New Family Member "Dozer"

Dozer2

New Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2020
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Murrieta
New Here. "Dozer" was given to me in September 2018. My very good friend Robert gave him to me after I expressed interest in a Tortoise. I believe Robert had him from day one. Robert told me he was over 15 years old at the time. Dozer came from a Family of five Tortoises, however Dozer was extremely aggressive and hurting the other Males. So Robert offered him to me. I built a nice pen and had a Doghouse made for him. He went in the house first day and slept through the night. That's his bed every night since. Shortly after Robert told me the other Male took over the aggressiveness towards the males and breeding like a mad man. Same thing Dozer was doing. Anyway, My Very Good Friend Robert was killed on his Harley Davidson one year ago. Long story but Robert had a nick-name of "AAA". I put a "AAA" sticker on Dozer's Home in Memory of his first Father MSG Robert O. United States Army.

I have a decent size yard that he roams. Only problem I don't have any grass in the backyard. He will eat the weeds and we feed him daily with Romain, Carrots, Cactus, and some misc greens nearly every day. OMG, this dude can eat like a horse. Dozer is about 14" w and nearly as tall. Length, maybe 22 to 22". Weight, maybe 40lbs. He Hibernates typically from Late November to Late February. Sometimes he'll come out a day here and there. I assume he's Hungary, so give him all the Roamin and Cactus he can eat. Then back in the box for weeks at a time. I usually keep our Winter Pumpkins and cut them up in chunks, he loves them. is that ok? Other than that, if he's still out when I get home from work, I'll pick him up and bring him to the front yard and he'll graze on grass for about an hour. Once he's full he'll walk all the back to his pen and go night-night. He seems to be a little onrey, Most of the time, he'll come up to us while hanging out in the yard and sometimes eat from our hands.

I have plenty of Shade for him to rest and he takes advantage of it. Is it normal for them or defecate in their pen? I clean it out every chance I get. I also have a bail of hay that I use for his bedding. when he's restless at night, I can hear him trying to dig inside his pen, not for long, but in the process he'll push all the hay out his door. A few weeks back, he literally push it so bad he blocked his own door. I have a feeling he didn't come out that day. I cleared it out and the next day out eating like a piglet again.

As far as his diet, Robert would get left over Iceberg lettuce and other greens to feed all of his Tort's. After reading and researching I find that that's not a good diet. I've also noticed as he grows his pyramids are getting smaller or maybe he's growing into them. just yesterday I was wrestling a Dog Poo from him. He got the best of me and got to one of them before I could get it picked up. Caught me off guard as I was coming home from work. I do my best to pick up as quick as possible. YUK!. I gave him some Cactus to make his breath smell better. LOL. He can be very active some days. I do have a Tortoise heat lamp in his pen. I purchased from a local pet shop, the owner had several Sul Tort's and most of them over 100lbs. He told me to run the RED light in the cold months. I typically run it if it's under 50deg f, In the dead of winter when it's in the low 30's outside, it will be in the high 70's in the Pen. This is when I don't see him for about 2-months. It's on a timer and I adjust it on the weather. As winter passes, I'll run it every other hour. As of late April, I don't even run it at all. I plan to have a dimmer on it this coming winter. It sits about a foot above his Shell. I've got a wireless Temp sender so I can see the temp in his Pen 24/7.

At times I'll sit in the back yard to watch him roam and eat. it's very relaxing and calming. I now see why Robert had so many of them. Brings up another question, since he had so many buddies/mates, do I need a friend(male) or Female? I do hose him down for hydration and a general cleaning. I also scrub the dirt from his shell. I think he likes that part. Just purchased a kiddy pool and I'll tray again to get him to hydrate in 2" of water. Last year I made a nice pool he could walk in and drink from if needed. He didn't care for that and wanted out!. This time I won't leave an opening. He'll have to soak for a bit till I let him out. He's pretty darn strong and will find his way out if I walk away. LOL

Sorry to ramble, Let me know If I'm doing anything wrong. We really enjoy having him. He's a great conversation starter.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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At 22" you must be referring to a sulcata. They come from a warm part of Africa, and they do not hibernate. You are lucky he is still alive. Many people lose them doing what you have been doing. This is also the reason why he's only 40 pounds when he should be well over 100 by this point.

