Chickens and Tortoises

Frickinfarm(9)July 21, 2011

Does anyone have experience with tortoises cohabitating with their chickens? I recently rescued a Russian tortoise from terrible conditions. My chicken yard is a perfect, safe pen for him. I have given him several shelter areas in which he can hide/sleep. He also has a water pool for moisture. The pen is completely wired to prevent predation/escape. I have not witnessed my chickens giving him any attention at all. They seem to ignore his presence. Do I have need to worry IYO?

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henhilton(8)

I won't claim to know much about it, but a friend of mine has had two tortoises for years. While they do have a hutch of their own to live in, he regularly lets them out into the yard with his chickens. He doesn't seem to have any problems.

Do you think you'll get another tortoise to keep him company?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 1:42PM
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Frickinfarm(9)

That's a good question. Do tortoises need company or are they solitary critters?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 3:33PM
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calliope(6)

I guess I'm more concerned about the chickens than the tortoise, who are often implicated as common salmonella carriers. If you have a salmonella-free flock, you may be introducing it, especially if the poor tortoise was rescued from less than optimal care.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 1:25AM
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Frickinfarm(9)

Calliope,
I hadn't worried about salmonella until now! The tortoise goes for a vet check next week. I'll be asking. Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 1:19PM
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mac_of_maine

Depending also if your tort was wild caught, they tend to carry a lot of bad parasites in their guts.

You don't need to get him a companion, he will be fine by himself. I breed Russians, Hermanns, Greeks and a few other of the small torts. I've been keeping those and other types for over 20 yrs. I have NEVER been sick from handling them. I'm not saying you can't, i'm saying that I have never had it. My kids help me clean, feed, etc.. Good luck with him, they are a fun breed.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 5:24PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

We have a tortoise that has been my husband's pet for the last 45 years...she's been peacefully cohabitating with our mixed flock of chickens since 1995 with no ill effects or injuries to either party. They all get along fine.

One thing we have to do is feed Geraldine (the tortoise) seperately from the chickens--otherwise they simply walk in and steal all her food, she eats so slowly! We just have a wire tent-like cover we put over her when she eats, then we just take it off again when she's done.

Our tortoise hibernates through the winter. Some tortoises dig, but not ours--so once she goes to sleep, but before it rains, we place her in the kitchen pantry to sleep until she wakes up in the Spring (I know when it's Spring when Geraldine knocks over the spaghetti in the pantry and emerges!)

When we put her back out in the yard there is a bit of freaked-out chicken concern over the 'walking rock' on the part of any new flock members, but they all get over it after the first day or so and ignore her. :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 5:56AM
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calliope(6)

Laughing at chickens freaked out over moving rocks. I have never had a bout with salmonella either after handling reptiles and amphibians and I've handled a good share of them. It's called washing one's hands.

My concern with the chickens would be that they do not get sick with salmonella so you may never know if you've introduced it into a flock. They just carry it in their body and pass it along. Not a problem if you cook the eggs well and observe good handling techniques, but one reason I like having my own clean flock is that I love sunnyside-up eggs and have some dishes I make where raw eggs are an ingredient. I am not recommending it to other people.

It used to be salmonella in commercial eggs was due to the organism in the chicken's guts but things have changed and studies now reveal that the incidence of salmonella related to poultry is from it being in their ovaries. IOW the egg is lain already infected. So, one would never know really unless they had their birds tested or got sick from not cooking an egg if their flock has salmonella infested birds or not. Exposure of their birds to an animal where salonella is the norm is risky in that respect.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 1:15PM
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dreamgarden(z6)

"We have a tortoise that has been my husband's pet for the last 45 years...she's been peacefully cohabitating with our mixed flock of chickens since 1995 with no ill effects or injuries to either party. They all get along fine."

A tortoise that hibernates in your pantry? Wow. Amazing that she has lived for so long in captivity.

Do the chickens ever walk/climb on her? Are there any pics of her at your website?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 11:15AM
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calliope(6)

I thought that was pretty cool too.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 11:50AM
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Frickinfarm(9)

Velvet,
You've answered my most pressing question-how to feed the tortoise without the chickens eating it first. Great idea using a wire tent for meal time! I've been letting my hens free range and then feeding the tortoise but that's only possible when I'm home on summer break. Thanks for the solution.

