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Hibernating Hatchling And Juvenile Tortoises


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#1 Guest_Wizzasmum_*

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 09:59 PM

Hi

I am considering getting a baby Hermann Tortoise but want to make sure he has the best start in life and hasn't been imported etc.

I live near Newcastle and wondered if anyone could recommend any Hermann breeders in the North East. I am willing to travel up to 100 miles in any direction (more if necessary) but have found most websites tend to list breeders in the South East and the couple I have come across up here appear to be retiring.

(I'm guessing hatchlings for sale will appear in spring?)

I also wondered about tortoise tables ... living in Newcastle, it is likely that at least 6 months of the year the tortoise will have to be housed indoors. Ideally I'd like to acquire a table that will be large enough for him as he grows. What size would you recommend. Various websites suggest 2' x 4' but this doesn't seem very large for an adult. (On warm days he will be outside in a garden enclosure).

Any help will be much appreciated.

Thanks

M*


I have some yearlings available, bred at the Jersey Tortoise Sanctuary and over here under license from DEFRA. The papers should be through at the beginning of next week, so they will be ready to go then. I have two going to Scotland in a couple of weeks, meeting half way, so possibly Scotch Corner area if this is any use. I have some of my own hatchlings, but don't let them go until they have done their first hibernation this winter. I can positively vouch for these babies as the sanctuary owner is a friend of mine and it just isn't possible to sell from Jersey due to the expense of ferries, which is why they are here. There are also 6 marginated babies and some horsfields if anyone is interested lol.
Spring is the time for mating, so hatchlings don't appear until summer, unless force bred over winter, which I don't do with mine ;)
Newcastle won't make a difference to outdoor housing, I know a keeper in Scotland that keeps sulcata's outdoors.
Adults must not be housed on tables and if not hibernated, need a fully insulated shed heated to summer temps over the winter - hibernation is much easier and better for them though ;)

#2 Guest_Chrissyan_*

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 10:06 PM

Wizzasmum I assume from your post above that you hibernate your hatchlings their very first winter as they would in the wild, Is that correct?

#3 Guest_Wizzasmum_*

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 08:27 AM

Yes, absolutely. It helps set a pattern of good growth. It seems that first little resting period really helps with the growth of decent shells, along with humidity of course. The ones I have here at the moment are perfectly smooth, having been hibernated last winter for 8 -10 weeks. They are larger than wild ones would be, but no signs of lumps and bumps at all. I don't keep any tortoises out of hibernation unless there is a problem, which I haven't had with my own hatchlings since starting breeding. If you have a wild tortoise that has gone through a hibernation, it tends to grow much better than it's captive bred cousins despite having been on the same regime since coming to you as the others. I had a customs seizure once that was 25 grams, so will have hibernated. She grew alongside my own captive reared babies, but always had a slightly better shell formation. she is adult now and producing her own babies.

#4 Kelly

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 04:56 PM

Yes, absolutely. It helps set a pattern of good growth. It seems that first little resting period really helps with the growth of decent shells, along with humidity of course.


I suspect this has had a lot to do with my 3 year old lumps and bumps! He has never been hibernated and was dehydrated when I got him. I'm hoping that his first hibernation this winter will help to even out his growth. He's off for his pre hibernation health check next Tuesday, so I can check if he's fit and well to go. :)

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 08:51 PM

It could well do, but then there are many factors to take into consideration. I do believe though that the first hibernation is the most important, unless of course there are health issues, when it would not be a good idea. When I first had baby tortoises I tended not to hibernate them if they were very tiny when coming up to theri first winter, but to be honest, I don't think they did nearly so well as those that were put into hibernation - I now hibernate anything above 20 grams ;)

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 10:01 PM

Thanks for that Sue, :) I think Rufus will definitely be hibernated then. He was recently one year old and we have had him since October, he is no light weight at 85 gms so I can't see it doing him any harm. I will miss the little bugger though, how long do you think we should hibernate for?

