Refrigerator hibernation

Tanyabobanya

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Hi all,
I started a new thread in “general” I hope that’s ok. I’m never sure I’m posting fb in the right area. I’ve received such good advice here but I continue to be confused. I was planning on hibernating my 2 5YO desert tortoises using a mini fridge because our house and basement even don’t stay cold all the time. I was just told by someone not on tortoise forum that using a fridge was not advisable. She says put them in boxes in a cool closet. My mother does this and hers have been fine for .. how old am I... 44 years. Maybe it says below 50 in her closet. Our basement can get down to 40’s but up to mid 70’s when sun is out. Thoughts on mini fridge use. I’m so terrified to do this. I’m not feeding them and they’ve been inside in their sleep enclosures. If the sun comes out one of them especially climbs the walls. I have a one year old as well who had something happen to her front and back paws, claw paws.. but that’s another thread. In over my head, but care for them. Does anyone live in LA want to come mentor me while doing this? I wish I had X-ray vision into their stomachs.
 

KarenSoCal

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I was just about to post to you, to find out how things were going.

When a brumating tortoise is at the proper temperature, meaning cold enough, his respirations, heart rate, urine production, and digestion drop way low, thereby conserving his body resources to see him through months of no food or water.

If the temp rises, he warms and becomes active, thus burning far more of his food and water stores. Then the temp drops, and his body must reacclimate to resource conservation. As this up-down cycle repeats itself a few times, you can see that the tort is burning up his body resources at a fast rate, leading to possible malnutrition and dehydration.

Outside, in a burrow, there are additional risks. Ants love to chew on torts while they are so cold they can't get away. Other predators may come around, like rats, who will kill a tort while it sleeps. Or the really unusual unexpected freak temp drop to the low 30's one night...the same night tort decided to konk out at the entrance of his burrow, and so got his eyeballs frozen (literally). Hopefully after weeks of care and protection the eyes will return to normal.

If you have a closet or garage that maintains 48-50deg for 4 months, go for it! Put them in a box in a box, stuff it with newspaper strips, and keep them above the floor.

OR: put them in a box, and slide them in to a shelf of the already running , already finely temp adjusted, fridge. No ants, no rats, and no wild temp fluctuations.

You can lay your hand on him and feel him expell air. Very comforting after a week or so of no contact.

After as long as it's been since they were fed, I don't think you need worry about more poops.

After reading this, think about it and come back. Tell me what your fears are...is it the lack of air? The "entombment" creepies? That you can't see him? We'll go over each one, and hopefully can assuage your concerms.
 

jsheffield

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I have a Russian tortoise who I'll be brumating in a fridge this winter... the temps are stable in the range from 36 to 40 degrees, and I feel he'll be safer than he would be in my garage or basement (from temperature fluctuations too high or low, predation, flooding, etc.), so that's what I'm doing.

There is a lot of dated or simply inaccurate husbandry information out there (Facebook is nice for chatting and sharing pics of your tortoise, but not really for reliable information), but I trust the people and experience here on TFO.

Good luck with your tort... let us know how things go.

Jamie
 

Tanyabobanya

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I was just about to post to you, to find out how things were going.

When a brumating tortoise is at the proper temperature, meaning cold enough, his respirations, heart rate, urine production, and digestion drop way low, thereby conserving his body resources to see him through months of no food or water.

If the temp rises, he warms and becomes active, thus burning far more of his food and water stores. Then the temp drops, and his body must reacclimate to resource conservation. As this up-down cycle repeats itself a few times, you can see that the tort is burning up his body resources at a fast rate, leading to possible malnutrition and dehydration.

Outside, in a burrow, there are additional risks. Ants love to chew on torts while they are so cold they can't get away. Other predators may come around, like rats, who will kill a tort while it sleeps. Or the really unusual unexpected freak temp drop to the low 30's one night...the same night tort decided to konk out at the entrance of his burrow, and so got his eyeballs frozen (literally). Hopefully after weeks of care and protection the eyes will return to normal.

If you have a closet or garage that maintains 48-50deg for 4 months, go for it! Put them in a box in a box, stuff it with newspaper strips, and keep them above the floor.

OR: put them in a box, and slide them in to a shelf of the already running , already finely temp adjusted, fridge. No ants, no rats, and no wild temp fluctuations.

You can lay your hand on him and feel him expell air. Very comforting after a week or so of no contact.

