Enclosures - Inside and Out
Planning and designing suitable and interesting enclosures is a fun part of tortoise keeping. Make them as large and as interesting as possible by using different terrains, substrates, surfaces, plants and hiding places. Add rocks, slate and sand areas and make hills from log roll and piled up soil. All these things break up the sightline of the enclosure (therefore making it seem bigger to the occupants) and give interest. Plodding around a flat lawned area must be terribly boring. There are lots of things you can use as hiding places, don't get caught in the "pet shop" trap and think you have to buy expensive ready made hides. Some excellent ideas are plant pots on their sides and partially buried, hollowed logs, terracotta roof/ridge tiles. Anything that is solid and will provide privacy and shelter from the hot sun or rain can be used. Use your imagination.
Plan to add some sort of shelter that the tortoises can access as they wish, this would ideally be a greenhouse/cold frame or shed with basking and uv facilities. Having to put your tortoises outside daily and watch/guess the weather is no fun for them or you. You will see far more natural behaviour from your tortoises if they can choose their temperatures and location.
Below are some ideas for outside enclosures and also for table tops which are perfect for hatchlings/babies. Table top enclosures can be replicated either indoors or out and will give a *far* better environment that an enclosed vivarium which will raise humidity levels and severely limit the temperature gradients which are vital for your tortoise's long term health. Vivaria/tanks may be perfect for some reptiles but this doesn't include tortoises.
Pic: Carol Minter - The "teletubby hill" is created by digging a pit in the soil and then constructing a roof over the top. The opening is supported by bricks. Soil is then piled on top and the area planted suitably. This is used extensively by the tortoises.
Pic: Troya (USA) -This interesting enclosure keeps the inhabitants safe from predators such as dogs and children.
Greenhouse with basking lights and bricks omitted from the foundations (behind the bare hibiscus bush) to allow in/out access to the enclosure.
Outside Russian enclosure which includes plants, rocks, logs, hiding places and many varying levels which allow plenty of interest and exercise.
Pic: Ruth Petford - A table top enclosure for baby tortoises outside (although if it's made light enough, it could easily be carried inside if needed). The wire top stops any threat from birds etc. This can be planted with weeds and plants for natural grazing.
Pic: Sue Brooks -The beginnings of a table top enclosure made from simple lengths of wood, polycarbonate and seed trays to fit.
Pic: Sue Brooks - The finished article. The seed trays can easily be replaced with fresh growing weeds or taken out for cleaning.
Pic: Jane Nicholl -Another example of a well designed outside enclosure for adult tortoises.
A simple yet effective table top for baby tortoises. The top is covered by a wire mesh to stop any threat from cats, birds etc.
Pic: Debby Spiteri - This enclosure shows the entrance for the tortoises to be able to get in and out of the greenhouse as they choose. Suitable weeds and plants can be grown in the enclosure for natural grazing.