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Housing Tortoises Outdoors

When your tortoise becomes large enough (usually 3-4 years old) they are ready to be housed outdoors. At this age your tortoise should be well established and hearty with a hard shell. First you want to make sure that your grass is natural, and not sprayed with any pesticides or fertilizing agents if possible. If you have a flower or vegetable garden that needs to be fertilized or sprayed, you should fence that particular area in. Find a good location to build an enclosure for your tortoise. The location should have a good deal of sunlight for them to bask and get warmed up during the day. Shade is also important, so try to pick a spot that has a tree or some shade cover on one side. For the substrate, your looking for something that will retain moisture and humidity such as grass or cypress mulch. Mulch should be used as the bedding where the tortoise home will be placed and grass should be planted through out the rest of the enclosure. A mister system is a good idea during the summer to maintain humidity in dry climates.

Tortoises are grazers that enjoy roaming from plant to plant and eating a little bit at each stop. So in turn, you should have a mixture of different grasses, weeds, flowers, plants and other edible landscape planted through out. A few more edible plants include turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory, watercress, hibiscus, mulberry leaves, grape leaves, dandelions, rose petals, watercress, zucchini/squash leaves, prickly pear fruit and pads, fig leaves, banana leaves, clovers, snail vines, honeysuckles, herbs, hollyhock, English marigolds and a lot other plants as well. There is a great deal of information available on edible and toxic plants through our "LINKS" page.

The tortoise enclosure should have all corners capped to prevent escape. Tortoises are better at climbing than most would think. Some rocks or landscape items should also be in the enclosure to break up the tortoises line of sight if housed with multiple tortoises. This will help prevent fighting and territory disputes. Also it will provide something for the tortoise to climb over and get exercise. Place a cuttle-fish bone in the enclosure as well for them to get extra calcium and help maintain their beak.

During the winter months depending on where you live, supplemental heat might need to be provided. Simply place a ceramic heat emitter and fixture above the entrance of their home, fastened securely. This will keep warmth in their home and heat the air flow if a breeze is present. During winter you can also double up on the amount of mulch you have in the tortoises hide so they will be able to burrow down a little farther and conserve there heat that they acquired during the day basking.