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Designing A New Outdoor Enclosure. Advice Please?


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#1 MiriMaran

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Posted 03 October 2014 - 07:40 PM

Hello, We were given a Hermann tortoise in the spring and through the summer she had been living in out raspberry patch.  We now want to design a permanent outdoor area for Herbella that has all the mod cons a tortoise could possibly wish for.  We have chosen a section of garden that is covered in white clover and dandelions and we aim to add in more for her.  The plan is to cut up fence posts and then have them in a curving shape around the enclosure.

 

The main bit of help we need is about the indoor part of this.  I picked up an old metal cold frame today and I plan to replace the glass with perspex.  We also have a wooden cold frame and am hoping we can join the two together.  They will sit on a wood or brick frame to give some height with a closable pophole. We plan to hang a heat/UV lamp in the indoor bit, but I'm not sure how long it will need to be on for.  Obviously it will be switched off at night, but when in the day can it be turned off please?  Also do we need some sort of heat for Herbella at night?  If we do, what is the best way to do this please?  I was thinking of using topsoil for the indoor part and sinking a large seed tray in it for Herbella to soak herself in.  Will she use it?  Do we need to water the topsoil?  What is the best thing to use for her sleeping area and what should we put inside it?  At the moment she has a wooden box with a perspex roof that has a removable wooden roof bit that gets put in to insulate the warmth that has built up during the day.  Is this any good to go in the cold frame or do we need to do a rethink?

 

I'm sure I've got loads more questions, but I can't remember for now.  Thanks for reading.



#2 Beermat89

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Posted 03 October 2014 - 09:08 PM

Hi there!
Welcome :)
The area to choose when selecting an area of garden is to choose is a south facing well drained area which has full sun alday,slightly sloping is even a bigger bonus but my gardens dead flat lol.clover is very high in protien so only needs to make up a very little part of a balanced diet.fence posts on their flats for the boundries wont really be suficient as your tort will climb this eventually and go walkies,i use scaffold boards as they are very strong and a good height.uv lighting is not needed in an outdoor enclosure in my opinion so a heat lamp will be fine.depending on what time of year really determines how long your heat lamp is needed during the day,in summer i only flick their heating on for only an hour in the morning but now its on all day untill they dig down.no heating is required at night during the summer but this time of year and early spring,either side of hibernation then you will need some sort of heater on a thermostat to kick in when drops to 5c

Regards matt

#3 mildredsmam

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Posted 04 October 2014 - 05:47 AM

Hi,

I think there's a lot of planning goes into a good enclosure and you have the time to get things ready for spring for her, what you need to think about is if she will be going outside in the new enclosure in spring the temps can still drop at night so you would need some sort of back ground heating if the temps drop too low, a tube heater on a thermostat would work for this, it can then be turned off during the warmer months when the night time temps are higher.

It's also best to have the outside area escape proof so best using some thing she can't see through and that's high enough that she can't climb out, mine is done with a small brick wall, the outside area will be best with just a soil area and not grass you can then add plenty of plants, rocks and hilled areas etc to make it as natural as possible for her, in the inside sleeping area it's best to just have topsoil. :)



#4 MiriMaran

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Posted 04 October 2014 - 09:21 AM

Thanks for the help.  The posts would be vertical and cut down, so they'll look like log edging.  We have some posts so we thought we would use those rather than buying something else.  I can easily get rid of the clover but would it be OK to leave a small patch?  Do I get a tubular heater from a reptile place?  Does Herbella need a house inside the cold frame to go into at night time or will she just dig into the topsoil?  Will it be OK to have some sort of bathing area for her in the indoor bit so that the water is warmer or will that create too much humidity?  In an ideal world I would like Herbella to be outside as much as possible as I always feel guilty when I put her in her tortoise table.  the specialist vet we saw for a general health check said that without extra heat she shouldn't be outside unless temps are above 21C.

 

Hope fully I'm going to attach some photos.  The area is a total mess at the moment, but hopefully with planning it will be Herbella's perfect home.  It gets full sun from morning to late afternoon so should be OK.  Our garden isn't great for finding full sun anywhere for the whole day.  The area we have chosen for her is an overgrown path and an overgrown herb bed.  The pots in the photo will be removed and that will probably be where the cold frame will go.  There is a big rock in the middle of the herb bed that we planned to keep.  We will then build up the sides so that Herbella can climb to the top.  The herbs are Chives, Oregano and Lavender so if they are safe for her they'll stay, if not they'll be removed.

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#5 Guest_SueBoyle (was wizzasmum)_*

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Posted 04 October 2014 - 06:53 PM

Your ideas for Herbella are great. You can get tubular heaters from most DIY places and they are much cheaper than anything from a reptile shop. Chives are not safe for tortoises to eat being a bulb, but the others are fine as are thyme and sage, often found in their natural habitat. Although your vet may be specialist in their 'repair' of tortoises, he is not too clued up to their requirements. My hermanns are out all summer and temps can drop quite low at night same as in the Med at either end of the season. It's a shame that vets are not made to study tortoises in their natural habitats, they would enhance their knowledge a fair bit ;)

#6 mildredsmam

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Posted 05 October 2014 - 05:30 AM

Hi, your ideas for the enclosure sound great and you have plenty of time to get it ready for spring, as for the temperatures outside I think you'll be surprised at what temperatures you will see her outside when the enclosure is finished, my torts were outside in March this year they go outside on really dull days and even when it's raining, it's all about choice really, that she has the choice to go outside when she wants too.  :)



#7 Guest_SueBoyle (was wizzasmum)_*

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Posted 05 October 2014 - 08:36 AM

Very sensible advice there from Karen.



