Another summer is already over, and autumn is upon us. Unfortunately for our tortoises, autumn seems to start earlier and we have several months of cool, wet and windy weather. During these long, wet months the tortoises go into a sort of 'half life' - not cold enough to hibernate (ie under about 10c), not warm anough to be eating but still using up vital reserves they will need to rely on while hibernating. Remember, tortoises are cold-blooded animals. They need to be warm to be hungry and they cannot make their own heat as we can.
The Society recommends extending a tortoises's 'summer' by using heat lamps. As soon as the weather cools down in September, start putting them under for a couple of hours in the morning. They wake up and go and sit under the lamp for a while until they are nice and warm. Then they become active and hungry. A nice warm tortoise can then go into the garden even on quite cool days and be active for several hours. As the weather gets colder, leave the lmeps on for longer periods.
Make sure you bring them in each night from the garden so that their core temperature doesn't drop too low and they then warm up quicker in the morning.
Something as simple as a bendy arm lamp with a 60w bulb will warm them up nicely. If you would like more information about the larger basking lamps for 2 or more tortoises, please contact the Society.
Depending on how the season progresses you should be able to stop warming them up and begin the slow down process probably the 2nd week of October. This will allow them to have the 3-4 week slow down necessary to empty the gut and bowel.
Decide upon your last day to warm them up and pop them out into the garden as usual. You will not be bringing them in at night either (unless there is a frost forecast of course!). They must sleep in a dry, waterproof sleepbox or in the greenhouse.
The instructions on our care sheet 'Hibernating Your Tortoise' then needs to be followed.
Produced by: Hampshire Tortoise Society