Saturday, March 9, 2013

Building a new tortoise enclosure

i was thinking of re-homing my 12 year old redfoot tortoise sweetpea because i was feeling like i wasnt giving her a good enough home. i talked to my dad and over the winter we built her a better one.

i picked up plastic bins that measure about 23"x16"x6". the enclosure will allow for four bins to be placed inside, 2x2. the bins can be lifted out easily and exchanged. there will be plywood sides surrounding this, sides tall enough to prevent sweetpea from climbing out. it sits on the same old kitchen table it currently sits on, which measures 48" x 36", so two bins by two bins would measure approx 46" x 32" and fits just fine. my inspiration came from pictures over at this site .

the bins being exchangeable means i can grow sprouts and greens for her and place the whole bin in for her to munch thru when the sprouts get a decent height. currently she'd nibble off or trample anything directly as it pushed up thru the substrate. i picked up 6 bins so i'll have two to rotate with green growing stuff. and hopefully this will mean a somewhat better diet for her during the winter months when my garden is frozen.

at the end of november, my dad cut and brought up the plywood boards for me to assemble. some of the boards were salvaged from the trebuchet dad built a few years back, and needed a bit of chiseling to scrape off glue. all thru december i worked on varnishing when the weather cooperated enough to stay above freezing so i could open the door in the porch and not fumigate myself.



after i finished with multiple coats of varnish, it sat out in the porch thru january and february airing out. didnt want to fumigate my poor tortoise either.

in january i started one bin filled with dirt and 'tortoise grazing mix' seed under the grow lights. i purchased the mix from here . it contains Crimson Clover, Red Clover, Creeping Red Fescue, Turnip Greens, Fescue, Kentucy Blue Grass, Orchard Grass, Wheat Grass, Oat Grass, Rye Grass, Barley Grass, Chia, Chicory, and Timothy Grass. its for the tortoise to graze on once i get the new enclosure set up. in february i started the second bin.

one of the bins has some patio pavers leading down to a water dish/bath tub. the bin is 13"x19" on the bottom, but 16"x23" on top. 6" deep. the bathtub is 10"x12" on the bottom and 11"x14" on top, but on top 14" edge, has lips that make it 16" across. so it fits nicely inside the bin. but is also 6" deep, so if it sits on the bottom, theres that 6" drop i'm wanting to avoid. but if its lifted up on pavers, it creates its own wall, preventing a drop. i'm going to cut down one side of it so the tortoise can crawl in and out, while leaving the other sides. i broke my brain trying to figure out the math in my head of which pieces could best fit. i ended up cutting out cardboard pieces in all the different sizes available to figure out the best fit. being able to SEE it worked much better.

i want this bin to have only pavers and no substrate, because otherwise the tortoise tracks EVERYTHING into the bathtub/water dish. this is why she has no water dish in her current home. it gets filthy within minutes and then is absolutely useless to her. so she had to previously be removed for her baths.

sweetpea has been moved in and is exploring and snacking.

now on to the pictures!

new bins loaded inside the frame
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sweetpea covered in dust, having been moved to the floor
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moved the frame to the table
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the hooks in the ceiling will have to be moved, to reorient the light and heat lamp
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oh HI down there! (puppy is used to sweetpea being UP on the table)
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do you have a flavor? you DO! (its dusty!) (puppy has always been supervised around sweetpea, and is well behaved)
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bath time! much better!
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checkin' out the new digs
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erm. flattening the new digs...
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no problem moving from one bin to the next
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you cant see me!
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here i am!
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all this flattening was not part of the plan...
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moving along now
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climbing into the bin with the hidey pot
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keep on truckin'
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had to stop a moment and admire her reflection. maybe i shouldnt have used gloss finish...
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back on track and moving on to the 'patio'
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paused at the drop off. the blue square represents where the bath tub/water dish will be, once i get the side cut. theres only one layer of bricks below where the tub will sit, theres two layers where the tortoise is.
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and back to the beginning we go, to do it all over again!
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dinner was served
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and destroyed
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and demolished
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i have two other bins of dirt i can rotate in and out, growing more grazing stuff, but that takes two to three weeks under the lights. i will still be feeding her plenty of other stuff. this grazing mix was never intended to be sweetpeas full diet. i expected her to eat her way thru it in a couple sittings. i figured two, maybe three if i was lucky. i think if she hadnt been so busy exploring and crushing, she may well have had another meal of it. but now most everything is crushed. we'll see. maybe some of it will pop back up tomorrow. i watered it... it might not ALL be broken off.

i need to mark the bath tub/water dish and take a hacksaw to it to cut an opening partially down one side. but sawing plastic makes a mess and will have to be done outdoors.

i still need to bring in my step ladder and move the ceiling hooks to change the location of the heat lamp, and turn the light the other way. and get the bath in. but its pretty nice so far!