Tortoise Always Hides When He’s Outdoors

Jenna Ryanne

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Hanford, California
Hi guys! I have a couple of questions about my Russian tortoise (Peetrie) and spending time outdoors. My tortoise is about 10 months old and up until this point has stayed in his terrarium indoors. I have wanted him to have an enclosure outdoors as well, but unfortunately the backyard to my apartment does not have a suitable area for him. Just to name a few reasons: it is usually covered in fire ants despite regular pest control, there are multiple neighbor and stray cats that spend time in my yard, and it is incredibly small. Recently, my husband and I decided that we need to stop putting it off and get him spending more time outdoors ASAP, so we bought the largest plastic bin we could find and my husband made a chicken wire covered frame to cover the top so that he can spend time in there while we sit in the AC. We plan on putting him outside in his bin for 1-3 hours a day from this point on. My questions are:

1. Does he need a heat lamp while he is outdoors if the temp is between 70-80 degrees and sunny? He has a tile for a basking stone. If so, how do you guys keep your lamps and extension cords safe from damage and possible electric shock?

2. At what temp is it too cold for him to be outdoors? During the winter do I just keep him inside 24/7? Or if I used a heat lamp would that be enough to keep him warm?

3. Whenever we have put him outside the last few days, he has almost immediately retreated to his hide and stayed in there for the hour we had him outside. This kind of defeats the purpose of him being outside to get sunshine. Should I remove his log for hiding in? I want him to be able to go in there to regulate his temp if he gets too warm, but at this point he is missing out on important nutrients from the sun, and i am concerned.

Any answers would be greatly appreciated! Thank you to this community for being a great place for first-time owners of tortoises! You have been a great help so far.
 

Tom

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Show us a pic of the enclosure for better info.

Its very normal for a tortoise put into an unfamiliar situation to hide. Especially a young one. In time the tortoise will get more comfortable out there and venture out. More hides, plants, logs, big rocks and visual barriers will help him feel safer and less vulnerable. Babies go to great lengths to hide from predators in the wild. They avoid barren open areas as if their life depends on it. I like to attach a plan frond to the top to give some shade and cover.

60 and sunny, is warm enough for a Russian. Above the mid 80s, and it will likely hide most of the time. Walls will block wind and hold in heat, so cooler days are okay. Watch temps carefully. They can easily overheat outside as the warmer weather comes with summer.

If the tortoise isn't living outside full time with an insulated, temperature controlled box, I don't think a heat lamp is warranted. Just use the outdoor enclosure for fair weather and leave the tortoise inside the rest of the time. Be sure the indoor enclosure is large enough to meet the exercise needs of your species. 4x8 feet for a single Russian tortoise.
 

Jenna Ryanne

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Joined
Apr 6, 2020
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Hanford, California
Show us a pic of the enclosure for better info.

Its very normal for a tortoise put into an unfamiliar situation to hide. Especially a young one. In time the tortoise will get more comfortable out there and venture out. More hides, plants, logs, big rocks and visual barriers will help him feel safer and less vulnerable. Babies go to great lengths to hide from predators in the wild. They avoid barren open areas as if their life depends on it. I like to attach a plan frond to the top to give some shade and cover.

60 and sunny, is warm enough for a Russian. Above the mid 80s, and it will likely hide most of the time. Walls will block wind and hold in heat, so cooler days are okay. Watch temps carefully. They can easily overheat outside as the warmer weather comes with summer.

If the tortoise isn't living outside full time with an insulated, temperature controlled box, I don't think a heat lamp is warranted. Just use the outdoor enclosure for fair weather and leave the tortoise inside the rest of the time. Be sure the indoor enclosure is large enough to meet the exercise needs of your species. 4x8 feet for a single Russian tortoise.
BAD41677-26A8-419F-8667-489D6AF0EB0A.jpeg CADF1184-4338-46C3-BB59-158B7FA71501.jpeg
Here are some pictures of his outdoor enclosure! As you can see he has made a bit of a mess😂 I plan on adding a fake plant soon as well. Thank you so much for the information! It’s super helpful!😊
 

timus

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Tom spoke on the only issue I see. Be suuuuper careful if you put him/her out on days with moderately high temps. I cook my soil that I grow plants in outside in large bins. On days where it had gotten to 90 degrees the soil temp inside has hit 147 on days. That is a dark blue bin with the lid on but I suspect anything with fairly high sides can build heat quickly in high temps. Like Tom said, just watch the temps. A decent temperature gun is your best friend.
 

Tom

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View attachment 324062 View attachment 324063
Here are some pictures of his outdoor enclosure! As you can see he has made a bit of a mess😂 I plan on adding a fake plant soon as well. Thank you so much for the information! It’s super helpful!😊
That bin is far too small. The high sides will block all but the mid day sun, which is when they tend to hide from the sun. The clear tall sides will make that whole thing heat up like a green house. Be careful. You need something much larger with lower sides and more decor.
 

Jenna Ryanne

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Hanford, California
That bin is far too small. The high sides will block all but the mid day sun, which is when they tend to hide from the sun. The clear tall sides will make that whole thing heat up like a green house. Be careful. You need something much larger with lower sides and more decor.
I hadn’t thought of that. Any ideas where I could find a bin that has smaller sides but is still high enough that he couldn’t get out? I checked Home Depot, target, and Walmart but this was the largest I could find.
 

Tom

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I hadn’t thought of that. Any ideas where I could find a bin that has smaller sides but is still high enough that he couldn’t get out? I checked Home Depot, target, and Walmart but this was the largest I could find.
I use large kiddie pools. Walmart should be stocking them about now with the warmer weather coming.

You can also make one easily from plywood and 2x12 planks.
 

Jenna Ryanne

New Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2020
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Hanford, California
I use large kiddie pools. Walmart should be stocking them about now with the warmer weather coming.

You can also make one easily from plywood and 2x12 planks.
That’s a great idea! Thanks so much! I may use this bin temporarily as the weather here is only in the low 70s right now. But I will talk to my husband about upgrading to something more suitable before the weather gets hotter. In the meantime I will be sure to use a temperature gun before I put him out there to make sure it’s not too hot.
 
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