He/she is going to the vet on Wednesday. I'm hoping for a clean bill of health for everyone's sake. My torty digs-do I have to bring it inside to hibernate or will underground suffice? We live in Central California where we have some freezing nights but no snow to speak of.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 8:03PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Tortoises have been around a LONG time and are quite successful...I'd say if yours digs an adequate tunnel it should be fine. With us the main concern for Geraldine (our tortoise) was not cold but being wet--we don't want her to get any kind of health issues because of it.

The chickens are mostly a bit freaked out by Geraldine so they don't climb on her...the only time they will willingly approach her is if she has some food (like corn) stuck to her face, then they will gently clean it off. For her part, Geraldine will barge right into whatever the chickens are doing if she wants to eat or is curious, but she never bites the chickens or tries to hurt them. She's mostly just really laid-back but curious--if we are out there doing anything, Geraldine has to come over and get in the middle of it, she's very friendly.

If you want to see Geraldine with the chickens, here is a video from our UStream Chickam site we did this year...Geraldine sloooowly sneaking up behind Phoenix, our Head Roo and then eating rose petals while the chickens mill around her. :)

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/14891491

Oh--despite her name and the fact that we refer to her as 'she', we discovered a few years ago that Geraldine is actually a male (she has a concave depression on the plastron, or underside of her shell, the function of which is to facilitate mating)--but after all these years we decided not to change her name or how we refer to her. Don't know if a female tortoise's personality may be different than that of a male! :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 4:54PM
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dreamgarden(z6)

"If you want to see Geraldine with the chickens, here is a video from our UStream Chickam site we did this year."

How cool! The chickens look amusing milling around her. Nice that they co-exist peacefully.

I think it is amazing that you have kept this tortoise for so long. You may have to add a tortoise link to your site for those who want to know more about them!

I purchased a turtle/tortoise(?) when I was in grade school. I didn't need a turtle but it was being picked on by a group of kids. They were shoving it around with their feet. I couldn't stand watching this so I offered to buy it. They 'sold' it to me for $3.00. I took it home and let it loose in the backyard. I fed it lettuce and other veggies but was unsure what else it needed.

A few days later it disappeared. We had a fenced yard but I think it either dug its way out, or my parents took it to someone where it could be cared for properly. At least it wasn't being picked on anymore.

Thanks for posting about Geraldine. Wish all tortoises could have a life as interesting as hers (his!).

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 9:58AM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

I tried to find the pictures of my daughter when she was about 3, balancing two little plastic toys on Geraldine's back, afterwards Geraldine just tooled around the yard for a while with them. Luckily for us our little girl has always very careful and gentle with Geraldine, she never tried to sit on her and ride her or anything!

Found a pic of Geraldine under her chicken-proof cover...which is actually the wire cover for our little fire pit! The chickens gather 'round and stare longingly at the spinach...

It just worked out to be perfect so Geraldine could eat at her own pace and in peace, it even has a little handle on top so we can pick it up easily. It's lightweight and has no sharp wire or edges, yet is strong enough to support any chickens that stand on it. We always set our kitchen timer for about 20 minutes when she is under it so we don't forget her, stick around while she's eating and place her where we can see her, but when we forgot her once or twice she just crawled out from under it when she was finished with no harm done. Turtles are basically tanks! :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 5:57AM
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bulldinkie(pa)

I just recently got on transplant list,I need a kidney ,I was told no turtles,no handling turtles,because of samanella.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 11:09PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Sorry to hear that bulldinkie, best of luck to you. :(

Salmonella is a risk with ANY animal being a carrier, even dogs, cats & birds--but turtles (the 'wet' kind) such as Red Eared Sliders--those cute little guys you see in pet shops in a glass bowl with water and a rock for them to climb on--tend to get a bad name as carriers. Possibly because the bacteria thrives more in the wet conditions...? I don't think tortoises (the 'dry' kind) are more or less of a risk than any other animal.

There is a great article on tortoises/turtles and Salmonella here:

http://www.sulcata-station.org/pdf/salmonella.pdf

Most people can avoid the issue by following good basic hygiene, but since you've got a special health condition yeah, follow the advice of your doctor!

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 7:06AM
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