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The breeding of tortoises in captivity in the UK is a complex issue.
This page seeks to give some basic pointers and tips for beginners.
The successful breeding of tortoises in the UK is a complicated business for a number of reasons. As breeding of tortoises is such a large and complex issue, and it is not necessarily an essential part of your tortoises life, it is not discussed in any great detail on this site at present. As the site continues to grow, so the wealth of information contained within it's pages will expand and this will probably include more advice on how to successfully breed your tortoises intentionally. For now, this page will contain hints and tips for those of us who keep mixed sex groups of tortoises and may find ourselves in possession of eggs or hatchlings unexpectedly! If you have specific questions regarding any aspect of tortoise breeding, then please feel free to use the forums, where you will usually get the answer you require.
- Breeding pairs should be matched in size. A small eager male will be frustrated if kept with a larger female and will stress her with repeated unsuccessful mating attempts.
- Tortoise courtship and mating is often an aggressive affair and you must be ready to separate the males from the females if need be. Females can become very stressed with the continual advances of a male. Butting or biting are common depending on species.
- If you did not witness mating then it may come as a surprise, but signs of a gravid (pregnant/eggbearing) female are leg wiggling, pacing. loss of appetite, and aggression. Gravid females must be allowed to lay their eggs in relative quiet without the continual interruption of other tortoises.
- Tortoises like to lay their eggs in an area near to shrub roots or rocks. They seem to like the root structure as it holds the soil together and the substrate should be damp but not wet to enable ease of digging and to ensure the hole doesn't collapse.
- The correct temperature helps with nest selection and if inside, the temperature can be maintained using a basking lamp suspended above the nesting site to give a temperature of about thirty-two degrees centigrade.
- Female tortoises may dig several trial nests which are abandoned before finding a site that is deemed satisfactory.
- As each egg is laid, it will be carefully positioned and then another laid.. Clutch sizes vary with species and individual tortoise. Once the clutch is complete, the hole will be carefully filled back in.
- If you suspect (or know) that mating has taken place, then you need to observe your tortoises as carefully as possible to ensure that you note the spot where the eggs have been laid. This can be fairly difficult to find if you don't mark the spot carefully.
- The eggs now need to be dug up and placed carefully in an incubator. It is best to mark the top of the eggs with a soft pencil as turning the eggs will result in them becoming unproductive. - The incubation temperature should be between 29 and 32 degrees centigrade. If the eggs are kept at the cooler end of this range all of the hatchlings will be male. If the incubator is kept above 32 degrees centigrade, all hatchlings will be female.