I do apologise microdot for hijacking your thread. :blush:

#7 mildredsmam

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 05:29 AM

morning sue i have,nt heard of any one hibernating their babies before they go to their new homes but if you think it makes a big difference.
what happens when you sell your babies do you make sure the new owner is going to hibernate them the following winter :)
say at 20g would you do a 2/3 week wind down and do you still hibernate them for the 8 weeks.
hi chris have a read of sues article on hibernation might give you more of an idea http://www.tortsmad....hibernation.htm

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 12:56 PM

Hi Karen
I used to sellmy babies before the first hibernation, but had a few people that came back with problems, which I knew would not have occured if they had still been in the hatchling pen or hibernation, so stopped selling them so young. Since selling yearlings, I've had no-one with any problems. If I sell at this time of year then I tell people that it's up to them if they want to keep them awake, as they have only just bought them, but to keep feeding to a minimum and lessen the heat if activity is too high. I wind down for 2 weeks, no more and put them in for 8 weeks, anything less is not really worth doing. I hibernate my older ones for up to 5 months.

#9 mildredsmam

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 03:21 PM

thanks sue :thumbup:
could you give me a break down of how you do the two week wind down.
also i have 6 babies would you have them all in seperate hibernation boxes( to go into the fridge)

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 08:03 PM

I do them slightly differently to the biggies. I have heat available daily but find that at the end of the first week or thereabouts, they don't ttend to come up from the substrate much. Weighings are done every couple of days and warm soaks which encourages them to empty. They lose very little weight. Babies always go in in groups of five or six with plenty of room for them to move around if need be. I use carboard boxes, usually shoe boxes. I do them in kokosnot from Ikea and haven't had a problem with them at all from day one.
I don't use a fridge but people who have bought my babies have done them in the same substrate in the salad drawer.
Hope this helps.

#11 Microdot

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 08:18 AM

Hi
Thanks for the information everyone. I was actually wondering at what point you should start hibernating a tortoise as its clearly the best thing for them.
It seems very scary though. I don't have a tortoise yet and I'm already worried about hibernating it!
M*

#12 Freddy

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 12:45 PM

Hi There,
I believe Hibernation is the most natural thing in the world for tortoises. They are cold blooded creatures and are not designed to be active all year round. Hibernation offers them a rest period in which their metabolism slows down and they get a chance to recharge themselves before the season begins again in spring. I have been hibernating tortoises for the past 30 years and I can say it has very definite health benefits. Tortoises that are not hibernated often suffer from health problems later in life and have a shorter life span. I would highly recommend hibernation from an early age.
Kind Regards
Freddy

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 06:23 PM

Thanks for that Sue, :) I think Rufus will definitely be hibernated then. He was recently one year old and we have had him since October, he is no light weight at 85 gms so I can't see it doing him any harm. I will miss the little bugger though, how long do you think we should hibernate for?

I do apologise microdot for hijacking your thread. :blush:


At that weight I do them for a good three months, just watch weight loss and be guided by that. It will do him good, just wait until you see him on turbo charge in the spring lol

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 06:25 PM

Hi
Thanks for the information everyone. I was actually wondering at what point you should start hibernating a tortoise as its clearly the best thing for them.
It seems very scary though. I don't have a tortoise yet and I'm already worried about hibernating it!
M*



In the wild, they sometimes hibernate before they even come to the surface - so long as the conditions are good, there is no need to be worried about it. Babies are actually less of a worry than adults as there are not eggs etc to worry about ;) I do mine from the first winter.

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 06:45 PM

I think it's fair to say that there are different views about hibernation. Many sources will say that it is too risky to hibernate a tortoise under 30 grammes but I don't know if there is anything to back up the idea that very small tortises are more llikely to die in, or after, hibernation. The idea that it's more risky with small ones than with juveniles and adults is very widespread amongst people who keep tortoises.

Sue has been keeping tortoises for many years and knows her own methods and quite rightly has every confidence in them. This does not apply to everyone keeping a tortoise and hibernation can be very worrying.

