Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

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StuartD
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Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by StuartD » 29 Jul 2021, 17:04

We've recently become new owners of Crwban & Crempog - two Hermanns approx 1yr old, which we've had for about 3 weeks now.

We understand, from stuff we've read, that normal weight gain is between approx 1g and 5g per month. The smaller of the two (Crempog) hasn't gained or lost anything, but Crwban has lost 3g in that time.

Is this just a matter of giving them more as we are really struggling with the what to feed? As our garden, at present, isn't particularly helpful for them and most of our flowers fall into the 'do not feed' range. What we do feed them is happily eaten though so that's good I guess.

So, couple of questions I guess... the first is around the weight loss and should we worry or is this more about settling in nerves for the torts?

Second, what can we feed them given that we live in a housing estate and natural/wild flower areas are limited and our local council is over-zealous in their mowing and frequently cut down wild areas which may help. Are there any "go to" remedies for feeding when struggling to find stuff growing outdoors? I'm specifically thinking about what we could pick up from our local supermarket or order via t'internet?

Finally, what's the general opinion on food pellets?

StuartD
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by StuartD » 29 Jul 2021, 17:16

As an addendum, ... here's the advice from The Reptile Centre:

[QUOTE]
A Hermann's tortoise's diet consists of vegetation. Good foods include dandelion, clover, honeysuckle, leafy salads, watercress, curly kale, brussel tops, spring greens, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, courgette and bell peppers. The bulk of the vegetation should be leafy greens.

The diet should also include fibrous plants like grasses and weeds. Good weeds include plaintains, white nettle, corn poppy, chickweed, bindweeds, hawkbit, viola's, goats beard, nipplewort etc. For times when fresh food is not available, or for variety, there are pre-made tortoise dried foods available that most tortoises relish.

The tortoise should be given a shallow bath 2-3 times a week for 10 minutes. This will enable them to take on fresh water and stimulate them to empty their waste.
[END_QUOTE]

But a quick scoot through the TT Database shows bell peppers are a no-no and Honeysuckle (which we do have) is a a'in moderation'.

No wonder folks get so confused... I am.

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Nina
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by Nina » 29 Jul 2021, 18:57

Hi Stuart, and welcome to The Tortoise Table!

Diet is always a source of contention, and that is one of the reasons why we started The Tortoise Table -- there is so much conflicting information and wrong information on the internet.

Here are some of the basics: weeds and flowers that have a green or amber green 'traffic light' on our plant database are good. Members of the brassica (cabbage) family, like kale, brussels sprouts, spring greens, etc. contain goitrogens which interfere with iodine uptake and have the potential to damage the thyroid, liver and kidneys (although they would have to eat a lot to incur damage). If you are going to feed any of them then Kale is the best of the lot nutritionally. We always err on the side of caution in our advice, because we don't know how much of any plant someone is going to feed, or what percentage of the tortoise's diet that plant might form. The Reptile Centre's advice isn't terrible, but it isn't very good either.

I do understand the problems in providing a wide and varied diet, but there are lots of plants you might not have thought of that you can feed. You can use the filter tool on our plant database to produce lists of plants that are good to feed. Here's a link to the section of our website on how to use the database, and just scroll down to the section called 'How to Use the Traffic Light Filters': https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/pla ... QLjZUDTWNI Let me know if you have any difficulty.

If you have a garden, or have a place where you can grow some plants in trays or pots, you can buy seeds of tortoise friendly plants in places like the Shelled Warrior's Shop. Here's a link to the section on seeds: https://www.shelledwarriorsshop.co.uk/s ... s-54-c.asp I would buy the smallest (cheapest) quantity of the one containing 10 species or 65 species (the more variety the better), and then sow pots and trays in succession (so they aren't all ready at once) and you constantly have a new supply. If you're really stuck then there is a salad mix called Florette Crispy that you can buy at most supermarkets, and that is better than most, but salads (and lettuce in particular) is fairly low on fibre and not super nutritious, so we don't advise feeding a lot of it.

Regarding pellets -- I would definitely stay away from almost all of them, as they tend to be too high in protein (tortoises need a high fibre/low protein diet), but there is one commercial food that we could recommend, which is Pre-Alpin Testudo. This is composed completely of dried weeds, grasses and flowers from Alpine meadows and it is really excellent for them. You soak it in water to rehydrate it and then mix it with fresh food until they get used to it. Here's a link to the page on Shelled Warriors (ha, ha -- I promise I don't have any connection with them, it's just that I use them for things like this so the link is handy): https://www.shelledwarriorsshop.co.uk/a ... -261-c.asp Again, buy the cheapest one to start with and there isn't a big difference in the composition of the different varieties so any would do.

