Outdoor Tortoise Enclosure
I have been keeping various species of tortoise since I was a child. In those days the three “Mediterranean” species were brought into the UK pet trade in quite large numbers, mainly Spur-thighed and Hermans but the occasionally Marginated cropped up too. They were all cheap, and plentiful – every pet store had the so called Garden tortoise. Of course, this trade needed to be regulated, and thankfully today the situation is very different. The three species are still available in (mainly specialised) pet stores, all CB and all now quite expensive! One huge difference is that they are now mainly sold as youngsters – few adults are seen for sale in the stores nowadays.
I have wrote this with adult tortoises in mind. Of course it is possible for younger tortoises to be kept outdoors, but for the average keeper the smaller individuals are more often than not kept indoors. I have kept tortoises outside using various different kinds of housing ranging from greenhouses, sheds and then the method I use at the moment. The enclosures I provide for my adult Hermans, Marginated and Spur-thighed look very similar to a garden coldframe. They are made from timber and are essentially a four sided enclosure, about 60cm tall and around 150cm square for each area of the enclosure. Each enclosure has three separate areas, the main area is totally weather proof and water proof. The middle one has a glass framed window on the top and looks the typical garden coldframe. The last one is open topped. An opening allows movement between all three areas, each opening has a door that can be latched shut and a secondary “curtain” to curtail drafts when open. The main weather proof housing area has a plywood floor, the other two are a mixture of soil and sand over a mesh floor (to stop escapes). There are hides positioned in all three areas. The electrical systems were installed by a qualified electrician satisfying all outdoors electrical legislation.
The main heating and lighting is provided in the main living area, although there is secondary heating and lighting in the coldframe area too. Heating consists of Komodo 250w ceramic heaters in the main area and Reptile One ceramic heaters 150w in the coldframe. I have a mixture of fittings / reflectors throughout for the ceramics of either Komodo, Reptile One or Lucky Reptile Thermosockets. All the temperatures are controlled by Lucky Reptile Thermosocket 2 Pro's - I use these as they are good value for money and provide totally automated control of day / night temperatures and also switch the lighting systems off and on too. I have had one or two of these thermostats go faulty, but generally over the years they have proved to be reliable. Lighting is a mixture of older T8 style UVB fluorescent and full spectrum tubes from Arcadia Euro, Reptile One and Komodo, Solarglow Mercury Vapour bulbs from Exo Terra and one or two have Lucky Reptile Bright Sun Metal Halides too. I will be fitting some of the new Arcadia T5 fittings having recently tried these in some of our lizard breeding groups and been impressed by them.
I have now provided my tortoises with this type of enclosure for around three years now, and prefer it over the other methods I have used. I can see my tortoises whilst in the garden, and they seem to enjoy being able to see us too. During the summer days they can be seen behaving much like wild tortoises, coming out to bask in the morning, a bought of activity until midday to early afternoon then snooze until late after noon – then time to be active again until bedtime! They choose where to be with regards to the three areas depending on the weather conditions and temperature. I am convinced that they seem happier than the previous shed based housing!