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Feeling Nervous About Hibernation


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#1 Janna

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Posted 24 October 2016 - 06:55 AM

Hi

 

I have a fridge being delivered on Weds and Exo terra thermometer on the way.

Ben is in his 40's and stopped eating 10 days ago.

He is digging down into his soil in his greenhouse.

I am digging him up and I giving him baths every other day, then he sits under his lamp for a few hours , or has a wander round the garden if it is sunny before digging back down.  

 

I have some polystyrene packaging, and bagged top soil. 

There is so much conflicting advice about boxes/substrate for the fridge and this is my first attempt at fridge hibernation.

 

What are people doing with their older tortoises at the moment - 

When will you be putting your tortie in the fridge?

How do you pack them?

 

Many thanks for any comments - getting a bit jittery!

 

J



#2 Graham

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Posted 24 October 2016 - 12:32 PM

Hi, Janna,

It's completely normal to feel apprehensive and jittery when it comes to hibernating out torts, especially for the first time. 

First of all, it's the wind-down that's really important; as long as you get that right, the hibernation should be completely fine. For an adult tortoise, this period lasts four weeks, so Ben is due to go in around November 10th. 

My Harry is in fifty next year, so I'm in the same boat as you. Do remember that Ben has hibernated over forty times in his life already, so he's well-used to the experience. 

I've found that a large plastic tub (similar to an ice cream container) is ideal; I half-fill it with sterilised top-soil, as this gives moisture, and a substrate to burrow down in, a more natural environment for them.

The preparation of the fridge is important; set it up a couple of weeks before Ben goes in, and add some bottles water to help keep the temps stable. I've always found it's best to buy bottled water from the shops as the caps are sealed and therefore wont leak if laid on their sides in the fridge. 

Keep an eye on the fridge temps, adjusting when necessary to attain a constant temperature of around 4°-5°C.

When Ben goes in, remember it can take a couple of weeks for torts to settle down, so don't be surprised if he's still awake when you check on him.

Each day, open and close the fridge door a couple of times to let fresh air in.

Make sure you weigh him before you put him in, and keep a record for reference. During hibernation, you can take him out once a fortnight or so and do a quick check to make sure he hasn't weed or lost too much weight; this procedure only takes a minute or so and wont disturb him at all.

I give Harry eighteen weeks in the fridge, and this seems to suit him for his size and age.

 

There are a couple of pinned links at the top of this topic page offering more details than I've given you here. Have a look at them, and if you have any questions or queries, just post them here, and we will help you.



#3 Janna

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Posted 24 October 2016 - 07:45 PM

Thank you so much.  I was hoping you would let me know what you were doing with Harry! 

 

That's a very reassuring post.  I have been wondering if a plastic container would allow less air than cardboard, and how big it needs to be to ensure he has enough space to dig. 

I had read the sticky and it recommended hibernating in December, I have followed Ben's lead and can't imagine I would be able to keep him awake that long.

When will Harry be hibernating?



#4 Graham

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Posted 24 October 2016 - 08:27 PM

Hi, Janna,
I've always preferred a plastic container as I reckon a cardboard box could absorb moisture from the substrate, go soggy, and may collapse when you take it out of the fridge. It could be lined with some plastic, I suppose, but I still favour a solid container.
If you've got the room, a washing-up bowl half-filled with substrate would be ideal, but don't worry if you need to use something smaller. You'll find Ben won't burrow very deep as the fridge will already be a suitable temperature for him; indeed, since I've been using a pharmacy fridge these last three years, which keeps the temps bang-on four degrees, Harry has only burrowed an inch or so at most, he sleeps contented almost on the substrate surface.
Hatchlings and very young torts tend to hibernate later in the year, often around December or even January, whereas matures go down a lot earlier. The latest Harry has ever gone in is November 17th, when we had an exceptionally warm October; he's in his third week of wind-down now, and is due in on November 5th.
It sounds to me that Ben is behaving completely normally and within the usual natural schedule.
Hope this is of some help; feel free to ask any further questions you may have.

#5 babettebeau

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Posted 24 October 2016 - 10:20 PM

Interesting information.
How do you spot if a tortoise has urinated in the soil substrate is the box?
My assumption is that it might be hard to see.
Any feedback very welcome.
Thank you
Sabina

#6 wizzasmum

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Posted 29 October 2016 - 10:26 PM

Interesting information.
How do you spot if a tortoise has urinated in the soil substrate is the box?
My assumption is that it might be hard to see.
Any feedback very welcome.
Thank you
Sabina


If they urinate there will be a sudden weight loss. If kept in damp substrate however this would be unlikely, also damp substrate can actually increase weight and prevent dehydration in hibernation ;)




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