Should I be concerned about Russian being burrowed all day?

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Hello again!

A couple weeks ago I posted about my Russian tortoise (Beans) that I found in my backyard and couldn't find the original home of. Since then, I've been working on building an enclosure for him in my backyard, but it's definitely taking quite a bit of time. For a majority of the time, he was in a large cardboard box (about 2x3 ft) because I thought I would very quickly be able to build his enclosure. It's taking significantly more time than I thought to plan out because of the odd shape so I've been trying to figure out the best way to close it off to predators (birds and neighborhood cats, but mostly my dogs). My dogs got to him a few days ago and I really wanted him to have a slightly more permanent home inside that could be upgraded, so I went out and got literally the only Christmas tree storage bin I could find. This is the one, and it's still quite small (4'x15") and if anyone is wondering the wheels truly suck. In the future it'll be what he's in only if I have to bring him in for bad weather or bring him in to sleep, but ideally I'll be able to combine it with a second one so he has more exploration space.

At this point, Beans is actually burrowed in the substrate almost all day, even when it's not very hot anymore. Previously he didn't even have substrate in his box just a towel and a hide, so maybe I'm just not used to how much he's burrowing. When he's out, he's moving around fine and he's active and alert and eats a good healthy amount but once he finishes basking and eating, he usually goes right back to sleep. His poops and urates have been normal and consistent, and actually today was the first urate where I haven't been worried about how hydrated he's been since I found him. Considering he's injured and in a new (and small) enclosure, is him being burrowed for most of the day normal or something I should be concerned about?

I've been trying to set up an appointment with a vet, but the number for the one on the forum list isn't working and I got in contact with one that I was hoping would be good yesterday, but they transferred me to a vet to chat with to set up an appointment and she simply said "I'll have them call you back to schedule an appointment. :)" and I felt hopeful but then I haven't heard from them since. Today's Saturday, so I was going to wait until Monday to try calling places again.

If anybody could offer some advice, I'd really appreciate it. My situation right now is temporary.. but I would like to make sure he's okay even before I can get him set up outside. I'm also concerned that I've been handling him way too much, although as long as I'm not holding him for too long he usually just kind of hangs out. Since calming down after the dog attack, he doesn't hide in his shell unless I accidentally move too right above him, but I'm always very careful to tap him gently or make some noise or move slowly in front of him so he knows what's going on and doesn't feel unsafe.

Also, is it safe to completely close the lid on his enclosure? And if so, for how long?
I've been closing it for just long enough to amp up the humidity, and then i'll leave it open until the humidity lowers again... but it's quite hard to keep it humid and I haven't decided where I want to drill holes into it yet.



Right now the routine is:

7-8am

  • Turn on the lamp, pick him out of his burrowing spot and place him to bask for 30-60 minutes

9:30am
  • Soak Beans for about 20-45 minutes in a large terracotta saucer
  • Very gently brush off bits of substrate (ReptiChip)
    • Usually either carefully with my fingers (clean hands!), or VERY gently with a soft bristle tooth brush, or simply by cupping water in my hands and letting it run over his back
    • I wouldn't typically do this, but it sticks on some because of the Neosporin

10:00am
  • Gently dry Beans off with a towel and apply a small amount of Neosporin to his injuries
  • Bring him out to his tub outside
  • Beans basks for about 10-15 minutes before going back into his burrow

12:00pm
  • Beans spends about 30 minutes eating and then sometimes basks for about 10-15 minutes before returning to burrowing

2-3pm
  • If the temperature is good, I'll usually pick him out of his burrow one more time and he'll hang out and eat a little more and maybe bask for a bit before going back to burrowing

6-7pm
  • If the ambient temperature is colder outside than it would be inside, I bring him inside and turn on the lap to let him bask
  • Usually after basking, he burrows and doesn't come out again so I turn off the light and let him stay burrowed until I wake up the next morning



