Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: December 2008



December 28, 2008

Heavenly Day

Among some mighty cold days we were blessed yesterday with temperatures at 70ºF and bright sunny skies. For a sulcata tortoise with cabin fever it was a relief beyond all belief.

Frankie got outside very early which for him is 9:00 am. He was in heaven walking everywhere in his yard, through the leaves, around all the bushes, and through the trees. He grazed as he walked not once forgetting that walking was the priority.

I spent some time outside with him walking the perimeter of the yard and checking for hazards like pop bottles and trash that sometimes ends up in our yard. The yard was clear of any problems so I could rest easy that Frankie would not be getting into any trouble.

Finally at 3:00 pm I figured it was time to get Frankie inside. He was a little reluctant but there were more shadows in the yard then sun so he didn't resist too much. However once inside the warm gecko room he did all the sulcata business he didn't have time for when he was outside. So I had poop and pee to clean up.

Around 5:00 pm, just before all the gecko lights go out, I went down stairs to water the geckos. Frankie was at the door begging to go outside. There is no sun outside at 5:00 pm but Frankie didn't know this. He butted his head against the door until I just figured he needed to see for himself. He walked outside, discovered it was dark, grazed for about 45 seconds, turn around, came back into the gecko room and went straight for bed.

It is hard to convince a sulcata tortoise that one heavenly day has come to an end.

December 22, 2008

Nose-frosty day

Last night the temperatures went into the teens. This morning it was nose-frosty outside but very sunny. Still I had no plans to let Frankie outside. I prepared him a nice meal of fresh grass, weeds, chopped up hay, shredded carrots and a little romaine. I gave this to Frankie and he ate it all very quickly. I figured this medium sized meal would do him well for the day.

But he was very active. Frankie first started out by walking everywhere in the gecko room. A couple of times he chased me. Then he got a big over active and started to move cricket containers across the floor. He bothered the box turtles, dumped over the water - twice, and of course, poop and peed on the floor. Finally he started butting his head against the door. That would be Frankie insisting to go outdoors.

So I took him outside. With all the sunshine, Frankie warm from the gecko room, was under the mistaken impression it was also warm outside. He took off for the backyard.

About half way across the backyard he discovered it really wasn't all that warm. In fact, for a once very quick tortoise he came to a very slow crawl. Frankie turns around and makes a very slow but direct line for the back door.

I told him it was nose-frosty outside.

December 16, 2008

A Sulcata Christmas Wish List

As sulcata mom and dads we think we have the insight to decide what our dear sulcata want for Christmas. But I am here to tell you that we are mostly wrong. I caught Frankie working on a Christmas list (which he has addressed to the Big Shelled Man in Africa). After looking at his list I was surprised.

First, Frankie wished I would spend some time away from the house so he could have more private time on the Internet. I guess that is okay but if he ever gets the password to my PayPal account I think I am in trouble.

Frankie is hoping for a subscriptions to some sulcata magazines called "Girls on the Half Shell" and "Big Shells". Yikes. I hope they show up in plain brown wrapping because I don't want to explain these to the mailman.

Much to my surprise he really wanted to move to Mexico because "Alabama is too cold in the winter". Go figure.

Sulcata are more like kids than you would believe. I figured on his wish list Frankie would ask for "green grass" or "fresh hay." But no. He wanted the "Christmas Delicious Fruit Design Half Dipped" bouquet from Edible Arrangements. All the no-no's were in this arrangement including pineapple, grapes, cantaloupe, honeydew and strawberries hand dipped in gourmet chocolate . I didn't even know Frankie like chocolate.

I guess he doesn't much care for the great shelter Greg made for him because he wants a "high quality Amish shed". Apparently the Amish do use electricity.

He also wants a sun tanning bed. Probably for his Amish Shed.

Finally, he asked for "one of those Cruise things." Apparently he overheard me talking about basking out on the deck, soaking in the hot tub, endless food buffets and walking all over the ship. I mean what more can a sulcata want on a vacation?

Merry Sulcata Holidays....

December 14, 2008

Freaked Out Frankie

Frankie just does his best to cope with the cold weather. Being a bigger tortoise, he can tolerate some time outside to eat some fresh grass but with the temperatures sitting below 40º F that is just fifteen minutes or less. Sometimes I just open the garage door, he gets a blast of cold air, turns around and goes straight back to bed (being his enclosure). Usually if he does this I will drag him out of this enclosure and sit him under his overhead heater to warm up. He is a turtle with his own mind and if he could drive I swear he would move to Mexico.

And nights gets confusing. The sun goes down early so Frankie goes to be early. But I always go down and do a ten minute check up on everyone late in the evening. Poor Frankie sometimes thinks it is time to get up. So he sticks out his head thinking its time to get up but there is no sun shinning. I swear he will give me a dirty look.

This last week a Phelsuma inexpectata got out so I usually go downstairs more than just once in the evening to see if I can catch this very fast and timid gecko. She is very rare so I am very motivated to catch her. But this continual turning lights on and off just set Frankie freaked out. Luckily he doesn't have any hands or I swear he would start tossing things at me.

Then in the morning I am down stairs looking for the loose gecko before the lights come on. Frankie is just about at the end of his rope. I swear if he could run faster than me he would chase me back up stairs.

In all, Frankie is a pretty good sport about all this but lucky for me he is a tortoise.

December 5, 2008

Avid Reader of the newspaper...I mean eater

Its the time of the year when Frankie ends up spending a lot of time inside. He sleeps inside every night. Sometime around 11:00 am, when it is warm enough he is allowed to make a choice to go outside to bask and eat. Compared to the time he spends outside during the summer, he spends very little time outside during the winter. A lucky day would be three hours. On average, Frankie gets out about 1 hour. Hardly enough to keep "a serious walker" happy. And Frankie is one serious walker.

I have done my best to provide him a walking area in the gecko room. He has a bit of an obstacle course that includes stepping up into a shelf, walking under a couple of chairs and making a full circle in the gecko room. When possible he is allowed to walk in the garage when our Prius is not there. I don't allow him there alone due to too many hazards. The gecko room and garage is not much in the way of walking space but its the best I can do.

The other challenge is Frankie's refusal to eat hay. I have tried year after year to get him to eat it and yes, I have tried every trick in the book. The best we have achieved is for him to eat a mix of 25% hay mixed with weeds, grass, carrots, and hibiscus flowers or any other allowable sulcata food (sorry folks - NO NO NO commercial food. And I don't care what commercial food sellers say. Its like saying that coal is a clean fuel and hydrogenated oils are good for you. Give me a break.

Frankie gets hungry. He can't go outside. So his newspaper that is in his night enclosure starts looking good. How do I know? Well besides catching him munching down on newspaper his poop is different when he eats newspaper. It is hard to miss if you are a sulcata poop observer. How to keep Frankie from eating his newspaper?

The solution is so simple: Hay. If Frankie were just not so stubborn he could be fat eating hay. But no, he would rather be an avid eater of newspaper.