After as long as it's been since they were fed, I don't think you need worry about more poops.

After reading this, think about it and come back. Tell me what your fears are...is it the lack of air? The "entombment" creepies? That you can't see him? We'll go over each one, and hopefully can assuage your concerms.

thank you Karen! Alright fridge it will be. What temp exactly should I set it to? It’s at 50 now. I got one with a glass door and digital temp so I can see it from the outside. Cardboard boxes or plastic containers or does it matter?
My biggest concern is the time they’ve been inside and not eating, with temps at night in upper 60’s but in the day if the sun shines into the room it gets warm. I’m soaking them but I worry I’m stRving them and they’ll sick. I guess I should choose a time and just do this. Thank you so much for all of your messages. You’re my tortoise fairy..
 

Tanyabobanya

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I have a Russian tortoise who I'll be brumating in a fridge this winter... the temps are stable in the range from 36 to 40 degrees, and I feel he'll be safer than he would be in my garage or basement (from temperature fluctuations too high or low, predation, flooding, etc.), so that's what I'm doing.

There is a lot of dated or simply inaccurate husbandry information out there (Facebook is nice for chatting and sharing pics of your tortoise, but not really for reliable information), but I trust the people and experience here on TFO.

Good luck with your tort... let us know how things go.

Jamie

thank you Jaime! This makes me feel a lot better!
 

KarenSoCal

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The fridge should have, including the boxes the torts are in, other stuff to help the temp stay more stable. Load any empty space with bottles of water or cans of soda. You can also use cold packs, the kind you use on a sprain, or the ones you freeze to put in a picnic cooler. If you have already done this, that's great.

You don't want to drop their temps too fast. I would set the cooler 5deg lower than the coldest they are at night. If their room is at 60 deg at night, set the temp on the cooler to 55 deg. If it's 65 deg, set it at 60 deg.

Leave it alone for 24 hrs, then drop it 2 deg lower for 24 hrs. Keep going at 2 deg lower per day until you get to 48. Remember there may be a slight fluctuation, especially if you open the door. Each day, while you are dropping the temp, open the door and swing it open and closed several times to help air exchange. Then continue doing this every day until you bring them out in the spring. If you forget a day, don't panic. They'll be fine.

Cardboard boxes are fine. Put a couple layers of newspaper on the bottom. Then tear more newspapers into strips. You want enough to fill the box, all around and over top of the tort. Then close the lid of the box, or just lay a piece of cardboard over the top. The torts need darkness.

If you hear them moving around at first, it's ok. As the temp drops, they will become less and less active.

To help with the temp adjustment, put them in the fridge when they are coldest, probably around 4 or 5 AM. Have your fridge loaded and set about 5 deg cooler. Have their boxes all ready. Put each in his box, cover them up with the strips of paper, close the lid, and put them in the fridge.

Then go back to bed. :D:tort:
 

Tanyabobanya

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Sorry late replying. I was going to do this this morning but didn’t happen (I have 2 kids who were out too late and I overslept). Now the sun is warming up the room they are in. I’ll do this either tonight or pre sunrise. Oy. Thank you. I need to post about the youngest one in a new thread. Ps. I have a friend who lives in ojai who recommended the sanctuary there. I called and they aren’t taking any in but she suggested paying them a large donation (bribe) and seeing if that would work. I want them to be wanted and not a burden. Thank you!!
 

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Sorry late replying. I was going to do this this morning but didn’t happen (I have 2 kids who were out too late and I overslept). Now the sun is warming up the room they are in. I’ll do this either tonight or pre sunrise. Oy. Thank you. I need to post about the youngest one in a new thread. Ps. I have a friend who lives in ojai who recommended the sanctuary there. I called and they aren’t taking any in but she suggested paying them a large donation (bribe) and seeing if that would work. I want them to be wanted and not a burden. Thank you!!
Good luck!!! My russians have been in hibernation for almost a week, I literally check them every day(which I know is intrusive, I'm just worried because it is there first time.) The temp. is around 40 and they are doing okay, one time I checked and it fluctuated to 37 and they all had dug to the bottom of their containers. (I use a mix of sand and topsoil, then spanish moss on top) Make sure it doesn't go too cold or they may keep trying to dig down and waste energy. Hope you have a successful hibernation!!!
 

