Sunday, March 22, 2015

Egg season has begun!

Today Timmy girl decided it was time to lay the first clutch of eggs this year. I have suspected that she was gravid, since she was pacing a lot, eating tons, and had scarfed down 1.5 entire cuttlefish bones within a few days.
After 2 weeks of beautiful sunny weather, unfortunately it is cold and rainy again, so putting Timmy outdoors to lay her eggs was not an option. Thankfully, my marvelous Timmy girl is ok with laying eggs indoors into a deep bin filled with warm, soft, moist soil.
When my son observed Timmy digging with her back legs, I set up such a bin near the basking area, with a little ramp up to it, and she knew exactly what it was intended for. Within a few minutes, she started to dig her nest hole!

Timmy starting to dig her nest hole with her back legs
After about 1.5 hours of digging, Timmy started to drop her eggs. She caught each egg with one leg as it came out of her vent. I happened to catch it on my phone camera:
You can see the egg starting to come out of her tail. 

Once the egg was out, Timmy gently moved it into further the hole with her foot

Next egg is on its way out

Timmy uses her foot to catch the egg, so it doesn't fall into the hole and break

Third egg is out. 
Within a few minutes of each other, Timmy laid 3 beautiful little eggs, weighing 20g, 22g, and 22g. These are a little bit smaller than last year's eggs, but still a very normal size. I will incubate them at 89 degrees F for the next 65-75 days.

All tucked in for incubation
When nesting, tortoises go into sort of a trance, and they must be allowed to finish the whole process, from digging a hole, to laying the eggs, to covering up the hole. If they are interrupted (e.g. if they are removed after laying eggs, without being allowed to cover the hole), females have been known to be in a serious funk for many months. This has never happened here, because I make sure that the nesting female does not get interrupted. If I catch the tortoise in the act of laying, I carefully remove each egg from the hole as it is laid, and replace it with a round egg-sized rock. That way the eggs aren't in danger of being crushed. The female doesn't care, and happily covers up the rocks, pats the dirt to firm it down, and walks away.

After laying her eggs, Timmy's legs were super wobbly, but she headed down the ramp, basked for a little while, and then tucked into some fresh weeds I offered her.

You can see that she completely covered her nest hole in the bin before leaving.

Nothing like a good meal after birthing those eggs!
It has been 22 days since I woke Timmy girl up from brumation, and she has not been with a male since last year. However, tortoise females can store viable sperm for many years. If these eggs are fertile, they are due to hatch near the end of May. Last year, Timmy laid a second clutch about 3 weeks after the first clutch, so I am curious to see if this happens the same way this year.


  1. I love you dishpan laying nest. Is that just warm topsoil? Also do you have a ramp for her to get up in there and out or do you just put her in there until she does it?

    1. Hi Randall,
      yes, the dish pan just has warm, slightly moist topsoil - the moisture helps it hold its shape as the tortoise digs (too dry = cave ins and a frustrated tortoise).
      I build a little ramp out of rocks and a piece of driftwood on one end, and then because the tortoises are silly and dive off the other end, I put a half log on the other end, for a gentler descent.
      Last year I put the dish pan in, and had to place the female in there a couple times before she caught on. This year, she saw me put the dish pan in, and before I was finished building her little on-ramp, she climbed in and started to dig. She knew EXACTLY what the bin was meant for. :)

  2. Hi I have two baby Russian about 4 months old, and just hatched a third from another clutch, one of our first hasn't hardly grown under the same condissionsthat the other has nearly doubled in size in, there doesn't seem to be any competition for food.. Any info would be great.. (Tony)

    1. Hi Tony, do they all have the same parents? Are you following the baby tortoise care sheet that I posted here on my blog? If the age difference between them is 4 months, I would not house the new baby with the bigger babies - even if there is no apparent competition, the little one will be stunted by the inhibition of the presence of the others. I bet you will see it thrive and grow in a separate enclosure, with dialy soakings and the other care I talk about in my blog post (
      Best of luck!


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