Tiny Tort, Big Park

Horsfield tortoises walk for miles a day in the wild, so I try to let Nugget roam whenever I’m able to. I live in an apartment building and Nugget has a decent-sized enclosure, but I like to give him a good “run” at the park whenever the temperature is warm enough for him. I end up getting a lot of strange looks, as people usually either assume I’ve caught a wild tortoise (even though Horsfields are not native this this area), or that I’m standing in a field staring at my feet alone because he’s so small they can’t see that he’s there! It is pretty cute though, to see him ripping around either at the park or in my parents’ yard. Every now and then curious neighbourhood kids will come check him out as well, as its not every day you run into a baby tortoise at the playground! Here’s a few pictures from our most recent excursion:

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I hover pretty close to prevent any birds from swooping in on him, and so that I can pick him up if a loose dog enters the park. I’m rather worried about him gaining weight too quickly, so a bit of exercise will do him good I’m sure.

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Why did I get a Horsfield tortoise?

A common question I’ve received from friends and relatives upon finding out about the adoption of my baby tortoise Nugget is “Why?!”

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I was in school and lived alone and had really wanted a pet of my own for a long time. I had a cat and a dog growing up, but living an hour away from home, I didn’t get to see them very often anymore. I had adopted a betta fish, but let’s face it, as lovely as betta fish are you can’t exactly hold them!

Even though I grew up with a cat and a dog, I had to rule out cats and dogs because of the rules of my landlord, and also because of my schedule. Besides, because my schedule is so unpredictable with school and work, it definitely would not have been fair to get a dog that I wouldn’t be able to walk regularly and properly exercise.

One night I fell into one of those random Youtube pits. You know, when you end up just clicking on suggestions video after video and end up in a totally unexpected place on Youtube. I ended up watching Taylor Nicole Dean and other pet Youtubers, and started thinking about reptiles.

After a few trips to pet stores I realized that I could not handle any sort of reptile that consumes insects. Insects just gross me out too much, and I knew I wouldn’t enjoy that sort of pet. I saw a few tortoises at PetSmart and started doing more research.

I ended up finding C and C Tortoises, which is a group of tortoise and reptile breeders in Canada. I went the breeder route because to my knowledge there are no tortoise or reptile rescues in Saskatchewan (at least that are well known enough to show up in a google search!) and I just didn’t really trust big pet stores. Most pet stores I had been to, the big chain ones, kept their tortoises in tiny tanks where they had no room to walk, and that just seemed cruel.

I started emailing back and forth with Louise, one of the breeders from C and C tortoises. I asked her a few questions about red foots, but we both determined that a Horsfield would be the better fit for me. She had a batch of Horsfield babies, and would be in the province soon after I talked to her to deliver one.

I quickly whipped together a tort setup in my apartment and was able to bring Nugget home! It’s been a learning experience for sure, but I’m slowly working on improving his enclosure. He definitely will need a bigger enclosure one day, but I figured that I would keep it somewhat small (4 x 2 ish) while he is an easy-to-lose hatchling, and until I am no longer living in an apartment and can build him an outdoor run as well!

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Over the past few months he’s gotten used to me, and I’ve gotten to know his weird little tortoise personality. And to be quite honest, it’s kind of nice not having my apartment covered in cat or dog hair! He’s a really quiet pet, we both like to eat and nap a lot, and we get along pretty well.

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Anybody​​​ else have issues with their tortoise devouring their shoes and slippers? 

Hatchling growth

Little Nugget has grown so much! He hatched in January 2017, I adopted him at the end of April 2017, and he is currently about eight months old. I didn’t keep great records in the panic of becoming a newbie tortoise keeper, but when I got Nugget at 4 months old he was about 2 inches long, give or take a quarter of an inch.

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He was so small that he could hide entirely in the toe of my shoe!

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Currently Nugget is 3 inches long and weights 81 grams. He’s grown a lot, but is still a long way from being full grown, for sure! I technically can’t even say for sure what his sex is as it is near impossible to tell the sex of a tortoise until it is about 4 inches long or about two years old, from what I have read online. His sex doesn’t matter to me much as I have no intentions of ever adding more tortoises to his enclosures or of breeding tortoises. I am curious however to see how big he will get, as males are typically a few inches smaller than female tortoises, and their carapace and tail shapes vary as well.

Note: I realize both of these pictures are taken out of his enclosure, and wanted to note that Nugget is not a free-roaming tortoise in my apartment. He safely spends the majority of his time in his large enclosure and I take him out for supervised hikes around the apartment and in the park, as I currently do not have a backyard. So don’t worry, he is always safe!

A new pool for Nugget

My little Nugget is growing up so fast! He’s been making steady weight gains the past few months, and has a healthy appetite. He has pretty much outgrown the water dish/bathing dish I had for him so I went out and got him a bigger pool.

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A few folks on Instagram had voiced their concerns about the pool, fearing that Nugget would flip and drown, and suggesting a flatter dish. I have previously used flatter dishes for Nugget’s water, but have found he gets stuck in them because of the sleek bottom and sides, even if I put rocks in the bottom. With this he has been climbing in and out with ease, thankfully! He’s only ever flipped once in the four months that I’ve had him, so I’m not super worried!

For a treat yesterday, he got a teeny tiny strawberry, and devoured it!

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It was nice to have a few days off for the long weekend because I got to spend more time with my pets, and let Nugget wander around the house a bit. Me and Nugget are finally starting to get used to each other, and he’s developing his own distinct little tort personality. I used to have a lot of anxiety about owning a tortoise because I have zero experience with reptiles, and I was absolutely paranoid that I would do something horribly wrong. But I feel more comfortable in my Horsfield tortoise knowledge thanks to research and Facebook groups, and don’t stress so much anymore. I feel that I somewhat know what I’m doing, and don’t worry so much about the little guy when I’m not home.

Sprouts for Nugget!

I have recently started trying to grow food for my baby Horsfield tortoise, Nugget. Nugget is six months old and is a bit of a picky eater, but I’m trying to do my best to offer him a varied diet.

I ran into a few setbacks when going about starting a tortoise feed garden. First of all, I live in a small condo without a backyard, so everything I grow has to be able to survive in containers with limited light. Secondly, in all of my tortoise advice groups on Facebook, most of the sites they recommended for seeds for weeds, wildflowers, and other tortoise seed mixes were either from the UK or the US, and could not be shipped to Canada.

Eventually I came across Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds, and ordered a few bags of seeds that I had cleared as okay, moderate feeds for Nugget on thetortoisetable.org.uk.

I started with Curly Cress, just to see if I could actually grow the sprouts. I’m not really one to eat a lot of veggies and greens, so growing sprouts was entirely new to me. I didn’t really like the water-only method, so I bought some cheap, shallow trays from Dollarama and threw in a bit of veggie garden soil. So far, so good!

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So far Nugget has yet to actually eat any sprouts, but I figure this is likely because he’s a picky eater used to Mazuri and grocery store veggies like baby romaine, kale, and spring mix. I planted the other trays yesterday, so fingers crossed that they grow as well as the curly cress has! Hopefully I can gradually introduce some more variety into his diet!