Everybody who keeps tortoises has different ideas on the ‘correct’ treatment they require. Having read lots of books by different, very experienced keepers, I hope I am close to providing ideal conditions. I do not say the way I keep my tortoises is necessarily the text book way, but my tortoises seem contented and healthy and are breeding, so I must be doing okay!
All groups are treated in a similar manner. I wake them from hibernation on the 1st March by turning on the heaters in their boxes and turning on UVB and infrared lights just outside their boxes. Within a few hours they are beginning to stir. Once they are awake, they are bathed in warm water and again every day for a few weeks to encourage them to urinate and drink. They start to feed almost immediately they have warmed up sufficiently. Any that are not seen feeding are monitored closely.
On warm days, which we often get in mid-March, they are put out into the greenhouses with UVB and infrared lights. If hot enough, the tortoises are given access to their outside enclosures. Tortoises are taken back to their inside pens at night and are kept there if the days are cold or wet.
As summer approaches, and days and nights are warm, they are left out in their summer quarters. At this stage I only bathe them once a week. When the days start getting shorter and colder, they revert back to spring procedure, and start going back inside at night and on wet and cold days. By mid -October they are usually back inside full time. At this stage all tortoises are weighed and checked against Jackson’s ratio graph to see if they are in good enough condition to hibernate. I stop feeding them on 31st October in preparation for hibernation, but temperatures are kept up to aid them digesting any food they have inside them.
By mid- November I start shortening their days on the time switches, and by the end of the month all heating is turned off. Within a few days most of them have settled down in their boxes and are quiet. The boxes are filled with shredded paper under and above the tortoises, the lid put on and a duvet wrapped around the box.
The temperature remains fairly static in the boxes, provided we do not get too long a warm spell. The building has convector heaters around the walls controlled by a thermostat to stop the temperature dropping down to freezing, stats are set at 3C but I try to keep the room temperature between 5°C and 8°C. If the weather is too warm (above 10°C) I transfer them to shoe boxes filled with shredded paper and place them in chiller fridges set at 5°C and they stay there for the rest of the winter.
Babies and juveniles are not hibernated, but I do reduce the day length during winter.
Learn how to care for young tortoises
Learn more about the best diet for your tortoise