Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: November 2007



November 29, 2007

Room Service

Since it has been getting colder, I've worked on getting Frankie more comfortable in the gecko room. He has his own area -- sectioned off when we are not around but when I am downstairs he can roam everywhere. He has his box full of paper to sleep in at night with a heater underneath. Now I have set up an overhead heater for him to sit under during the day.

Frankie has never really had an overhead heater. Most of his overhead heat has been sunlight and halogen lights. He saw where the heat was and would go under light sources. This new heater is a ceramic heater. He can't see that there will be heat under it -- he has to feel it. So, I had to train him to go under it.

I would turn it on (had to heat it up first) and then I would put him under it but on top of a plastic lid. I did this over and over until he would see the plastic lid and could figure out that if he sat there he would feel the heat from above. Took a week for him to figure this out.

Now I can't get Frankie out of the gecko room. He has his nice comfy box to sleep, a nice hot heat lamp to sit under and Leann will bring him grass and weeds. So now when I try to get him to go outside, he takes one look and turns back around! Yesterday it was 62ºF, sunny, no wind and perfect for a good bask. He stopped five feet past the door, sat for five minutes and went back inside under his nice hot lamp. So I put him on his wagon and pulled him into the yard and sat him in the sun. Fifteen minutes later and I find him in his outdoor enclosure going to sleep! I opened his outdoor enclosure and he promply came out and went into the house and under his nice hot heat lamp.

He will not graze outside! He is waiting for me to bring him some food!

Well, I am on strike! No more food, buddy. Get warm and sit there until you get hungry enough to go outside and eat. If it is warm I am not bringing any more chow!
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Frankie waiting for chow.

November 26, 2007

Dirt Bag

This weekend, I picked up a bag of organic top soil for the box turtles. I put it into a tall plastic enclosure (its a cat box that has extra high sides to it) and filled it half up with the dirt. I put the turtles in. They sat there as if to say "what the heck is this?" "It's dirt you dummies, now dig in and make yourselves comfortable." They continued to sit there. So much for bright ideas. Then the exodus from the box began.

The baby turtle loves his enclosure of dirt. He is always digging around. He sleeps under the dirt and in the morning, sticks his head out to see what is happening. The big box turtles like doing this outside so what is the big deal with their new box of dirt?

Soooo, I went outside and gathered some leaves (damp to wet because it rained last night). I placed the leaves on top of the box turtles. Now this should make them more at home. Okay, so Mama Turtle seemed to accept it, Big Turtle took more time, but Brown Eyes completely rebelled. She wasn't going to sit in any dirt. I put her back inside three times. I had to take her feet of the sides more than that. She kept climbing over both the other turtles. It was hours before she surrendered to the dirt.

Come on, turts. This it like taking a prisoner from a cell where they had to sleep on a metal bed and putting him in a cell with a bed roll - he is not going to turn down the bed roll. It feels better. Doesn't it? I mean I bought organic dirt!
(In the picture below, there are two turtles barely visible at 1:00 and one turtle at 8:00 --the two at 1:00 are barely visible but different color than leaves)
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November 24, 2007

Amazing Aggression

Frankie is doing better. Amazing what increased temperatures will do for a sulcata. He has stayed inside each night. Every morning I plug in his hot pad and he gets warmed up. For the night he was feeling the worse, the pad was on all night. Being inside means I have lots of sulcata poop and pee to clean but such sacrifices are okay if we get rain in return.

Last night, we took Frankie to our local PetSmart for their in store pet costume contest. No one has called us since last night so it looks as if he didn't get a prize - big surprise to me since I didn't see anything that looked near as good or cool as Frankie in his pumpkin costume. I got a pic of Frankie and me. I look cute and so does Frankie. :rolleyes:
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Strange thing happen while we were at Pet Smart.

Frankie has never given much interest in any dog. Usually he ignores them. There must have been 30 dogs around him.  But he came across this adult short hair golden retriever and decided this dog needed his butt kicked.  Frankie got real aggressive. Frankie kept "running" at the dog.  At one point Frankie stood real tall on his front feet as if to make himself look bigger than the dog (I thought Frankie was getting ready to "show his penis" as this is the stance he usually takes when he does). I had to get between dog and tortoise. 

