As you consider a Redfoot tortoise breeding program consider that your tortoise is originally from the wilds of Southern Central America and South America and range from 10” to 14” long when mature.
Typically, they begin breeding when they reach 6” to 8” long, (roughly 7-to 8 years old) although at that size their eggs are often infertile and the clutches are smaller than fully-adult redfoots would produce.
They’ve become very popular as pets and many owners are interested in redfoot tortoise breeding. If you’re one of them, here is some basic information about breeding that should be interesting and helpful.
Diet is Important
As I mentioned above, breeding immature redfoots is possible, but you’re more likely to get fertile eggs and healthy hatchlings if you stick to breeding mature tortoises, ones 10+ years old.
In addition to size/maturity, the most important aspect of successful redfoot tortoise breeding is feeding your tortoises a varied, nutritious diet.
Some owners involved in redfoot tortoise breeding report seeing the largest clutches and highest hatch rates when tortoises are fed a wide variety of leafy vegetables, fruits and vegetables.
I also recommend feeding animal-based protein once a week as part of the overall diet.
Redfoots not being bred should only be fed animal protein every other week. Animal-based protein can come from chopped boiled eggs, grubs, snails, slugs, worms, boiled chicken or shrimp, or even salmon or tuna canned in water.
An inadequate diet can contribute to small clutches, infertile eggs, incompletely developed embryos, and hatchlings that fail to thrive despite receiving good care.
Redfoot Tortoise Breeding Triggers
Redfoot tortoise breeding can occur at virtually any time of the year, but most breeders say it tends to take place either during or just after a rain.
There are many reports that more than one male is needed for successful redfoot tortoise breeding – the presence of at least two males appears to stimulate the urge to reproduce. Others think only one male is necessary for successful redfood tortoise breeding.
However, one male is all it takes to make this happen. 🙂
Redfoot Gender Distinctions
Naturally, you’ll need to make sure you have at least one male and one female.
Male redfoots have a concave plastron, while the plastron of females tends to be much flatter.
Males also have longer tails and a much wider, flatter anal notch in their plastron.
Some males have a narrow “waist” that gives them a shape that resembles a large peanut when seen from above.
The Mating Ritual and Process
Typically, a male interested in mating will begin by walking closely behind a female. He then circles the female repeatedly, sticks out his head so that it’s close to her face, and jerks his head rapidly from side to side. Shoving, ramming and biting can be involved.
When “the time is right” he’ll position himself and mount her from the rear.
The concavity of his plastron lets it fit snugly over the top of her shell. During copulation the male will make a series of unusual grunts or clucking sounds.
The clucking is so loud anyone in ear shot will swear they’re hearing chickens.
Provide a Nesting Area
Female redfoots prefer to deposit their eggs in an area where the substrate is moist. Typically, they deposit their eggs in the early evening. A single female can produce two or five clutches every year. Clutches vary in size, but three to eight eggs is fairly typical.
For the last 3+ years mine has dropped her clutches between mid-October and early January. They vary from 3-5 eggs and from 4-5 clutches.
They are prolific, so make sure you’re ready to handle the volume of eggs (and hatchlings) coming your way.
Make sure the substrate depth is at least 6 inches. The reason for this depth is as the female digs out the nest area if she can’t get to roughly a 45 degree tilt (front ot back) she won’t drop her eggs.
Once she starts laying her eggs she also goes into a trance, so keep any other tortoises away from her and do not disturb her until she has dropped her eggs and completely covered the nest and walked away.
Once the female deposits her eggs, dig them up carefully. Partially bury the eggs in small plastic food containers in an incubator (get yourself a Hovabator, which will cost you around $30, last for years, and work like a charm) that’s been filled halfway with moist vermiculite.
At 84, you’ll get male hatchlings; at 88 you’ll get females; at 86 you’ll get some of both.
My advice is to set it at 85-86 and don’t worry about the sex.
I’ve hatched them at 88-89 and had beautiful colors, but also some minor shell deformities, so stick with 85-86 – they come out perfect.
The humidity in the incubator should be kept at a constant 70% to 90% (mist the vermiculite as and when necessary to maintain this humidity level).
The incubation period ranges from 120 to 190 days, but the average is typically 145 to 150 days.
All of our hatchlings, so far, (over 28 as I write this) have averaged between 110 and 120 days.
Lastly, like all tortoise and turtles the older the female, the higher percentage of hatchlings. At age 8-10 expect a 25-50% hatch rate. If you’re lucky enough to get one to 35-50 years old you’d likely see a 85-100% hatch rate.
So, s reasonable expectation when breeding your Redfoot tortoises is if your 8 year old drops a total of 15 eggs, you’ll probably get 4-6 actual hatchlings.