The foods you have been feeding are fine, as long as the bulk of the diet is grass and grass hay. What type of hay have you been using in the dog house? Pumpkin is good as a small percentage of the diet. I feed whole pumpkins to my herd in fall. Here is a thread on feeding them:

The tortoise should not have access to the area where the dog poops, and the dog shouldn't have access to the tortoises area. The poo eating is just one of many potential problems.

Red bulbs should never be used with tortoises. It messes up their circadian rhythms. They see color better than we do, so living in a red world is not good for them. NO type of incandescent bulb should be used over a large tortoise, especially not outside in a doghouse in winter. This will slow-burn the top of the carapace and not allow them get warm enough.

Where they come from, they live underground 95% of their lives. That's a stat from a sulcata book full of info on wild sulcatas. "The Crying Tortoise". That is not an exaggeration. The ground temperatures in that part of Africa fluctuate from 80-85 all year, every year. The air and the ground in his shelter need to be at least 80 all year long. 70 is too cold. 50s or below is way too cold, and a red bulb 12 inches over the shell is going to permanently damage the carapace. You need to immediately re-think your shelter and heating strategy with all this info in mind.

They do not want or need other tortoises around. That is why he was so aggressive in his previous home. Other tortoises are not seen as friends. They are seen as intruders to be attacked and driven out of the territory.

The soaking you have been doing is very good. Some of them like the soaking ponds more than others. Sometimes they will change their mind about this, so hopefully he'll take to it one day.

Here are two examples of the type of night box your tortoise needs. I know this isn't what you want to hear, and its a total pain in the arse, but it seems like you get a lot of enjoyment from Dozer, and he might not be around much longer if you don't fix these issues. Think of how awful you'd feel if you came out one cold morning and found him dead, or you touched the top of the carapace and the dead dry scutes cracked under your touch. I've seen both of these scenarios far too many times, and I hope you'll let us help prevent it from happening again.

Check out the boxes:

There is a lot of bad care info out in the world. Sulcatas are super tough and somehow able to survive even when things are done totally wrong. The point of this forum is to help give them optimal conditions so they can thrive and not just survive. Your comments and questions are welcome.
 

Dozer2

New Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2020
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Murrieta
Yea, much appreciated info. This is why I joined the forum. I will do some more research and have a nice conversation with the guy that talked me into the red buld. I heard about the blue buld but was not sure where it applied. I will plan to insulate the pen and try to not use outside heat source. I've heard stories where sul torts live mostly outdoors. I've seen pictures of them covered in snow. Just don't seem right. You say the sul torts don't hibernate? I've met peeps that tell me they put there's in a box and in the house to sleep during the winter months. Thanks Again
 

vladimir

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@Dozer2 Welcome, you're in the right place. That is correct - sulcatas do not hibernate in their natural environment, and when someone claims their sulcata is hibernating it typically means they're housed in conditions that are too cold for them to function properly, which is why they may appear less active.

Dozer is a cutie! Tom is extremely knowledeable about sulcatas and you can't go wrong with his advice. Please ask questions! We're all here for the sake of the tortoises. :<3:
 

Dozer2

New Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2020
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Murrieta
@Dozer2 Welcome, you're in the right place. That is correct - sulcatas do not hibernate in their natural environment, and when someone claims their sulcata is hibernating it typically means they're housed in conditions that are too cold for them to function properly, which is why they may appear less active.

Dozer is a cutie! Tom is extremely knowledeable about sulcatas and you can't go wrong with his advice. Please ask questions! We're all here for the sake of the tortoises. :<3:
So I/we live in southern California, how would I keep him in a constant 80deg temp all year round? My buddy told me his torts would walk around in the pouring rain.
 

KarenSoCal

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You will need a heat mat on the floor of his night box, and a radiant heat panel on the ceiling. These can be used with a temp controller set to 80 deg, so they come on and go off as needed.

I'll let someone else give you more detail on them...price, size, brand etc.
 

vladimir

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So I/we live in southern California, how would I keep him in a constant 80deg temp all year round? My buddy told me his torts would walk around in the pouring rain.

You'll want to build a "night box" based on Tom's design.

https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/

https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/h...g-of-toms-night-box-with-exploded-view.97697/

For one adult sulcata, 4x4 should be large enough. Use a Kane heat mat on the floor and a radiant heat panel up top.

https://www.tortoisesupply.com/kane

https://www.reptilebasics.com/rbi-radiant-heat-panels

You'll use a thermostat to power both of those heating devices, with the thermostat set at around 80F. The insulation in the nightbox will keep it consistent for them.

