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Worried About 1St Hibernation


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#1 Mike et al

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Posted 09 January 2015 - 05:53 PM

Hi, I'm new to forums so hopefully ive done the right thing posting this as i have. I'm after a bit of reassurance as its my wife and i first Herman Tortoise hibernation. We bought our Tortoises 1.5 years ago when they were a year old and kept them awake last winter on the advice of the breeder.

I know we're a bit late starting to hibernate them but the time flew by on the run up to Christmas and before we knew it it's January.

Anyway our wind down plan Is well underway as it started on 31/12/2014

At start of wind down period Dougal weighed 101g and was 78mm in length, ratio 0.21and Toto weighed 74g and was 70mm in length, ratio 0.2

Our plan is To use a 4 stage, 18 day wind down period with no food and 20min warm baths daily, planning for an 8 week hibernation taking it around 19th March

Stage 1:- 1st to 5th Jan kept at same temperature and light conditions as normal. This stage is now complete, Dougal lost 15g and Toto only 2g, Dougal was very active and obviously hungry, hard to resist feeding them but we did.

Stage 2:- 6th to 10 th Jan, kept at same temperature but gradually reducing the time the heat light is on to only 4 hours by 10th. This stage is nearly complete, Dougal now is 79g so has lost 22g, Toto is 65g so has lost 9g. It seems a lot of weight loss for Dougal, too much ? He is very active still compared to Toto who is very much more sleep orientated.

Stage 3;- 11th to 15th Jan, going to turn off light completely and move them to a room at about 15c, will keep bathing and weighing.

Stage 4:- 16th to 18th, I'm going to move them to cooler location at about 10c for first two days then about 8c for last two days before they go in a fridge, bathing daily.

19th Jan into the fridge, much to my wife's dismay, I must admit I'm also a bit concerned but know from the forum it's the best for them.

Questions.

1. Does the plan sound ok? It's based on the guidance notes from the forum and couple of plans I've read also on the forum, Kelly's and another one, sorry cant remember the name of the person who prepared it as I've been reading so much info on hibernation recently.

2. Its their first hibernation, they are 2.5 years old, and mine as we've only had them for 1.5 years and kept them awake last winter at the instructions of the breeder (hence I'm panicking a bit, my life won't be worth living if anything happens to them my wife has told me!), just want to check that they aren't too small/underweight for it? Is Dougal losing too much weight? It must surely just be poo which is a good thing.

3. I have a new drinks cabinet that is maintaining a nice stable temperature but may be a little warm at 7.7c to 8.7c which is set to max although its fairly empty with currently only 3 bottles of beer in it, what do you think? Perhaps if I move it to a warmer location it might cool down further, it's in cool spare bedroom.

Any advice very much welcome and appreciated.

Mike

#2 crotchetybear

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 01:15 AM

Hi Mike,

 

I understand how you feel. I am hibernating my two baby tortoises for the first time this year (they are 15 months old and I've had them since February) and also using a fridge for the first time as well. (I have an adult tort who has hibernated successfully using the box method for 40 years so that's where he is now.) I'm not an expert (but no doubt someone more experienced will be along shortly) but thought my account of my experience so far might help.

 

Like you, I devised a wind down plan based on advice on this forum - not dissimilar to the one you've devised yourself. My only comment on yours is that, as you move to stage 3, make the baths tepid rather than warm so as not to over-stimulate your torts when you actually want them to slow down. Towards the end of wind down I bathed them on alternate days.

 

Like yours, one of mine was more active through wind down than the other and both lost weight at different rates. In my case, the one that appeared less active lost more weight than the other in the first instance but it evened out in the end. My understanding is that weight lost during wind down is not true weight loss, just due to the emptying of the gut, as you say. Mine lost 16 and 17g during the wind down. (I'm not experienced enough to say whether 22g is excessive, but no doubt someone else will advise.) But I do know that weight loss during hibernation should be measured from the start of actual hibernation, not from start of wind down, and should not exceed 10%.

 

I have read that the drinks fridges are not recommended because their temps are unreliable, but I have also read reports that they have been used successfully. I purchased a Lucky Herp fridge/incubator - which is a similar size to the drinks fridge - because others had recommended it and the torts went in at the end of November. However, after three weeks I noticed that one of the tortoises was awake, active, and there was fresh poo in the box. (See my posts under Lucky Herp II incubator fridge.) Closer observation of the temps showed that it was creeping up towards 8.5 degrees - which ought to be fine given that "safe" hibernation temp is up to 10, and those more experienced agree that creeping into double figures for short periods should do no harm - but I took the decision to move them to another fridge (the one my husband uses for seeds and as an overflow wine chiller!) which is quite ancient but maintains a temperature between 5 and 6 degrees. Since I put them in there they both seem sound asleep. (Moving the little fridge to a warmer location actually made no difference to the temperature regulation.)

