Return to World Chelonian Trust Main Page for more Turtle and Tortoise Information

Build Your Tortoises Their Own Tortoise House - Bill Urschel

Copyright © 2003 World Chelonian Trust. All rights reserved

This is a suggestion for an outdoor tortoise house, suitable for two full-grown California Desert tortoises. The slanted roof is hinged at the front (the high end) for easy access, and is raised half an inch off the ground. Half-buried stones or bricks under the footings will aid circulation and keep the house cooler in mid-summer. A curtain can be hung over the entrance, once the occupants have figured out how to crawl inside.


If the design has any merit, it's that it's cheap to build, and simple enough even for those with limited skills with the hammer and saw.


24' 1" x 10" pine boards for bottom, sides, front and back

6' 1" x 2" pine molding for front and back braces

9' 1'2" x 2" or 3/4" plywood, 42" x 32", for top

1 pair of brass door hinges

2" galvanized wide brads (nails)

waterproof (or water resistant) carpenter's glue

1/2 gallon glossy or satin finish latex enamel exterior paint


The first step is to cut the 1 x 10 boards to length, being careful to keep the cut square. Cut the "third" side piece diagonally to form the slanted top half of both sides.


Cut the center piece of the front and back panels narrower by the width of the board times two. The front and back panels have to be narrower than the bottom, because the sides are on the outside. Also, making the center board narrow assures that the seams in the bottom don't line up with the seams in the front and back panels; this overlapping adds strength.


Glue the edges of the bottom, sides, front, and back together. If you don't happen to have a fancy clamp, you can use long, thin pieces of scrap wood and light nails to hold the board tight while the glue dries.


Cut the three footings, apply glue, and nail them to the bottom. Nail from the top, so the ends that protrude through the footings in the bottom can be bend over safely (if you nail from the bottom, your tortoises may catch themselves).


When the glue has dried, cut the front and back braces to exactly the same width as the front and back panels. Glue and nail them on.


 Cut the circular door with a coping saw.


 Glue and nail the sides and front and back panels together.


Paint the box and top separately. Sand as necessary, but be certain to use exterior paint. Latex is much easier to apply. Count on at least three coats of even the best paint.


Attach the top to the box above the door with the two door hinges. The top will have a three-inch overhang (more or less) on the back and sides, and a five-inch overhang on the front.


Cut and lay indoor/outdoor carpet, as called for by your interior decorator.


To create a smaller scale house suitable for box turtles or smaller tortoises, use the same plans, but omit the center board in the bottom, front, and back, and cut the top narrower.


(WCT note:  Please be aware that this is a house for an animal being kept in the climatic area which it originally lived in. If you are maintaining tropical tortoises you may need to add heat in the form of a ceramic heat emitter or pig blanket. )  - World Chelonian Trust


Return to Husbandry

World Chelonian Trust

PO Box 1445

Vacaville, CA




  Fauna Top Sites Click Here to Visit!    Exotic Pet Sites  Click Here to Visit!   Click Here to Visit!                   

Email Webmaster