|Duke, eating weeds while sitting up on a rock - silly boy!|
The benefits of keeping tortoises outdoors far outweigh the potential dangers, IF proper precautions are taken and accommodations are made. The natural sunlight provides heat and healthy UVB, which promotes healthy bones and a good hard shell. Being able to wander a much larger area keeps the tortoise's muscles strong. Wild Russian tortoises live in climates that are harsher than ours! They can THRIVE in our climate.
|A morning view of our tortoise yard|
|A morning view of the tortoise yard- it gets much sunnier here in the afternoon!|
I plan to expand the tortoise yard in the next few years, to go further out from the house, as well as going around the corner to the South side of the house. I already have some of the materials for this. I also am scavenging materials to build a little heated greenhouse, which would make it possible for the tortoises to live outdoors for several more months each year!
|Jill and Mila basking in the morning sun|
|Greenhouse made from polycarbonate remnants|
|Amber, hanging out in her pyramid in the quarantine area|
|I like this one by Etekcity. |
I bought it on Amazon, and it has worked for 4 years without needing its battery changed.
The tortoises dig in for the night. Then as soon as the sun hits the tortoise garden (around 11am, since it's on the West side of the house), the tortoises come out to bask in the sunny spots. They wander around, graze, explore, and soak. By afternoon it really bakes out, and they retreat to the shady spots under the bushes. In the evening, they come back out again for another snack, or just to take a walk.
I have dug a nice deep trench under the wall of the enclosure, which I filled with cement pavers, so I don't have to worry about the tortoises digging out of their enclosure. My male Roz is an especially avid digger - he makes burrows so deep I have to reach in up to my shoulder to get him out. The walls of the enclosure are capped so the tortoises can't climb out either. Because I am confident the tortoises can't escape, it isn't too scary for me when one of the tortoises disappears for a few weeks for a snooze. I know they are healthy and have had plenty of food, so if the weather is hot or cold, I allow them to burrow down as they see fit.
Lady (the very dirty tortoise shown above and below) disappeared at the end of April, and didn't show up again until last week. She is a big, heavy girl, so I wasn't worried. She came back out and went back to eating as if there had never been a 6-week nap.
I provide water in several flat containers, such as the plant saucer in the picture below. Normally, this container is actually sunken into the ground, but one of the tortoises decided to dig under it, which pushed it up and out.
Some tortoises that are normally picky eaters or have a shy personality really blossom when they are outdoors. Little Jill (who isn't so little anymore!) is a shy picky eater indoors. Outside she eats like a piggy, and even bosses the bigger females around!
This year was the first year that my tortoises had babies - Timmy and Roz produced 6 beautiful, healthy hatchlings. I am keeping 1 of them, and the others have all been dibsed. Here are a few pictures:
At only about a month old, the babies only spend about an hour per day outside. The baby below is little Duchess (Baby #2), which I am keeping. Eventually I plan to breed her with Duke (our CB male, who is NOT her father) to produce some fine CB2 Russian tortoises in years to come.
Finally, I just have to show off my Amber - she is just shy of 9" long and weighs in at a whopping 1874g. She's a big, big girl! (freshly hosed down in the pic below... I plopped Duke into the pic for size comparison. He's a 5" male).