Heating and Lighting
  • Inside
    • Beans is indoors from the afternoon to the morning (typically 7pm-10am).
    • Ambient: 73-76 F, Basking: 85-90 F (I only use this to warm him up in the morning before I soak and move him outside)
    • 65 Watt Flood Bulb
    • After basking, I soak him for 20-45 minutes in 85-95 F bath water
  • Outside
    • After soaking, I place his bin outside (typically 10am-7pm)
    • 10-2pm
      • Ambient: 85-95 F, Basking 95-110 F (if it's getting hotter than 100, I mist everything down)
      • Some areas get to be about 120 F, so Beans stays burrowed for most of this time where it's about 80-90 F
    • 2-6pm
      • Ambient: 75-85 F, Basking: 85-95 F
Soaking
  • After letting him bask for about 30-60 minutes to warm up in the morning, I soak him for 20-45 minutes
    • Bath water: 85-95 F (I change it out whenever it gets to 85 F or if he poops/urates)
  • I usually only see him drink water during his soaks, so I occasionally mist his food
  • Humidity is typically in the 20-70% range but most often it's 30-50%
  • I'm actually pretty concerned about him being dehydrated, but I've only recently had him have proper humidity since I got this new tub (having the lid on helps a ton!!)
Diet and Supplements
  • Beans is eating a good amount every day aside from the two days my dogs had got to him. On those days, he ate about half as much.
  • Spring mix with the occasional supplement of cuttlefish bone or TNT from Carolina Pet Supply 3 times per week.
  • I just today added in some mustard greens, but the grocery store we go to only sells big bags of greens and they always go bad before he can eat even half of them
  • Today I also attempted to see if he liked carrot because we happened to have some, but he completely ignored it which is honestly for the best LOL
  • It'll take some weeks but I'm currently working on a garden of:
    • Flowers: coneflower, snapdragon, poppy, zinnia, and cosmos
    • Greens: tetsudo mix (TortoiseSupply), romaine lettuce, "all lettuce blend," emerald oak lettuce, summer thyme, and arugula
      • Please let me know if there's anything else you think I should grow, or if this sounds like a varied enough diet
 

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Joined
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As always, thank you so much if you read the whole thing and sorry for always creating such lengthy posts!! I am always very very worried and I have read so many spooky posts on TFO so although I know they're quite hardy, I always have this anxious feeling like at any moment something terrible will happen and I'll be in the dark about how to help him... but I'm also quite the anxious person in general 😥

Also the picture of the enclosure, the humidity is 20% and right after I took that picture I poured a bit of water in the corners and after a bit it's right back up at 40%!
 
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wellington

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May be a combo of the dog attack and new box home.
Put the lid on the box to cover at least half the box over the hide area at least when inside. He may feel too exposed specially when already being attacked. Or add some plants for coverage.
Basking should always be 95-100 and I would raise the soak water to no lower then 95.
Ambient temp should be 75-80 night temps can be as low as 60. Humidity should be at least 50% always.
As long as you keep him hydrated and he is eating, and make the changes give him some more time to get over all the stress he has had. Be careful putting him outside in a high sided box. It can get too warm very fast
 
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May be a combo of the dog attack and new box home.
Put the lid on the box to cover at least half the box over the hide area at least when inside. He may feel too exposed specially when already being attacked. Or add some plants for coverage.
Basking should always be 95-100 and I would raise the soak water to no lower then 95.
Ambient temp should be 75-80 night temps can be as low as 60. Humidity should be at least 50% always.
As long as you keep him hydrated and he is eating, and make the changes give him some more time to get over all the stress he has had. Be careful putting him outside in a high sided box. It can get too warm very fast
Thank you for your advice!

The lid is on about 80% of the way most of the day because the humidity drops so fast here. I'm actually about to drill a few holes in it now so I can keep it on all the way and keep up the humidity to 50%.
I've been waiting for my weeds to grow so I could put some inside without him mowing them all down, but I'll look into hardier plants I can put inside that he can use for coverage but would be less interested in eating.
I think I also might start putting him outside closer to 2-3pm so it's not so hot. The 65W bulb I got doesn't get hot enough unless I bring it really close down, so I might look into getting a CHE as well.

I read that the soak water should be 85-95, should I be keeping it consistently at 95 or could I afford to go higher? I feel bad constantly handling him to change out the water, I feel like I already handle him too much.
 

wellington

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With basking temps being 95-100 I wouldnt do soak water under 95. 85 is a bit cold. I have my hot tub in summer at 85 and it's cool. It should be warm soak.
Be sure to line the rim of the holes you cut into the box lid with tin foil/aluminum foil so there is no risk of melting the lid and starting a fire.
Yea you don't want the bulb too close or it will just dry his shell and/or burn it.
 

KarenSoCal

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I'm curious...in the morning when he's still in his burrow, why do you get him up? Have you tried letting him sleep until he gets up on his own?

