Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Finally some yummy weeds to feed the tortoises!

Good news! The tortoises that I hibernated are all awake, and are eating and active. I sure missed them while they were sleeping...
Mila, enjoying some good basking heat the day she woke up from hibernation
Now that the weather is warming up a little, I also have access to a whole plethora of weeds. As long as they are collected in an area where you know they have not been sprayed or fertilized, tortoise-safe weeds are exponentially more healthy (and much cheaper!) for a tortoise than any store bought food.

Jill, suspiciously eyeing her miner's lettuce. She did eat about half of the pile
I've found that especially 'picky eater' tortoises will almost always eat mixed weeds. They might not like all of them, but if you feed a wide variety, surely they will find something they like.

Here is what was on today's menu. Keep in mind that the weather is pretty mild here in SW Washington State... these might not grow in your area for a few more months. I harvested these in my own garden, as well as in my friend's very weed-overgrown un-sprayed yard. I didn't tell her that I tried to leave the roots in so I can harvest more in the future.... Shhhhhhh... 

Today's tortoise menu weeds (click on the pic to see a larger version)
If you are unsure of the identity of a plant, I recommend double checking with a local nursery or the botany department of a local college. There is a good plant database on The Tortoise Table that I like to use. You can either search for a plant by name (to find out if it is safe), or if you don't know the name, you can search by flower color, and often visually identify the plant. Make sure that the leaves, flower, and root match the description. And if unsure, always err on the safe side and don't feed it.

The same page also has a printable plant booklet that I have found helpful. It has a shorter list of good edible plants that you are likely to find in your garden or nearby field.

Timmy says "RAWR!" and the weeds were toast. 
In order for a tortoise to get the nutrients it needs, feeding a wide variety of plants is very important. Feeding all weeds is best (and cheapest), but I realize this isn't always practical or possible for every tortoise keeper. I end up having to buy food from November-January each year. I get collard greens, mustard greens, kale, endive, radicchio, spring mix, aloe, and opuntia cactus (called 'nopales' in Hispanic food stores), to name a few.

This handsome guy was one of my last year's foster tortoises for IRR.
He refused to eat until I was able to offer him weeds. He thrived like crazy from this point on.
To help ensure the tortoises receive the necessary nutrients, I sprinkle the washed leaves with TNT powder from Carolina Pet Supply. I also provide each enclosure with several cuttlefish bones for calcium. The tortoises help themselves to this, as needed. In addition, I sprinkle some calcium on the leaves for the baby tortoises a few times per week, as they need more than the adults.

This is a pic I took of little Buttercup last year, chowing down on some
cuttlefish bone just a month after I got her.


  1. Do you know of a good source for seeds for growing weeds that tortoises to eat?

    1. Carolina Pet Supply has a really good broadleaf seed mix. I've planted that in some parts of the tortoise enclosure. You can also buy seeds for individual weeds on Amazon. To start with, the mix is a good option though. :)


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