How to Breed my Horsefield Tortoise
Determining the Sex
Male Horsefield tortoises have longer tails while females have shorter tails. Females are larger in size as an adult.
It’s hard to tell with baby tortoises if they are a boy or girl, it might not always be what you think.
The plastron (bottom of shell) of a Horsefield tortoise is always flat (other types of tortoises have a curved plastron for males).
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The pair should be matched as closely as possible, based on the physical looks, region of birth, geographical locality. These variables will increase the success rate of breeding. It is best to get the pair at the same time and raise them both, as the owner. This increases the success rate as well, much more so that wild caught tortoises.
Also, only select healthy Horsefields to breed. Any Horsefield with a history of bad heath or old age should not breed. And, of course, toroises of the same kind can only breed (ex: Horsefields, Hermann, Galapagos etc.).
If your objective to breed your tortoise then you will definitely want to hibernate each year to provide a seasonal change to produce breeding cues. Mating takes place in the springtime (March, April, May) right as they come out of hibernation. Temperatures are crucial. Make sure the temperature in your housing is correct.
Age & Size
He/she will be will be able to breed at around age 7 to 10, assuming they will be hibernated. They can breed at a sooner age when not hibernated but that is not recommended for breeding. They are at a mature size and able to breed at 10 cm (4 inches) for males and 18 cm (7 inches) for females.
When the female will lay eggs depends on several factors like time of mating, temperature, length of day etc. Most mating happens in the spring after hibernation but the Horsefield tortoise is known to mate year-round. In most case, after hibernation and breeding the egg laying time will come.
The same housing hiding spot that you provide is where the female will lay her eggs. Make sure to have the substrate correct and the eggs are safe from predictors. The substrate needs to consist of at least 15 cm (6 inches) of inches of topsoil with consisting of a mix of sand and soil topped with leaves, grass clippings, hay or sphagnum moss. This will allow the female to dig down enough to lay her eggs. Females often will lay 2 to 3 batches of eggs at 2 week intervals. Make sure you provide enough water for the female (as you should year round) as they use extra water while they lay eggs.
Aggression during Mating
Male Horsefield tortoises can be extremely physically aggressive towards the female around the time of mating. Observe them to make sure it does not get out of control, as it sometimes can, and provide hiding spots for the female (discussed in Housing).
A good trick, if you don’t see any action, is to separate the male for a week or so and then put him back in the same housing as the female. This can reignite his interest after a time away from her.
Another purpose for separation is if the aggression gets out of control. When rejoined this is though to also increase fertility in males.
Once the mother tortoise lays eggs you might be wondering what to do!
If the temperature is correct, no possible predators and the eggs are in a dry area away from the rain then you can have them hatched naturally. If this is the case, keep a protective eye on the eggs and let nature take its course. The tortoises will hatch and emerge all on their own.
In most other cases you will need to hatch the eggs artificially in an incubator. The plus side to this is that it is usually safer and you can choose their sex.
When removing the eggs and putting them in the incubator, do not wash off the little bit of mucous. The mucous fights off germs and bacteria, helping the tortoises hatch safely. For substrate, you can use perlite, soil, sand or peat moss. Each of these substrates will work great.
The duration of this process will take between 50 and 100 days, around 65 days on average. Most of the basic instructions will come with the incubator you choose but the following are a few Horsefield specific rules to know. It needs to be moist but not wet with 60%-80% relative humidity.
Babies right from birth are very independent and on their own. They require the same temperature, food and housing that adults do. Babies can be housed indoor or outdoor.
Babies need to be handles gently as their shells and entire bodies are more delicate. Don’t hibernate baby tortoises their first year. Wait until they are at least one year old.
Watching your eggs hatch and having baby Horsefield tortoises run around is a lot of fun, enjoy!
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