You probably already have a care sheet for your Hermann's tortoises, but if not, here is a link to one: https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf

Regarding the weight loss -- if they are that young, you'd be amazed at how much having a poo can effect the weight (they can lose several grams). I wouldn't be too worried, as if they are eating then they should be fine. Regarding weight gain, with tortoises that young I would say aim for a weight gain of an average of between 1g - 3 g per month. Just monitor the one who is losing weight and if he continues to lose then you might consider consulting a reptile vet. How much do they weigh at the moment, and how much are you feeding them each day? Most people feed too much and tortoises grow too quickly and get deformed shells, so you want to aim for slow growth.

Just a few other things (and I really apologise for such a long post!) -- what sort of tortoise enclosure are you keeping them in (if you post a photo we can have a look and suggest some tweaks if necessary), and do they have access to an outside area when the weather is nice and warm?

Finally -- I love their names (lol, even if I find it difficult to pronounce them!). Does Crwban mean 'tortoise' in Welsh?

Nina

StuartD
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by StuartD » 29 Jul 2021, 19:46

Hi Nina and thank you.

No need to apologise as all info is useful to know. It could just be a matter of early day nerves as well.

So, Crwban is Welsh for Tortoise and Crempog who is the smaller, flatter of the two is Welsh for Pancake - as in Pancake Tortoise. The name comes from when we visited Manor Wildlife Park in West Wales and has stuck. It's a long but funny story but my wife turned 60 recently and had always wanted a tort as had our daughter who turned 21 a few days before my wife's 60th - they thought they were getting one tort and were struggling over a name, but as a surprise when we got there I told them it was one each and thus Crwban and Crempog came to life :) It also helps with longevity and whilst they may separate fora while as our daughter goes about her life/career at least Crempog will have somewhere to be homed when the inevitable happens to us.

Anyway, it's Crwban, the slightly larger of the two who arrived weighing 58g but has dropped to 55g over the 3 weeks. Crempog has remained stable at 43g.

I will also investigate the seeds link as our new greenhouse is due to be assembled over the next week or so and that would be ideal to have a section dedicated to them.

Here's their inside table - the reflector dome is obscuring a second water dish, and it's quite dark when I took it so you probably can't see the slate at the far end on which sits some cuttlefish. We do have a lid for the near end, but they hardly ever use that section so we've left it off. The bark tunnel is a recent addition and is where they sleep most of the time. The table is 4'x2' and about 8" high.
[attachment=2]Hut.jpg[/attachment]

During the much warmer weather we have put them outside direct on the grass. We have an old wooden frame with chicken wire across that we use as a sort of pen and always put one of their water dishes in with them. Size is approx the same as the table.

If it makes a difference, they currently get bathed twice a week or more often if their home looks like they need it.

As an aside, we use Wickes topsoil (the breeder advised this is what she uses) as the base of the table and change it on a regular basis - is their a better, more suitable option?

I've also attached 2 further photos of the little darlings after their first bath and weigh in.
[attachment=0]Crempog.jpg[/attachment]
[attachment=1]Crwban.jpg[/attachment]
Attachments
Crempog.jpg
Crwban.jpg
Hut.jpg

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Nina
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by Nina » 30 Jul 2021, 10:51

Hi Stuart,

What lovely little tortoises, and it sounds to me like you are providing them with a great life, and they are lucky to have found a home with you.

How super to have bought one for your wife and one for your daughter! The only thing to be aware of is that if they turn out to be male and female (and you won't know for five or six years probably), then you mght have to separate them, as a male tortoise can rarely live with only one female as he continuously harrasses her and stresses her out terribly and can injure her (so you need at least two females for every male). Two females can live happily together (I have two), and two males can sometimes live happily together, especially if they have been kept together from an early age.

Your table looks absolutely fine, and is a good size for tortoises at that age -- and it is great that they are getting some time outdoors, because the UVB from the sun is of a higher quality than what they get from UVB lamps. If you have an area of bare earth, they might prefer that to grass, because they love digging down, but if you only have grass that is OK.

