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CREATING A HOME FOR YOUR REDFOOT TORTOISE

Habitat – Natural and Captive

Redfoot originate from South America where the climate is generally very warm and humid. They are mainly found in open forest, savanna areas, and at Rainforest edge.

Understanding their native habitat will help the new Redfoot owner in setting up a similar captive habitat.

Redfoot need a humid environment. When kept indoors, you can run a warm mist humidifier in the tortoise room to help achieve the high humidity they thrive in. Moistening the substrate in the basking area also helps raise the humidity in the enclosure. Providing shady hiding spots with hide logs, tortoise-safe real or fake plants, a pile of hay to burrow into, etc. will make your Redfoot feel secure. The enclosure needs to be large, with lots of floor space, a variety of micro-climates (from wet/warm to cool/dry), good air flow, a basking area with a good quality UVB lamp, and a dry, cool, dark hiding area.

What you need to have when setting up an indoor enclosure:

Enclosure Suggestions

For Hatchlings and Juvenile Redfoot:

Large cement mixing tub
Large plastic under the bed storage bin Rubbermaid
Holiday Tree Storage Bin
Small kid’s wading pool
A tortoise table
Large boa tub

For Adult Redfoot:

Tortoise Table
Large kid’s wading pool
Large/long stock tank
If you do not own a house dog or ferret, you can section off an area in a room for the tortoise pen. Make sure the floor of the pen is durable, washable and leak proof. The area should be at least 4’x8’ with 12” walls for one adult Redfoot.

*The goal for anything used for a tortoise pen is to have lower walls, lots of floor space so you can have a good temperature gradient, easy to clean, and safe from other family pets (dogs, cats, ferrets, etc.)

NEVER use a fish tank or an aquarium for a tortoise enclosure. The walls are too high, causing the tank to over heat, and there is not enough floor space for the tortoise to roam around.

Baby Redfoot pen using jumbo boa tub


Baby Redfoot tortoise table



























Substrate

For Hatchlings and Juvenile Redfoot:

Sphagnum Moss Cypress Mulch (do not use any other kind of wood mulch)
A combination of Sphagnum and Cypress either mixed together or installed separately in different areas of the pen (Sphagnum and cypress retain moisture well without molding and are not overly dusty when dry)

For Adult Redfoot:

Cypress Mulch is the best choice A 50/50 mix of play sand and coconut coir can be used, but I find it messy, and prefer using Cypress Mulch DO NOT use pellets, walnut shells, cat litter, corn cob, or anything else in a tortoise pen. The risk of impaction is high with these products.

Sphagnum moss with warm-wet to cool-dry




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tilted baby pen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat and UVB Lamps

For Hatchlings to Adult Redfoot:

Redfoot Tortoises do require UVB to properly metabolize the calcium in their food. Natural sunlight is always best, but if your Redfoot is being kept indoors, I recommend the following 100 watt flood mercury vapor UVB bulbs:
T-Rex Active UVB/Heat
Capture the Sun
Powersun

Each of these bulbs will provide UVB and basking level heat so you will not need a secondary heat source.

You will need a 10” metal dome fixture with a ceramic socket. Hang the lamp straight down over one end of the enclosure. You can use a lamp stand, a large hook screwed into a ceiling joist, or a plant hanger screwed into a wall stud. Hang the fixture from a length of chain and, using the links, it is easy to raise and lower the lamp to get the proper basking temp. Do not clamp the lamp to the side of the enclosure. It will shorten the life of the bulb and is a fire hazard if the clamp fails (and they do fail).

Plug the lamp into a heavy duty timer so the lamp turns itself on and off. The lamp should stay on 10 hours a day.

The basking area should be 90 degrees and the cool end of the pen should be 75 to 80 degrees.

Water and Feeding Dishes:

For Hatchlings and Juveniles:

The water dish needs to be very shallow and wide enough for the tortoise to be able to soak itself. For a baby, the water should only be about ” deep; less if it’s a small hatchling.

The water should only come to the bridge of the shell (where the top shell meets the bottom shell)

You must take care not to have a water dish that is a flipping and drowning hazard to the tortoise.

A 4” to 8” diameter plastic plant pot saucer works great.

Feeding on a rough surface ceramic tile will help keep the beak trimmed.

For Adult Redfoot:

A plastic plant pot saucer that is large enough in diameter for the tortoise to soak itself in. The same rule applies; never use a deep water dish that would pose a flipping and drowning hazard. .

Baby Redfoot like to soak in the water dish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outdoor Enclosures

As long as night temps are 60 degrees or above, adult Redfoot can stay outside 24/7.

Hatchlings and baby Redfoot should be brought inside at night.

The outdoor pen should be located in an area that is part sun/part shade. Fresh water in a shallow dish large enough for the Redfoot to soak in should be provided. There should also be a weatherproof hide house so that the tortoise has a dry place to retreat in case of wet weather. I use plastic dog houses and plastic deck boxes. They are weather proof and easy to hose out to clean. The outdoor pen needs to be secure so that the tortoise cannot escape and predators cannot get to the tortoise and kill it. Raccoons, dogs, foxes, and cats can break in and kill your tortoise in a matter of minutes. Even the best behaved family pet will go after a tortoise; it’s just instinct. Make sure the pen is strong and has a well constructed, framed hardware cloth or chain link lid that can be secured with a latch.

http://redfoottortoise.com has a very good list of edible plants that can be planted in an outdoor pen.


Predator proof tortoise pen

Dog kennel tortoise pen

Outdoor adult tortoise pens


Outdoor adult tortoise pens






























Recommended Books and Web Sites:

The best book I have ever read on Redfoot care is: The Redfoot Manual, “A Beginner’s Guide to the Redfoot Tortoise” by Mike Pingleton http://carolinapetsupply.com

This is the must-read book for beginner Redfoot keepers and a very good read for experienced Redfoot keepers. It covers every aspect of captive Redfoot care in an easy to follow format.

Another book that is interesting and informative is: South American Tortoises “Chelonoidis Carbonaria, C. denticulate and C. chilensis” by Sabine Vinke, Holger Vetter, Thomas Vinke, Susanne Vetter

This book is for the Redfoot owner who wants in-depth information and data from field studies of South American tortoises. In addition to the information presented, the book is full of color photographs that are very helpful in understanding the tortoise and its natural environment.

The best Web Site for Redfoot care is:
http://redfoottortoise.com

This site covers any care and feeding questions a Redfoot owner may have. The information is up to date and easy to understand.

If you ever have any questions about Redfoot care, please feel free to contact me from my Web Site http://tortoiseyard.com or email me at tortbaby2000@yahoo.com

Vicki Hale