New Outdoor Enclosure

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brummy_tort
Posts: 3
Joined: 24 Apr 2017, 11:41

New Outdoor Enclosure

Post by brummy_tort » 28 Apr 2017, 13:10

Hi

This is my first post after failing to hibernate my horsfield Pastie a few months ago. Hoepfully this project will be more successful.

I have started work on a new outdoor enclosure which is going to be just over 10ft x 6ft. It faces south and is exposed to the sun all day. Dappled shade will be provided in the afternoon by a tall Rowan tree that is pretty close by. 8 new sleepers will form the sides. Using two layers of sleepers will produce sides 16" tall and will be filled with 2 tons of top soil with play sand mixed in, so the substrate depth will be approx 10" deep. 15 slates that are 2ft square will cover the bottom to stop him digging out or other things getting in. Am going to construct an apex style roof to hopefully provide enough height so as the plants mature they have enough room to grow reasonably tall. the roof will consist of 3 identical sections. Each just over 3ft long with hinged panels that will open either upwards or sideways ( have not decided on that yet ), so there will be 6 panels in total allowing easy access to the entire enclosure. Each panel will simply be a wooden frame with galvanised 12mm steel wire mesh inside so no predators can get through.

I want to keep him outside from spring to autumn, so need to construct a suitable hide and this is the MAIN reason for THIS POST. I have done research on what is needed inside the hide, but many people post pictures of what they have constructed and unfortunately I am unable to see the detail as my eyesight is quite poor. Therefore advice on what others have used and recommendations for suitable products would be most welcome.

I am planning to use a 75W ceramic heater controlled through a thermostat which will be set to come on if the temperature drops below 15 degrees. A heat lamp of undetermined wattage will be set through a timer to come on in the morning for a few hours to encourage him to come out of the hide. do others use this sort of setup? What wattage heat lamp would you recommend.

As pastie is a horsfield he wont grow all that large so was thinking a hide that is about 600mm long x 400mm deep x 600mm high would suffice?

Will use exterior plywood to construct the hide with cavity walls having polystyrene pieces to insulate and maybe some kind of loft insulation in the hide roof to insulate that. Will clad the outside with pine pieces that are ship lapped like on a shed which will help insulation and also make it look more attractive.

The hide will basically be a rectangular box so the bottom will be permanently sitting on the soil. So I think pinning roofing felt to the underside should help preserve it from deterioration. The soil in the hide will stay pretty dry, although I think spraying it from time to time just like in an indoor enclosure would not hurt? What do others use in their outdoor hides for bedding?

The roof will be an apex style with a rake of either 45 or 30 degrees and covered with roofing felt. The roof will also be removable to allow easy access.

Attached to the front will be a cold frame which I will construct from wood with acrylic sheets to form the top and sides. I found these on Amazon a while back and used an A4 size one in a frame I constructed to make a little cold frame in his old outdoor enclosure. This cold frame will be slightly larger and as it will be joined to the front of the hide it should stop any cold draughts going straight into the main hide entrance.

So that's my plan and any advice or criticism is most welcome.

Darren.

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lin
Posts: 71
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:27

Re: New Outdoor Enclosure

Post by lin » 28 Apr 2017, 14:27

Hiya Darren, I remember Pastie well. My autocorrect assumed she should be named Patsy! :lol:

I have to say your enclosure is sounding like its going to be the perfect tortoise haven for Pastie, and I am sure if you post photos of your progress we will be able to offer some tweaks if they are needed.

You could consider adding some acrylic sheeting to just one section of the roof panels to allow one area that is still outside to be protected from rain, maybe the piece nearest the enclosure to incorporate some extra heat as well. This will also help you avoid making the cold frame to the front of the hide and save you some time and effort.

As you have found there are plenty of ways to construct the outside areas and it can be a little daunting but you already know we are here to help and offer suggestions.

I know of some that have used hutches, the type for rabbits and the bigger of these will be able to accommodate a tubular heat emitter, the sort found in greenhouses that will give of a gentle heat and can be used with thermometers. So being able to make something like this would be good, and as you say the base could also have some bricks to raise it off the ground with a small wooden hill leading up to the entrance to keep it off the floor as that would attract mold if it got damp under there.

If I have missed anything Darrem just give us a shout and hopefully someone else will come in with other ideas.

Lin

brummy_tort
Posts: 3
Joined: 24 Apr 2017, 11:41

Re: New Outdoor Enclosure

Post by brummy_tort » 28 Apr 2017, 16:07

Hi Lin

Thanks for the reply. good to see the spell checker is on the ball.

I was a bit confused when I came to post as my old username and password did not work so had to re register. I guess the forum has either changed location or had an overhaul? Also noticed that the hibernation thread which we all posted to around Christmas has also disappeared.

I considered a tubular heater and was thinking a 1ft tube would be suitable, but have since opted for a ceramic heater instead. I noticed you can buy tubular heaters with integrated thermostats, but the only problem with those is that the temperature is being measured at the height of where the tube is located and not at tortoise height.

I have not worked out the design of the main roof yet so don't quite know how high the peak of the apex will be. Once I know that it will determine how tall the hide roof can go. Your idea of putting the hide onto some bricks so its off the soil is a good one. So simple I had not thought of that.

Thanks
Darren.

User avatar
lin
Posts: 71
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:27

Re: New Outdoor Enclosure

Post by lin » 28 Apr 2017, 17:07

Sorry about the loss of your hibernation post. Your right in thinking we have had a revamp for our website. Still hitting up against a few teething problems but getting there. During the change over on the forum we lost all of our posts and it meant that everyone had to re register. Pleased your back though.

Another thought we have had, and Helen has looked for a photo as she also used the idea of stacked sleepers. You might put triangular corners into the corners to stop Pastie getting a grip and using the corners as footholds to get over like hers did. She also had a lip added to the top edge just overhanging the inside just as a safety measure.

My tubular heaters didnt have the integregated thermostat. I used a habistat thermostat alongside so that it heated the area in and around where the tortoise is. If this heat/ceramic is for inside during the day there also needs to be a light one for those days its grey and gloomy, unless you intend taking Pastie inside for those days.

Lin

brummy_tort
Posts: 3
Joined: 24 Apr 2017, 11:41

Re: New Outdoor Enclosure

Post by brummy_tort » 12 May 2017, 12:54

Hi Lin

I am still working out the design for the main roof. The bottom edges of the structure will overhang the top of the sleepers thereby providing a lip to stop him climbing up too far. On the old enclosure I used a chamfering bit on my handheld router to bevel the outside top edge of the sleepers. Copper wire was then stapled to this bevelled edge all the way round. Why you might ask? Well it was to try and stop slugs climbing up the sides of the sleepers and getting into the enclosure. I put a few Campanula carpatica plants in there and the slugs absolutely love them so this was the most environmentally friendly way of dissuading them.

One problem I cant find an easy solution to is that on cool or cloudy days the only heat source available will be the ceramic heater and that will only be if the outside temperature drops to approx 15 degrees. I plan to have a heat lamp come on for a few hours in the morning, controlled through a timer. But! there is no way of automatically turning this heat lamp on if its a gloomy day? I could go out and manually turn the heat lamp on for him on such days, but its a bit impractical, especially if I am out.

Ideally some kind of controller for the heat lamp that would both turn it on for a few hours in the morning and also have a sensor that would turn it on if the temperature went cooler or it was a gloomy day. the only way I can think to solve this problem is to have a timer set to come on say from 6am to 6pm. A thermostat would be plugged into the timer and its sensor probe mounted externally so it measured the outside temperature. Thus the heat lamp would then come on at 6am and stay on until the outside temperature reached the thermostat setting and then go off. If it was a gloomy cool day then the heat lamp would stay on until the outside temperature warmed up sufficiently. Its a bit complicated, but its the only way I can think of solving the problem.

So I would need 2 thermostats, 1 ceramic heater, 1 timer and 1 heat lamp and a partridge in a pear tree. bloody hell these tortoises.

What is your setup like? Do you think I am over complicating it?

Darren checking his piggy bank.

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