Shell damage to Herman tortoise - made by a bully tortoise

DaisyPancake

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May 14, 2021
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South Ockendon
Hi,
I have had tortoises for many years, all of them are garden tortoises and free roam the garden during the day (locked away at night because of foxes).

My three tortoises are all female, two are rescues (both spur-thighed around 30 years old) and the youngest I purchased when she was 3 (herman now in her 20's).

They have all lived together in the past, however a few years ago, my biggest spur-thighed started to bully the younger herman by shell-butting her. I tried everything to keep them apart, by sectioning off a portion of the garden for the younger, smaller herman, to placing her under a rabbit run, however, either the spur-thighed got around the barricade's or the herman escaped them followed by being chased and shell-butted by the spur-thighed.

During the first year that this started, it did damage the shell of the herman whereby some of the shell around her sides and rear started to flake. I therefore had to take the decision to find her a foster home and a family I have known for some time, after hibernation, however, they were not comfortable hibernating her, so I always take her back during that period and she goes back to her foster home once she is fully awake and eating. Normally the bullying from my larger female would not start until the weather starts to warm up, however, this year whilst I was acclimatising and making sure the Herman started to eat, the bullying started just days after they woke up from hibernation. I do not know why the bullying just started or how to stop it, but for now at least I have a nice foster home for the herman during her awake period.

That is the background, but now is why I need advice, on two areas:

1. The flaky shell of the herman seems to get worse from year to year and apart from bathing her regular, is there anything I can do or put on her shell which would help the shell from keep flaking. I know you should not put oil on the shell, but is there anything that I can use?

2. The bullying spur-thighed tortoise over the past 2 years, is now starting to bully my patio doors! First thing in the morning she makes a bee-line for my patio doors, trying to get in the house and if the doors are shut she just shell-butts them. I would let her in the house to have a nose around and she is always on a mission, but eventually goes back out-side and once I shut the door behind her, within 10 minutes she is butting the door again. The strange thing is she shows no bullying aggression towards my other tortoise who is also a female spur-thighed. Any ideas what her problem is?

Many thanks.
Tina
UK

Pictures
1st image is of Daisy (bully on the right), Amber (herman in the middle - you can just about see some of the damage to the side of her shell) and Pancake (on the left, the sweetest of them all who I rescued because her shell did not grow correctly and she was also attached by a fox which removed her tail and damaged her plastron - she has been through a lot, but doing great)

Amber with Daisy and Pancake.jpg


2nd image is of Daisy making a bee-line for my patio door in the background (Pancake in the front just loving life)
Daisy making bee-line for patio door.jpg
 

Ray--Opo

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Welcome, I am sure some members who are knowledgeable about this will respond soon. For sure they will ask for some close up pics of the damaged area on the carapace or plastrom.
 

method89

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you shouldn't house different species together and you shouldn't house multiple tortoises together. there will always be bullying. if you do a search on the forum about bullying or keeping tortoises together you will see the stories usually don't end well.
 

Tom

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Hi,
I have had tortoises for many years, all of them are garden tortoises and free roam the garden during the day (locked away at night because of foxes).

My three tortoises are all female, two are rescues (both spur-thighed around 30 years old) and the youngest I purchased when she was 3 (herman now in her 20's).

They have all lived together in the past, however a few years ago, my biggest spur-thighed started to bully the younger herman by shell-butting her. I tried everything to keep them apart, by sectioning off a portion of the garden for the younger, smaller herman, to placing her under a rabbit run, however, either the spur-thighed got around the barricade's or the herman escaped them followed by being chased and shell-butted by the spur-thighed.

During the first year that this started, it did damage the shell of the herman whereby some of the shell around her sides and rear started to flake. I therefore had to take the decision to find her a foster home and a family I have known for some time, after hibernation, however, they were not comfortable hibernating her, so I always take her back during that period and she goes back to her foster home once she is fully awake and eating. Normally the bullying from my larger female would not start until the weather starts to warm up, however, this year whilst I was acclimatising and making sure the Herman started to eat, the bullying started just days after they woke up from hibernation. I do not know why the bullying just started or how to stop it, but for now at least I have a nice foster home for the herman during her awake period.

That is the background, but now is why I need advice, on two areas:

1. The flaky shell of the herman seems to get worse from year to year and apart from bathing her regular, is there anything I can do or put on her shell which would help the shell from keep flaking. I know you should not put oil on the shell, but is there anything that I can use?

2. The bullying spur-thighed tortoise over the past 2 years, is now starting to bully my patio doors! First thing in the morning she makes a bee-line for my patio doors, trying to get in the house and if the doors are shut she just shell-butts them. I would let her in the house to have a nose around and she is always on a mission, but eventually goes back out-side and once I shut the door behind her, within 10 minutes she is butting the door again. The strange thing is she shows no bullying aggression towards my other tortoise who is also a female spur-thighed. Any ideas what her problem is?