KarenSoCal

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Sorry late replying. I was going to do this this morning but didn’t happen (I have 2 kids who were out too late and I overslept). Now the sun is warming up the room they are in. I’ll do this either tonight or pre sunrise. Oy. Thank you. I need to post about the youngest one in a new thread. Ps. I have a friend who lives in ojai who recommended the sanctuary there. I called and they aren’t taking any in but she suggested paying them a large donation (bribe) and seeing if that would work. I want them to be wanted and not a burden. Thank you!!
Yes, the kids were late, so you overslept. While the kids were probably up at the crack of dawn!

The sad truth is that no rescue or sanctuary is really going to "want" them, because there are sooooo many tortoises needing homes. However, I certainly think asking for a bribe is uncalled for! What I would do, if you can't find a good home for them, is call the CTTC (CA Turtle and Tortoise Club). They are a statewide organization with many chapters...look up the one closest to you.
https://tortoise.org/

Or....join the closest chapter and go to their meetings. I go to the Low Desert chapter, and have learned a lot. You might find a home that way, or better yet, decide to keep them. Maybe a member or two might be willing to come and help you with enclosures, etc. But if you must give them up, the CTTC will take them and hopefully find a new home for them.

Please post how it goes tonight!
 

Tanyabobanya

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I will post how it goes. Gulp. I feel like keeping 2 male (99% sure) sibling tortoises is not a good idea. I’m told they should be kept separate. The baby is another story. I know they aren’t human and try not to let my human sensibilities get in the way, but in nature and in general I feel like that’s not a happy life. I couldnt imagine my 2 boys living their entire lives sharing a bedroom. But maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know anything anymore. Thanks for the wish of luck.. going to put some stuff in the fridge and set it maybe a little higher after reading your advice.
 

KarenSoCal

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I will post how it goes. Gulp. I feel like keeping 2 male (99% sure) sibling tortoises is not a good idea. I’m told they should be kept separate. The baby is another story. I know they aren’t human and try not to let my human sensibilities get in the way, but in nature and in general I feel like that’s not a happy life. I couldnt imagine my 2 boys living their entire lives sharing a bedroom. But maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know anything anymore. Thanks for the wish of luck.. going to put some stuff in the fridge and set it maybe a little higher after reading your advice.
Yes, they will have to be separated. Regardless of the combination of genders, they will bully, then they will fight. Find a home for one of them, and keep the other. Otherwise, you will need two enclosures. They do not like being together...it will be a relief for both of them to be separated.
 

Tanyabobanya

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Last night got too late. I’m soaking one now. I can’t tell if they’re drinking. Usually it’s obvious but he’s kind of just sitting in the water. I have 2 boxes. I have a baby tortoise as well so if I could rehome these 2 as heartless as it sounds.. I think I’d be able to make something of what mid life I have left before kids are grown and out. The baby has some issues with its legs. I feel like a tortoise vet. Here Dribnle now-
 

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Tanyabobanya

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Good luck!!! My russians have been in hibernation for almost a week, I literally check them every day(which I know is intrusive, I'm just worried because it is there first time.) The temp. is around 40 and they are doing okay, one time I checked and it fluctuated to 37 and they all had dug to the bottom of their containers. (I use a mix of sand and topsoil, then spanish moss on top) Make sure it doesn't go too cold or they may keep trying to dig down and waste energy. Hope you have a successful hibernation!!!

Im planing on using newspaper I hope that’s ok.
 

Tanyabobanya

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Hi everyone ..KarenSoCal,
My two desert tortoises are now in the fridge since Thursday before sunrise and I’m nervous. I have that feeling after a nightmare about finding out you did infact murder someone and they’re are in your basement but you can’t remember a thing even though it’s true. I’m also afraid to even peek in at them because they could wake up. I’m afraid of taking their boxes out in.. when am I supposed to do that again? April? March, and finding them long gone and not breathing. How’s everyone’s holidays ?
Tanya
 