 

I've been weighing mine weekly but I've noted that many recommend not to disturb them so frequently. Next year I may follow this advice but I was so nervous about hibernating the babies that I've maintained the weekly checks. Weight loss since they went into the fridge has been negligible, they look fine, and they are due up in a couple of weeks.

 

I know it's all very daunting but I hope you manage a successful hibernation without ending up in the divorce courts!

 

Chris



#3 Mike et al

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 03:31 PM

Many thanks for sharing your experiences with me, it's certainly reassured us that we're on the right track. I'll definitely take your advice about tepid baths as they are approaching stage 3 now.

Today was the last day of their light being on, Dougal doesn't seem at allimpressed it went off so early! Hopefully with no light and lower background temperature he'll start thinking about slowing down. I say he but actually we have no idea, we just think of him as a he and Toto as a she but I guess time will tell.

I read up about drinks coolers and decided to go for a good quality one, I was a bit worried that a fridge may get too cold and risk freezing them so was playing safe, hope I did the right thing, worst case im sure we can find a use for it! I'm monitoring the temperatures closely in it with two max/min temperature probes. Some people say in a warmer room the fridges cool further others like youself say it made no difference, I'll give it a go and see.

I've made their fridge boxes up, they each have their as I was worried if they moved around they might scratch each other or something. I bough two reasonable size Tupperware containers and I've taped polystyrene insulation to the base and sides and drilled air holes all over the lids. I was going to put some damp soil in the base, same mix as in their table.

Any other advice gratefully received.

#4 crotchetybear

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Posted 10 January 2015 - 07:00 PM

Hi Mike,

 

I have both mine in the same box and - as the small fridge seems to be keeping more stable temps without the box in it - I wonder if there might have been an issue with air flow around the box that was causing the fluctuations. You might well get on better with two smaller boxes. 

 

Mine are on damp topsoil, and I also put some water in the bottom of the fridge to maintain humidity. (The Lucky Herp has a tray in the bottom for this purpose but you could use any old tray, and I've seen others recommend putting in a damp tea towel for this purpose.)

 

Good luck.

Chris



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Posted 10 January 2015 - 09:33 PM

Hi, I'm new to forums so hopefully ive done the right thing posting this as i have. I'm after a bit of reassurance as its my wife and i first Herman Tortoise hibernation. We bought our Tortoises 1.5 years ago when they were a year old and kept them awake last winter on the advice of the breeder.
I know we're a bit late starting to hibernate them but the time flew by on the run up to Christmas and before we knew it it's January.
Anyway our wind down plan Is well underway as it started on 31/12/2014
At start of wind down period Dougal weighed 101g and was 78mm in length, ratio 0.21and Toto weighed 74g and was 70mm in length, ratio 0.2
Our plan is To use a 4 stage, 18 day wind down period with no food and 20min warm baths daily, planning for an 8 week hibernation taking it around 19th March
Stage 1:- 1st to 5th Jan kept at same temperature and light conditions as normal. This stage is now complete, Dougal lost 15g and Toto only 2g, Dougal was very active and obviously hungry, hard to resist feeding them but we did.
Stage 2:- 6th to 10 th Jan, kept at same temperature but gradually reducing the time the heat light is on to only 4 hours by 10th. This stage is nearly complete, Dougal now is 79g so has lost 22g, Toto is 65g so has lost 9g. It seems a lot of weight loss for Dougal, too much ? He is very active still compared to Toto who is very much more sleep orientated.
Stage 3;- 11th to 15th Jan, going to turn off light completely and move them to a room at about 15c, will keep bathing and weighing.
Stage 4:- 16th to 18th, I'm going to move them to cooler location at about 10c for first two days then about 8c for last two days before they go in a fridge, bathing daily.
19th Jan into the fridge, much to my wife's dismay, I must admit I'm also a bit concerned but know from the forum it's the best for them.
Questions.
1. Does the plan sound ok? It's based on the guidance notes from the forum and couple of plans I've read also on the forum, Kelly's and another one, sorry cant remember the name of the person who prepared it as I've been reading so much info on hibernation recently.
2. Its their first hibernation, they are 2.5 years old, and mine as we've only had them for 1.5 years and kept them awake last winter at the instructions of the breeder (hence I'm panicking a bit, my life won't be worth living if anything happens to them my wife has told me!), just want to check that they aren't too small/underweight for it? Is Dougal losing too much weight? It must surely just be poo which is a good thing.
3. I have a new drinks cabinet that is maintaining a nice stable temperature but may be a little warm at 7.7c to 8.7c which is set to max although its fairly empty with currently only 3 bottles of beer in it, what do you think? Perhaps if I move it to a warmer location it might cool down further, it's in cool spare bedroom.
Any advice very much welcome and appreciated.
Mike


