Some premises about the best land turtle’s habitat
How should shelters be for land turtles? There is a beautiful proverb I had heard in Africa:
The turtle is the wisest of animals because it carries its house
Very evocative, of course! Anyway, the shell is not a house, it’s just an armour, a bulletproof vest against predators. The turtles, in fact, absolutely need a shelter and now I’ll show you how you can create the best land turtle’s habitat ever.
In our garden, there are fourteen turtles. Among them, there is Cameo, a turtle with a crisis of identity: in my opinion she believes to be a dog (but this is another story). For her many years ago we had built our first wooden shelter: thanks to Cameo and her friends, I have a strong experience about turtles. How the perfect land turtle habitat is? Here are seven tips for you!
– This is the result of my personal experience. We have fourteen turtles and each of them has its own needs, its history and its personality. Take into account the peculiarity of your turtle when you choose its shelter and the location for a perfect habitat for land turtles.
-It is not a tutorial on how to build the hut. This post is a set of tips on how to offer a great environment to your turtle. If you also want to build your own wooden hut yourself, I am preparing a project with all the measures and indications you need. You can book it here.
Ok, let us go to the seven tips, elaborated by me with the wise contribution of Cameo.
1.A beautiful house
Well, I do love wood, but my fourteen turtles love it too, because it is an insulating and natural material. Avoid plastic shelters, because they are very hot in summer and do not isolate from the cold.
An interesting alternative to wood is terracotta: a sufficiently large vase, lying down and completely covered with the ground, offers extraordinary insulation from heat and cold. As the turtles adore the contact with the ground, you can fill the vase down to a height of one third with at least 15 centimeters of terrain. In this way you get a very elegant and high-performance “Hobbit house” shelter.
If you like wood more, choose a panel thickness of at least 1, 5 cm and the shelter will be well insulated. The roof should have an overhang protecting the door from rain and sunshine. Which kind of wood? I like solid maple wood or spruce marine plywood.
A secret for you: put the entrance to one side (I mean, not in the middle of the panel). If you do so, you provide your turtle with a more sheltered and protected corner, shady in summer and warmer in winter. One last tip: make the roof inspectable or removable. It will be easy for you to clean the inside and check that your turtle is ok during hibernation periods.
2. Direct contact with the ground
They like to dig, not just for hibernation. A hot summer a few years ago, some of my turtles had made a hole in the shade to stay cool. When preparing for the winter, they get covered with a layer of terrain to obtain a higher and constant temperature compared to the outside. Turtles also dig for laying eggs or for escaping from your yard.
I like to put soft ground in the area I dedicate to my turtles, so they can have fun digging all the holes they want. Which terrain? The normal garden soil will be fine. The important thing is to avoid relegating them to paved surfaces or synthetic carpets, because this would go against their natural and powerful instinct to pierce the garden.
3. Outdoor space
Turtles are wild animals. I often say that one of my turtles, Cameo, is convinced of being a dog but the hard truth is that (fortunately) they are not.
To live well, they need an environment that is as close as possible to their natural habitat. It is a complex habitat, made up of terrain, sunlight, grass, bushes and this complexity is impossible to reproduce inside.
Does this mean that a turtle cannot live in a beautiful terrarium inside? Of course, she can, but this article is about the ideal environment. I could be locked up in a room for about twenty years: with food, books and the internet, I could also stay well, but the quality of life would not be optimal. The same goes for the turtles: inside we have to set up heating lamps, earth and a whole series of artifices that we can naturally get in the garden. Outdoor space is the best choice, if you can.
4. A solid fence
The turtle is not the most agile and snappy animal in nature, but she is a good climber. She is curious, explorer and she loves to dig, so if you do not limit her spaces she could get away and put herself in danger.
About dangers, there are animals that can kill or hurt your turtles: dogs, cats, mice and so on. A beautiful fence can keep them away. What should the enclosure be like? I recommend a wire mesh to the outside, a minimum of forty centimeters above ground and at least twenty centimeters below ground.
On the inside, it is important to put a small wooden fence, with vertical posts with a smooth surface. So the turtle cannot climb and get hurt, nor can she escape running under the fence. Last tip: hawks are a real danger. It would be good to put a light net horizontally over the fence, to prevent owls or other predators from the sky to pick up your turtle.
5. Good grass and bushes
Turtles love the heat, but during summer, they need shade. Inside the enclosure put some bushes where turtles can hide. In my opinion, aromatic plants are a good choice. I have put rosemary, sage, lavender and thyme, but you can also use oregano, myrtle, mint and laurel.
The list is very long: in Southern Italy, for example, I saw some magnificent turtle enclosures, with begonias and prickly pears. Turtles are vegetarian, so the ideal shelter is rich in varied grass and bushes. What is more, I have noticed that all my turtles love Dandelion, very common in my region.
6. Some water
After creating an environment naturally rich in food, let’s talk about water. The troughs of water near the shelter are very important. A tip: the depth must be minimal to allow the turtle to breathe and wallow safely.
7. A sheltered hibernation
One thing I envy to my turtles is hibernation: during the gray months of winter, they sleep and wake up only when the temperature rises above ten degrees. In warm or moderately temperate climates, you can leave your turtles outdoors. If you live in places where the temperature often drops below zero, like me, you must make a terrarium to be placed where the temperature is constantly around 4-7 degrees above zero. Garages, attics and cellars are great, but remember to check your turtle every now and then.
Very important: there are terrible dangers in winter, especially if your turtle stays in the cellar. A shelter must be protected from mice. Rats and mice are a threat because they can nibble the shell and eat our turtles, killing them or leaving them mutilated. A solution? A safe terrarium closed and well protected from external dangers. Remember to check your turtle’s hibernation, waiting for spring.
Ok, that’s all! Cameo, Spillo and all our turtles wish you a great day!
See you next Tuesday. Ciao!
I am an architect and I study the habitat of many animals. I used to live among the woods of France, the sands of the Middle East, the canals of Venice and the lights of Paris, before returning to the fold.
The fold is on the beautiful hills of Lake Garda, surrounded by castles, fairy tales and cypresses. From here I tell stories and make drawings on cats, dogs, mysteries, legends, hedgehogs and bats.