Single Tortoise Night Box

Tom

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I like my larger tortoises to live outside full time. My climate permits this year round with a little help. For people who live where it snows all winter, this type of box is still good for warmer weather, getting them out earlier in Spring, and keeping them out a bit later into fall. You'll need something else for the dead of winter. Or you can move South! :)

The top of this box is half a sheet of plywood, insulated and sealed, so 4x4 feet. The inside of the box ends up being around 40x40 inches when its all done. I use an 18x28 inch Kane heat mat on the floor, and a 21" radiant heat panel on the top. Both are controlled by the same thermostat: https://www.lllreptile.com/products/13883-zilla-1000-watt-temperature-controller
I lower the RHP so that it is within 6-8 inches of the tortoises carapace that lives in the box. I like to screw a plastic shoe box to the back of the box to contain all the extra wires and thermostat. Weather strip seals the top where the hinged lid meets it, and I use plastic freezer stripping across the door to hold in heat when the door is open. The door drops down like a drawbridge and makes a ramp fro the tortoise to get in and out easier. I latch the door shut every night and open the door every morning.

In summer our daytime highs are usually right around 100, with night time lows around 65. I unplug the boxes during this time and temps stay between 70 and 90 in them. In Fall, we have warm sunny days usually into December, so I set the thermostat to 80. As soon as the weather turns cold in winter, I bump the thermostat up to 86, so they always have an area to get warmer in on a cold rainy day here. Spring time brings back warmer sunny days, so I lower the box temp back down to 80. This routine works great for any tropical species like Stars, radiata, sulcatas and leopards.

Here is the box during construction. I frame the plywood walls with 2x4s and use 1.5" rigid foam as insulation. Then I seal it with silicone caulking and cover the walls with plywood inside.
IMG_1927.JPG

Here is all the electrical stuff going into it:
IMG_1932.JPG

IMG_1939.JPG

Here I want to show the weather stripping in place, and the drip loop. The drip loop is simply draping the cord down a bit so that when it rains, the water drips down the cord to the ground instead of following the cord downhill right into the box.
IMG_1942.JPG

Ready to keep a tortoise warm and safe at night:
IMG_1949.JPG

This is a great way to house a large leopard or sulcata in a relatively warm climate. We get cold winter nights in the 20s and this box, built and heated this way, keeps them in the 80s. Because my climate is so dry, I usually add a 5 gallon bucket or some tubs of water to generate some ambient humidity inside the box. People in the South East US wouldn't need to do this.

Questions and conversation are welcome! :)

For larger tortoises, multiple tortoises, and a different heating strategy, see this thread:
 

Kim's petunia

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OK, that's what I was afraid of in the long run it wasn't going to work. I will be using your designs to build her a house. I live on the east coast of Florida so it rains a lot in the summer hot humid. that's why I don't want her staying outside at night ,but she needs a little house to go into. If they get cold during the day , and your not home will they go in it.
 

Blackdog1714

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OK, that's what I was afraid of in the long run it wasn't going to work. I will be using your designs to build her a house. I live on the east coast of Florida so it rains a lot in the summer hot humid. that's why I don't want her staying outside at night ,but she needs a little house to go into. If they get cold during the day , and your not home will they go in it.
Do it beach style and put it up on pylons with a good steady ramp
 

Tom

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If they get cold during the day , and your not home will they go in it.

Most of them learn to use their houses as shelter from the cold and the elements. However, there are no guarantees. Most of the time mine put themselves away on cold days and nights. Most of the time... Every night I go around the whole ranch and make sure each and every tortoise has found its way back into its night box before shutting their doors for the night. Every once in a while, one of the female leopards will be parked over in a corner of the yard somewhere.
 

Toddrickfl1

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Thanks, building one of these today. Going to do 2x2 though.
 

Tom

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I have a Inkbird TCL & can’t figure out how to set the temp for the heater. Any suggestions
Do you mean ITC?

I don't have that model, but it looks similar to any other. Did it come with an instruction manual? I see that it has a plug labeled for heating and another for cooling. You'd have to use the correct one.
 

Connie Jo

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Do you mean ITC?

I don't have that model, but it looks similar to any other. Did it come with an instruction manual? I see that it has a plug labeled for heating and another for cooling. You'd have to use the correct one.
Yes, ITC, can I plug anything into the cool plug or just use the heat plug? It comes with a manual but is confusing with too much information
 

Tom

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Yes, ITC, can I plug anything into the cool plug or just use the heat plug? It comes with a manual but is confusing with too much information
The cool plug would operate an AC unit, or maybe a cooling fan. Don't really need that in most cases.
 

Tolis

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Thank you Tom I will use that for my baby aldabra. Is seems that we live in similar climates so it should work.
In the summer the humidity drops to 40% I think a 5gal bucket wont be enough I might have to buy a humidifier. Do you have any suggestions?
 