Indoors, topsoil is absolutely fine. In the wild they tend to live in areas with sandy soil, so most of us use a mixture of topsoil and children's play sand. Some mix it 50/50, but mine prefer a higher topsoil content, so I mix mine at about 70% topsoil and 30% play sand (you can buy bags of children's play sand at most DIY stores and garden centres). And then you give it a light spray every day or two to keep it from getting dusty, or you can pour some water onto it and mix it up well every three or four days. What you want is a substrate that is just the teeny tiniest bit damp -- not at all wet -- and it just almost starts to clump together if you put some in your and and make a fist. If you spot clean the wees and poos regularly you shouldn't have to change the whole thing very often, and they do tend to wee and poo in the bath, so that saves on cleaning the table too.

By the way, do you have the ability to raise and lower your lamp? When the room is warm you will need to raise the lamp in order to lower the temperature in the table, and when it is cold you will need to lower the lamp to raise the temperature (you want to aim for a temperature of 30C directly below the lamp at the height of the tortoise's shell, and about 20C at the cooler end).

I'm glad you took the roof off that 'sleeping' area. These are always made far too big, because tortoises prefer (as you have found out) a cramped, cozy small area to sleep in, and what usually happens is that the sleeping area in these tables is wasted. So now you have a much bigger space for them to roam and explore. You can also add rocks, little pots with edible plants in them, etc. Tortoises sometimes get bored if they can see from one end of their table to the other without interruption, so it's good to break up the sight lines with things for them to walk over, under, and around.

It's great that you have given them cuttlefish. Do they nibble at it? Some tortoises won't touch cuttlefish until it has sat outside in the rain and elements and is beginning to look horrible, and then they devour it! They should also be having a good calcium and D3 supplement sprinkled on their food (Nutrobal is the one that most people use, but there are others).

Regarding the weight loss -- keep an eye on Crwban and let us know if he loses any more. How much are they eating each day? A rough guide is enough flowers/leaves etc. to make a little blanket or jacket that would cover their shell, once a day. I think that if they are both eating then there isn't really a problem and you should be seeing some weight soon, but keep us posted.

Nina

StuartD
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by StuartD » 30 Jul 2021, 15:55

Thank you again and it appears we are getting most things right first time around. We were told the torts had been incubated to be females, but will need to wait and actually see in due course.

We do have a soil area they can use, but it's constantly having 'stuff' dumped on it so not always accessible. This might encourage my wife to not dump if I tell her that :D and yes, I have definitely seen one of them nibbling at the cuttlefish and we do have powdered calcium but on teh 2 or 3 occasions we've sprinkled it on food they normally devour, they've not touched the food.

As to the lamp, I don't have an easy method for up/down but what I do is put in different width blocks of wood and tie-strap them down to the arm. If you have any suggestions then I'm all ears.

One last question (or two) for now, and then I'll crawl back to my dark recess is what depth of topsoil is advisable? At the moment we have enough for them to pretty much disappear under if they choose to. Also, the poo I can see, but how do you identify their wee?

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Nina
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by Nina » 30 Jul 2021, 17:26

Hi Stuart,

Yes, you are getting things right, so well done from all of us at The Tortoise Table. Which brand of calcium are you using? I hope it's a calcium +D3 mixture. The reason that is important is vitamin D3 (which is produced naturally by the skin when it is exposed to UVB from the sun, and artificially in commercial mixtures) enables a tortoise to absorb and utilise the calcium in its diet. If there isn't adequate D3 then the calcium won't be absorbed and help to make strong bone and shell. Nutrobal is the best one, but most tortoises really don't like it. I have to trick mine into eating it, and I do this by sprinkling it on a leaf and then folding the leaf up so the powder is concealed and then hand feeding it to them. Or I sometimes sprinkle it on a very thin slice of cucumber and then turn the slice upside down and for some reason they will eat it if the powder isn't on the top.

Regarding the lamp -- I'm not exactly sure what you can do, but if your system with wood blocks works for you then that is fine. With my set-up I have my lamp hanging from a chain that is wrapped around the arm that goes over the top, and then I use 'S' hooks to raise or lower the chain as necessary. I've attached a photo.

Depth of substrate. Basically as deep as possible, but not so high that they could stand up on their hind legs and climb out. If they can completely disappear then that is absolutely fine.

Poo and wee. Usually the wee makes a dark area in the soil, because it's wet, and I just use and old spoon to scoop it out. Also, they often produce urates when they wee, so seeing the white urates is an indication that they have had a wee there. I wouldn't worry about it too much. When they are that small, it's sort of hard to see the poo, but wait until they get bigger :shock: there will be no problem at all. Incidentally, if their urates are watery or soft like toothpaste that indicates that they are well hydrated, but if it is sandy/gritty/hard then they are a bit dehydrated so increase the baths.

