Russian Laid an Egg. Help Please

MissyAnnMay

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Hello all,
I have 2 Russians that live in a tortoise table outside (Southern California). I have had them about 4 years but my female I rescued so I am not sure how old she is. She is MUCH larger then the male and I was told by the vet my male would not be interested in mating for quite some time. Thus I kept them together. Well they have been going at it all spring. however, I never worried because it seemed like he was never in the correct position and he's just so much smaller.

Low and behold I found an egg in there this morning. It was just a single egg. it wasn't buried and it looked as if they had been walking over it and rolling it all over the place before I got to it.

I gently picked it up without turning it and laid it in the corner of the table. Since this morning my female has been sleeping. I did move her to check for more eggs and I dug around the enclosure to no avail.

My questions is, do you think this egg could be viable? and if it is would it have been damaged by being outside with no heater and being kicked around by my torts?

Lastly, is it possible for this egg (or future clutches) to hatch if I just let them be? Do I need to get an incubator?

I recently moved into a new house with a large yard. My hubby and I were going to finally make a space for the torts in the yard with grass and plants and tons of room to roam. I'm just wondering if eggs can survive without our interaction. I am not opposed to raising more torts I just do not want to interfere with nature unless absolutely necessary.

SoCal weather where I live is up and down. Anywhere from the 60's-100's on any given day.

Thanks in advance for any advice!
-Missy
 

tglazie

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Well, I mean no offense to your vet, but he or she doesn't know what he or she is talking about. Four years can be plenty of time for a male tortoise to mature under captive conditions, and males are always much smaller than females but manage to reproduce all the same. If you don't want eggs, I advise you to not keep them together, and even if you do want eggs, I also advise you to not keep them together except for temporary conjugal visits. Russian tortoises can be very nasty with one another, and though your boy doesn't have the size to knock his Mrs. around at the moment, he will certainly reach a size whereby his constant abuse will pose a risk to her both physically and psychologically. Many folks don't like to think of their cute tortoises as territorial, abusive, and antisocial, but make no mistake. They see their fellow tortoises as competition, and in the case of males and females, a mate to harass on a constant basis.

As for the egg, my rule is always to put the egg in an incubator, regardless of the post laying conditions, because you simply never can tell. Until we invent some sort of Star Trek type sonogram machine that can detect embryonic life within tortoise egg at the time of laying, all eggs should, in my opinion, be treated as living. Also, don't let the egg sit out, because it will never hatch. Even in the wild, eggs are buried, giving their environment more temperature and moisture stability than would be experienced in the open air, and even then, it's a craps shoot.

T.G.
 

MissyAnnMay

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No disrespect taken. I live in a small city and we only have one vet that will even see tortoises. She has been great with them so I will continue to see her, but I will check this forum for advice as well.

A second egg was laid this week right as the first egg was completely over run by ants. For the safety of my torts I sadly disposed of both eggs. It was really tough to do not knowing if they were viable or not. As I said before I do not want to interfere with nature. If the eggs hatch "so be it", but I do not want to be throwing away eggs either. My main goal is to make sure my rescued torts are safe.

I did speak with my vet (the same one unfortunately). She advised me that having my female fixed would solve the potential aggression issue with my male. (does anyone know if that will work?)

I got my male almost 5 years ago, he was full of parasites, malnourished, and completely inactive. I cured the first two problems but, he continued to be inactive, to the point I would basically hand feed him for months. It was my vet who recommended I seek out a female companion.

Since bringing her home (4 years ago) both have been thriving. I find it really hard to believe they would be aggressive towards each other. I have never witnessed anything of the sort. (even when she was smaller than him).

Am I being delusional? I honestly want to do what is best for them but, I would hate to have him regress into the depressed little guy he was.

As for the eggs, as I stated above hubby and I have already purchased tons of materials to create a new habitat about 20ft long for them. If I do not have her fixed, is there any chance future clutches would survive without my interference?

Sorry if I sound silly, these are our first Russians (hubby has a 60 year old desert tort who lives with his mom). I do my best, but it seems there is so much I don't know.
 

johnsonnboswell

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So glad you brought it up here! No, no, no!

You have two viable options: keep them entirely separate or else introduce 2 or more additional females for a breeding colony.

Nothing will stop the male's aggression. It is often discussed here how dangerous it is to have two Russians together. Potentially fatal.

Tortoises don't behave like dogs. Surgery would be dangerous, expensive and useless.

A third option, if you want eggs, would be to allow a limited conjugal visit in the spring and keep them apart the rest of the year. That is more in line with what happens in nature.

Your vet is a hazard. So is your male. Don't let your female suffer because of them or cause her more suffering.
 

MissyAnnMay

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Thank you John!
As far as my vet, I wish I had other options. She was great diagnosing my male, and I really feel her medicine and advice saved his life.

It's obvious now, I need to rethink some things she told me in order to keep both my male and female happy and alive.