When I got my star tortoise, he slept about 22 out of 24 hours. I'd get him up in late morning (I'm a night owl so I'm not up early), try to feed him, and he'd go back to sleep until early evening. Then he would stay up for a couple hours, eat, soak, and back to bed.

I finally figured out that his schedule was more like mine than other torts. He's also a night owl. Once I stopped getting him awake every morning, he settled into a routine of his choosing, and it works out great for us.

Maybe try letting him get into his own schedule so you don't have to keep waking him.

Re' foods to grow, endive or escarole would be great. They are excellent foods, along with safe flowers and the seed mix from Tortoise Supply. If you can find any of the weeds that are safe for torts, you could grow them. Weed seeds are available to buy...if you're interested, I'll do a search for the place another member recommended to me.
 
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I'm curious...in the morning when he's still in his burrow, why do you get him up? Have you tried letting him sleep until he gets up on his own?

When I got my star tortoise, he slept about 22 out of 24 hours. I'd get him up in late morning (I'm a night owl so I'm not up early), try to feed him, and he'd go back to sleep until early evening. Then he would stay up for a couple hours, eat, soak, and back to bed.

I finally figured out that his schedule was more like mine than other torts. He's also a night owl. Once I stopped getting him awake every morning, he settled into a routine of his choosing, and it works out great for us.

Maybe try letting him get into his own schedule so you don't have to keep waking him.

Re' foods to grow, endive or escarole would be great. They are excellent foods, along with safe flowers and the seed mix from Tortoise Supply. If you can find any of the weeds that are safe for torts, you could grow them. Weed seeds are available to buy...if you're interested, I'll do a search for the place another member recommended to me.
Thank you! I kept seeing the words endive and escarole and because I didn’t know what they were I guess I just kept forgetting about them. I’ll be sure to get some seeds :) I was also looking at the clover mix from Tortoise Supply. I’m very interested to see where else others get their seeds from, I was looking at some from Carolina Pet Supply as well. I would really like him to have a varied diet where he can graze and choose what he likes.

I was getting him up because I haven’t gotten proper lights for him to simulate day time when he’s inside, so I would get him out in the morning and give him a soak to warm him up and clean him off for Neosporin. I’ve been looking into how I can set up a good lighting system that’s convenient for me to set aside to bring his tub outside when it’s less hot.

I was actually just thinking about it when I woke up this morning that I would let him wake up on his own and your post confirmed that I’d like to try it but today probably wasn’t the best day to test. I went out today to get some air plants to put in his tub since they’re also good in warm humid areas. I just got back now (about 4pm) and he still wasn’t awake so I did take him out, but I was worried about leaving the basking light on while I was gone because the stand that I have has a counter balance for a tank and isn’t super secure with the tub that’s more narrow at the bottom. I like to be around when it’s on, so although the ambient temperature was consistently 78 it may have been a bit too cold and not light enough for him to decide to come out since he couldn’t bask.

I’m also a night owl so it would be nice if he was too. I’ll be home all day tomorrow and I’ll be able to properly have the light on in the morning so I’d really like to see what time he decides to wake up on his own. I’ll test a couple days to see what time he decides to get up and update how it’s going.

If he decides not to come up for a certain amount of time, how long do you think I should wait before I get him up to eat/soak? I know they can go quite awhile without food and I’m consistently able to keep the humidity 50% or higher, so I’m not super worried but it would be nice if at least once a day or two I was able to get a look at him and make sure he’s doing good.
 
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I believe I’m definitely being too active and possibly annoying/spooking him.. tortoises in the wild definitely go through a lot and survive and thrive through a lot. It’s nerve wracking for the answer to be to just leave him alone for awhile LOL but I definitely don’t want to be giving him more stress.

His injuries actually happen to be looking pretty good compared to how they were initially, so for the next few days I’m definitely going to let him adjust. Turn the lamps on when it’s time, bring him outside towards the end of the hot hours to get some proper sunlight, leave out some food at the same time every day. I think I’m mostly worried about him not being active because I’ve read about digestion issues if they’re stagnant for too long, so instead of soaking every day I might soak him every other day just to make sure he poops and urates. I’m less worried about soaking so often now that I’m able to give him proper humidity. I also don’t like if he doesn’t just eat when I leave the food out because it wilts quite fast... so I’ll have to just adjust to when he actually comes out.

Please let me know if there’s anything else or if this sounds foolish somehow!
 

