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How Do I Build an Outdoor Tortoise Enclosure?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards

The first step of building an outdoor tortoise enclosure is making an enclosed area with either a wire or wooden fence. Soil inside the enclosure should be loose and well drained. Plants should be non-toxic to the animals, and they should also be from the tortoises' natural habitats, if possible. Other necessities for an outdoor tortoise enclosure usually include hide boxes, rocks, logs, and a clean water source.

Some sort of fence is usually needed to create an outdoor tortoise enclosure. A wire fence, such as one made from chain link, can be used, but a fence with smooth sides is usually preferred. Many tortoises have a habit of climbing certain structures, and a chain link fence would just make the climbing easier. When using a wire fence for a tortoise enclosure, it is usually recommended that a short wooden fence is constructed at the bottom to deter the animals from trying to climb out.

There are dozens of species of tortoises, and some will live up to hundreds of years old while others can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.
There are dozens of species of tortoises, and some will live up to hundreds of years old while others can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.

A wooden fence is usually best for an outdoor tortoise enclosure. Cedar, or pressure-treated lumber that does not contain arsenic can be used to create a long-lasting enclosure. Drain holes should be drilled into the bottom of this type of fence to prevent the area from flooding during periods of heavy rain.

A lip added to the top of an enclosure will usually help prevent tortoises from climbing over a fence. A top for an outdoor tortoise enclosure can also be made from either chain link or chicken wire. This cover will not only prevent the animals from escaping, but it will also keep any dangerous animals out. It is also a good idea to bury chain link a few inches deep around the inside perimeter of the fence. Tortoises will dig into the soil, and this wire mesh can help prevent them from burrowing out of the enclosure.

Most tortoises are very sensitive to dampness, and overly moist conditions can contribute to some diseases and infections. This is especially true for desert tortoises. The soil, however, should not contain any toxic fertilizers or other chemicals.

The vegetation in an outdoor tortoise enclosure is also very important, since it provides a place for shade and an occasional snack. All plants inside of a tortoise enclosure should be non-toxic. Some plants that may be toxic to these types of animals include chrysanthemums and pepper plants. If at all possible, the plants should also be found in the tortoise's natural habitat.

A hiding place is another very important addition to an outdoor tortoise enclosure. These provide a place for tortoises to get away when they are feeling shy or cool down when they get too hot. During cold weather, heated hides also offer a place to stay warm. Sheds and dog houses can be heated during cold months for large outside tortoises. Large buried flower pots and hollowed out logs can provide excellent hiding places for small tortoises.

Large rocks should also be added to an outdoor tortoise enclosure. These can provide a place for the animals to climb and bask in the sun when cold. Many tortoises will also dig underneath large flat rocks for hiding spots.

Clean water is another essential part of a tortoise enclosure. Not only will they drink the water, but many tortoises will also submerge themselves in it. A concrete pond or a pond created with a pond liner is ideal, but large shallow containers will also work. Even a small children's pool could provide water for an outdoor tortoise enclosure. It is important that this water is kept clean, however, since the animals may defecate in it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What materials are best for constructing an outdoor tortoise enclosure?

For durability and safety, use materials like untreated wood for framing and wire mesh for fencing, ensuring the mesh is fine enough to prevent escape or predators from entering. According to the Tortoise Trust, a solid base such as concrete can prevent burrowing escape attempts, while natural soil areas allow for normal digging behavior.

How large should an outdoor tortoise enclosure be?

The size of the enclosure depends on the species and number of tortoises. Generally, the larger the better, with a recommended minimum of 10 square feet per tortoise. The University of California's Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital suggests providing ample space for exercise and natural behaviors to promote physical and mental health.

What type of shelter should be included in a tortoise enclosure?

A shelter or hide is essential for protection from weather and to provide a sense of security. It should be sturdy, weatherproof, and insulated if you live in a cooler climate. The shelter should also be easy to clean and large enough for the tortoise to turn around comfortably, as advised by reptile experts.

How do I ensure the enclosure is secure from predators?

To protect against predators, the enclosure should have a secure top if aerial predators are a concern, and the walls should be buried deep enough to deter digging predators. The Humane Society recommends at least 12-18 inches deep. Additionally, use locks on gates and inspect the enclosure regularly for potential weak spots.

What plants are safe to include in a tortoise enclosure?

Choose non-toxic plants that are safe for tortoises to nibble on, such as dandelions, clover, and certain grasses. Avoid plants that are poisonous to tortoises like oleander and foxglove. The Tortoise Table website provides a comprehensive list of safe and unsafe plants for tortoise enclosures, which can be a valuable resource.

How can I maintain the right climate in the enclosure?

Maintaining the right climate involves providing areas of sun and shade, as well as a water source for hydration and cooling. For temperature-sensitive species, heating elements may be necessary. The World Chelonian Trust recommends monitoring temperatures throughout the enclosure to ensure they stay within the species-specific optimal range.

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    • There are dozens of species of tortoises, and some will live up to hundreds of years old while others can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.
      By: mgkuijpers
      There are dozens of species of tortoises, and some will live up to hundreds of years old while others can weigh in the hundreds of pounds.