In the past I was a lot more confident about the benefits of hibernation than I am now. A few years ago I hibernated a very small tortoise that really was a weakling and it died after waking from hibernation. Now this was quite likely my fault in some way but the fact is that tortoise would certainly still be here if I'd kept it awake. And that tiny one had been hibernated by it's breeder in its first winter even though it was only 15 grammes. It survived that but didn't manage the hibernation that I put in place even though I was really careful.

One thing that is definite to my mind is that hibernation is a reaction to adverse conditions. We know that in many species the length of time they hibernate depends on the temperatures where they live, so those in more southerly locations hibernate for a lot shorter period of time than those further north. If conditions are not adverse they don't hibernate.

Without going off a tangent too much, the wild mediterranean tortoises experience times when it is too hot for them to be active and they spend long periods of time avoiding this excess heat. During that time they do not eat and there is hardly any food about anyway. They experience a period when it is too cold as well and hibernate. This means that there are many weeks of the year when they are not active. Therefore their growth is slower than captive tortoises that are well fed and kept in temperatures that keep them active all year round. I don't think it is inevitable that the tortoise will be lumpy just from bieng grown more quickly. The wild tortoises experience a lot of weather that is far too hot for them to be active in, but the captive ones hardly see this at all. I am not suggesting that we create very high temperatures for months on end to copy nature but I am pointing out that we do not produce natural conditions for a tortoise just by hibernating it.

I think it's fair to say that there are different views about hibernation. Many sources will say that it is too risky to hibernate a tortoise under 30 grammes but I don't know if there is anything to back up the idea that very small tortises are more llikely to die in, or after, hibernation. The idea that it's more risky with small ones than with juveniles and adults is very widespread amongst people who keep tortoises.

Sue has been keeping tortoises for many years and knows her own methods and quite rightly has every confidence in them. This does not apply to everyone keeping a tortoise and hibernation can be very worrying.

In the past I was a lot more confident about the benefits of hibernation than I am now. A few years ago I hibernated a very small tortoise that really was a weakling and it died after waking from hibernation. Now this was quite likely my fault in some way but the fact is that tortoise would certainly still be here if I'd kept it awake. And that tiny one had been hibernated by it's breeder in its first winter even though it was only 15 grammes. It survived that but didn't manage the hibernation that I put in place even though I was really careful.

One thing that is definite to my mind is that hibernation is a reaction to adverse conditions. We know that in many species the length of time they hibernate depends on the temperatures where they live, so those in more southerly locations hibernate for a lot shorter period of time than those further north. If conditions are not adverse they don't hibernate.

Without going off a tangent too much, the wild mediterranean tortoises experience times when it is too hot for them to be active and they spend long periods of time avoiding this excess heat. During that time they do not eat and there is hardly any food about anyway. They experience a period when it is too cold as well and hibernate. This means that there are many weeks of the year when they are not active. Therefore their growth is slower than captive tortoises that are well fed and kept in temperatures that keep them active all year round. I don't think it is inevitable that the tortoise will be lumpy just from bieng grown more quickly. The wild tortoises experience a lot of weather that is far too hot for them to be active in, but the captive ones hardly see this at all. I am not suggesting that we create very high temperatures for months on end to copy nature but I am pointing out that we do not produce natural conditions for a tortoise just by hibernating it.



