First off, before we dig into this article, know that a Russian tortoise is the same as a Horsefield tortoise. This is important when it comes to buying things for your pet, to know that he goes by a few names. For the best insider information that I do not publish on this site be sure to enter your email above for my famous Email Care Course (at no charge), it will get you from point A to point B the fastest with this stuff! After you enter your email and get instant access then read the rest of this article!
Housing and hibernation are two of the most important aspects of caring for a Russian tortoise that can be kept indoors or outdoors. A Russian tortoise will often go through a natural cycle, which includes a few months of hibernation during the fall and winter. This hibernation period generally occurs between October and March. A tortoise will burrow into the ground until the air temperature rises. The best time for hibernation is when the outside temperature is between 10 degrees Celsius and 18 degrees Celsius.
Many people keep a Russian tortoise as a pet. This means that pet owners will need to consider various factors if they intend to hibernate their tortoise. A tortoise that is kept as a pet should hibernate between two and four months of the year. The shorter period of hibernation is permissible as pet owners are able to control its environment. One important thing to keep in mind is to wait until a tortoise has reached at least one year of age. If a tortoise is under one year old, then its weight and size might potentially result in the death of the animal.
A tortoise that is big and healthy will be able to hibernate without any problems. If your tortoise is sick or underweight, then a trip to the vet is necessary. The reason is an underweight or sick tortoise will be less likely to survive during hibernation. This means you should measure and weigh the tortoise to find out if its health is adequate. The average weight for hibernation is between 2,500 and 3,000 grams. The average length is at between 240 and 260 millimeters. One important aspect to realize with hibernation is your tortoise will not have any nutrition or food available.
Limit Food Intake
Tortoises should not have any food in their system when beginning hibernation. The reason is the cycle of digestion will decrease and can potentially lead to death. This means you will need to reduce food to a minimal amount over a span to two to four weeks. The tortoise should be placed in warm water many times to ensure its system is completely flushed.
Housing a Tortoise
Successful hibernation of a Russian Tortoise will require the proper substrate and housing. If you make sure to take the proper care when hibernating your tortoise, then less problems will occur. One aspect a pet owner needs to know is the proper size of the housing. Adult tortoises will require about one square meter of housing. You may need a separate area if you have more than one turtle of each sex.
The most important thing with any type of housing for a Russian tortoise is having a hiding spot that is sufficient. A hiding spot will need to have barriers that are visible. This means using any container that is small or even a small doghouse. A tortoise will need a suitable hiding spot for hibernating and other activities, such as egg laying. The substrate for the housing should be sandy soil that is at a depth of at least six inches. This will be suitable for burrowing for hibernation in the winter. The housing that you will need for your tortoise depends on where it will be kept.
Two to four weeks prior to hibernation you will need to reduce the amount of food for the tortoise. The hibernation process should begin in the fall as the temperature will steadily fall. This will eliminate any extreme temperature changes. Fill a container with water that is at least chin-deep. This will ensure the tortoise is well hydrated and will expel any waste. Put the tortoise in the water multiple times to ensure all waste is expelled. Keep a record of the weight loss that occurs during hibernation. Health risks may potentially occur if too much weight is lost.
The housing to use for hibernation needs to be a container with substrate that includes peat moss, basic grass clippings, and hay or straw. The temperature needs to be between 4 and 10 degrees Celsius for at least two to three months. Make sure to keep the container away from other animals or anyone curious about your tortoise. Another option is to mix substrates with a high-quality packaged dirt.
Hibernating a Russian tortoise outdoors is a good option based on climate and location. If you are in an area that is not surrounded by people, then this option may be preferred. One thing to keep in mind is a specific enclosure may be needed to protect the tortoise.
Another aspect to keep in mind is the outside temperature. Temperatures outside may fluctuate and not be in the ideal range. Successful hibernation can occur outdoors in temperatures that may range from a low of -7 degrees Celsius during the night to a high of 18.3 degrees Celsius during the day. You should create the housing for hibernation that is similar to a cave-like structure. A dog house will offer you the best result.
The housing will need to offer protection from rain, changes in the weather, and any predators that may be in the area. You need to use the same type of substrate for the bedding.
Coming Out of Hibernation
Hibernation will come to an end after a two to three month period between October and March. March is when temperatures will rise and should exceed 13 degrees Celsius regularly.
Things to Remember
People who live in areas with extreme weather conditions should not hibernate their tortoise outside. A tortoise will be better suited to being in temperatures that are controlled. The only reason for a tortoise owner to choose not to hibernate is when there is only one tortoise or breeding is not necessary.