Dangers specific to Pen Design - Keeping your Pets inside
the Pen and Predators Outside
When you build a habitat for turtles and tortoises, the
first thing to consider is that many are excellent diggers,
as are some of their natural predators. You will need to
include an underground barrier of some sort to stop digging
out or in.
One way to do this is to dig a trench a few feet deep inside
or outside of where the pen wall will be, and line it with
poultry fencing or hardware cloth, so that diggers under the
wall from either direction will be stopped at this barrier.
You also might build a concrete foundation for the pen
walls, effectively erecting a subsurface wall, or pound
aluminum sheeting into the ground around the perimeter of
the pen. Be forewarned that if your turtle species is one of
the desert burrowers, you will need a very deep barrier to
stop them from digging out.
When you plan the walls of your pen, take into consideration
again the species of turtle you have. For many turtles a
height of "one and one half turtles" may work, keeping in
mind that if you have more than one turtle they will climb
on top of each other and may escape a low wall that way.
But Box Turtles and many of the water turtles can climb very
well, amazingly enough. Some turtles have been seen scaling
5 foot fences! A baby Red Eared Slider,
my childhood pet,
once escaped and was found at the top of the living room
drapes! So for those species, you may need a taller wall,
preferably of solid wood, concrete or metal, rather than
wire fencing, or a pen with a cover.
Of course, keeping out predators is also a major issue. You
can make a wood framed wire cover for a lower-walled pen
that will help with keeping turtles in and predators out,
but be sure that it is hinged so you can conveniently lift
the lid to enter and clean, feed and inspect your turtles,
and well locked against wily predators. Also be sure that if
you use wire fencing for the pen walls the holes are too
small for your turtle to escape and strong enough to keep
predators from forcing their way inside.
Another thing that will help to prevent attempts to burrow
out is to line the inside of the pen walls with bricks or
concrete blocks. Although the turtles may be able to climb
on top of the bricks, at least while at ground level they
will not be pining for the grass on the other side of the
fence, and digging attempts may be discouraged.
If you do use concrete blocks to line your pen, turn them
hole side up and fill the holes with soil and edible plants.
This improves the appearance of your pen, gives your turtles
some food they can eat at will, attracts insects for added
snacks, and provides shade, hiding places, and distraction
from the world outside the pen!
If you live in North America and
raccoons are your
neighbors, you might also need to erect an electric fence
around the perimeter of your pen or even your yard. Raccoons
are smart and love to eat turtle, and their little hands and
teeth can do a lot of damage to pen and turtles quickly.
A less dangerous but slightly less effective predator
deterrent than electric fencing is a motion-detecting
sprinkler head that attaches to your hose and sprays a
sudden jet of water across the area when it is set off by
movement. Just set it high enough that your turtle can't set
it off. It might not find the sudden spray amusing.
These measures may seem too troublesome or time consuming,
but you acquired your turtle pet because you wanted to enjoy
it, and you probably love it. Finding your pet missing, or
missing parts of its body, in the morning would not be very
enjoyable, so use this preventative medicine now and make
your pets as safe as possible.