Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Buttercup meets a snail V2.0

Our little Marginated tortoise got to meet another snail. It finally rained here, so there were quite a few in our garden - I think these are European snails. People are always surprised to see them in our area. Regardless, the design on this particular snail's shell looked really pretty, so before feeding it to our redfoot tortoise, I took a few pictures of it with on top of Buttercup. 

Giving snails a ride makes me grumpy! (Or maybe that's just my face)
I found a nice sunny spot on a rock in your back yard that was the perfect staging area for these pictures. No flash or extra lighting was necessary.

Hopefully in the next year or so we will have some home-hatched Russian tortoise babies... which will start out about the same size as this snail!

Two beautiful shelled creatures...
On a side note, it is a real pain to rinse snail trail off of a tortoise shell. It's not quite water soluble, and kind of sticky. I don't put anything but water on Buttercup's shell, so I finally just scrubbed it a little with an old toothbrush.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Breakfast time.... and they are all still a little grumpy.

The outdoor enclosure of my Russian tortoises is planted with a variety of weeds and other edible plants... but at this point in the year, a lot of the weeds have been grazed away. I end up having to collect food in our yard and my friends' yards every few days.

'We're not ready to eat yet. It's still too early'
Today when I fed the tortoises, the Russian torts all came over to the food pile, and then promptly all sat down facing away from each other. I quickly took a picture - they have gotten so used to having all the space of the tortoise garden that I think they were a little grumpy about the sudden proximity to each other!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hibiscus season!

All my tortoises love hibiscus flowers. Knowing this, I have planted 3 different varieties: a blueish purple 'Rose of Sharon', a perennial hibiscus (which dies back in the Fall, and comes back larger every Spring), and a hot pink bush variety, of which I forget the name.

Jill, going to town on some hibiscus blooms
The first blooms show up in mid July, and I usually get new ones through October. Tortoises can eat the leaves, as well as the flowers. I pick new ones every day and mix them into the greens. They are so nutritious!

If you end up with too many flowers, you can place them on a piece of paper and sun dry them. Then place them in a plastic bag, and crumble them over your tortoise's food in the Winter! With all the tortoises I have, I never end up having any left over...

Give me more!
I will write a post about healthy tortoise diet soon, since I have been receiving a lot of questions about what to feed.

My Russian tortoises get fed exclusively dark leafy greens, with the exception of flowers. I supplement with cuttlefish bone for a little extra calcium, and I sprinkle TNT powder on their food during the Winter. During the Summer I feel that they are getting enough of a variety in their food that it isn't necessary to add the TNT, especially since so much of their food comes from grazing in their outdoor enclosure, which is planted with a wide variety of weeds and tortoise-edible plants.

Nom nom nom
My front garden gets a lot of compliments, and I just love it when people walk by our house and stop to smell some flowers, or even to take a picture with their cell phones. My dirty secret is that a lot of what I grow in our garden is meant to be tortoise food. If it happens to look pretty, that is just an added bonus! :) I also intersperse edible plants such as cherry tomatoes, rhubarb, zucchini, squash etc. in my flowerbeds - we love eating the fresh veggies, and it looks nice.

Friday, August 9, 2013

...a redfoot?! Oh my!

I know I keep saying that my little tortoise family is complete. Somehow, however, tortoises in need keep finding their way to me. The boys and I got to go on a little road trip the other day, and along the way, we picked up this little redfoot tortoise.

Our new tortoise resident
The guy who gave this beautiful creature to us had gotten her from a woman who kept her in a 10 gallon aquarium. He built a little tortoise table, and got the proper substrate and lighting, but unfortunately kept the tortoise in bone dry, very dusty conditions. To his defense, the new growth from the past few months actually looks pretty good. Most of the pyramiding happened while the tortoise lived in the tiny aquarium.

You can see the pyramiding in this picture
Redfoot tortoises like to live in a very humid environment, so I've been visiting her outside frequently over the course of the day, misting her thoroughly each time. I also misted the plastic lid I placed over part of the enclosure to seal in some of the moisture. Redfoot tortoises also like to eat a very varied, omnivorous diet. This tortoise gal is going to be weaned off the pellet food she is used to, and will be given good healthy greens, fresh fruit, and appropriate sources of animal protein. None of my other tortoises have ever been fed processed or pre-manufactured foods, so I am not going to start now.

A healthy plastron - yay!
Rescued tortoises often have a really messed up plastron... so I was bracing myself for shell rot and all sorts of other problems. Luckily, her plastron looks great!

As part of in-processing a new tortoise (so I can see progress later), I measured and weighed her. She is 5 3/4" long (14.5cm), and weighs 594g. This is within what is considered a healthy weight range.'s a girl!
Speaking of plastrons, you may have noticed that I have been referring to our new redfoot as a 'her' - she is indeed female. Her previous owner thought she was male... we still need to decide on a good name for her. Any suggestions?

Hmmmm. What should we call her... ?
With her white beak, dark eyes and red spots, I think she looks a little bit like a clown. She also has the funniest little smiling clown face in the speckles on the top her head!

See? It's a smiling face!

What do you think we should name her?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Clover flower treats for Jill

Jill, the smallest of my Russian tortoises, got to wander the clover patch today for a little while. Clover is not ideal for tortoises to eat, since it is fairly high in protein, but Jill just LOVES the white clover flowers, so I sometimes let her eat them as a treat. She will walk all about the lawn, chomping away at all the flowers. 

Earlier this year, when it was still too cold to send the tortoises outside, I had to separate Jill from the others because she was being bullied. She had stopped eating, and became withdrawn. My friend offered to babysit her for a few weeks for me. Once separated from the others, she started eating again.

Once the weather got warm enough to move the Russian tortoises to our large 5'x30' outdoor tortoise garden, I set her in there with the others, and she has been fine. She eats well, she explores and walks about, and is growing and gaining weight. Her new growth is healthy and smooth.

I was worried about her this Spring, but now I'm so relieved that she is ok!