Care of Red Footed Tortoise

Bennett Greenberg
by Bennett Greenberg
View Biography

Red Footed Tortoise

Overall, this species does best in naturally humid climates outdoors. If your area is not naturally humid, water timers and a misting/sprinkler system can be utilized to artificially create one. Some areas of the habitat should be heavily planted to allow the Red-foot a cool dim retreat. Provision of a wet muddy area for wallowing will also be appreciated by your tortoise. Red-foots take readily to using a hutch or doghouse-like artificial retreat. Concrete floors are not recommended because they tend to be very cold and have been reported to cause prolapsed of the penis in male red-foots (Rendquist, 1994). In areas with cool nights a thermostatically controlled ceramic heater in such a retreat will provide the tortoise with an area that remains above 60°F.

When building an enclosure for a Red Foot Tortoise you need to provide plenty of room for your tortoise to explore. For an adult I would recommend 10 to 12 feet square or larger. The larger the better. Provide grazing plants such as dandelion, clover, chicory and chickweed and common grasses such as monkey grass, fescue or Bermuda grass.

Your tortoise will need areas of shade and sunlight and a place to burrow or hide. Plant bushes or shrubs that can provide shade and grazing such as Hibiscus and Yucca and maybe even something like Wandering Jew for cover. Provide a partially buried hide box and an area of loose dirt and leaf mulch in one corner. The plants, hide box and mulch area will provide your Red-Foot with several areas of retreat. A shallow pan for water is needed. Dig a depression or hole to match the water pan's size and place the pan so that the top is at ground level.

This provides easy access but make sure your tortoise can easily exit the water dish at will. Add a few rocks and maybe a small fallen branch or two to break up the scenery. Make sure branches are not so big that the tortoise can fall off and land on its back. It is also recommended to hose down the entire enclosure daily and soak your tortoise at least once a week. This simulated rainfall can help stimulate your Tortoise's appetite and increase it's activity levels. There are different substrates available for indoor and outdoor enclosures but for my outdoor enclosure I opt for the ground itself, planted as specified above.


Red-foots have peculiar mating rituals. If two Red-foot Tortoises are to mate, they first stand at each other's side. The instigating male will begin shaking its head to the side. If the other Tortoise is a male, it will shake its head in response, and the two will usually get into a mini-brawl. If it is a female, the Tortoise will not respond. The male will sniff the female's tail to make sure it's a female, and if confirmed, mating will commence. During a mating session, the male will make a clucking sound, which is similar to the clucking of a hen. Eggs incubate for about 120 days. Incubation temperatures should remain at 86°F.

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