Monday, June 23, 2014

Baby Russian tortoise update!

All 6 eggs have hatched in the meantime, and all 6 Russian tortoise babies are doing great! I am keeping 1 of them, and the other 5 all have homes lined up. Yay!

The 6 baby Russian tortoises. 
A few days ago I took a bunch of pictures of the babies - it was a little bit like herding kittens, but a few of the pictures turned out well. I thought you might enjoy seeing them.

All 6 together after a good soak in warm water.
The babies are between 1.5 and 1.75 inches long, and weigh between 16g and 22g. It's pretty amazing how quickly these wee critters grow!

Look at the nice new growth on #3. She had a rough start (which you can read about in my blog post from a couple of weeks ago), but she is active, curious, is eating well and growing well. She got to move into her new permanent home this weekend, with my friend here in town. Yay!

Spunky little #1 (named 'Backwards Z' by my kids) is turning out to be quite the little alpha animal. At the tender age of 1 month, I have already observed her bobbing her head at another baby, and she tried to bite one of the babies that was approaching 'her' food pile. She is super friendly around humans though, so I am confident she will make a wonderful pet for the family that has chosen her!

I really like the coloring of #2 - she has those awesome dark and light stripes. She hatched looking as light as #6, and then parts of her scutes darkened significantly within a few days. It will be interesting to see what she looks like when she is bigger. Her Mama has a sunflower yellow shell, so I am hoping her coloring will be similar.

The above picture shows off her nice even new growth. I love the little black striations that are showing up!

Baby #4 charms with her funky little extra scute on her back. She is curious and eats like a little piggy.


Baby #5 has a really interesting shell pattern as well, with those bright yellow highlights in the dark background. It will be interesting to see what her new growth ends up looking like. Her shell is still a little bit lopsided, since she was rolled diagonally in her egg. This will normalize once she grows a little more.

 #5 has this funky little yellow circle on the front of her shell. I am not sure if it will stay, or will go away as she grows, but for now, it is awfully pretty!

Baby #6 was the last one to hatch, but she was also the fattest, largest one. She is on the go non-stop. She climbs higher than the others, runs faster than the others, and is very bold. This silly girl has gotten herself high-centered on a number of items she successfully climbed.


#6 is a little Houdini. She was constantly trying to run away!
Yep, there goes #6, running away as fast as she can. Silly girl. Doesn't know what's good for her!

The picture below shows the 6 babies soaking together. I've labelled their shells 1-6 so that you can see the differences. Again, they all have the same parents... so the variation of dark, light and designs is rather amazing to me. Yay for genetics!
In spite of having the same parents, the color variation ranges from very light to very dark!
Ok, and finally, because I'm a big goofball, I took pictures of each of the babies in a spoon. They won't stay small for long, so I wanted a picture of them in comparison to a common household object.

To give you an idea of the size of the babies... here is a spoonful of tortoise!
To learn more about how to raise healthy, smooth baby Russian tortoises, please read Tom's wonderful article on the Tortoise Forum:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Russian tortoise Baby#4 hatched today!

Russian tortoise baby#4 made an appearance today! 

POP! And she was out!
Today was day#60 for the second batch of eggs, so I peeked into the incubator window with a flashlight. What did I see? Little eyeballs staring back at me! 

Baby must have been sitting in the incubator coming out of her egg for quite a while (could have been since yesterday), because her egg just about disintegrated in my hands when I picked it up to move her into the little bin. She had thoroughly shredded it and crawled right out of the egg into my hand.

Baby#4 is a beautiful, healthy little Russian tortoise. 
Welcome to the world, baby#4! She's happy, healthy, and has a tiny splitty scute. Scutes are the little partitions in a tortoise's shell, and a 'normal' tortoise has a set number of them. Occasionally (based on incubation temperature, genetics, and other factors), a tortoise hatches with a few extra scutes. This does not harm the tortoise at all, it just make sit unique. 
Freshly out of the egg, still with a fold in its belly and a small yolk sac.
I included a pic of her belly, because I thought you would like to see how the babies are folded in the egg. She will absorb that bit of yolk sac in the next day.