Let us know if you have questions!
 

Yvonne G

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It's quite alright for your tortoise to go outside in SoCal if the weather isn't 80-85F degrees, as long as he has a heated shed to retreat into. I have had Dudley, a 100+ pound sulcata, for about 15 years here in Central California. Our summers are hot, but the winter days rarely get over 60F degrees, and the nights are almost always down to 32F degrees. Here's a link to the heated, insulated shed I built for Dudley:

 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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So I/we live in southern California, how would I keep him in a constant 80deg temp all year round? My buddy told me his torts would walk around in the pouring rain.
Mine come out in the rain too. But then they go back into their warm heated house to warm up. They also come out on a 60 degree day and find a warm sunny spot to bask and warm up, and then they go back inside their warm boxes, which essentially simulate the warm burrows that they would use in the wild. They don't need a constant 80 degree temp. They need a warm area to sleep and go to on a cold day. Click on the links I posted before, and you'll see how to safely provide this.

Some key points:
  • This species does NOT hibernate. Some people allow them to get to cold, and some of them survive it some of the time. I had a friend who adopted a five year old sulcata. The previous owner told him that this tortoise has lived outside with no heat for its whole life and it will be fine. I told him it won't be fine, and the previous owner had just been lucky. My friend had no problems with this tortoise living outside all summer long, and he fell in love with it. Then he called me blubbering after a cold winter night. He thought his tortoise had been hibernating, but it was dead. 65 year old man blubbering on the phone, telling me he wished he had listened to me.
  • I've also seen people who let them out into the snow. If done carefully, its not an automatic death sentence, but its not good for them, and I wouldn't let mine do it. I wouldn't have this species in that type of climate.
  • Dog houses don't work. They are designed for dog, not tortoises. Dogs need taller doors, taller ceilings, less insulation, and dogs generate their own heat. Tortoises don't.
  • Over head heat lamps don't work for any tortoise larger than about 12 inches, and are potentially damaging to the tortoises shell. This goes for all colors of bulbs, infrared bulbs and ceramic heating elements too. The small amount of heat reaching the tortoise's carapace, cannot penetrate down deep into the tortoise's core and bottom when they are breathing cold air and resting on a cold floor. They need an insulted box with an insulated floor and warm air temperatures.
  • Think of it this way. If I threw 100 humans into a cold swimming pool on a cold night and made them stay there all night. Some of them would probably survive, depending on the temperatures. Some would die. Some might somehow survive for two nights of this. Maybe three? Eventually, if its cold enough, and if they can't ever warm up or take in enough calories to maintain heat (something reptile don't even do), then they will all die. When I pull the survivors out of the pool in the morning and they huddle in a corner in a fetal position and refuse to eat, they are not hibernating. They are too cold and too miserable to function. Because some of them are still alive does not mean this is good for them, or okay to do. We all know this would be bad for any human, and likewise these cold North American temperatures are not good for your African tortoise that comes from a perpetually hot climate where they daily highs in "winter" are always near 100, and the ground where they live is always 80-85 degrees.
You will be amazed at the difference in behavior, health and growth, if you remedy this situation. We are happy to help.
 

Dozer2

New Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2020
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Murrieta
You will need a heat mat on the floor of his night box, and a radiant heat panel on the ceiling. These can be used with a temp controller set to 80 deg, so they come on and go off as needed.

I'll let someone else give you more detail on them...price, size, brand etc.
ahh, very cool. didn't know about the heat mat
 

Dozer2

New Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2020
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Murrieta
Mine come out in the rain too. But then they go back into their warm heated house to warm up. They also come out on a 60 degree day and find a warm sunny spot to bask and warm up, and then they go back inside their warm boxes, which essentially simulate the warm burrows that they would use in the wild. They don't need a constant 80 degree temp. They need a warm area to sleep and go to on a cold day. Click on the links I posted before, and you'll see how to safely provide this.

