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A Guide for Choosing Fencing for Your Tortoise or Turtle

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Tortoises and turtles can make excellent pets—and under the right conditions, they can live outdoors. Outdoor living is suitable for these reptiles; they can establish a more diverse and natural habitat in your yard than they ever could indoors. One of the most important aspects of building a successful tortoise enclosure is choosing the right fencing. Here are some considerations you should make as you design the best fence for turtles and tortoises.

What type of fencing will you need?

Many tortoises can reach massive heights and weights, and these tortoises naturally need larger enclosures and stronger fences. These animals do not have the advantage of speed or the ability to jump, but they do have a slow, forceful power than can stress weak fences, eventually tearing them down. Thin mesh fencing, like that used for rabbits, in not suitable because tortoises can tear holes in it. Wire fencing works, but the wires need to be very strong and knit closely together. Chain link works well for some turtles, but it should be vinyl coated to reduce injury should a tortoise brush against the fence with their head or feet. Some tortoises, like Russian tortoises, need a solid wall because gaps in the fence will make the animal strive to get through to the other side, making cinderblocks or other privacy fencing the best choice. If you choose a wooden fence, it's best to use a solid horizontal design with horizontal reinforcements for added strength. The larger the tortoise, the stronger the fence needs to be. For very strong tortoises, you should run a solid plank of wood or a line of cinderblock around the bottom portion of the fence to reinforce the barrier. 

What are the habits of your particular tortoise breed?

Some tortoises are natural grazers, and others can climb and enjoy climbing up fences and escarpments. Many breeds enjoy burrowing. To help keep your tortoise safe in their enclosure, install climbing guards or design the fence to slant inwards or curve slightly at the top to prevent aspiring turtles from going up and over. Even if your tortoise is not a climber, you should still install barriers in the corners, since corners are attractive to even to clumsier turtles that don't climb as frequently. Burrowing tendencies can be discouraged by sinking the fence material—not just the posts—down into the ground several inches. You can also discourage burrowing by adding features to the habitat to draw turtles away from the edge. For example, keeping a bale of hay or planting some naturally tall grasses in the enclosure will keep turtles from wanting to dig to get to the greener grass on the other side of the fence. 

Do you have other pets or neighborhood animals that are a danger to your turtle?

With a climbing guard installed, tortoises don't need a very tall fence to mark the perimeters of the enclosure. They are low to the ground, so a fence two or three feet high (depending on the adult size of your reptile) should be sufficient. However, keep in mind that the enclosure is not just for keeping turtles in. It's also to keep other animals away. Dogs can sometimes play with or maul turtles. If you have active neighborhood dogs, consider building the fence taller even if your animal would make do with a shorter one. Provide other enclosure safety precautions like a tortoise house for refuge, mesh covers, and pools of water for cover. 

For more information about building the perfect outdoor habitat and fence for your tortoise or turtle, contact a fencing contractor in your area. Click to read more about fencing.