Are you saying if I were to find another 1 or 2 female Russians to keep with my pair that would eliminate the upcomg aggression? I am
More than willing to adopt more
Torts since I have the room.


If I were to fix my female and adopt other rescue females (and have them fixed) would that solve the aggression?
 

Saleama

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Thank you John!
As far as my vet, I wish I had other options. She was great diagnosing my male, and I really feel her medicine and advice saved his life.

It's obvious now, I need to rethink some things she told me in order to keep both my male and female happy and alive.


Are you saying if I were to find another 1 or 2 female Russians to keep with my pair that would eliminate the upcomg aggression? I am
More than willing to adopt more
Torts since I have the room.


If I were to fix my female and adopt other rescue females (and have them fixed) would that solve the aggression?
Do not "fix" any tortoises. Reptiles don't really work that way. They mate by site and opportunity, not by scent. The eggs she is laying are probably not viable eggs since they are being laid above ground and since you want to stick to a natural plan, they would never survive and hatch that way. Getting another few females will allow the aggresion, if there is any, to be spread evenly among the group. At least, that is the thought behind this practice. If you have a large enough area and introduce the torts in the same time frame, you should not have any issues. Make sure there are tons of sight blockers. Bushes, plants, rocks, logs... you get the picture, and they will be fine. I know I will get flamed for this, but the type of aggression you are being warned about happens quite a bit but not nearly as much as people say. I have a 1.2.1 group and I have not had any issues in 2 years, even when I have to pen them up in a smallish tub during snap cold spells after they surface in the spring. I am NOT saying that issues couldn't pop up. Don't think that. I am saying that as long as you are prepared to seperate if you have to and as long as you have a good group and plenty of room and hiding spots, your chances of being ok are much better.
 

MissyAnnMay

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Thank you!!!
I will absolutely be on the hunt for any rescue females in my area.

Until then, what are some signs to look for as far as aggressive behavior? Do I have a few years since he is half her size?
 

Saleama

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Thank you!!!
I will absolutely be on the hunt for any rescue females in my area.

Until then, what are some signs to look for as far as aggressive behavior? Do I have a few years since he is half her size?
He (or she) females are not above being bullies, lol, will show outward obvious signs of aggression in some cases. of course, this is very easy to see. Other times it is subtle and you will only see the results, for example, missing scutes, cuts or bleeding wounds on the legs and head. Look for him constantly following her. While it may look cute, it is not fun for her and she may go into constant hiding to the point where she will not come out even to eat and drink. As far as a time frame goes, you could have a decade or you could have a day. No way to tell. Remember, with new ones you should always quarantine for a few weeks and get a general wellness check-up done before introducing them, even if you know where they are coming from. And if you are getting a new enclosure make it as big as you can possibly make it and get you a few more females and put them in at the same time so they can mark out their own little area and will be less likely to foght over a spot. Note: I say less likely. They still might fight over a certain area or, like mine, they might actually share an area, but introducing them to the home at the same time gives them a choice and any one animal won't have already picked out his or her area.
 

johnsonnboswell

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Do not think about neutering. That's for dogs and cats and rabbits. It is not for reptiles. Please, don't consider it at all in any context. It is not an option.

By the time you suspect bullying, it's already an ongoing problem of major proportions. One seems shy or less active or eats less. Result of bullying often.
 

tglazie

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You don't sound silly at all. Tortoise keeping isn't intuitive. People have been doing it incorrectly for decades, and given the abundance of misinformation out there, as well as the variety of keeping methods, maintenance of supposedly "silly" questions are par for the course. Saleama's method certainly works, but I'm something of a purist when it comes to separation. I believe all tortoises should be housed singly, fed singly, and introduced only temporarily for the purposes of breeding. Russians can often be brutal creatures, and though this brutality varies from individual to individual, I still think it is a safe generalization to say that aggression is the norm with this species. I'm a recent convert to the separation doctrine, and I must say that all of my tortoises are healthier for it. Every tortoise I've ever kept became a much more outgoing, much healthier creature when housed singly. Additionally, some tortoises are far too mean to be housed with any other tortoises, even for a short period of time. I have a male Greek tortoise who has never gotten along with any other tortoise, viciously ramming and biting at anything that even looked like a tortoise, a leather shoe in several instances. He is most definitely the meanest creature I've ever known, and he paces his enclosure with a warlike paranoia and battle readiness that would strike even the most hardened ancient Spartan as extreme. It is true that you can separate them when the aggression is getting to be a bit much, but me personally, I work most of the day, only getting an hour before and an hour after work to see to their needs. I can't afford to have my tortoises spending the afternoons beating on each other with no referee in sight to break up a particularly bloody bout, so I separate the lot of them. I'm a stickler for keeping track of lineage as well, and allowing a particular male access to a particular female allows me certainty of paternity without having to take my charges to the set of Maury.

Oh yes, and getting a tortoise fixed sounds like the most ridiculous proposal I've ever heard. That vet of yours is a real comedian.

T.G.
 
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