Fencing for a large tortoise is easy. We use 2x6x16 wood planks. That we purchase from Bobs Sawmill in Eustis, Fl. We made some improvements to Jamie AKA J”Normous, The African Tortoises’ enclosure. Since he is nearly 200 pounds, thinking ahead makes us good exotic pet owners.
The first consideration when constructing a tortoise yard is safety. Tortoises should stay in, and predators should stay out. Also, as escape artists, tortoises require both a below-ground barrier and something they cannot scale.
Digging a trench a foot below ground to start your wall and burying hardware cloth under the enclosure’s floor are two generally good ideas. Distractions and structures inside the pen, such as edible plants, rocks and hiding places, also help keep idle minds from thoughts of escape.
Besides subterranean escape attempts, you must also consider escapes over the top. Many enthusiasts use a one-and-a-half- or two-turtles rule in determining wall height, but turtles tend to stack. Many tortoises climb astoundingly well. Smoother solid wood or siding makes climbing much harder than hardware cloth or chain-link fences.
What Is Not To Love?
Sulcata tortoises (Geochelone sulcata), aka African Spurred Tortoises, are excellent pets for many reasons. They live incredibly long lives, are very easy to care for, eat a plant-based diet, and enjoy human interaction.
Many people start out with a hatchling sulcata tortoise, but eventually, that baby tortoise will mature into a large animal that can weigh anywhere from fifty to 200 pounds! When caring for a reptile that large, it’s important to make sure that it has a space big enough to call home, and for most people, this means keeping the tortoise outdoors in their backyard.
Luckily, sulcatas thrive in outdoor environments, provided that the temperatures don’t fluctuate too high or too low. In fact, if you visit almost any zoo, you’ll see that the sulcata tortoise exhibit houses the animals outdoors in the open because that’s just the best habitat for these reptiles.
How Do We Know When Our Tortoise Is Ready To Go Outdoors?
- If your tortoises’ shell should be at least ten inches long, six to eight inches wide, and four to six inches tall.
- If your tortoise is too large for a 100-gallon tank.
- If your tortoise eats and defecates regularly and burrows normally.
- If your tortoise seems healthy and has no abnormal behaviors that would indicate issues with its well-being.
We highly recommend setting up a pen within your backyard, even if your yard happens to already be fenced in. This is helpful because as your tortoise grows, you can expand its pen to accommodate its need for more space. Once your tortoise is very large, you can allow it to freely roam your backyard.
Just like any reptile habitat, an outdoor pen will need to include the things your tortoise needs to stay healthy. This includes a water dish or soaking facility, plenty of vegetation to graze on (both naturally occurring in your backyard and prepared meals), and any hide spaces and/or decorations you wish to include. Just keep in mind when adding objects to a sulcata enclosure that these tortoises can actually climb. And they can breakout of virtually any enclosure if they really want to. As you can see in this video…