KarenSoCal

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Hi everyone ..KarenSoCal,
My two desert tortoises are now in the fridge since Thursday before sunrise and I’m nervous. I have that feeling after a nightmare about finding out you did infact murder someone and they’re are in your basement but you can’t remember a thing even though it’s true. I’m also afraid to even peek in at them because they could wake up. I’m afraid of taking their boxes out in.. when am I supposed to do that again? April? March, and finding them long gone and not breathing. How’s everyone’s holidays ?
Tanya
Congratulations! You did it! :) Now let's work on your "scaredies". What temp are they at right now? Depending how you boxed them up, you can easily get a "proof of life" sign. Open the door and swing it back and forth (to get a good air turnover). While it's open, see if you can slide your hand into the box. Feel around for one of them, and just gently lay your hand over top of his carapace. Be still and quiet, and you should hear and feel him "hiss". He's not actually hissing, it's air under his shell being expelled to make more space for his head and legs to fit in. Anyway, if you don't hear or feel it then, rub a leg a bit. Hopefully that will make him move a bit. Remember, he's not asleep like dogs or cats, totally zonked. He's aware of what's going on£11 around him, but by cooling, he's in a state of suspended metabolic activity...just barely enough to keep his heart and lungs viable.

When he moves, cover him back up, and close his door. This is your proof of life, and you don't neQed to keep doing it over and over. Do it once every two weeks. If your mental health starts to suffer, make it 10 days. ,,,,:tort:But swish the door every day.

As to the holidays, they have an almost abstract feel to me this year. Everything is so different...I couldn't put up any decorations, and my Christmas spirit is super droopy.But I'll get there, one day at a time. :) I hope your holiday is happy, full of good cheer, and richly blessed.
 

Tanyabobanya

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The temp is at 48 after putting down from 60 gradually. I haven’t put my hand in yet. They’re in canvas storage boxes I had that are from to the container store and I put shredded newspaper over them. The fridge isn’t a full size. It’s a mini fridge and just fits the 2 boxes and some soda cans I put at the bottom after taking one rack out. Yesterday I got an email from a woman I met on fb who knows tortoises well and she told me they can and will suffocate in the fridge and to take them out. This of course sent me into a panic while lighting the first candle for hanukah. I’ve opened the door once a day but haven’t swooshed it so I’ll do that. How has my mother keep tortoises alive by putting them in cardboard boxes and in a closet to bromate all these years? She said it’s cold in the room but the heat does go on and off in her house. She also has no heated box or shelter made for them in her backyard. They usually sleep under the bushes when they aren’t hibernating. They’ve never been attacked by wild animals like opossum or Raccoon.. Except for the time our German Shepard thought one was a chew toy. And that time she treated it with peroxide in the sink. she’s never taken them to a vet and I remember them getting runny noses back when I was a kid. She thinks I’m over thinking all of this. She also kept the babies that were hatched (I have one) together in a shoe box for months until she gave them to an exotic pet store owner who she promised me was knowledgeable and would take good care of them. I really want to give my 2 fridge sleepers, Dribble and Free to a desert sanctuary where they can live a better life.. away from my anxiety. Then I’ll have one lonesome tortoise to care for and I’ll worry if a he, will be constantly trying to get out of its outside enclosure to find a mate/ and if a she.. maybe she’ll be happy? Thank you Karen for being there for me! tanya
 

KarenSoCal

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Tanya, you're doing fine...just breathe.....:)
Now, re' your mom, her methods worked for her, within her set of circumstances. You have your own circumstances, so her methods will not work for you. So you're doing things differently.

As for the suffocation issue, keep swishing the door once a day. This is the 3rd winter I have done this with no problem, and I also use a minifridge.

The only difference between you and me is that you have 2 torts in there, so I'm going to tag 2 other members who use a fridge.
Rosemary has a Russian tort.
Tom uses a full size fridge, but he has many torts stacked in there.
If they don't put your mind at ease, there is one other thing you can do.

Go to Walmart's pet dept and buy an ordinary fish aquarium air pump and some air tubing. The size of the pump doesn't matter, just get the cheapest one.

At home, plug in the pump and run the air tubing through the door of the fridge and leave it alone. Voila! a constant fresh air supply into the fridge.

You will have to make sure that the tubing is not crimped closed by the door seal. If it is, you will need to trim the door seal enough to loosen it.

Your email friend is wrong. Many people get freaked out at the very idea of a fridge. I think they recall the dire warnings we all got as children..."Don't EVER play in there! YOU WILL DIE!" They seem to regard it the same as a nailed up coffin. So you can expect some horrified reactions when you post about this method. But it is tried and true, and can offer great peace of mind when compared to the alternatives. You are knowledgeable...try to educate the uninformed. That's what this forum is about; trying to teach new keepers the correct methods, and even more difficult; trying to inspire old-timers to change outdated thinking and methods to align with new updated info on proper techniques within their circumstances.

