Quick Start: Redfoot Habitat Guide

Can redfoot tortoises be kept successfully indoors? This is not ideal.

To be honest, if a 100% indoor living situation is all you can offer, it is best not to get one of these sensitive animals.

However, hatchling and juvenile redfoots can be kept indoors for just the first year or two of life as long as all the other requirements on this list are met.

This is because hatchling redfoots will hide inside the habitat you provide for the majority of the first year of their life – just as they would in the wild. They won’t move much unless you move them, which is why it is important to dig them out of their mossy hiding spots regularly for soaks, feedings and health checks.

But juveniles aged one-year or older will start to become more active. And by adulthood, expect your tortoise to be chomping at the bit to roam freely over a fairly wide area. These tortoises are “roamers” in a wild setting and you don’t want the frustration of trying to contain an active juvenile or adult redfoot inside your home.

So – outdoors is always best starting around one year of age.

How much space does a redfoot tortoise need at different ages/sizes?

  • Hatchling redfoot tortoises (less than 12 months) need at least 3-feet x 3-feet.
  • Juvenile redfoot tortoises (12 to 24 months old) need at least 6-feet x 6-feet.
  • Adult redfoot tortoises (36 months or older) need at least 10-feet x 10-feet.

At every age and stage of life, bigger is ALWAYS better.  (Although during your tortoise’s younger years, a larger area will also mean increased vigilance on your part.)

If you can’t provide a full-time enclosure that meets these minimum recommended size requirement, consider a hybrid situation such as the one I use with Malti.

She has a 6′ x 3.5′ secure outdoor night enclosure for sleeping and a much larger 200 square foot enclosed day play area where she can roam about freely and forage. Before I had a rental situation that allowed for this, I compensated by spending chunks of time each day out on the lawn so Malti could walk around and explore and stretch her legs.  Remember, there are all kinds of ways to make sure your redfoot has the enrichment required to keep these animals healthy and happy in a captive setting.

Speaking of a captive setting, there is certainly no shortage of information available online today when it comes to brainstorming what your redfoot’s enclosure might look like. “Tortoise tables” have become incredibly popular but are not your only option.

The key is to create an enclosure that works with your available space and setup that achieves every goal the redfoot tortoise needs at each stage of life. Sounds like a tall order, right? It is a tall order.

SAFETY NOTEAfter you get everything set up just the way you like it, the final step is to put your redfoot inside and do a full-scale safety check. You want to watch closely to see if there are any possible avenues for danger, especially due to injury, escape or entry from predators. Your redfoot will show you any weaknesses if you are watching closely enough – I can promise you that!

Expect to keep learning, refining and redesigning your redfoot’s habitat setup as you go.  Because just when you think you’ve totally got “the” setup, your tortoise will show you something that needs to change. Truly, your redfoot tortoise’s needs will change throughout life and your habitat will need to change accordingly. This is a challenge, to be sure, but it is also a big part of the FUN of caring for these amazing animals.

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