Ha, ha -- please don't crawl back into your dark recess, and ask all the questions you want -- that's what we are here for.

Nina
[attachment=0]m_DSC02336.jpg[/attachment][attachment=1]m_DSC02335.jpg[/attachment]
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m_DSC02336.jpg
m_DSC02335.jpg

StuartD
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by StuartD » 30 Jul 2021, 23:27

The short answer is I don't know what the makeup of the calcium is as we were given a bag of it by the breeder. As she's been at the breeding game for a while one has to presume she wouldn't give me duff stuff.

But I will look some Nutribol out when we get near the end of this bag.

The chain is a good idea and I may just go with that. Once our current set of baby foster children move on (two weeks and counting) we can bring the tort table out of its hiding corner. The 1yr old , as lush as he is, is as likely to poke or walk on the tortoises so we have them hidden away at present. Anyway, the idea is to find them a permanent [ish] home in the house for the longer term as the current room can and does get very cold in the winter. Technically it's our dining room, but our own children long since turned it into the music room, with piano, drums, guitars, cellos, violins, trumpets, etc, etc all in there.

Oh, and they are already trying to escape, but at their tiny size not a chance :)

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Nina
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by Nina » 31 Jul 2021, 13:05

Hi Stuart,

If it was in a bag then it's almost certainly limestone flour or pure calcium carbonate powder, both of which are absolutely fine for calcium supplementation (and I use them too), but really they should be having a vitamin D3 supplement as well. The standard advice is to give limestone flour/calcium carbonate (the stuff you have) on alternate days of the week, and on the days you don't give that you should give something like Nutrobal, which has extra D3 added to the calcium, and you only give a small pinch of it.

If you lived near the equator and your tortoise was outdoors most of the time, you wouldn't need a D3 supplement because the sun would provide that, but in the UK, we are so far north that the angle of the sun is lower and the quality of the UVB is not so great, plus the weather means that they aren't outdoors as much as they would be in a country with a warmer, sunnier climate (lol, there is a reason why tortoises aren't indigenous to this country). Doctors these days say that most of the human population in the UK is deficient in Vitamin D and recommend supplements for us too.

It sounds to me like you have a wonderful household, with your own children and your foster children making it a lovely and lively place! Would you like a complimentary copy of our Tortoise Observation Records booklet for your tortoises? It's a nice way to keep all of your records in one place (vet details, changes of equipment, growth and hibernation records, etc.)? Just email your address to me at nina@thetortoisetable.org.uk and I'll pop one in the post to you.

Nina

StuartD
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by StuartD » 10 Oct 2021, 09:54

Just a quick note to say ...

Our two little 'monsters' are happily putting on weight at an appropriate amount a month and doing just fine. But they are fussy little sods and won't touch anything that has had calcium powder sprinkled on them :D

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Nina
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by Nina » 02 Nov 2021, 09:17

Hi Stuart,

I'm so sorry but somehow I missed your latest post from 10 October! What calcium powder are you using? Many tortoises don't like Nutrobal (but it is the best one to give them). You can try and trick them by wetting a leaf, sprinkling the powder on it, and then folding the leaf in half, so that the powder is inside, and then hand feeding it. You can also make a little sandwich out of a thin slice of cucumber, with the powder inside it (tortoise do love cucumber). If it is Nutrobal you are feeding and they are reluctant to take it, then you can try pure food grade calcium carbonate powder which you can buy online, or limestone flour, which you can buy at stores that sell animal feed, and other places like that.

Nina
StuartD wrote:
> Just a quick note to say ...
>
> Our two little 'monsters' are happily putting on weight at an appropriate
> amount a month and doing just fine. But they are fussy little sods and
> won't touch anything that has had calcium powder sprinkled on them :D

StuartD
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Joined: 19 Jul 2021, 13:57

Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by StuartD » 02 Nov 2021, 12:35

No worries Nina - it was just more of an update than a query.

We persevered with adding calcium, and I think they just got to the stage where they thought if we don't eat this then nothing else is coming. So when we do add it, they do eat the food.

Previously had tried the cucumber approach but ours tend to avoid cucumber in general.

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Nina
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Re: Crwban and Crempog Feeding Struggles

Post by Nina » 02 Nov 2021, 15:46

That's good to know that they're taking the calcium now. Most things involving a change in diet or new supplements end up being battle of the titans, because tortoises have an incredibly strong will power and are also notoriously fussy. But the old saying that 'no tortoise will let itself starve' is usually true, and their hunger strikes only last until they see that you aren't going to give in.

Sounds like they are doing really well!

Nina

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