Rt's living it large.

Geese

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Hello all, me and my wife live in the south west of England and have had our Russian tortoise for around 4 years now. Unfortunately prior to us getting him off a friend he had quite a deprived little life of which he spent most time in a tiny viv :-( he's had numerous enclosures since living with us in an attempt to make him a happier tort, I'm glad to say we've succeeded. We've recently moved him int a huge outdoor enclosure which is basically our garden (approx 30 sq ft) he is the happiest he's ever been and is acting much more like the species I've read so much about on this and various other forums as apposed to the sad distressed tort that he used to be. Since moving him outside I've been constantly thinking up plans to improve our garden to make it all the more suitable for him while maintaining a relatively nice space for ourselves. (Easier said than done) we've just got another baby RT as well and I'm almost certain it's a girl which is what we wanted as we would like to introduce them after a long period of quarantine. This won't be a permanent thing as I'm aware they can get quite nasty, however I believe the summer months will allow the female to hide from the male under the different bushes and plants we've got growing. My plan is for them to eventually mate and have little Baby torts but I have a few questions in this area such as will they both need to hibernate to stand a chance of being successful parents, will the female be ok laying eggs outside or would it be best to take her back into her indoor enclosure when she starts showing signs of nesting, either way I know the eggs will have to be properly in incubated.
Another question slightly off subject, the male is currently outside but when winter inevitably happens he will need a dry heated area with a ceramic bulb for night time, which I'm going to build in the shed and still allow access to the garden if he wants it but when and at what temp should I set the thermostat to, to influence him to nod off for a good thew months? Baring in mind he's never hibernated before would this actually be detrimental to his health?
Sorry for the massive post, any comments or answers to questions above would be very much appreciated :). Thanks.
Jen, bob and the torts Darwin and Florence.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Jen and Bob:

When the weather has cooled and doesn't warm up much past 50F degrees, you can dig out the tortoise and place him in a box of shredded paper. One helpful hint - it may be pretty hard to find a russian tortoise once he has dug down into the ground, so as the days shorten and the nights get cooler, you may want to place the tortoise in a smaller area so you don't have such a big space to try to find him in. Place the box of shredded paper containing the tortoise in a quiet spot that doesn't get any colder than 40F degrees or warmer than 50F degrees. He should be ok there until about March, when you 'll start to hear him scratching around in the box wanting out.

I would not heat the outdoor shed.

I don't know much about breeding russians, so I'll let someone else answer the breeding questions.

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wellington

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I don't hibernate my Russian, so can't help,there. However, would love to see a pic of your happy tort in his new garden space.
 

Tom

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Hibernation is not necessary for breeding, but it does tend to make the breeding urge stronger and it also makes it happen at more predictable times. This species does hibernate in the wild, and I feel it is best to hibernate them, one way or another.

Putting a male and female alone together is not a good idea. You should have at least two, but better 3 three or four females to one male. To do what you intend to do, they should be housed separately, and the female introduced into the males territory periodically in the spring and fall. Putting them together in one small (30 square feet is small) outdoor enclosure and leaving them that way full time in the summer, will most likely result in injury. You will need a much larger area if you intend to have a group and breed. My russian pens are 8x24' (192 square feet) and they feel tiny to me.
 

Geese

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Thanks :) that's great advice, didn't even occur to me that I'd have to dig the little guy up. Ok I'm going to get him checked for parasites again before I make my mind up on whether to hibernate him or not, also I'll just see what he does over next few months, he's quite greedy most of the time so should see a considerable difference in his eating if he's winding down. Do you mean no overnight heating in the shed and a small basking lamp for the rubbish days, or no heating at all? Maybe just a couple of cold frames about the garden? Thanks again :).
 

Geese

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Thanks tom. Unfortunately I don't have that sort of space, wish I did. Maybe breeding isn't the right thing to do then but as our space is relatively small I feel it may be an inevitability because the garden will be their's, that's the only way I can ensure I'm giving them both enough room to explore and be happy. I must stress as well that it was never really our intention to get a tortoise but we just couldn't bare to see him cooped up in a tiny viv, the same story goes for the young female we found in a half meter long viv coupled with a much larger male at a pet shop near where we live. We actually rescued them from what could have been a very short life. Our first one had what I think is referred to as RNS, the owners thought it was cute that it was blowing bubbles out of his nose :-0 just goes to show how un educated some people are about these things. Hats off to the creators of this great app :)
 

Wanda

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I live in Kent and my adult Russians live out all the time. I have a shed which I insulated with a built in cat flap which leads to a covered outside enclosure. I have heat lamps on timers in the shed for early and late in the year and a ceramic heater for the winter.
Come autumn when they start slowing down I reduce the amount of time I have their basking lamps on and add a couple of extra bags of topsoil. I keep reducing the time heat is available as well as food and eventually they dig themselves down into the top soil. I then don't provide light at all but have the ceramic heater on a thermostat which kicks in if the temp drops below a certain temperature. Come spring they get themselves up and then they get basking lights again. I know a lot of people use fridges but this way works for me and my tortoises and I feel it is a little closer to how they might behave in the wild.

I have had eggs for the last two years so obviously it works for my girls as well!
 

lynnedit

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Wanda has provided a wonderful overview of how you can keep your tortoise in your climate, a very nice description and process. Exactly how you handle it might vary a bit.
You will need a heated shed to wind down in Autumn and wake up in the Spring in your area of the UK.

As Tom says, I would be very careful about mixing one female with one male Russian. Even in a nice large enclosure. The female will indeed hide a lot, and won't have a chance to be a normal basking/grazing tortoise. Once she is big enough (at least bigger than the male), keep them separate except for very limited time together. OR, get 2 more females to diffuse out his 'affections'. Quite often, even with several females, the male has to be separated much of the year. (in the wild, they roam hectares, so have an adequate chance to spend a lot of time as a solo tortoise).

So happy to hear what you have done for this poor little fellow. Isn't it satisfying to see them blossom once they are outside and able to roam?
Well done!!!!!! :)
 
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