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How egg-citing, you are thinking about becoming the new owner of a baby tortoise or two! Your tortoise can live to well over 100 years of age. They have been seen at 120 years old actively searching for food and breeding and so your good care of them (husbandry) is vital particularly at this early age to ensure they grow into a healthy and happy specimen. Here are some tips to get your started…

Equipment Needed:

A tortoise table, water dish and food dish (jam jar lids), heat/UVB lamp and holder and a timer switch. Also, you may wish to purchase an accurate thermometer to take readings of the temperatures within the enclosure and a set of electronic scales (in increments of one gram) to record their weight increase.

Water: A shallow dish of fresh drinking water should be available at all times. Hatchlings enjoy a regular bath in warm water. The water should be shallow as they are only tiny, but sufficient enough so that they can dip their heads in but not so deep that they cannot lift their heads above the water level. Remove them after a bowel movement or when they try to escape from the container.
Supplements: We use a calcium supplement on their leaves. You can lightly sprinkle calcium carbonate powder or a squirt of liquid calcium on their leaves a couple of times a week to ensure good shell growth. If required, we have found (Nutrobal) vitamins to be good in small doses.
Lighting: Ultraviolet light from the sun or a lamp is advisable to increase the tortoises body temperature in order to digest its food. The lamp should be left on for a period of time which reflects the daylight hours at that time of year when access to hot natural sunlight/heat is not available. The tortoises basking area (one area of the tortoise table) should be around 35°C with a background temperature of around 17°C to 22°C. No heat is required at night unless temperatures are reaching less than 10°C to 15°C.
Handling: Hatchlings can still be quite soft, almost rubbery. Pick them up between the thumb and first finger, across the midriff (not the head and tail) and hold your other hand underneath for safety. Always supervise young children around tortoises.
Record Keeping: Tortoises can be weighed and measured regularly. If hatchlings are weighed weekly this will allow you to ensure they are not losing weight as this is a sign that they are not well or are having problems eating and/or drinking. This record can be kept for life to keep a check on their progress. As they get older a monthly record is sufficient.
Vetinary Care: A healthy tortoise has bright shiny eyes, a dry nose, firm faeces and is active. Let’s hope this is never required however, if at some stage you need to obtain expert vetinary help or advice, it is sensible to familiarise yourself with a local vet who specialises in reptile (preferably tortoise) care. Seers Croft in Faygate, West Sussex offer such services. The Tortoise Trust website also details specialists across the UK.

You are now all set to rear your new baby tortoise/s; all there is that is left to do is to think of a name! We do hope they bring you many years of happiness and we look forward to hearing from you with news and pictures of their progress. Good luck…


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