Russian tortoise just laid eggs but I don't have an incubator.

Kelly Grey

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Hello! I am new here and I was just surprised this morning...15 minutes ago by by Russian tortoise laying 2 0r 3 eggs before covering them up in her indoor enclosure. She has been housed with a male for over 5 years and is finally laying eggs. They are about 4 inches under the soil. They live in a 4 foot by 6 foot enclosure in my home. The heat in my house is always at 70. She laid them under the heat lamps. My question is: I do not have an incubator. No one seems to sell them locally. I ordered one but it wont be here for a week. Do I leave the eggs in the ground or attempt a home made incubator until the hovabator arrives? How long can they safely stay in the ground for? Thanks so much for any help! i checked the other threads but none seem quite as specific as I need.
 

Tom

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The danger of leaving them in the enclosure is that they will get stepped on or dug up if she or any other tortoise wants to burrow there. They can sit in a deli cup or something for a couple of weeks with no ill effects. Once you get your incubator, get it set up and running, make your adjustments and then let it settle for at least two days before putting your eggs in there. Make sure it is stable and the temp is where you want it. Many russian breeders use dry vermiculite for incubation and use separate tubs of water in the incubator to maintain adequate humidity. Russian eggs need less dampness than some other species, so do be careful with moisture.

Also, many times first clutches are not fertile, so don't be at all discouraged if this happens to be the case.

Good luck and congratulations!
 

Kelly Grey

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Thank you Tom for your quick response! She has them in there pretty deep and is just sleeping on top of the nest now. I moved the male into a separate enclosure so she can be by herself. I don't think there is a chance anything can happen to them unless she starts digging into the nest. I will head to the store now to buy that vermiculite and will be sure to let the incubator temps get settled before I try taking them out. It is her first clutch so I will try not to be disappointed if they are not fertile. :( I hope she has a fertile batch soon though! Baby tortoises would be so exciting!
 

katfinlou

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Thank you Tom for your quick response! She has them in there pretty deep and is just sleeping on top of the nest now. I moved the male into a separate enclosure so she can be by herself. I don't think there is a chance anything can happen to them unless she starts digging into the nest. I will head to the store now to buy that vermiculite and will be sure to let the incubator temps get settled before I try taking them out. It is her first clutch so I will try not to be disappointed if they are not fertile. :( I hope she has a fertile batch soon though! Baby tortoises would be so exciting!
Hoping you're lucky and have fertile ones!! My Hermanns laid 5 eggs over a few weeks (squashed one) so im not too hopeful of a good outcome, they're currently in a heated sees propagator that I got from a garden centre and im on tenterhooks waiting to see what happens....
 

Kelly Grey

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Oh good idea, Katfinlou! I should've thought to look at a garden center for a makeshift incubator. Do you think it's too late? Can they stay in the ground for awhlle?
 

katfinlou

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This is my first ever experience with eggs and I caught mine pretty much within a couple of hours. Im wondering if they might be ok if they're under a heat source temporarily til you can get something sorted? The only thing im sure of that the eggs must be kept facing the same way up once you've retrieved and began incubating. So sorry i can't be of any more help to you. Let us know how things go :)
 

Grandpa Turtle 144

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Hello Kelly welcome to the TFO from AZ. Good luck if you talk to people about tort eggs they hate to quit on eggs cause once quit and you through them out you cannt say ops. But you can always wait one more day or two or three or four .
 

Kelly Grey

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Thank you everyone! This is such a nice forum! :) I researched how to make an incubator but many people are claiming that the homemade ones aren't good enough and it killed their eggs. I decided to let them stay in the dirt where she left them until I get the incubator in a few days. I guess my only question now is should I leave the heat lamp on at night? In nature, the sun goes down so the soil must keep the eggs warm enough right?? Or should I keep the light on. I don't want to dry out the soil by leaving the light on.
 

Tom

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Let your lights go on and off as usual.

Often feed stores that sell horse supplies will have chick incubators in stock. If not, then its fine to wait a few days to get your own.

Once you get your incubator and get it set up, adjusted and at a stable temp, you will need to be VERY careful with the eggs. When you move them, you cannot tip them at all. Many people use a pencil and very carefully mark an "X" on top of the egg as they are uncovered and before moving. This allows you a reference point to make sure the egg does not tip or cant in any way during the process of digging it up and moving it to its incubation tub. Once the eggs have "settled" for a day or two, they cannot be tipped or turned.
 

Kelly Grey

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Thank you again! The incubator will be here tomorrow or Tuesday so I am just trying to keep things normal in there for now. She is not showing any signs of nesting again so i don't think she will dig up her eggs. Can't wait till Tuesday! I bought the vermiculite and I will be very careful not to rotate them. great idea on marking them- I will do that! This forum rocks!!! Thank you so much! Everyone is so welcoming and helpful!
 

Tom

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Breeding our captive tortoises is a goal for me personally, and I think everyone should be encouraged in this direction, especially for a species like russians that still have so many wild caught imports coming in. I would like to see a day in the future where captive breeding meets the demand for this species and we no longer need to import any. I would like to see pet stores stop selling them and instead have the vast majority of people buying them directly from breeders who actually have hands on experience and are better able to tell the new owner how to care for the species.

Sooooo, you are very welcome! And thank YOU for contributing to the solution instead of the problem. I wish you many happy years with your tortoises and lots and lots of babies.
 

Kelly Grey

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Hi everyone! I didn't want to leave this thread without a conclusion. Well, those eggs that were left in the dirt for 5 days because I didn't have an incubator are actually hatching right now! Soooo...for anyone with the same issue that finds themselves in my situation - YES they will be fine! I left them buried where they were for 5 days (kept the tortoises away from that area), got incubator, let it get to right temp for 24 hours and then dug up the eggs (being careful not to turn) and put them in vermiculite in a small container, marked x and the date on the top of each egg, and put 3 containers of water in the incubator for humidity. I accidentally had made the vermiculite moist (following an old guide I found online). The eggs started to brown on the ends 2 weeks later perhaps from too much moisture and it was recommended to me that I change them into 100% dry vermiculite and lo and behold almost exactly 3 months later- one egg is hatching right now! I know it can take up to two days and not to try to help it since the yolk sac is still attached. Thanks again everyone! This is such a beautiful thing!
 

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Jodie

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Congrats! That is great news, and very exciting! Can't wait for pictures of babies.
 
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