#8 MiriMaran

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Posted 07 October 2014 - 01:34 PM

Thank you everyone.  Everyone is soooo helpful on this forum.  A lot of the things that I've been feeling anxious about, like the tortoise table, I now know I was right to feel anxious about, so I'm heading in the right direction and with you guys for advice I feel in safe hands.  I will try and take photos of the enclosure as it progresses.  Are there any materials that we can replace the glass with in the cold frame so that UV light can get through or should I not worry about UV.  At the moment I'm planning to replace the glass with perspex.



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Posted 07 October 2014 - 07:24 PM

Presumably your tortoise will be able to get out of the cold frame, in which case it's not a problem re uvb. There is a uvb transmissible Perspex, but it is very expensive and not needed. Make sure you use D3 supplements during ant time she is not outdoors.

#10 MiriMaran

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Posted 08 October 2014 - 01:55 PM

Thanks Sue. I'm doing lots of replying to you today! Yes she will have a pop hole in the cold frame so she can choose to go in or out. I have a D3 supplement that I sprinkle on her food once or twice a week. Is that an ok amount?

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Posted 08 October 2014 - 02:32 PM

She will get her quota of D3 from the sun in summer then. Indoors and when still growing, D3 is best given daily, especially if they have not been cared for well in the past, unless the manufacturer specifically states not to. Nutrobal and Nekton are both daily supplements :)



#12 MiriMaran

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Posted 08 October 2014 - 08:46 PM

Ok. Thank you.

#13 MiriMaran

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Posted 18 October 2014 - 07:30 PM

Can I please get some clarification on the heating for outside enclosures please as there seems to be different advice on different threads. What should the thermostat on the tubular heater be set at please? Reading different threads some people say 5C and others 20C. That's a huge difference. Does Herbella need a UV lamp to get her going in the mornings? Some seem to use them and some don't so I'm confused about what I should do. Any help would be great.

#14 MiriMaran

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Posted 13 January 2015 - 12:25 PM

I'm starting to look for a tubular heater for Herbella's outdoor enclosure, but don't know what size to get.  The cold frame that Herbella will have is 126cmx66cm and not very tall.  Will a 1ft heater be enough please?  Also it is glass at the moment, would it be better to replace the glass with perspex?   I plan to sit the cold frame on a wooden frame to raise it so that there can be a good, deep layer of topsoil for Herbella to dig into.  The heater would then be attached to the wooden frame.  Will it also need a cage around it?  I am planning to also use the heat/UV lamp that is currently used with the tortoise table and have it set to come on for a couple of hours every morning.  Will that be enough?  I would like to get Herbella out as soon as possible, is March too early?  Also what temp should the thermostat on the tubular heater be please?  Sorry, lots of questions, but I just want to make sure I get this right.  Thanks for all the advice that people have given me so far.



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Posted 13 January 2015 - 12:41 PM

Hi there. Glass is fine and because your cold frame is pretty small a heater is a great idea. You will need a cage for the heater if Herbella can reach it. You can get really cheap outdoor lamps from Wilkinsons or similar stores which saves a lot of money when setting up outdoor enclosures. You won't need the uvb outside as the sun will do the trick. If in the cold frame for long hours in bad weather you can just supplement the D3 daily, to make up for lack of sunlight. If you are leaving her out 24/7 I would leave it until May as we can still have pretty low overnight temps in March. Often we have a good April forecast though which is fine. I set any stats to around 8 degrees for background heat.

#16 MiriMaran

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Posted 13 January 2015 - 12:45 PM

Hopefully attached is a photo of the progress on Herbella's outdoor enclosure.  I have cleared the plants and have made a hill for Herbella to climb up.  It has taken a while as I have been scrutinising every rock I put on to make sure it will be safe for her as I don't want her rolling off the hill!! I've planted various bits and bobs between the rocks, fuchsia, bittercress, plantain, dandelion, evening primrose, a creeping campanula and a hardy geranium.  Are all of those OK for her?  Do you think the hill is too big or do you think Herbella will be OK with it?  Her cold frame will go where the green and yellow trug is in the first photo.  All opinions welcome.Attached File  IMG_2786.JPG   43.91KB   2 downloadsAttached File  IMG_2785.JPG   49.01KB   1 downloads



#17 MiriMaran

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Posted 13 January 2015 - 12:50 PM

Thank you SueBoyle.  May seems so far away.  I feel really conscious that poor Herbella is in a tortoise table that is woefully too small for her.  If I used the lamp in the cold frame would that mean I could get her out earlier than May?  What do you do between when they come out of hibernation and May?



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Posted 13 January 2015 - 12:57 PM

Thank you SueBoyle.  May seems so far away.  I feel really conscious that poor Herbella is in a tortoise table that is woefully too small for her.  If I used the lamp in the cold frame would that mean I could get her out earlier than May?  What do you do between when they come out of hibernation and May?


I'm lost now, hibernation and May? You could put her out earlier but you would need more heat and she would need to come in overnight, so it could be confusing to her that ambient temps might be higher at night.

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Posted 13 January 2015 - 01:00 PM

The hill is fine but if I was doing it I would put the slabs at an angle into the soil rather than laying them flat on top, it would be more natural for her and less of a slide. They need a bit of work for those muscles instead of making life easy. How big is Herbella?

#20 MiriMaran

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Posted 13 January 2015 - 01:12 PM

I've not hibernated Herbella as this is our first winter with her and she's never been hibernated before.  I was advised on this site to do it next winter and spend our time getting to know her.  Next year I plan to get a reptile incubator/fridge to hibernate her in.  I was just wondering if you hibernate your torts through the winter, but they can't go into an outdoor enclosure until April/May what do you do in the meantime?

 

The stone on the hill is half sunk into the soil as they are very thick, but I could build the soil up between them further or are you meaning to make them a bit more like steps?  I can't quite picture what you mean.  






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