Understanding the hibernation needs of your Horsefield Tortoise can help it to live a longer and happier life.
You can provide outdoor hibernation if the temperature is 5- 7.5 Celsius (40- 45 Fahrenheit) outdoors during the winter for at least 2 months. If not, hibernate him indoors. The hibernation housing must be very dry, flood-proof and unable for predators to access him.
Start the hibernation process (with the “Before” section above) during the fall season so that the temperature is dropping several weeks before hibernation.
Continue reading to learn more!
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Use a hiding spot and make sure it is out of harms way.
- Commercial grade small dog house
- Upside down plastic storage bin (with entrance cut into one of the sides)
- Box out of wood that has been sealed and finished
- Concrete or brick blocks and a sturdy roof
- Hollow log
- Small garbage can
- Large clay or PVC pipe
- Small shed
Inside the hibernator have the bottom be at least 15 cm (6 inches) of dry, well-drained substrate for him to burrow into and self-regulate his temperature. Then on top of the substrate put peat moss, grass clipping and hay down.
We will set up hibernation in a refrigerator or wine cooler for indoors. This works best for most Horsefield owners because we can regulate the temperature. We will then make a specially constructed box designed so that we can regulate his ideal temperature and humidity needs. The ideal temperature to consistently keep your refrigerator or wine cooler at is between 5- 7.5 Celsius (40- 45 Fahrenheit).
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Specially Designed Box:
- Construct an outside box out of a sturdy, water resistant material such as thick cardboard plywood or other wood
- Then, fill the box with polystyrene chips or crumpled newspaper acting as an insulator
- Next, place a cardboard box inside the outer box. The cardboard box can be 15 cm (6 inches) to 30 cm (12 inches) in each direction of the outer box walls
- Fill the cardboard box with shredded paper. Other options include placing a few inches of top soil with leaves, grass clippings, hay or sphagnum moss on top; this allows the tortoise to dig into the substrate and regulate the temperature a bit more for himself. This also provides some humidity but the substrate should never ever be wet. Place your tortoise inside the cardboard box.
- One tortoise per box
Perform Check Up’s
check and record your tortoises weight once a week to make sure he is not loosing too much weight. Extreme drops in weight (more than 10% of bodyweight) would result in drastic measures of taking your tortoise out of hibernation. A normal and expected weight drop of 1% of its bodyweight is fine. If they urinate they should also be taken out of hibernation. Record all data including start of hibernation, weight and length. Continue to record weight weekly.
Open the door to the refrigerator or wine cooler every 48 hours to provide fresh air and circulation.
The most important thing is keeping a consistent temperature during hibernation. This is especially concerning outdoors because you cannot control the temperature. Keep a thermometer near his hibernating area and keep an eye on it weekly.
MIN – 5 Celsius (40 Fahrenheit)
MAX – 7.5 Celsius (45 Fahrenheit)
Absolute temperature limits:
MIN – 2 Celsius (35.6 Fahrenheit)
MAX – 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit)
It is not okay to let the temperature fall in the “absolute temperature limits.” You need to get the temperature within the ideal conditions. The “absolute temperature limits” are there to warn you that any temperature outside of that will result tragically. Temperatures below 2 Celsius (35.6 Fahrenheit) will freeze your tortoise and results in death. Any temperature above 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) will awake him.
When the 2-4 month duration is up then it is time to take your pet out of hibernation. This can be achieved by raising the temperature over the next few days. When the temperature passes 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) your tortoise will start to awake out of his hibernation. Their systems are depleted of all their vital nutrients and food at this stage.
Here are the steps to take after hibernation:
- Make sure his eyes are clear and open
- Check his tail and back-end
- Bath in slightly warm water
- Return to his normal housing. If the outdoor temperature is not warm keep him inside with a basking light as it is crucial for your tortoise to warm up for his system to start functioning again and passing urine. The housing temperature should be 27 Celsius (80 Fahrenheit) with a basking spot of 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) for him to warm up.
- Offer food the first day but it may take a few days for him to come around to eating
- If there are any problems such us not eating within a week, does not restore energy, signification weight loss or discharge take him to the vet