When the dog was out of sight Frankie returned to his usual self. His behavior in front of the dog was the most aggressive I have ever seen Frankie.

I have no idea what made Frankie decided to pick a fight.  

Oh, it was cold out last night...45 turtles were inside.

November 23, 2007

Soft Spot

Frankie stayed in all day yesterday on account is was below 45º F and no sun. He was quite bored. But, he got some Thanksgiving table scraps - pumpkin, green beans, carrots, 1/2 apple. Not too bad for a sulcata.

I gave him a chance to go outside today - its about 10º warmer and its sunny. He was out for about 45 minutes when he decided to look for a place to dig in. He has a spot near the back fence where leaves gather. The bad news is he has got it dug down to the bottom of the board. I need to keep him from digging here or he will dig right under the fence. Most of the fence in this area is on rock - no where to dig, but this spot is a bit of soft soil and he likes it.

Anyway, got him inside, put him under his heat lamp, gave him a carrot and let he go to sleep in his box.

I need to find ways to amuse a 45 pound sulcata living in a basement.

November 19, 2007

An Apple A Day

A really nice sunny, warm day for Frankie. I can tell where ever he is because he "crunches" in the leaves. Cute.

This morning, I got him to walk as far and the first batch of grass but he decided that would be a great place to bask so he went no further into the backyard. He sat there for about 30 minutes. Now I have other things to do in the house and I can't pick the monster up soooo, time for a trick. I got a apple and ate it in front of him. That peaked his interest. Finally I offered him the core. It worked. He followed me into the yard. We were both happy. He was in the yard and I could go do other things and he got a treat.

At least getting him back inside the house is easier....sometimes.

November 16, 2007

Baby, baby, baby

Well, I am just blown away - I had my first incubated turtle hatch last night. I have had lots hatch outside in-situ, but never any successfully indoors. Way Cool!

Of course, I am frantic to do everything right. With all my reptile experience you would think I would know what I am doing, but I am so afraid that I will goof something up.

Anyway, here is the precious thing.
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It will be in there from 24 hours or a bit more. Until it absorbs all the yoke.

Frankie is coping well with the cooler weather. He is nice and hot when he finally goes outside around 11:00 am. He is ready to come back in by 2:00 pm. That is just enough time for him to get some walking and grazing in. Should keep him happy. He is behaving himself in the gecko room.

I am working on training him to get "going to the backyard". He has wood posts on their side that guide him up to the yard. It is still slow going cause he want to graze the grass in front of the fence before going through the gate. He gets there.

November 13, 2007

Morning Boxies

This morning, I treated the box turtles to some running around time in the living room and a treat of corn. Since it was warm, I took them to the front patio for the treat so they could sit in the sun, too. Big Turtle and Mama Turtle adore corn and enjoyed their treat thoroughly. Brown Eyes, on the other hand, doesn't like vegetables and I have to trick her into eating them - mix a bit of corn with cat food. While eating the cat food, a corn will get in.

Cat food is not a good food at all for turtles so I consider it a rare treat. I would say that Brown Eyes and sometimes the other box turtles, get some four or five times yearly. Since I am hoping to hibernate them, I thought the cat food with its high fat content would be okay.

I also gave each of them a drop of vitamin A complex. Again, mostly to prepare for hibernation.

Big Turtle is extremely difficult to dose with anything. When I first got her (a rehab case), she was sick with pneumonia. She was on anti-biotic shots for weeks. She was sick with upper respirator illness several times after that and had to have shots. So, she has learned that being picked up by me is a potential for pain. She has not had any shots in probably four years, but she doesn't forget easy.

Big Turtle will clamp both ends up (usually peeing as well). I will wait for her to open the front end just a little and then I put a small wooden stick between the top and bottom carapace to keep her from clamming up entirely. For these vitamin A drops, I simply drop them into the front of her beak and wait for them to seep into her mouth. Once the most of the drops are in the mouth I put her down and she will relax, releasing the wood stick. This is the most humane method I have been able to devise to accomplish what needs to be done.

Frankie doesn't hibernate at all.