@RosemaryDW
@Tom
Would you help alleviate Tanya's concern re' suffocation in a fridge? Her 2 DT's are already in a minifridge. Maybe post a pic of inside your tort occupied winter quarters?
 

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The temp is at 48 after putting down from 60 gradually. I haven’t put my hand in yet. They’re in canvas storage boxes I had that are from to the container store and I put shredded newspaper over them. The fridge isn’t a full size. It’s a mini fridge and just fits the 2 boxes and some soda cans I put at the bottom after taking one rack out. Yesterday I got an email from a woman I met on fb who knows tortoises well and she told me they can and will suffocate in the fridge and to take them out. This of course sent me into a panic while lighting the first candle for hanukah. I’ve opened the door once a day but haven’t swooshed it so I’ll do that. How has my mother keep tortoises alive by putting them in cardboard boxes and in a closet to bromate all these years? She said it’s cold in the room but the heat does go on and off in her house. She also has no heated box or shelter made for them in her backyard. They usually sleep under the bushes when they aren’t hibernating. They’ve never been attacked by wild animals like opossum or Raccoon.. Except for the time our German Shepard thought one was a chew toy. And that time she treated it with peroxide in the sink. she’s never taken them to a vet and I remember them getting runny noses back when I was a kid. She thinks I’m over thinking all of this. She also kept the babies that were hatched (I have one) together in a shoe box for months until she gave them to an exotic pet store owner who she promised me was knowledgeable and would take good care of them. I really want to give my 2 fridge sleepers, Dribble and Free to a desert sanctuary where they can live a better life.. away from my anxiety. Then I’ll have one lonesome tortoise to care for and I’ll worry if a he, will be constantly trying to get out of its outside enclosure to find a mate/ and if a she.. maybe she’ll be happy? Thank you Karen for being there for me! tanya
I can't say it any better than Karen. I've used a fridge for years and none have suffocated yet. People just don't understand how things work. The oxygen needs of a hibernating tortoise are minuscule, AND fridges are not air tight nowadays any way. I was nervous about it when I first started doing it, so I took a pen apart and had that piece of rigid tubing in the door the first year. I just didn't need it. Never used it again after that.

I gutted and old stand up freezer a few years ago to convert to an incubator. As I took the thing apart and removed the compressor and all the wiring, I realized how many ports of entry there are for air in a typical fridge. Plenty for a group of hibernating tortoises. I had 22 tortoises and lizards in the fridge one year. No problems.
 

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The temp is at 48 after putting down from 60 gradually. I haven’t put my hand in yet. They’re in canvas storage boxes I had that are from to the container store and I put shredded newspaper over them. The fridge isn’t a full size. It’s a mini fridge and just fits the 2 boxes and some soda cans I put at the bottom after taking one rack out. Yesterday I got an email from a woman I met on fb who knows tortoises well and she told me they can and will suffocate in the fridge and to take them out. This of course sent me into a panic while lighting the first candle for hanukah. I’ve opened the door once a day but haven’t swooshed it so I’ll do that. How has my mother keep tortoises alive by putting them in cardboard boxes and in a closet to bromate all these years? She said it’s cold in the room but the heat does go on and off in her house. She also has no heated box or shelter made for them in her backyard. They usually sleep under the bushes when they aren’t hibernating. They’ve never been attacked by wild animals like opossum or Raccoon.. Except for the time our German Shepard thought one was a chew toy. And that time she treated it with peroxide in the sink. she’s never taken them to a vet and I remember them getting runny noses back when I was a kid. She thinks I’m over thinking all of this. She also kept the babies that were hatched (I have one) together in a shoe box for months until she gave them to an exotic pet store owner who she promised me was knowledgeable and would take good care of them. I really want to give my 2 fridge sleepers, Dribble and Free to a desert sanctuary where they can live a better life.. away from my anxiety. Then I’ll have one lonesome tortoise to care for and I’ll worry if a he, will be constantly trying to get out of its outside enclosure to find a mate/ and if a she.. maybe she’ll be happy? Thank you Karen for being there for me! tanya
Ask the lady on FB how many tortoises over how many years she has hibernated in a fridge, and ask her how many of them suffocated. Her answer will tell you why she doesn't know what she's talking about.
 
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