his immune system fight off any sickness. You can use a space heater in a bathroom and use the bathtub for soaks, if you don't already have a warm area to soak in. Keep the air hot and the water warm, like 90 degrees. It will feel like a sauna. Soak for 40-60 minutes. This will help keep him hydrated with the warm than normal temperatures.
 
Joined
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Be careful. The above quote from the rescue is a real red flag. This species doesn't have a cold time of year over there. This is one of the challenges of keeping a giant tropical reptile in a temperate colder climate. They have to be kept warm all year round. Many people let them get too cold in the winter here in the states. A large percentage of them mange to survive these poor and inappropriate conditions, but its not good for them. Coupled with the stress of moving, the cold temps could cause a respiratory infection and eventually kill him. Once you get him, I should soak him daily in warm water in a warm area, and not let him drop below 85-86 degrees day or night. This will help his immune system fight off any sickness. You can use a space heater in a bathroom and use the bathtub for soaks, if you don't already have a warm area to soak in. Keep the air hot and the water warm, like 90 degrees. It will feel like a sauna. Soak for 40-60 minutes. This will help keep him hydrated with the warm than normal temperatures.


Hey there Tom. I was a little confused about that as well. Here was the comment...

", 2018, 11:10 AM
He is still fairly manageable in size. I’d have to measure, but I’m guessing around 20”? I have him in a 5’ by 3’ indoor enclosure right now.

Generally overwintering torts can have lower temps. I keep the cool side around seventy and provide a warm spot at about 80.

UVB is essential all year, as are adequate humidity levels, of course."

I figured we would rescue him as soon as possible and keep him warmer. She seemed pretty knowledgable otherwise and spoke about soaking him there. When we go get him, ill see if he shows signs of an infection. I was a vet tech for years for small animals but not as schooled on reptiles.. will he have discharge or raspiness, runny eyes if there is an infection? I will certainly soak him and follow your advice otherwise.
 

Yvonne G

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Good morning all. I am so excited to get responses from the pros!

So- I was sorely mistaken about my understanding of the use of a night box. I couldn't find these alternative pictures, so thanks so much. My husband (a builder by trade) was pushing for a taller structure, but I had explained the hight heating costs for a high roof. Now I get it! He originally wanted to do a four foot door opening out from the structure (downhill side of the mound, opening out to avoid water coming in.) We will go back to this design, thus providing more room to hand a lamp or CHE IF needed, but also big enough to walk into to clean easier.

My husband is curious about the best flooring for a hut. Has anyone used vinyl flooring over plywood, to make it easier to clean? Is a hard surface with substrate comfortable enough for them?

@Turtulas-Len - Seeing photos of this working even further north is super comforting! How are your heat bills and what are the dimensions of this hut? Yvonne said 4 feet off the ground is good for her brooding lamp..what wattage is your CHE? Just to be clear, you do not provide UV for your guy...he gets out enough even in the winter?

@Tom thanks for clearing that up, no more night box design for us...but the insulation lesson was invaluable. So, we understand the challenges of burying the home. My hubby is pretty set on this...and I do think the natural look of it is appealing. Being a builder he understands the water / flooding potentials, so we will build it accordingly. He has the master plan, but from my understanding, he wants to use cinderblock walls (with plywood interior barrier on Chello's level) and wood roof...no 'lid'...just a door opening out on the downhill side. We will see! If it fails, I will be sure to report.

also, good to hear outside tortoises get enough UV without a lamp, but Id feel more comfortable having one, if needed, when we have weeks of cold (Chello's rescue said he is pretty sluggish right now, from the colder season- so I am guessing he may not venture out enough)

@Yvonne G Thanks for the detailed info! 4 foot off the ground info...very helpful. So, 250 watt brooder light is for heat and UVB, correct? Is the below link like yours? I have a fixture for this already if this is acceptable.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OJ31X5U/?tag=exoticpetnetw-20

Thanks again guys. We are getting so excited to do this! I cant wait to see how Chello likes his new home :)
No, the 250watt brooder bulb is for baby chicks. It's on a timer and only comes on at night . Tom doesn't like to use a red bulb, which this is, because it makes the substrate look edible. I don't have substrate in my sheds. The cement floors are covered with rubber horse stall mats.
 
