Tortoise Care Sheets

Some pictures and text are from other care sheets.  I got permission from those authors and photographers. 

greek tortoise care sheet (pdf)

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Russian tortoise care sheet (pdf)

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From the Nest to your Home

Female nesting

I usually take a picture of the female nesting.  This way I can document who laid the eggs, and it is also nice for you to know who the mother is of your new baby tortoise egg or hatchling.

Collecting the eggs

I take a lot of caution when digging up the eggs.  The nest is packed tight, and it is very easy to break one.

Preparing to ship "Federal Egg-spress"

The egg is safely packaged in a small container surrounded by a "secret" protecting substance.  It is then placed into a deli cup full of vermiculite, which is placed into an insulated box with a Fed Ex label, so the Stork knows where to gently drop it off at your home. 

Setting up your incubator

I recommend the Hovabator 1602N.  Set it to 88-89 degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity between 60-70%.  Humidity can be created with a cup of water.  I sometimes will put a paper towel in the cup which slows evaporation down a little.   

Unboxing to incubator

Carefully remove the egg from the secret substance. place it in the supplied deli cup full of vermiculite. Place it into the incubator close to the heat source, but not directly under it. Enjoy the sticker and Magnet!!!!

Chalking

Majority of tortoise eggs have a slightly yellow to orange hue when first laid. In many cases, if the egg is fertile it will “chalk,” or develop a flat white color over the first few days of incubation. This change is due to the initial development of extraembryonic membranes. In some tortoise species you will first see a small white circular white spot on the most top surface of the egg. The white spot will continue to grow in a circular fashion. This can take several days to completely encompass the entire egg. once completely chalked, the waiting game begins.

Chalking to Pipping

Chalking is complete

Now that your egg has completely chalked, try not to touch or disturb it in anyway.  This is a very crucial time for a tortoise egg.  An air sac is starting to form, and if it gets moved, there is a possibility it could rupture and cause the egg to go bad.

Candling

I don't like to candle before day 30, this prevents any accidental movement.  Using a small non LED flashlight, you can gently hold the light against the shell.  You are looking for red veins.  This indicates you have a fertile egg!

Check Temperature and Humidity often

I suggest checking daily, if not multiple times daily.  Temperature should be around 88-89 degrees Fahrenheit. keep humidity flirting between 60- 70%.  This can be annoying to maintain.  I sometimes pour water on the bottom of the incubator, and I always keep a cup of water near the heat source.

Day 70

On day 70 I like to start mimicking the rainy season.  I spray warm water on the inside of the deli cup.  Just a few sprays, nothing soaking.  This increases the humidity level surrounding the egg.

Pipping

Pipping is when your tortoise uses it's front legs to scratch through the inner and outer membrane and then uses it's egg tooth to break the shell.  As soon a you notice pipping, place the egg in another container with a damp paper towel. Don't touch the egg again until the tortoise completely hatches.  Never assist in breaking the shell. ALWAYS make sure the paper towel is damp with warm water. This process could take up to 48 hours, be patient.

Keep hatchling in the incubator

Keep your hatchling in the incubator for at least 5 days.  Keep the paper towel damp, this will prevent dehydration and prevent the yolk sac from drying out.  Soak your hatchling once a day in very shallow water for 5 minutes.  Soak in the incubator. I also place a fresh piece of green in the container.  I have seen hatchlings eat on day 1. 

Hatchling; Incubator to first enclosure

Enclosure for first month

I keep it simple for the first month. I use a 20 gallon rubbermaid container. This is easy to control the temperatures, and you can spray it down to keep humidity levels high. In the beginning, all you need is a water source, place to eat, and a humid hide.  When the hatchling is three months old, you can make a fancy enclosure, but I prefer to keep them in this type of enclosure for as long as possible.  When you're hatching the tortoise yourself, please use a rubbermaid container for the first three months.

Substrate

I use a 50/50 mix of eco earth and forest floor.  Both are Zoo Med products.  For hatchlings I like to use a depth of about 1.5".  Its deep enough for the hatchling to completely burrow itself.  It also allows the hatchling to control its temperature and humidity. The deeper into the substrate, the cooler and more moist it will be.

Lighting

It is very important to provide heat and UVB for your hatchling.

For heat, I have found that I can control it best by using a 75 watt basking light.  I use an adjustable light stand to hang the heat lamp above one side of the enclosure.  

For UVB, I use a 10.0 UVB REPTISUN 22" lamp.  Do NOT use a coiled UVB light.  It has been documented that it causes eye issues in hatchling.

Introduce variety of food

I give the hatchlings something new almost every day. This is the list of what I feed weekly. I'm not strict with it, but main take home is, variety yields a healthy tortoise!

Sunday-Mazur (original blend)

Monday- Dandelion leaves

Tuesday -Spring mix (minus spinach)

Wednesday - Mazuri original blend

Thursday - Arugula

Friday- Escarole

Saturday - cactus pads & red pear cactus

Soak daily!

It is very important to soak your hatchling daily.  Use a small tuberware container, smaller the better, it's easier to control the water temperature.  I use a depth of half my finger nail. Soak for five minutes in luke warm water, then place back into its enclosure and provide food.

Light schedule

I use a Zilla power center. You can automatically control when two different lights can go on and off.

For heat source, I like to keep mine on for 12 hours.  It is important that the hatchling cools down at night.  No heat source at night. It will burrow down into the substrate.

For UVB, I like to keep mine on for 12 hours.