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Snow + Sulcatas = help!

Discussion in 'Tortoise Enclosures' started by DawnH, Sep 13, 2018.

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  1. DawnH

    DawnH Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Okay, for the past few years I have known we we’re going to move from Southeast Texas to a much colder Wisconsin environment. Tuleo (Sulcata extraordinare) is now five and I have been saving $$ for the last 3 1/2 years, hoping to build him the perfect enclosure given the extreme weather jump. My thought was having a heated night box in a large well insulated shed, but the last few months I’ve thought about having a greenhouse typing closure as well to extend the warmer weather.

    WITH THAT - I am leaning towards this kit where you can create a greenhouse shed. We would fully insulate it, have one of Toms heated night boxes in it, and have an oil heater in the main part (with tort plants, etc) as well as covering the greenhouse windows with bubble wrap during the winter months. That way he has some leg room to roam around “inside.” We’d also be creating a tortoise door (tunnel type so he has to go through two sets of plastic flaps to prevent cold breezes, etc.) so he can roam the yard at his will...

    Thoughts? If you are able to keep your tortoise healthy and happy despite cold weather months and have any tips or photos of your set up, I would love to see them!

    We’re looking at the 8x12 or 12x12...

    https://www.worldofgreenhouses.com/collections/all-greenhouses/products/olt-sunshed-garden
  2. katieandiggy

    katieandiggy Well-Known Member

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    I am not a sulcata keeper (yet) but I have seen several threads on here with people that keep sulcata’s in colder environments and with lots of snow.

    I think your idea is great and it’s what I was thinking I would do if I ever did own a sulcata.

    Hopefully someone with experience will be along soon.
    DawnH likes this.
  3. Kapidolo Farms

    Kapidolo Farms Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    It should work out. While I was a zoo keeper in Philadelphia we did a similar thing with Galops and Aldabras.
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  4. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Greetings...and wow, quite the shed project. I know from experience, that it always seems better to get the largest of these sheds. You will be kicking yourself later if you get the 8 x 12 instead of the 12 x 12. More space gives you a lot more options.

    It will take lots of insulation, and you end up heating a larger area. If you build one of Tom’s night boxes and have that inside the shed it will be “easier” to have good temps in there.

    Good luck...Wisconsin in winter.. brrrrrrrrr.

    From Wiki: The warmest month is July, when the average high temperature is 81 °F (27 °C), and the overnight low is 63 °F (17 °C). The coldest month is January, when the average high temperature is only 28 °F (-2 °C). Low temperatures in January average 13 °F (-11 °C).
    DawnH likes this.
  5. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member Tortoise Club

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    That will work out good as long as you will have or do have a yard that gets a lot of sun and the greenhouse windows can face south. There isn't a lot of sunny days in the winter here in Chicago and Wisconsin weather is usually worse then mine. Otherwise just build a regular shed without all the greenhouse windows. Go for as big as you can.
    DawnH and HuskyDaneMom like this.
  6. Mizcreant

    Mizcreant Well-Known Member Tortoise Club

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    When were you a zoo keeper in Philly? Quite possible I've seen you before.
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  7. Mizcreant

    Mizcreant Well-Known Member Tortoise Club

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    I've started my outdoor enclosure. Really looking forward to starting on the roof this weekend. I've never shingled before, so wish me luck. Lol

    20180903_185036.jpg
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  8. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    The trap door looks ready. :)
  9. Mizcreant

    Mizcreant Well-Known Member Tortoise Club

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    It's double insulated, about 6" thick. I'm trying to make the thing look like a smaller version of my house. Purely for aesthetic reasons I assure you. Lol
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  10. DawnH

    DawnH Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    View attachment 251431 [/QUOTE]
    My thought with an 8 x 12 was that it would be less space to heat but since were going to include the heated night box inside, at 12 x 12 will probably be what we’re going with!
  11. DawnH

    DawnH Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Yea, I’m really flip flopping between this and a “regular” ol’ shed...
  12. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member Tortoise Club

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    if you can position it where it gets the sun when it is out, it will warm it up during the day but cool off at night and heat will be lost. However, if you insulate the windows then you save on the heat but won't get any help from the sun.
    I have a two room shed. One side heated, the other side isn't. The unheated side has sky lights and three windows, all facing south. One of my must haves when looking for a house to move too for the torts. All the windows work great when the suns out heating up the unheated side. At night though it gets to the temp outside. I don't let them sleep in the unheated side. I also won't let them go there if the sun isn't out too heat it. I have leopards, not a sulcata.
    Kaliman1962 likes this.
  13. maggie18fan

    maggie18fan Active Member

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    It will take lots of insulation, and you end up heating a larger area. If you build one of Tom’s night boxes and have that inside the shed it will be “easier” to have good temps in there.

    If a large Sulcata has to be kept in an enclosure for the winter, make it as big as possible. When I wouldn't allow Bob outside in the snow he'd ram the walls and the door and poop in his water dish. His shed was 20'x12'. I have never had a problem keeping the tort shed at a steady 80 degrees. At times when it was too snowy he'd have tantrums being kept in, even something as big as his shed. So as long as he could make up his own mind , in or out, he was a lot calmer. And he'd pace back and forth like a lion. If you're planning on keeping a Sulcata in the snow, let him make up his mind in or out. There's power in those strong bodies, give him lots of room, don't coop one up. There's a lot of pent up energy they walk off.....
    ZEROPILOT likes this.
  14. TriciaStringer

