Why Grow Food for your Tortoises?

Growing foods for your tortoises doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. With a little bit of time and some planning, providing native and healthy items for your animals to graze on outdoors is the healthiest thing you can do for them.  Allowing tortoises to graze naturally increases exercise, which is a necessity for good intestinal and internal organ function, exposes them to natural sunlight needed for Vitamin D3, and creates a lot of visual enrichment in their lives.  Tortoises have not evolved to remain sedentary, with heaps of wet, prepared foods placed in front of them, although certain industries would have you believe exactly the opposite.

Herbie, a three legged tortoise enjoying a snack of Sedum

As humans, we’re accustomed to putting food on a plate or bowl for ourselves, as well as for pets like dogs and cats. This is unnatural for tortoises, who often walk great distances in search of the food items they instinctively know that they need to remain healthy.  Each species has evolved to not only survive, but to thrive on plants that are native to their origins.  They instinctively follow the patterns of plant growth for what their bodies need at a particular time.  Tortoises are experts at obtaining nutrition and moisture from plants that look useless, or even dead to us.

A plant we see a wild tortoise eating in the early spring with gusto, may very well be refused later in the season, when the tortoise’s system tells it that it needs something different.  By paying attention to these clues, we can more accurately provide the nutrition tortoises need.   Always remember, a tortoise’s stomach is not much larger than its head, and in that small space, they can pack in a lot of weeds and grasses for a slow digestion process that extracts every shred of moisture and nutrition available.

By growing foods yourself, you know that what you’re offering your tortoise has not been exposed to harmful herbicide or pesticide-which should never be a part of a tortoise’s diet.

So let’s get to growing tortoise foods. Where should you begin? Please see the following links: