New parent to 3yr old Horsfield

Post your pictures and any questions here of European tortoises e.g. Ibera Spur Thigh, Ibera Graeca, Marginated, Hermanns, Kleinmanni and we include the Horsfield tortoise. Also, do add pictures of Mediterranean tortoises you have seen in the wild.
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Tarajane77
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Joined: 26 Jun 2020, 20:26

New parent to 3yr old Horsfield

Post by Tarajane77 » 03 Jul 2020, 10:42

I have recently become a very proud parent to a 3yr old Horsfield whom I've named Jemima.
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It was a very quick acquisition due to housing issues regarding her previous owner.

Therefore I'm happy I've got the basics sorted, but there are certain areas I still can't get definitive answers for....and I want this little lady to have the best life I can give her.

1. Sexing - I've read its around 5 years of age that sexing of a Horsfield is accurate. Yet from her lady bits it looks very clear to me. Is it a case of if you know, you know!!

2. Soaking - I'm currently soaking her 3 times a week but I was wondering if this should be increased in particularly prolonged hot weather, and reduced when colder?

3. Basking light duration - I have a combined UVB/heat lamp and I am unsure if my current 10 hrs per day is sufficient. I've settled on 10 hrs as it matches her waking and bedding down time. Would this be increased in the winter months as she won't be outside?

4. Warm but damp outside - I've read Horsfields are more susceptible to damp conditions. I obviously only let her go outside if I'm warm enough in a t- shirt, but I worry if the grass her pens on is possibly damp from a prior rain storm...and concerned the neighbours think I'm becoming unwell as they whitness me sticking my fingers into my lawn.


5. Play time - If theres no question she can go outside, Jemima has a playpen inside. Obviously shes only in for a few hours supervised, but I still stick to the mantra shes ok temp wise if I've got a t-shirt on!! I do like her to be able to exercise, or would she be as happy left in her table on rainy day?

6. Hibernation - I've seen that you should not hibernate any tortoise in your first year of ownership, regardless of their age. Is this true?

7. I live in a former limestone quarry producing town, so our soil is very calcium rich. As her diet is mainly wild leaves and flowers does Jemima need her current calcium supplement every day, with a sprinkle of vitamins every other?
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So these are my most pressing issues at the minute. I'm afraid my name may become imprinted on peoples brains in time. Any answers to any of these would be greatly appreciated.

Just like to add this site has been instrumental in my picking of food for Jemima.
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Jody K

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Nina
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Re: New parent to 3yr old Horsfield

Post by Nina » 03 Jul 2020, 12:10

Hi Tara Jane and welcome to The Tortoise Table! And many congratulations on acquiring your lovely little Horsfield (Jemima is a super name!). They are a great species with lots of personality. I think you've made a super start with her, by giving her outdoor and indoor accommodation and giving her a good diet (that dish of food in your photo looks perfect).

Regarding your questions, I'll use your numbering:
1. Sexing. Yes, it is very difficult until they reach about 5 or 6 years, or a certain size (it's about size as much as age). Most Horsfields do tend to look female until 5 or 6 and then suddenly their tail seems to grow longer and they look like males. If you can send us a photo showing her underside, and clearly showing the tail, we'll have a go at sexing her (but probably not definitive).

2. Soaking. Three times a week is fine. When it's colder you still need to soak because little ones in particular can dry out under the lights, but as she gets bigger then twice a week should be fine.

3. Basking light. Most people have it on for 12 hours a day (but most tortoises don't stay awake for 12 hours, and quite often take themselves off to bed mid to late afternoon). The thing to try and do is to mimic nature, and 12 hours a day of sunlight for most of the year is fine (you can make it longer in the summer if you like, but it's not necessary).

4. Damp. Yes, it's true that Horsfields don't like certain damp conditions. They don't do well when it is cool or cold and damp, but they are OK with warm and damp. If it's warm (the t-shirt rule is a good one) and the grass is still damp from a rainstorm then if she nibbles the grass she'll get a bit more water into her, which isn't a bad thing. Grass in general shouldn't make up the whole surface of her outdoor pen. Some grass is fine, but it would be better if there were bare earth, plus some stones to walk over, etc. outdoors. And don't forget that Horsfields are a burrowing species, so she can easily dig down and under a wall of her enclosure if she has a mind to (for that reason it's best to bury the walls into the ground if possible).
Regrding people's perception of you -- lol, welcome to the world of crazy tortoise keepers, who always travel with a plastic bag and can be seen on the roadsides picking dandelion, plantain, and other weeds to the amusement of passersby!

5. Playtime. Yes, probably on a rainy day if it is cool then she could be left indoors, although if she had a little sheltered house with a dry surface on the ground outdoors she could be left out on most days. How big is her indoor table? I always make a second level in my tables, so that if indoors is necessary then they get lots more exercise running up and down the ramp to the second level. Do send us a photo of your table if you can.

6. As a general rule I agree that you should probably wait 9 months or a year before hibernating, and the reason for this is that tortoises must be in really good health prior to hibernation, and it can take quite a while before you feel confident in knowing if she is off-colour a bit, or seems not quite up to scratch. Was she hibernated with her previous owner? If so then you might consider hibernating her come November or December if you feel she is really well, and we'll be happy to send you guides on hibernating and how to prepare her for hibernation (which is really important).

That is great that you live in a calcium rich area. I wouldn't say that she needs a calcium supplement every day, but twice or three times a week is good. When they are young and still growing it's very important, plus they do need so much calcium (when you think about it they are mainly shell and bone). Which calcium supplement and which vitamins are you using?

You probably already have a good care sheet for Horsfields, but if you don't here is a link to one:
https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf

The only other thing I would say is that Horsfields are particularly greedy eaters, and you need to monitor their food intake to be sure that they don't grow too quickly and develop deformed shells. You should aim at an average growth of between 1g - 3g per month (that's just an average, and some months they will grow more and some less). The reason for the gluttony is that in the wild they come from countries where it is very cold in the winter and they hibernate for a long time, and very hot in the summer (and they aestivate for a long time). It's estimated that in the wild they are only awake for 3 months a year, and only eat for part of that time because food is scarce -- so they are sort of programmed to 'eat for England'. In captivity they are presented with lovely big meals every day, and they gorge themselves and grow too fast.

Hope that has answered some of your questions, but please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any more questions or problems.

Cheers,
Nina

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lin
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Re: New parent to 3yr old Horsfield

Post by lin » 03 Jul 2020, 14:19

Hi Tara.
Can I just say welcome and Jemima is such a pretty thing
We don’t mind if your name is imprinted On us :lol: Do we Nina?

Lin

Tarajane77
Posts: 42
Joined: 26 Jun 2020, 20:26

Re: New parent to 3yr old Horsfield

Post by Tarajane77 » 04 Jul 2020, 14:10

Thanks Nina for your reply..

I'm sorry for any duplicate pics, I'm slowly working my way around the site.

Here are Jemimas precious bits, I'm still hoping I have a JEMIMA by the end of today!!
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This is her table, I'm scared I'm going to get a wrist slap! Obviously Jemima was a quick rehome, but I have bark, pebbles and grasses en route soon to help enrich her environment.
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Jemima has never been hiberbated.

The vitamins I use are from her last owner; Beaphar "Vionate vitamin/mineral supplement and Exi Terra calcium powder.

Thankyou for the advice on feeding, I do one weekly pick for her food. Its also for x3 Herman and x2 other Horsfield on my street, who I'm converting to wild flowers/ weeds!! Dont be alarmed by the giant tubful.

Think this is all the feedback you asked for Nina,
Many thanks.
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Jody K

Tarajane77
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Joined: 26 Jun 2020, 20:26

Re: New parent to 3yr old Horsfield

Post by Tarajane77 » 04 Jul 2020, 14:19

THANKYOU Lin for the welcome and Jemima LOVE.

She has just had her soak, enclosure tidy..and is feeling very spoilt!
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Jody K

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Nina
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Re: New parent to 3yr old Horsfield

Post by Nina » 04 Jul 2020, 16:21

Hi Tara Jane,

Thanks so much for the photos. Jemima is really lovely and I think she is very lucky to have found a home with you! I think you've made an excellent table for her -- so no wrist slaps for you -- and I'm sure she will enjoy climbing over that bridge/tunnel thingy as much as hiding under it, so that's great.

Is your lamp adjustable (i.e. can you raise or lower it to increase or lower the temperature in the table? The ambient room temperature has a huge effect on the temperature in the table, so on hot days you might need to raise that lamp and on cool days lower it. Also, how are you measuring temperature? You need to know the temperature directly underneath the lamp at the height of Jemima's shell. You are aimimg for a temperature of about 30C directly underneath the lamp and about 20C at the cool end of the table. That range of temps will enable her to move from warm to cool areas and back again in order to thermoregulate. A thermometer mounted on a nearby wall will give a misleadingly low temperature, so you can hold a thermometer under the lamp, but the best thing to use is one of those digital fridge/freezer thermometer with a display unit and then a probe on the end of a long cord that you can hang down near the circle of light -- something like this, but you can get them from loads of places and cheaper than this. It's good to get one with a Max/Min function so that you can see how hot or cold it got since you last re-set the function:
https://www.nisbets.co.uk/hygiplas-digi ... meter/f343

Regarding her gender -- I've looked and looked and I do think it's too early. She does look female, but then most young Horsfields do. The shape of her anal scute isn't definitive either: males tend to have a wide, upside-down 'U' shape and females tend to have a sharper upside-down 'V' shape, but loads of tortoises don't conform to that. So, Jemima it is for the time being anyway, and if she turns out to be a Jeffrey then that's not a bad thing either.

The Vionate is fine - not the best but it should be OK, as should the Exo Terra Calcium powder.

You live on a street with Hermanns and other Horsfields? How super -- are you living in the tortoise capital of the UK (actually I don't know if you live in the UK)? How really lovely of you to go foraging for good food for the neighbourhood tortoises -- I'm sure you will be responsible for improving their lives! As a little thank you from us for your efforts on behalf of Jemima and your neighbour's tortoises, would you like a free copy of our Tortoise Observation Records Booklet? Just send me an email with your address to nina@thetortoisetable.org.uk and I'll pop a copy in the post to you.

Cheers,
Nina

Tarajane77
Posts: 42
Joined: 26 Jun 2020, 20:26

Re: New parent to 3yr old Horsfield

Post by Tarajane77 » 04 Jul 2020, 18:22

Thanks Nina for your advice, kind words and NO wrist slap.

I live in the UK in Derbyshire, in a small village near to the high peak trail and Black Rocks. There's numerous places you can jump on the trail and off, so the weekly weed pick doesn't involve miles of walking. Good job as I currently pick for 6 beautiful critters.

As for the table temperature, the basking light is checked daily with a small thermometer with a cable and probe attached. I test it at shell height, and the light itself is adjustable. In her cool end I've attached a thermometer to the wall, and if it rises I simply undo the lid to aid cooling.

Yes so I'm in the process of converting the streets tortoises;

Thomas the 50 yr old Hermann now loves "the round green leafy things" (round leaf plantain) according to her owner. So I've taken her to a lovely patch I've recently discovered, (her owner that is).

Stella the Hermann and Hugo the Horsfield are proving more tricky as they were poorly kept rescues. So I read your advice about incorporating new weeds and passed this on.

Huckleberry and Romeo the Hermanns (see below) have had more acess to weeds as they are kept mainly outside. So they are my more willing customers!!

So as you can see I'm now a crazy tortoise lady, on a mission to clean up the whole streets diet.

I would love the booklet sending, and will be adding Jemimas "vitals" to it.

Jodyannekinder@gmail.com

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Jody K

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Nina
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Re: New parent to 3yr old Horsfield

Post by Nina » 07 Jul 2020, 12:36

Hi Jody,

So sorry to be late in responding, but I never got the automatic notification that a new post has been added to this thread!

I think the Peak District is my favourite place area in the country! My son and I used to holiday there when he was younger, and I've also been on holiday with friends. I am writing this sat at a table that is covered in a really pretty oilcloth that I bought at a market in Wirksworth many years ago, and I remember one holiday visiting lots of villages and admiring the well dressings. Everyone goes on about the Lake District, but I do prefer the Peak District -- much quieter and nicer -- so you are very lucky!

And this is an official welcome to the world of crazy tortoise ladies (I've attached a photo of a cloth carrier bag that someone gave me a couple of years ago (just to prove that I'm a member of that select band of people)!

Well, you are certainly a woman on a mission, and the tortoises in your street will really benefit from the improved diet that you're introducing them to! Let us know how you get on.

I've sent you an email to say that I need your postal address because the booklet is made of paper, not eletronic bytes, so I need to put it in th post to you. Just email me direct at nina@thetortoisetable.org.uk and I'll get it straight out to you.

Cheers,
Nina
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lin
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Re: New parent to 3yr old Horsfield

Post by lin » 11 Oct 2020, 17:57

Hi Jody.
Jemima really does need to be spoiled.
Regarding the sex. I would go against the grain and say male, the slot looks like an immature male and it just isnt shouting out female for me.
And as were showing bags. Heres mine :lol:
Lin

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