Many thanks.
Tina
UK

Pictures
1st image is of Daisy (bully on the right), Amber (herman in the middle - you can just about see some of the damage to the side of her shell) and Pancake (on the left, the sweetest of them all who I rescued because her shell did not grow correctly and she was also attached by a fox which removed her tail and damaged her plastron - she has been through a lot, but doing great)

View attachment 325126


2nd image is of Daisy making a bee-line for my patio door in the background (Pancake in the front just loving life)
View attachment 325127
Tortoises are territorial and aggressive. Species should NEVER be mixed, and tortoises should never be kept in pairs. You are seeing first hand why. Pancake is doing her best to behave submissively and not draw the attention of Daisy, but she is living a life of misery and chronic stress. Imagine what it would do to you if you were locked in a cell with a homicidal anti-social maniac that wanted to dominated, drive away, or kill any other human it saw. You'd be REALLY carefully about every move you made, and every bite of food you took, wouldn't you?

Nothing can be done about the previous damage. Keep the tortoise well fed and in good conditions, and in time her body will do whatever it can do to mitigate the damage. In the mean time, don't let them have access to each other. Build enclosures that can contain these little tortoises away from each other. Don't allow the free-for-all that you've allowed in the past.

Some individuals are more territorial and aggressive than others. Daisy is one of these. If you don't want her charging the patio doors, put her in a tortoise enclosure where she will be safe, and your patio doors will not be damaged.
 

wellington

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you shouldn't house different species together and you shouldn't house multiple tortoises together. there will always be bullying. if you do a search on the forum about bullying or keeping tortoises together you will see the stories usually don't end well.
Pairs should not be housed together. However multiple or single is what is correct. Multiple in a big enough enclosure/yard.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi, and welcome!

The way to 'help' your tortoise is to set each one up in its own yard, with no contact between them. Tortoises don't want or need company. They live alone in the wild and they should live alone in captivity.
 

Sarah2020

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I put coconut oil on the shell. It may help along with good veg diet for new growth to be strong. Ensure calcium and cuttle fish bone around as that helps new growth as mentioned damage is damaged. Very sad but try to remediate what you can.
 

DaisyPancake

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I put coconut oil on the shell. It may help along with good veg diet for new growth to be strong. Ensure calcium and cuttle fish bone around as that helps new growth as mentioned damage is damaged. Very sad but try to remediate what you can.
Many thanks Sarah this is very helpful. She does have access to cuttlefish but I will get some calcium powder to put on her food as a supplement.
 

Sarah2020

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Many thanks Sarah this is very helpful. She does have access to cuttlefish but I will get some calcium powder to put on her food as a supplement.
Calcium on the food is a very light dusting every other day. They are not fans of it so you may initially find reluctance. But will be a good addition.
 

nootnootbu

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Hi,
I have had tortoises for many years, all of them are garden tortoises and free roam the garden during the day (locked away at night because of foxes).

My three tortoises are all female, two are rescues (both spur-thighed around 30 years old) and the youngest I purchased when she was 3 (herman now in her 20's).

They have all lived together in the past, however a few years ago, my biggest spur-thighed started to bully the younger herman by shell-butting her. I tried everything to keep them apart, by sectioning off a portion of the garden for the younger, smaller herman, to placing her under a rabbit run, however, either the spur-thighed got around the barricade's or the herman escaped them followed by being chased and shell-butted by the spur-thighed.

During the first year that this started, it did damage the shell of the herman whereby some of the shell around her sides and rear started to flake. I therefore had to take the decision to find her a foster home and a family I have known for some time, after hibernation, however, they were not comfortable hibernating her, so I always take her back during that period and she goes back to her foster home once she is fully awake and eating. Normally the bullying from my larger female would not start until the weather starts to warm up, however, this year whilst I was acclimatising and making sure the Herman started to eat, the bullying started just days after they woke up from hibernation. I do not know why the bullying just started or how to stop it, but for now at least I have a nice foster home for the herman during her awake period.

That is the background, but now is why I need advice, on two areas:

1. The flaky shell of the herman seems to get worse from year to year and apart from bathing her regular, is there anything I can do or put on her shell which would help the shell from keep flaking. I know you should not put oil on the shell, but is there anything that I can use?

2. The bullying spur-thighed tortoise over the past 2 years, is now starting to bully my patio doors! First thing in the morning she makes a bee-line for my patio doors, trying to get in the house and if the doors are shut she just shell-butts them. I would let her in the house to have a nose around and she is always on a mission, but eventually goes back out-side and once I shut the door behind her, within 10 minutes she is butting the door again. The strange thing is she shows no bullying aggression towards my other tortoise who is also a female spur-thighed. Any ideas what her problem is?

Many thanks.
Tina
UK

Pictures
1st image is of Daisy (bully on the right), Amber (herman in the middle - you can just about see some of the damage to the side of her shell) and Pancake (on the left, the sweetest of them all who I rescued because her shell did not grow correctly and she was also attached by a fox which removed her tail and damaged her plastron - she has been through a lot, but doing great)

View attachment 325126


2nd image is of Daisy making a bee-line for my patio door in the background (Pancake in the front just loving life)
View attachment 325127


I would just do some research about over-wintering rather than hibernating. This way her foster family can keep her year round.

Also, the spurred thighed should NOT be hibernating at all as I understand it, they are African torts and do not naturally hibernate.
 
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