KarenSoCal

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Please let me know if there’s anything else or if this sounds foolish somehow!
No, nothing sounds foolish. I understand your concern. As new 'parents' we agonize over every little thing, certain that if one item is different than yesterday, he's got to be sick! :rolleyes:

Just try to keep in mind that he had a terrible trauma not long ago, and he is still healing from that. He might just want to pull the covers over his head and be left alone for a bit.

I think your scheduling ideas sound good. He probably isn't nocturnal like mine is...I think most Russians are more normal with their schedule. But Burmese Stars are often observed late in the evening, up and about, doing torty things. Sometimes Sulafat eats in the dark, but that's usually because I've been lax about getting him in the soak early enough. :eek:

You and he will eventually fall into a routine that will be good for you both.
 
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Just an update!

The past couple days I still have pulled him out a couple times, much later in the day just to make sure he was alright and to let him soak for as long as he wanted to. Although my dogs haven't been anywhere near him, I had this awful feeling that I absolutely had to check and make sure he was still there. The other day he didn't eat at all, so I pulled him out briefly yesterday just to eat and today to let him soak because he was a stinky little urate boy!

Today was the most active I've seen him in the whole past week. I brought him outside to get some sunlight for a bit after soaking, and when I put him back inside his little enclosure he went back to his hide immediately. While I was working, I heard this odd sound and I panicked and when I looked Beans was chomping away on one of the air plants I just added a couple days ago. It was so exciting, it's actually the first time he's come out of the hide on his own since he's had substrate to burrow in. I reached down to adjust the air plants a bit so they were upright and he kind of stood there for a second as if to say "ew... goodbye," and immediately turned and went to the other side of the bin where his food is LOL. He ate a good amount and went to bask but I realized I hadn't added his basking spot back into the bin. When I brought his little basking saucer back inside and set it down for him he gave me the stink eye and went back into his hide again LOL. 20 minutes or so later, he peeked back out and started roaming around and basking and was probably out for a couple hours eating or basking or just looking around.

I've had him for a few weeks now and while the conditions haven't been ideal, this is probably the most comfortable I've seen him be this whole time. It's super endearing. Watching him decide to come out on his own I think has given me a lot more confidence in being able to just leave him alone to do his own thing.

Not a very good pic because I took it from the other side of the room, but here's a pic of him basking with his little leggy out! I don't spend a whole lot of time watching him because he's very wary of me if I'm just eyeing him down, but my favorite times to look at him are when he's soaking or basking because when he's soaking he always hangs his front legs and head over the side of the saucer with his back legs spread out in the water (sometimes he does the splits? LOL). I usually have the saucer turned the other way to soak or feed him, but I had it upside down today and he was just hanging out with one of his legs hanging off for most of the time.
 

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KarenSoCal

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Well, this is all great news! He's finally starting to feel safe again, and is ready to give you another chance to bring him good stuff to eat!

Just keep letting him do his own torty things, and everything will start to fall into a routine.

Enjoy him! That sexy leg hanging over the edge is too cute!
 
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How do you do that
How do I keep the humidity around 50%?

For my situation, I keep my tortoise in a sort of "closed chamber." Temporarily, my tortoise is in a Christmas tree tub (too small, but only until his outdoor enclosure is finished), and ideally I would be keeping the lid on with a cut out for the heat lamp to peek through. Since this is a temporary set up and this tub is moved around as I need, the lamp is not always in a fixed spot and I am not committed to drilling a large hole in the lid. I keep up humidity and create a temporary closed chamber by using plastic wrap, making sure not to touch the lamp so nothing melts. His substrate is also damp and when the humidity is getting to be around 30%, I add a cup or two of water to the substrate and let it sit for awhile before mixing it all up to get everything properly moist. After I do this, the humidity is usually back at around 50-60%.

In general, you will get more attention to your questions if you just create a new post as most people who can help you are looking for new questions and not activity on older posts. It was also really helpful to me to be able to search terms, just make sure not to be too specific or you won't find any results. I usually type 1-3 key words and just sift through various posts until I find the answers to my questions, and if I can't find anything or if I'm finding conflicting information, that's when I'll make my own post.

It looks like you have a sulcata, so make sure to take a look at the sticky threads in the section for sulcatas.

Some that may be particularly helpful for you:

AFRICAN SPURRED TORTOISE (SULCATA) CARE SHEET

The Best Way To Raise A Sulcata, Leopard, Or Star Tortoise

 
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