    TriciaStringer Well-Known Member

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    Excited to see it finished. Looks great.
  15. jjgregory

    jjgregory New Member

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    I'd like to share my experience but ill preface it with that I'm not trying to scare you. I've had a rescue sulcatta for 7 years now. His beloved to me and here in Ohio, housing him in the winter is a real *****. The 1st year I had him, I kept him inside that Winter. It's going to be similar to the Wisconsin Winter you can expect. He did very well inside, mostly sleeping in a dog basket over the heating register and having an overhead heat lamp. Even with those 2 items the over all for temperature was cold enough where he didn't really move around a lot. He would pretty much make his way to get his food and sometimes park himself in the dark corner under the stove but all in all it was OK that Winter. There were some definite giant piles of poo that happened maybe every week to every other week in frequency and with that cold floor, his body registered that he did not need to keep his water so boom a ton of urate would be released. Like someone dumped a bucket of water over. I tried everything I could think of to warm up the floor area around his body to not have the urate release dilemna. But nothing worked. What was worse, is that because he liked to hang out over the heating vents, when his your urate would release, it would pour down the heat vent. :(
    I ended up having to duck tape heavy duty plastic and a garbage bag over the heating vent to prevent this from happening. So my next course of action was to set up my garage as a "barn" for him to have his winters there. This can work in milder weather but it is extremely dangerous in the dead of Winter. I've had 2 experience that completely scared me and 1 where i almost lost him. Within my garage I built a small 4 by 4 pin with him that had several high powered heating elements as well as hard heating pads used for rabbits. I had both sand and hay over these, with the sand conducting the heat and holding it for warmth. Berry managed to find the one in between spot that was darkest in this small pen and he literally nearly froze to death. Mind you he was 2 feet then and the pen was small only to hold heat in for him in deep winter. He doesn't like to sleep in the lights that the heating lamps emit light, even the dark ones will put off some light. And the ones that are true full on black dont emit as well. you have to have that type of lamp so close to be able to radiate the heat that you risk the shell burning. So to avoid the light so he could sleep he burrowed into one spot that had the least amount of light and he became too cold to move. When I found him the next day he literally looked like he was not alive. When I picked him up all of his limbs as well as his head were completely limp. I had to bring him out of hibernation gradually to keep him alive. I was a crying slobbering mess. Yes, I know it gets cold in the desert where they live in Africa but it does not get the levels of cold that Ohio and Wisconsin experience and they just aren't capable of going into that kind of hibernation and coming out of it unscathed. For this reason, I now house Berry inside all Winter. I basically set up a room for him and he has a heat lamp a register a dog bedd and can roam around as he wishes. This is the only suitable and safe choice that I feel comfortable with. I am going to look into wintering quarters for him and I might be able to work with a sanctuary to drive him there into a more Southern state and then pick him up in the Spring. He is outside in warmer weather and we are able to go from about may to late October early November depending on if we get an Indian summer with him in the large yard and having a large outer Box with heating elements in it. Make sure for any outdoor Box you have that your heating elements are absolutely 100% foolproof secured high enough not to burn the shell. I have had an incident with Barry where our lights were very secured in terms of being wrapped around and around and around a ceiling rod but somehow slack allowed that light to drop down and barry, asleep underneath it ended up giving a burn on the top of his shell. His outdoor enclosure is dirt on the bottom because he really enjoys to dig and his shell got a small burn on it and what he did was dig and fling the dirt on top of his shell which covered it up. Even with the best of care, sometimes accidents and events can happen and you learn the hard way what you have to do to increase safety. There are other issues to consider without or housing as well, such as a breaker tripping and your lights going off and then your tortoise dies And the really scary one, is if the tortoise, who is always the Tory us for plowing into any kind of furniture and getting tangled up in any kind of cord, somehow gets tangled up in that heating lamp cord and pulls that light down and you have hay in your enclosure it is a instant raging fire. So sorry if my story has not been what you wanted to hear. I just would hate for anyone else to experience what i have.
  16. jjgregory

    jjgregory New Member

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  17. SULCY

    SULCY Active Member

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    jjgregory you need to read everything you can on this site about raising a sulcata. You will find it much easier to raise one. Many of the things you are doing especially letting him roam the house is very dangerous also they never hibernate. They come from a hot climate and it is hot all year long. There is information on building a heated night box and it works really well in cold weather. One good thing is you have found the right place and it will be very easy to change his environment. Just ask as many questions as you want someone will help. Many people here have a sulcata in a cold place and will be able to help. Anything you can read submitted by TOM will make you and your sulcatas life much easier.
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  18. jjgregory

    jjgregory New Member

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  19. jjgregory

    jjgregory New Member

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    Perhaps you didnt read or understand my post. Of course they dont hibrrnate but if they get TOO cold they are forced into a hibernation state that can kill them. Iguanas also can withstand cold but not too cold. If they get too cold they physically cannot move--even if a heat source is less than a foot away. They first slip into a hibernation state. If only a short time they can come out of it. If too long they can die. They can also come out of it but have organ and nerve damage and sucumb to those injuries in the long run. Ive worked with the zoo in its aquarium and amphibian center, the virgin islands national park, our states wildlife center and our states educator on sulcattas. We rescued 60 from a hoarder and this is the one i homed out of that rescue. No one says a tortoise should hibernate. The point of my post is sharing my personal experience of the challenges of deep winter freeze for tortoises kept outside. Those challenges are real and if you havent kept a sulcatta in a sub zero climate that both states get then you wont be with personal experience to share.
  20. SULCY

    SULCY Active Member

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    What I meant is that if you have a proper enclosure you will not have to worry about the tortoise getting too cold. Mine is outside until the temps go down to the teens and even comes out in the snow. He always goes back into his heated shed too warm up.
    DawnH likes this.
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