Normally, at this time of the year, Henry, our tortoise, gets out of his bed at about 8am and wanders about the garden, exploring, eating and sunbathing, before retiring for the night between five and six in the evening.
Henry’s bed is a couple of handfuls of hay under a bush in our back garden. For a few days recently I noticed that he was not to be seen until late morning and even then he plodded no further than a couple of feet from his bed before stopping and remaining stationary for the rest of the day. I know how he felt. It had been quite cool at night and cloudy during the day, when not actually raining. Poor old Henry wasn’t getting the sunshine he needed to warm him sufficiently, and to provide sufficient hours of good daylight, to become fully active.
This would not be a cause for concern for just a day or two but we have had the dullest, wettest August that I have ever known. Henry obviously thinks that summer has long gone and has therefore displayed the sort of behaviour that would not be at all unusual in October, during the week or two prior to hiberrnation. However, to hibernate too early could cause problems, especially if we then experienced several days of really warm weather in September, when he might think it was time to wake up again. Henry has usually hibernated for about 12 weeks, waking up in the second half of February, when I keep him in his converted rabbit hutch indoors. There he gets fed and exposed to plenty of daylight and warmth until it really is warm enough for him to start going outside, for just an hour or two at first. By some time in May it is usually safe for him to stay out 24/7 but we still watch the weather forecast for any risk of frost.
If Henry hibernated at the end of August it would be necessary to limit the hibernation period by waking him at Christmas, when he would have a full four months, at least, to put up with being stuck indoors. So, as a temporary measure, I have now reinstated the “half-board” arrangement whereby he comes indoors at around 5pm and out again in the morning if it is warm and, preferably, sunny. This seems to have done the trick. Henry was much more active today even though actual sunshine was limited to a couple of short periods. I am hoping (aren’t we all) for some sustained sunny weather before Autumn sets in properly. This will enable Henry to remain active and feed adequately before winding down for hibernation naturally at the proper time.