Some key points:
  • This species does NOT hibernate. Some people allow them to get to cold, and some of them survive it some of the time. I had a friend who adopted a five year old sulcata. The previous owner told him that this tortoise has lived outside with no heat for its whole life and it will be fine. I told him it won't be fine, and the previous owner had just been lucky. My friend had no problems with this tortoise living outside all summer long, and he fell in love with it. Then he called me blubbering after a cold winter night. He thought his tortoise had been hibernating, but it was dead. 65 year old man blubbering on the phone, telling me he wished he had listened to me.
  • I've also seen people who let them out into the snow. If done carefully, its not an automatic death sentence, but its not good for them, and I wouldn't let mine do it. I wouldn't have this species in that type of climate.
  • Dog houses don't work. They are designed for dog, not tortoises. Dogs need taller doors, taller ceilings, less insulation, and dogs generate their own heat. Tortoises don't.
  • Over head heat lamps don't work for any tortoise larger than about 12 inches, and are potentially damaging to the tortoises shell. This goes for all colors of bulbs, infrared bulbs and ceramic heating elements too. The small amount of heat reaching the tortoise's carapace, cannot penetrate down deep into the tortoise's core and bottom when they are breathing cold air and resting on a cold floor. They need an insulted box with an insulated floor and warm air temperatures.
  • Think of it this way. If I threw 100 humans into a cold swimming pool on a cold night and made them stay there all night. Some of them would probably survive, depending on the temperatures. Some would die. Some might somehow survive for two nights of this. Maybe three? Eventually, if its cold enough, and if they can't ever warm up or take in enough calories to maintain heat (something reptile don't even do), then they will all die. When I pull the survivors out of the pool in the morning and they huddle in a corner in a fetal position and refuse to eat, they are not hibernating. They are too cold and too miserable to function. Because some of them are still alive does not mean this is good for them, or okay to do. We all know this would be bad for any human, and likewise these cold North American temperatures are not good for your African tortoise that comes from a perpetually hot climate where they daily highs in "winter" are always near 100, and the ground where they live is always 80-85 degrees.
You will be amazed at the difference in behavior, health and growth, if you remedy this situation. We are happy to help.
lots of great info. I will rethink everything I do for him. just for example of Dozer's daily activities. This weekend was in the high 80's low 90's. He comes out to eat and goes back in his home. Plenty warmth for him to roam the back yard as he does normally this time of year. He'll sit at the door and look out all day. when I come to give him food, he runs towards me, eats then maybe walk around a bit. In the morning he comes out just to sit in the sun. His home mid day was in the high 90's, no electric source. His Dog House was built specially for Dozer. I made the opening 2" larger than his shell at the time. He could barley fit now. I think it's time to open it up a little and insulate. Look into the heat mat too. I've also installed a clear plastic screen over the hole to keep the heat in and help prevent cold from entering.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
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Messages
54,454
Location (City and/or State)
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lots of great info. I will rethink everything I do for him. just for example of Dozer's daily activities. This weekend was in the high 80's low 90's. He comes out to eat and goes back in his home. Plenty warmth for him to roam the back yard as he does normally this time of year. He'll sit at the door and look out all day. when I come to give him food, he runs towards me, eats then maybe walk around a bit. In the morning he comes out just to sit in the sun. His home mid day was in the high 90's, no electric source. His Dog House was built specially for Dozer. I made the opening 2" larger than his shell at the time. He could barley fit now. I think it's time to open it up a little and insulate. Look into the heat mat too. I've also installed a clear plastic screen over the hole to keep the heat in and help prevent cold from entering.
That all sounds great!

The cold nights are the problem. Warm days are great, but we also get cold nights here in SoCal. This is less of a problem when we are having warm days, but what was he doing in March when it was cold and rainy every day? When you make the upgrades and keep him warmer at night, you'll see a big change in his activity level and appetite, and you'll also get to enjoy his company all winter long too.
 

Dozer2

New Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2020
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Murrieta
That all sounds great!

The cold nights are the problem. Warm days are great, but we also get cold nights here in SoCal. This is less of a problem when we are having warm days, but what was he doing in March when it was cold and rainy every day? When you make the upgrades and keep him warmer at night, you'll see a big change in his activity level and appetite, and you'll also get to enjoy his company all winter long too.
in March when it was raining, I had the heat lamp on alternating every hour. He stayed in for days. Average temp was in mid 80's. As soon as the rain stopped, he came out each day and ate like a pig. LOL. I never weighed him when I got him, so guessing on his weight. He's defiantly larger than when I got him two years ago. Going to weigh him when I get home if he's wondering around the yard. I'll plan to track his growth now.
 
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