I still have 2 more eggs from this clutch in the incubator. I can't wait for them to hatch as well! 

I made a little collage of Baby#4

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Scary beginnings, but happy ending. Russian Tortoise Baby#3

Ok, today I want to share with you the somewhat scary beginning of our Russian tortoise Hatchling#3. I wanted to wait to be sure there was a happy ending. Rest assured, all is well now!
Baby#3, healthy and chipper now

First, I want to thank my very knowledgeable friend Melissa, who helped me and advised and encouraged me... at 10pm! She deserves a huge hug. I am so thankful she is a part of my life!
I wanted to share this, first because I think it's just amazing how nature is set up, and second, because I am amazed at how robust these wee babies actually are, given the proper care.

First, here is a picture of a normal hatchling's cute fat little belly a few hours after hatching. It is normal for baby tortoises to hatch with a small yolk sac still hanging out of their belly button. This then absorbs within a few days, and baby can go its merry way.
A normal hatchling's fat little belly. This is Baby#2.
Well, when I saw Baby#3 was pipping, I moved the egg to the container in the incubator with a moist paper towel. I did this because I was going to be busy, and didn't want baby to hatch onto the incubation substrate and possibly ingest some or get some stuck on its belly. In retrospect, I am so glad I did this!
I checked on it sequentially, and saw first a little head and leg... and then I checked back in a few hours later, and saw baby RT#3 out of the egg, but with a big orange thing under its belly. Yikes!
This is not what you want to see... a huge yolk sac!
I carefully took the baby out to investigate, and oh dear, it looked terrible! The yolk sac was huge, and there was some kind of pink thing on the end of it!
The yolk sac is way too big on this wee tortoise - she's a preemie!
I contacted my friend Melissa (who knows a lot more about tortoises and breeding than I do), and she assured me that this happens, and that it will probably absorb, with proper care. Baby should have probably stayed in the egg for a few more days, but might have kicked a hole in the egg while turning, which resulted in a premature hatch.
I made a little donut pillow out of a moist paper towel, and put baby on it, with the yolk sac in the middle. This way the baby's body weight wouldn't be squishing the sac. The moisture protected the membranes.
Baby#3 on her donut pillow
I then covered baby with a second moist paper towel, since babies like to feel covered. I closed the incubator, said a silent prayer, and went to bed. I knew the best thing for baby was to be left alone now.

Night night wee baby!
The next morning I shone a light into the incubator, but didn't open it. Baby was still on its donut pillow, but it moved a leg and opened its eyes when I shone the light in. It was alive! 

Towards late afternoon, I checked again, and baby had moved off of its little donut. I decided now was a good time to check on baby - and was amazed to see that most of the yolk sac really had absorbed.

Still not perfect, but SO much better!
I soaked baby in some warm water, and placed it back in the incubator in the container with moist towels. She was chipper, and walked around, even climbed up and over her little donut, which she no longer needed.

Soaking in warm water helps keep baby hydrated, and helps keep the tissue soft as it heals
Over the following days I continued to just leave her alone, except to soak her for 20mins each day. The yolk sac continued to absorb. The following pic is about 36 hours after hatching.

Much better - still just a little bit of healing necessary!
Here is Baby#3, when I was confident she would be OK!
No longer in danger, WHEW!
Now the yolk sac is fully absorbed, and the little umbilical wound is almost completely closed. The little pink 'tag' has gone inside now, too. She is going to be just fine. 
In another day or so, her little plastron will look completely normal
Also, interesting fact: She flipped herself back onto her belly all by herself right after I took this picture.

Welcome to the world, little RT Baby#3!
She has the cutest face! out, she'll charm the socks off of you!

Ps: I refer to this baby as 'she' and 'her' based on the fact that the incubation temperatures were high. Tortoises can be temperature sexed, with higher temperatures resulting in females, lower temperatures resulting in males. There is no guarantee, but it is VERY LIKELY that this is a female.