Heated Winter Housing
Many tortoises require warmth on cold winter days and nights. Here are our best tips for keeping your chelonian safe and healthy until spring.
Thank you so much for taking the time to learn about winter housing for your tortoise! Central Texas Tortoise Rescue is run completely by volunteers with no paid staff, and we have been able to obtain heated housing for our animals and to provide educational content for you thanks to your generous support and a grant from the Jacob & Terese Hershey Foundation. If you found this content useful, please share it with all of your tortoise-keeping friends, and if you’d like to support our efforts, donations are always appreciated! Finally, if you have additional questions about heated housing for your tortoise please reach out and ask – we’d love to keep improving the content of this course and making it even better for you!
For Extreme Cold Conditions
In February 2021, many of us faced unprecedented weather for the area in the form of a prolonged period of freezing temperatures. Before you decide to provide a home for a tortoise, make sure that you have both the financial and the physical resources and physical strength/fitness to be prepared for the unexpected. Once things freeze in Texas, it’s already too late to go buy a heater or generator. We recommend having a generator on hand to keep your tortoise’s house warm in case of long periods without electricity. You need to be physically capable of moving your tortoise to safety - either to their heated house or into your home with you if need be. We used every available container to keep tortoises gathered around our fireplace during snowpocolypse, except for one 80 lb tortoise that was outside in an insulated house with a heat mat connected to a generator. We used a bluetooth thermometer with an alarm on it to tell us when the temperature in the tortoise house dropped to 60, and then we’d crank on the generator to get it warmed up. We couldn’t leave for gas because the roads were impassable and most places were closed anyway, so we would leave the generator on long enough to bring the tortoise’s house up to about 80 degrees and then shut it off until the alarm went off again (about every 2 hours).
When temperatures are going to be too low for days at a time, we use plywood and bricks to block the doors to the tortoise houses so they can’t come out and get chilled and become stranded (cold-stunned, essentially) outside of their heated house. Generally, if the forecast is below 55 for several days in a row, we leave the tortoises “locked in” to their heated houses until the temperatures come back up. Once it warms and the sun comes out, we remove the blockade from the door and allow them to come out on their own. In our area they generally are not blocked in for longer than 2 – 3 days at one time, and even that happens very rarely.