November 7, 2007

Two Freezes

We have had two nights in a row with temps into the 30's. All turtles and plants inside!  was already bringing the turtles inside for the night. I had to dig up Mama Turtle and Brown Eyes from the dirt but since Big Turtle can't bury herself, she is easier to find. They sleep in a old plastic box on top of Frankie's cardboard box (which of course, is where Frankie sleeps).

Yesterday, I checked on them at 7:00 am while I was doing my morning watering of geckos. Frankie was still asleep as were the box turtles. When I went back at 9:30 am, Frankie had peed all over his paper and was sitting across the room as if to say "you didn't expect me to sit in that, did you?" So, my first big chore of the day was cleaning up what always seems to be a gallon of Frankie pee.

Which brings me to a discussion I read about "stinky sulcata pee". Someone was saying they can't stand it when they keep their sulcata is inside because it pees and really stinks up everything. Now, I have to wonder if they aren't prepared for the pee (put down paper or something to catch it!) or are not cleaning up after it (like moping with soap and water, and taking the pee soaked newspaper to the outside trash). They were discussing how very horrible the smell is. Now this is what I wonder - am I immune to the stink or am I just doing a proper clean up?

Only time will tell.


November 5, 2007

Pre-Winter Changes

This weekend we were to host a number of Greg's co-workers for a pot luck dinner. Regretfully, Greg didn't get invitations out to the Saturday event until last Tuesday. I knew that such late invites would bring fewer people and only two of the dozen invited showed up - Kevin and Loretta.

Kevin, whom I have always enjoyed his company, had his first visit out here. He was in time to see Frankie head from the backyard into the basement for the night. Loretta arrived just in time to help Greg and Kevin water all the geckos before the lights went out.

One of the benefits of this event for us includes a very clean house and.  With fewer people showing up it was a more relaxed evening.

Time changed this weekend (I dislike Daylight Savings - why don't we permanently adjust our clocks by 30 minutes and leave them there forever!!!! - Gads Zooks) which means watering, feeding and getting Frankie in and out of the house all changes. The gecko lights are on less and less during the day. Turtles are less active.

Winter changes so much around here. Frankie, who lives on a short day schedule except during the hottest time of the summer, has even shorter days. It is 9:32 am right now and Frankie is still sitting in his "night box". He is awake, just not walking around. By the time I get downstairs at 10:00 am, it will be time to get him outside. Temperatures should be around 60º F and the sun shinning. Good for him. Should we not have sun, he would not want to be outside.

The box turtles are spending nights indoors. Really, Mama turtle and Brown Eyes should be preparing for hibernation. I think that I shall get them ready to do this the first of December. Here in Alabama, too many sunny winter days prevent the soil to stay cool enough for them to sleep. They have picked two areas to dig in the yard and I think I shall work that area so that the clay is less solid for their winter sleep.

November 1, 2007

An Incredible Day

This morning has just been fantastic. A good friend of mine, Florence, invited Frankie to visit a special needs school that has a large percentage of autistic children. Frankie, Florence and I sat outside and several small classes (less than 10 children) were brought out to visit and learn about Frankie the sulcata. The children gathered around, asked questions about Frankie and everyone was allowed to touch his shell. Frankie did a lot of walking around, delighting the children with this large back feet and big front toe nails. Two particular autistic children who reportedly were normally shy and frighten instantly changed to down-right bold and awed at the sight of Frankie. No child left feeling frighten and none were disappointed in the visit. It was so very fun to watch how much children delight in Frankie.

Florence then took us the McWane Science Center where both her and my husband work. Frankie walked endlessly around the lobby, again, delighting children and adults alike. At one point, Frankie was visiting a line of children and adults waiting to see the IMAX.  They had so much fun with Frankie I was afraid they were NOT going to see the movie as they hated to part from Frankie. Florence's husband, Richard, was able to leave and have lunch with us, Greg was unable to go. We picked up some roll-up sandwiches and went to the downtown Linn Park. Again, Frankie delighted everyone present.

Several folks whose windows overlooked the park actually left work to see Frankie!  It was amazing to see how many people who saw Frankie from their offices came down just to see him up close.

Frankie doesn't need a pumpkin costume to draw a crowd. He is a wonder and delight to all that see him. Tortoises are something very special and I don't think that there are many other species of animals that capture the heart of people so very easily.