It might be widespread amongst people on forums, but none of the long term keepers or breeders I know of say that it is risky. It's like everything else, if it's done properly there is no risk. I do see a lot of people on forums discussing problems over winter, so conclude that it is the ones that are being kept artificially awake that are giving the problems. If an animal dies in hibernation it is almost certainly an error on the part of the owner. Obviously it's not always possible to know if something is going on when put into hibernation, but often tortoises will refuse to wind down or will behave otherwise abnormally, so we need to read the signs really and if a tortoise is weak, has been ill in the past twelve months or is behaving as if gravid etc. then you keep the tortoise awake until the problem goes away or until the following year. Wind down is a time for watching carefully. I'm sorry you lost yours, but there is a possibility that it might have had an underlying problem anyway and could have just died suddenly, it can happen and does in the wild too.
You can create a hot area for your tortoises to stay awake over winter, but they don't usually behave in the same way as they would in the summer or in their natural conditions, this is because the barometric pressure changes in winter and the tortoises feel this, despite being warmer than usual. I feel this is a good enough reason to let them sleep.
As you say, overfeeding is not the primary reason for lumpy torts, but along with less feeding in the wild, they also spend the extra time dug well in, which not many keepers allow for here in UK, so this can cause a difference in growth too. As you say too, there is no evidence to the 'saying' that it is too risky to hibernate a tortoise under 30 grams, I don't see how there could be really unless there are a lot of people out there making mistakes. I do know of people who have lost them, but they have treated the wind down period the same as adults and not keeping well hydrated etc etc so it was going to go wrong from the very beginning really.
Hope this helps

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 09:35 PM

Hi There,
I believe Hibernation is the most natural thing in the world for tortoises. They are cold blooded creatures and are not designed to be active all year round. Hibernation offers them a rest period in which their metabolism slows down and they get a chance to recharge themselves before the season begins again in spring. I have been hibernating tortoises for the past 30 years and I can say it has very definite health benefits. Tortoises that are not hibernated often suffer from health problems later in life and have a shorter life span. I would highly recommend hibernation from an early age.
Kind Regards
Freddy



Totally agree with this ;)

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 09:41 PM

I even agree that hibernation is natural for Mediterranean tortoises. But they only do it because the weather requires it and its just as natural for them to stay awake if it doesn't get cold.


I wish you could see mine when I bring them in Ozric, because no matter what amount of heat I give them, they know so well that it is hibernation time. Yesterday we had a great day here and yet two of my older torts were tucked up a corner and refused to move all day. Today has been horrible which they obviously knew was coming, little madams. Whether we have a good autumn or a bad one, their behaviour remains the same - hibernation mode ;)

#18 Freddy

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 10:35 PM

http://www.hermann-t...ibernation.html

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 10:56 PM

http://www.hermann-t...ibernation.html



Hmm, not sure where that info came from but it's not 100% factual

(quote)To artificially keep a tortoise awake all year would
increase the food intake to at least double the safe amount, this would lead to abnormal
growth and cause metabolic bone disease, leading to lumpy shells. (quote)

MBD is not caused by feeding for 365 days a year, but an incorrect balance of nutrients and/or lack of uvb/calcium. Lumpy growth is due to incorrect surroundings and less commonly poor diet/uvb.

(quote)It would also put immense
strain on the renal system as utrate production would be over increased, this leading to kidney or
bladder stones and eventual death. (quote)

Not really, unless incorrect hydration was being used. Renal failure is caused by not giving the opportunity to release urates.

#20 Freddy

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 11:20 PM

Hmm, not sure where that info came from but it's not 100% factual

(quote)To artificially keep a tortoise awake all year would
increase the food intake to at least double the safe amount, this would lead to abnormal
growth and cause metabolic bone disease, leading to lumpy shells. (quote)

MBD is not caused by feeding for 365 days a year, but an incorrect balance of nutrients and/or lack of uvb/calcium. Lumpy growth is due to incorrect surroundings and less commonly poor diet/uvb.

(quote)It would also put immense
strain on the renal system as utrate production would be over increased, this leading to kidney or
bladder stones and eventual death. (quote)

Not really, unless incorrect hydration was being used. Renal failure is caused by not giving the opportunity to release urates.


Hi Sue,
This is the information that Darran, the owner of the site, himself a tortoise keeper has put under the hibernation link of the home page.
Of course,It is open to scrutiny by experts such as yourself.
Personally I can see some merit in the advice given even if it is not entirely accurate.
Feeding a tortoise 365 days a year will I believe lead to an overgrown shell and abnormal growth.
The over use of the kidneys and bladder would lead to renal problems.
That is what I learned in Biology but I could be wrong and I stand corrected if I am.
Perhaps this page is something we can look at again and update in light of your comments. Many thanks Sue.
Kind Regards
Freddy




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