Redfoot tortoise habitats come in all shapes and sizes – literally.
Some keepers choose to build their own custom enclosures. Many of these are really neat and creative! Tortoise Trust has a good basic instructional page if you want to build your own tortoise table for your redfoot.
What is a tortoise table, you might be wondering? These are long, low, rectangular structures with an open top to let in light. You don’t have to get fancy to make one as long as all the redfoot basics are there.
Here is an example of a basic redfoot tortoise table from the top and side views.
Of course, a custom-made tortoise table is not your only option. You may also choose to go the route of purchasing pre-made or assemble-upon-delivery habitats, which is what I have done with Malti to date.
Here is a brief overview of Malti’s habitat upgrades from age five weeks to six years.
- Malti as a hatchling redfoot: When Malti was a five-week-old hatchling, I used one of those plastic under-bed shoe storage bins that are easy to find at Walmart or Target. She mostly hid in her sphagnum moss all the time so this was fine for her.
- Malti as a young juvenile redfoot: As Malti got bigger and taller, she started trying to climb out of the shallow bins, so the bins I used had to get bigger and taller as she did.
- Malti as an older juvenile redfoot: Finally, Malti got so big and tall she outgrew the largest bin I could find at Walmart and I knew it was time to move her outside.
- Malti as a young adult redfoot: For her transition outdoors, I chose a 3-sided 6′ x 3.5′ rabbit hutch I found on Amazon and added a plexiglass floor with drainage holes. This worked for a couple of years, but now I mostly use it just for her overnight enclosure.
- Malti as an adult redfoot: Now, since I am still renting our casa, Malti lives in the L-shaped piece of land that surrounds two sides of our garage apartment. This works out to give her about 200 square feet of roaming space, which is the bare minimum she needs to enjoy some enriching foraging and exercise.
At first, I was very keen on making Malti a lovely habitat that looked perfect in every way. I would work and work on her habitat and then five seconds after I put her in it for the first time, it would be a total mess. So remember, your setup doesn’t have to look “pretty” as long as it functions like a naturalistic habitat your redfoot would find in a wild setting.
These tips will help you design a low-stress, safety-first habitat for your redfoot:
- Cover up the sides of your tortoise enclosure. Tortoises have no concept of glass – if you use a clear-sided habitat, cover the sides so your redfoot won’t be constantly pacing and trying to get out. Mesh can be equally stressful because your redfoot can see out but can’t get out. Cover to at least the height of your redfoot when they are standing on their hind legs for best results.
- Use/choose ONLY tortoise-safe hardwoods. You only want to choose fir or other suitable hard-woods. Resinous soft woods like pine and cedar exude phenols that can be irritating and potentially toxic to your redfoot.
- Your tortoise WILL try to climb and dig and sample everything. While it is impossible to prevent every possible accident, the more you try to choose safe, low, lightweight accessories, the less risk there will be of injury.
- Make sure the water bowl is very shallow. The water level should not exceed the height of your tortoise’s knees. Redfoots cannot right themselves naturally so if your tortoise ends up on their back, having a shallow water area will prevent drowning.
- Enclosure height isn’t nearly as important as length and width. Redfoots don’t need a high-sided enclosure – just something sufficient to keep them from climbing out. Surface area is much more important – they need lots of walking space.
NOTE: Do not be sucked in by those ads for “tortoise houses” – even the ones made by otherwise reputable reptile products companies (like this one). These are NOT big enough even for your average hatchling! The only option to make something like this workable is to try to join two or three of them together, but then you are probably looking at a pretty significant expense for something your redfoot will quickly outgrow.
This is the 6′ x 3.5′ repurposed rabbit hutch (it seems to now be discontinued but you can still see it to get the general idea) I used to create a secure outdoor enclosure for Malti by adding a plexiglass base with drainage holes. It is made of appropriate fir wood, costs less than $100 and was easy for me to assemble without special tools or help – so if you are not handy with DIY projects, something like this can get you started relatively quickly.
Here are some appropriate enclosure products that you can choose to use as-is, modify or simply consider as inspiration for creating your own redfoot enclosure. You can also find lots of awesome creative ideas by searching online for “tortoise table” or “redfoot enclosure.”
- Waterland Tubs: this company makes a wide variety of suitable sturdy reptile-safe tubs that can be repurposed for indoor or outdoor use.
- The Turtle Source: this company offers tortoise habitat kits, although all were listed as temporarily out of stock when I was doing my research.
- Rockever: this company seems to sell primarily on Amazon, but at 40″L x 36″W x 14″H, their fir wood rabbit hutch is a suitable size for an older hatchling redfoot if you add on a secure under-layer to predator-proof it.
- Zen Habitats: this company makes gorgeous high-end structures that can be extended to make a suitable size enclosure for a redfoot.
- Vision Reptile Tubs: this company makes some larger solid-sided starter tubs that could work for a hatchling or very young juvenile redfoot tortoise.
- Repti-Zoo: this company makes a low glass terrarium that could be suitable for a hatchling or very young juvenile redfoot tortoise.