Incubating Redfoot tortoise eggs is something you’re going to face as a tortoise keeper at some point.
When this happens there are two steps you need to take in order to end up with healthy hatchlings.
And since I get asked the question and its important now, “how long is the gestation for Redfoot tortoise eggs?”
The answer is, 110-150 days and it varies for each female Redfoot. Over the last 5 years my female has had her eggs hatch like clockwork at between 108-115 days.
When you have your Redfoot tortoise laying eggs you have 6-10 hours to dig them up before you reach the point where they need to stay where she put them – and I’ll get to why a little later.
Now, let’s talk about the two steps you need to put in place before digging up the eggs:
1- setting up the incubator
2- the right container and medium for the eggs.
Incubator Set Up and Incubation Temperature
The incubator we’ve used for Redfoot tortoise eggs for many years is the Hovabator. They’re designed for hatching chicken and duck eggs, but works great for tortoise eggs.
First, you’ll need to fill the internal channel with water. Then make sure this stays full the entire time the eggs are incubating. Check the water level every 3-4 days and top off as needed.
Next you’ll want to get a digital thermometer, set it in the incubator and work to get the temperature to a steady 85-86 degrees.
You adjust the lever on the top left of the incubator to increase or decrease the temperature. It typically takes 3-4 hours to get the temp set at a consistent 85-86 degrees.
Egg Medium and Container
One of the keys to successfully incubating Redfoot tortoise eggs is the medium. I’ve used vermiculite for years and it works very well. You could also use damp sphagnum moss for Redfoot tortoise eggs.
For an egg container we use the round plastic ones people use for storing leftovers in the refrigerator. They work great, last for years, and hold in the heat and humidity generated by the incubator very well.
So our the medium into the plastic container about half full, then add warm, but not hot water to fill the medium.
Then hold your hand over a section and let as much water run out as possible, then push down the medium to squeeze out any more water and dump it.
You want a damp medium not wet one because a wet medium will rot the eggs.
Now, form 3-4 areas in the damp medium for the eggs to sit in and put the container in the incubator.
Digging Up Redfoot Tortoise Eggs
This needs to be done ideally within 9 hours of your Redfoot tortoise laying eggs.
Within 12-24 hours Redfoot tortoise eggs develop small blood vessels that attach to the eggs inside wall. Any moving after that time will tear these blood vessels and destroy the chance for it to develop into an embryonic tortoise.
Okay, back to digging up the eggs.
Since Redfoot’s are curious animals you’ll want to feed them to distract them from coming over to you as you dig up the eggs.
So, go ahead and feed them – I’ll wait.
Now, locate where she dug out the nest and dig down until you see the white of an eggshell start to pop though the substrate. Redfoot’s drop 3-7 eggs in a clutch, so you’ll want to dig around that egg to locate the other 2-6 next to or below it in the substrate.
Try not to spin the egg and as best as you can keep it in the same position you find it when you place it in the medium in the container.
Put each one you find in the container with the damp medium. Once you’ve located all the eggs and filled one or more containers with eggs, put them in the incubator.
Put the end of the digital thermometer in the medium in the container closest to the heat element inside the incubator. Then watch the temperature over the next hour or so to make sure it’s at between 85 and 86 degrees.
There’s a good chance you’ll need to adjust the heat back and forth for a few hours before it stays in the 85-86 degree range.
At this point all you need to do is count down the days and make sure the temperature stays in that range. Top off the channel with water every few days and wait for new life to appear from this clutch of Redfoot tortoise eggs.