Sunday, April 20, 2014

Marginated tortoises update!

Everyone loves baby tortoises... and I have taken a ton of pictures of my wee Marginated babies the last few months, but have been too busy to post them!  

Marginated tortoises end up growing to be quite large, about 14 inches 35cm) straight carapace length. My babies now range from about 3" - 4.5" length. That is a lot of growth in the few months since they hatched!

Blossom, looking at the camera
You may remember that when I got Blossom and Buttercup, they were just 16g, and ooooh so tiny. I can tell you though, these spunky little gals grow SO QUICKLY. Because of this, they are very prone to pyramiding. Marginated tortoises need a lot of calcium and good hydration and exercise and healthy food and good UVB to grow healthily (smoothly!).

I promise she isn't grumpy... that's just her face
I've used a slightly more relaxed version of the so-called 'hot/humid' method for raising these babies. I will write more about this later - I learned about this method from my tortoise-mentors Melissa and Tom, and their threads about how they raise their leopard tortoise babies, sulcata babies and Russian tortoise babies are on the Tortoise Forum. These little Margies are thriving like heck!

Smooth as marble! 
 I keep a log of the weights of my tortoises, and the most recent weigh-in of the Margie babies was as follows:
Buttercup: 266g (at 17 months)
Bubbles: 148g (at 7 months)
Blossom: 92g (at 8 months)
Looking at growth curves for Marginated tortoises, they are definitely on the large side of the curve. Bubbles is HUGE for her age, but she started out huge. She was the same size at 10 days as her peers were at a month... her Momma was not small, either.

From left to right, Bubbles, Buttercup, Blossom
I am not worried that Blossom is smaller - she started out petite. She eats like a little piggy though, and her growth curve is steady.

Bubbles is the darkest of the three.
Bubbles is the darkest of the three babies, and judging by her current size, I suspect she will be the largest of them all. At just 7 months age she is already larger than Buttercup was at 1 year!

Bubbles found the violet patch
As soon as the weather started getting warmer, I made sure the tortoises get time outside. Even if the air temperature is still only 55 degrees F (13 degrees C), the ground temperature is much warmer in the sun, and using a temp gun, the shell temperature of the basking tortoises was actually about 80 degrees.

Yummy violets!
I would recommend to anyone who keeps a tortoise (or several) to provide as much natural sunlight as possible. The sun provides the valuable UVB rays that are necessary for a tortoise's vitamin D3 generation, which in turn is necessary for calcium absorbtion, for healthy bones and a healthy shell. We live in the Pacific Northwest, so it is mild but chilly here in January and February. It was still too cold in the tortoise garden, since the house still shaded it at that time of year. However, I brought the tortoises outside in a variety of bins, to get some natural sunlight.

Still sparse, but once the weeds grow in, it will be lush!
Now that the weather is warmer, and the angle of the sun has changed for Springtime, the baby Marginated tortoises spend several hours outside in their covered enclosure every day. In the picture above you can see that the weeds are still very sparse... I obviously supplement their food by adding in more piles of weeds. In a few weeks, once the weather warms up more, this area will be lush with weeds! :)

I hope you all enjoyed the pictures... I have actually taken in a 4th little Marginated baby, but this one is very pyramided, and has been chewed by the previous owner's dog. I have named it Waffle and will post some pictures of this one, soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

More eggs from our Russian tortoise female Timmy!

Timmy, my favorite female Russian tortoise, has laid MORE eggs this week. 

Timmy, pushing out one of the 3 eggs on March 22nd
She laid 1 egg on Feb 17th, and then on March 22nd, she started pacing and digging in her tort table. I gave her a cat litter box full of slightly moist soil, and she laid 3 beautiful eggs into a nest hole she dug there.

I think this was the second egg. She pushed each egg further into
the nest hole before laying the next. 
The eggs are in an incubator now, which is set to 89 degrees, hoping to temperature sex the hatchlings to be female. It usually takes 60-100 days for a Russian tortoise baby to hatch. Unlike e.g. chicken eggs, tortoise eggs need to lie completely still, on their side, for the embryo to develop.

The 3 eggs from March 22nd, right before going into the incubator.
I had to use coconut coir instead of vermiculite, since I wasn't expecting these eggs.
Then on April 7, I noticed she was digging nest holes in the outdoor enclosure. I kept a hawk's eye on her, and in the late afternoon, she laid 3 more eggs into a nest hole she dug. Once she was done, I very carefully dug them up and placed them into the incubator as well.

Timmy eating a well-deserved meal after laying her clutch
of 3 eggs outside at the beginning of this week
This makes a total of 7 eggs! I am fairly certain that the first one (from Feb) isn't fertile... but so far the other 6 look great. They have chalked over, which is a good sign. I probably won't candle the other eggs, but will instead force myself to just wait and see if they hatch. Leaving them alone completely is much more healthy than if I bother them in an effort to check on them.

In addition to being very hungry, Timmy has also eaten 1.5 cuttlefish bones!
Her body needs the extra calcium to keep her own bones strong,
and to make healthy eggs.
This means that in a few months, I will hopefully be up to my eyeballs in Russian tortoise hatchlings... a rather wonderful problem to have, don't you think?