Hi it's a daunting thing, but so long as done well, they will be fine, I've not lost one in over thirty years and hibernate them smaller than yours. If your torts seem to lose a lot in wind down, they have often been eating too much before. Also, the idea of wind down is to mimic nature, so temps must be reduced from the word go, to reduce activity and therefore appetite. They still need some basking facilities but not enough to cause normal activity.
Be careful with beer fridges as they do not have such stringent regulations as food fridges, not being required to do anything more than keep drinks cold. Temps could become erratic but still in line wth what the manufacturer deems ok.
You do not need to insulate their hibernation boxes as this will make no difference once they are in the fridge. The temp inside the box will be the same as the temp in the fridge due to them being cold blooded, which is what you want.
Hope this helps.

#6 Mike et al

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Posted 12 January 2015 - 06:07 PM

Thanks Chris, SueBoyle,for your excellent advice which I'll certainly follow, i know the questions are probably the same ones everyone asks when going through the preparation for your tortoises first hibernation but its good get reassurance i'd be gutted if anything happened to them.
Dougal and Toto's weight loss has slowed right down which I'm assuming is because everything in their guts is now out, I've reduced the background temperature to between 10 and 15c and they are spending most of their time asleep. They are still getting a tepid bath each day.
My fridge has stabilised at 7.5c hopefully that's ok for them.

Mike

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Posted 12 January 2015 - 07:50 PM

That's too low Mike, they still need to have enough heat to keep them moving and to keep the gut moving, just not enough to keep the metabolism too high. I'd use around 20 degrees and then reduce it to what you have now for the last few days, putting it right down for the lady day, before going into the fridge.

#8 Mike et al

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Posted 13 January 2015 - 08:22 PM

Thanks for that Sue, it actually ended up nearer 15c even overnight, thought it was cooler than that but in any case I've brought them back into a warmer room, 20c it is now as suggested.

Appreciate your advice.

Mike

#9 Mike et al

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 04:40 PM

I thought a quick update may be of interest to those who gave some invaluable advice. The wind down went well right to the end, I was checking their weights daily and all seemed fine so they went into the fridge as planned. The fridge I had was a drinks cooler and although the temperature was pretty consistent it just wasn't low enough as it was around 9C.
I managed to pick up a table top fridge for £10 and it was perfect a steady 5C +\- 0.5C.

I've been weighing them weekly as its my first hibernation, and theirs but it's me I'm more worried about! They've lost no weight and their little legs and heads move ever so slightly when I weigh them so all seems fine, no sign of any poop or wee (I'm not sure I'd spot wee as they are on damp soil but as they've lost no weight I think it's safe to say they haven't).

They still have another 2 weeks of the target 8 weeks, I may make it 3 weeks if all is well as I'm away when they are due to come out although my wife will be here I want to be there for the exciting wake up. Their table is all cleaned up ready for them, I've replaced the soil and have some more B&Q soil and play sand to mix for the fresh soil.

It will be a relief when they wake up and we get them back again, we've missed them a lot.

Mike

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 12:00 AM

Sounds as though all is going to plan Mike. I've started to get mine up now, well the lodger hibernators anyway. Some have gone back home and others are going over the course of the next week or so.

#11 Mike et al

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 05:22 PM

Thanks Sue, you say you are starting to get yours up, what process do you go through to wake them up and get them up and running? Is it just a matter of warm baths, basking lamp and offering food and water? Do I increase the amount of basking light gradually or just go back to the original duration before wind down?

Despite some initial reservations I must say using the fridge method seemed to work fine, I'll be a lot more confident next time.

Mike

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 05:29 PM

I get mine out of the hibernation quarters one day and leave them in slightly warmer temps until they start to stir. I them bring them to room temp and once they are up and investigating give them a lukewarm bath. Remember the metabolism has dropped really low, so no sudden shocks. Usually the following day I give them warmer baths and offer full basking facilities, giving them the choice. Some eat straight away and others can take a few days. The ones I got out today are already stomping around looking for food.

#13 Mike et al

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 05:59 PM

Great advice Sue, I'll certainly follow your method, it makes a lot of sense to bring them around gently.

I was looking at the various posts but there wasn't much advice about waking them up, thought it best to check and be sure to do it the best way.

Thanks again,

Mike

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 06:52 PM

It's on my website Mike




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