How to Care for African Spurred Tortoises in Winter

These tips keep African spurred tortoises safe in the winter.
These tips keep African spurred tortoises safe in the winter. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

African spur tortoises, or sulcatas, are becoming a common pet. Sulcata's natural environment in northern Africa is hot and dry. They require a temperature between 70 degrees and 105 degrees Fahrenheit to survive. An adult sulcata can get up to 30 inches long and weigh 110 lbs. It is possible to care for a sulcata in the winter, but keeping them indoors during cold weather is ideal. If your turtle is an outdoor pet, precautions need to be taken in the winter.

Things You'll Need

  • Small shed
  • Wood pallets
  • Alfalfa hay
  • Heat lamps
  • Thermometer
  • Large rectangular trash can
  • Farrowing pad or pig blanket
  • Sod
  • Curtain
  • Tension curtain rod
  • Water bowl
  • Water

Place the shed somewhere the tortoise will be as protected as possible from inclement weather. Stack wood pallets under the shed to raise it off the ground. This helps keep frozen ground from making the environment even colder. Line the shed with a thick layer of alfalfa hay.

Place heat lamps along the ceiling of the shed, out of the reach of the tortoise. Hang a thermometer inside the shed where you can regularly check the temperature.

Turn a trash can on its side in the shed to serve as a bed. Trash cans make suitable beds for sulcatas since they like to feel like they are underground. The sides help "hug" the tortoise. Lay the farrowing pad on the bottom of the trash can. A farrowing pad or pig blanket is a heating blanket used to keep pigs warm in the winter.

Line the trash can with alfalfa hay. African spurred tortoises love to burrow, and the hay will insulate the bed and provide burrowing material.

Lay pieces of sod along the top of the trash can to provide natural insulation.

Put the tension curtain rod along the top of the trash can opening with the curtain on it. This helps keep heat in the area and gives the tortoise a sense of security.

Place a water bowl inside the shed that is easily accessible to the tortoise. The bowl must not be deeper than the tortoise's bridge or the area where the top shell meets the bottom shell. Refresh the water daily.

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