TracyD

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Sep 2, 2020
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Location (City and/or State)
Arbuckle Ca
I like my larger tortoises to live outside full time. My climate permits this year round with a little help. For people who live where it snows all winter, this type of box is still good for warmer weather, getting them out earlier in Spring, and keeping them out a bit later into fall. You'll need something else for the dead of winter. Or you can move South! :)

The top of this box is half a sheet of plywood, insulated and sealed, so 4x4 feet. The inside of the box ends up being around 40x40 inches when its all done. I use an 18x28 inch Kane heat mat on the floor, and a 21" radiant heat panel on the top. Both are controlled by the same thermostat: https://www.lllreptile.com/products/13883-zilla-1000-watt-temperature-controller
I lower the RHP so that it is within 6-8 inches of the tortoises carapace that lives in the box. I like to screw a plastic shoe box to the back of the box to contain all the extra wires and thermostat. Weather strip seals the top where the hinged lid meets it, and I use plastic freezer stripping across the door to hold in heat when the door is open. The door drops down like a drawbridge and makes a ramp fro the tortoise to get in and out easier. I latch the door shut every night and open the door every morning.

In summer our daytime highs are usually right around 100, with night time lows around 65. I unplug the boxes during this time and temps stay between 70 and 90 in them. In Fall, we have warm sunny days usually into December, so I set the thermostat to 80. As soon as the weather turns cold in winter, I bump the thermostat up to 86, so they always have an area to get warmer in on a cold rainy day here. Spring time brings back warmer sunny days, so I lower the box temp back down to 80. This routine works great for any tropical species like Stars, radiata, sulcatas and leopards.

Here is the box during construction. I frame the plywood walls with 2x4s and use 1.5" rigid foam as insulation. Then I seal it with silicone caulking and cover the walls with plywood inside.
View attachment 291639

Here is all the electrical stuff going into it:
View attachment 291640

View attachment 291641

Here I want to show the weather stripping in place, and the drip loop. The drip loop is simply draping the cord down a bit so that when it rains, the water drips down the cord to the ground instead of following the cord downhill right into the box.
View attachment 291642

Ready to keep a tortoise warm and safe at night:
View attachment 291643

This is a great way to house a large leopard or sulcata in a relatively warm climate. We get cold winter nights in the 20s and this box, built and heated this way, keeps them in the 80s. Because my climate is so dry, I usually add a 5 gallon bucket or some tubs of water to generate some ambient humidity inside the box. People in the South East US wouldn't need to do this.

Questions and conversation are welcome! :)

For larger tortoises, multiple tortoises, and a different heating strategy, see this thread:
Thank you for the great info!
 
Joined
Oct 19, 2020
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Location (City and/or State)
Gilbert, AZ
@Tom this is so helpful to see! And simple enough to build out. I really appreciate all you help and input!

I have quite a few questions... and if they're answered somewhere else, feel free to link up other posts. I've been down a rabbit hole of posts here and happy to read more!

Do you put food or drinking water inside these at all? Or do they get enough during the day when they're outside?

What is your target humidity for them as they get larger? I assume the humidity levels will still help reduce pyramiding as they get older?

How often do you close the doors at night? Just when temps are below freezing?

I guess ultimately I'm asking what your winter nightly routine is for them.

I'm in Gilbert, AZ so my winter climate is similar to yours. I'm still a couple years off from doing this, but figured I'd ask while I'm thinking about it 😊
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
54,118
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
@Tom this is so helpful to see! And simple enough to build out. I really appreciate all you help and input!

I have quite a few questions... and if they're answered somewhere else, feel free to link up other posts. I've been down a rabbit hole of posts here and happy to read more!

Do you put food or drinking water inside these at all? Or do they get enough during the day when they're outside?

What is your target humidity for them as they get larger? I assume the humidity levels will still help reduce pyramiding as they get older?

How often do you close the doors at night? Just when temps are below freezing?

I guess ultimately I'm asking what your winter nightly routine is for them.

I'm in Gilbert, AZ so my winter climate is similar to yours. I'm still a couple years off from doing this, but figured I'd ask while I'm thinking about it 😊
No food for water inside the box. The box is to simulate a burrow for them. They eat and drink outside the "burrow".

Any growing tortoise needs humidity. I put tubs or buckets of water in the night box and humidity is what it is.

I close doors every night. This keeps them warm, keeps them where I want them, keeps predators out, and reduces electrical usage tremendously. I then open the door every morning.
 
Joined
Oct 26, 2020
Messages
45
Location (City and/or State)
Huntington Beach California
No food for water inside the box. The box is to simulate a burrow for them. They eat and drink outside the "burrow".

Any growing tortoise needs humidity. I put tubs or buckets of water in the night box and humidity is what it is.

I close doors every night. This keeps them warm, keeps them where I want them, keeps predators out, and reduces electrical usage tremendously. I then open the door every morning.
Hey Tom!

What substrate you use in your nightbox? I’m building a super nice one right now, all insulated 👍🏻 Thanks for all your tips!
 

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