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Turtulas-Len

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Walkers house is 8x8 ft, the side walls are 32 inches, the center peak height is 52 inches. the cost of electricity is minimal, I just went to check what wattage is being used today so I could give you an answer and it read 295 watts. The CHE is 150 watts which is turned on along with the heat mat so the mat is using about 150 watts also.The inside temps are in the mid 80s. When it gets colder I turn the CHE off and turn the oil heater on which will increase the wattage necessary to keep the house warm. I don't remember exactly what it is but believe it's around 700 watts with the mat and heater running. He can come and go as he pleases I very seldom need to close his door because of severe weather. He usually comes out for a while every day to eat, drink and just wander around some. I have raised him from a hatchling. He is 22 years old. The flooring in his house is a rubber flooring that looks like wood that is sold for wet areas. It is easy to install, can be cut to size with a razor knife and it is a peel and stick type so no glue is required.Each piece is about 4 to 5 inches wide and 4 feet long with over lapping seams for a god seal. It is still holding up and looks good after 10 years of misuse by a large sulcata. No inside light needed since the door is always open and daylight filters through the poly and vinyl flaps used to hold the heat in and cold out.
 

Tom

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Hey there Tom. I was a little confused about that as well. Here was the comment...

", 2018, 11:10 AM
He is still fairly manageable in size. I’d have to measure, but I’m guessing around 20”? I have him in a 5’ by 3’ indoor enclosure right now.

Generally overwintering torts can have lower temps. I keep the cool side around seventy and provide a warm spot at about 80.

UVB is essential all year, as are adequate humidity levels, of course."

I figured we would rescue him as soon as possible and keep him warmer. She seemed pretty knowledgable otherwise and spoke about soaking him there. When we go get him, ill see if he shows signs of an infection. I was a vet tech for years for small animals but not as schooled on reptiles.. will he have discharge or raspiness, runny eyes if there is an infection? I will certainly soak him and follow your advice otherwise.
Good questions.

The symptoms to look for are lethargy, lack of appetite, and discharge from the nares. More advanced cases might show, colored discharge from the nose, gaping the mouth or excessive yawning, wheezing or labored breathing, and high pitched noises or chirps while breathing.

Any tortoise that lives outdoors for most of each year, does not need artificial UV lighting when indoors. They store D3, and they can go an entire winter with ZERO UV and be totally fine. UV, or dietary D3 supplementation, is very important for growing babies that are living mostly indoors, but you don't have to worry about UV for a large tortoise that spends a lot of time outdoors. It won't hurt anything, but it isn't critically important. Sometimes a good UV light indoors helps their mood and activity levels, so if you want to run one, you can. Its just not a necessity in most cases.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
Maidens, Virginia
Walkers house is 8x8 ft, the side walls are 32 inches, the center peak height is 52 inches. the cost of electricity is minimal, I just went to check what wattage is being used today so I could give you an answer and it read 295 watts. The CHE is 150 watts which is turned on along with the heat mat so the mat is using about 150 watts also.The inside temps are in the mid 80s. When it gets colder I turn the CHE off and turn the oil heater on which will increase the wattage necessary to keep the house warm. I don't remember exactly what it is but believe it's around 700 watts with the mat and heater running. He can come and go as he pleases I very seldom need to close his door because of severe weather. He usually comes out for a while every day to eat, drink and just wander around some. I have raised him from a hatchling. He is 22 years old. The flooring in his house is a rubber flooring that looks like wood that is sold for wet areas. It is easy to install, can be cut to size with a razor knife and it is a peel and stick type so no glue is required.Each piece is about 4 to 5 inches wide and 4 feet long with over lapping seams for a god seal. It is still holding up and looks good after 10 years of misuse by a large sulcata. No inside light needed since the door is always open and daylight filters through the poly and vinyl flaps used to hold the heat in and cold out.


truly helpful! thanks. These mats sound perfect. Congrats for doing it well for 22 years!!
 
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Good questions.

The symptoms to look for are lethargy, lack of appetite, and discharge from the nares. More advanced cases might show, colored discharge from the nose, gaping the mouth or excessive yawning, wheezing or labored breathing, and high pitched noises or chirps while breathing.

Any tortoise that lives outdoors for most of each year, does not need artificial UV lighting when indoors. They store D3, and they can go an entire winter with ZERO UV and be totally fine. UV, or dietary D3 supplementation, is very important for growing babies that are living mostly indoors, but you don't have to worry about UV for a large tortoise that spends a lot of time outdoors. It won't hurt anything, but it isn't critically important. Sometimes a good UV light indoors helps their mood and activity levels, so if you want to run one, you can. Its just not a necessity in most cases.

Good to know. I am nervous about him being sick now. Either way, we will get him and do what needs to be done to help him. Thanks for the info.
 
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