Monday, September 29, 2014

More Russian tortoise eggies!

This last month has been very rewarding in the tortoise egg department. Three of my Russian tortoise females laid eggs for the first time. Mila laid one single but large egg outside. Lady laid 3 beautiful eggs outside a couple weeks later, and today my HUGE (9"SCL) female Amber laid eggs for the first time, too.

Lady, digging a nest hole outside, and in the pic below, her 3 eggs.
Amber has been pacing and digging test nests outdoors for a few weeks, but nothing quite seemed to please her. She was covered by a male for the first time in August, so she may have not been nesting seriously yet. However, last week the weather got cold and I had to bring the tortoises inside. Within a day, Amber started digging nest holes again. The substrate in her tortoise table is generous, but not deep enough to dig a nest hole (6"+ deep), so I added 1.5 more bags of ACE topsoil to provide her with deep enough substrate (have I mentioned she is a BIG girl?!).

Well, she got really serious about digging nest holes yesterday, and again this morning, and finally this afternoon she laid 2 big, beautiful eggs. One weighs 34g, one weighs 30g (the big one came first). She was absolutely exhausted after that. After a good soak she is now dug in for the night.

Amber digging her nest hole by the basking spot, and her eggs.
This means I currently have 6 eggs in the incubator, due to hatch ever 2 weeks starting October 15th-ish. Things will be busy in the hatchling care department this Fall!

I should mention that breeding Russian tortoises is more involved than just throwing together a male and a female. This was the first year I got eggs, and I believe there is a direct correlation with the following factors:
  1. The tortoises hibernated this winter
  2. The tortoises spent the Spring and Summer outside. This means they had LOTS of space to roam, good fresh and varied food, and plenty of natural sunshine. 
  3. I added a second male to my 6 girls. Roz is a cutie, but he strangely is only interested in my Timmy girl. He ignores other females. The new captive-bred male Duke is a rapist is not as choosy. Clearly he has "done his job" fertilizing these eggs. 
  4. The tortoises had constant access to cuttlefish bone, which they helped themselves to generously.
  5. The females (and males) are in excellent health, and at a good, healthy weight.
As mentioned in previous posts, males can be very aggressive towards females, and so care must be taken to protect the females from constant male attention. A ratio of 3 females per 1 male is recommended for the sake of the female's sanity. Even then, it may become necessary to separate the male temporarily or permanently.

One of this Spring's hatchlings
Stay tuned for hatch announcements, which are sure to come throughout the next weeks and months!

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