The breeding success....
… depends on many different factors, like how optimally the housing conditions are designed, whether the animals are healthy, whether they were heavily stressed, for example by medication or general illnesses, too frequent touching etc.
A real success in my opinion, it is only if the fertilization rate is high and the mortality rate is low. My animals start with the mating season from about the end of October, until late February, with mating activities most likely in the months of December and January. My male Cleo courts his females very persistently to show them that he is ready to mate. He courts the selected female by pursuing it, circling it, and tries to incite it with ramming against the shell and bites into her legs, to animate her for mating. If the female allows it, he begins to ride on the female from behind.
At the age of nearly four years, my female Nomi unexpectedly dug a nest for the first time and deposited two eggs. At this time, she weighed 180 grams. Cleo weighed about 100 g during the previous mating trials in winter and was two and a half years young. Until that time, I did not think about own offspring. I was convinced that a few more years would pass before I could count on own offspring. Although my other female, Levi, had already reached the required weight, she made no recognizable preparations for oviposition and Nomi had not yet reached the 200 g.
So I had no accessories for the incubation and had to improvise. Since I was not prepared, I quickly built an incubator. I did not believe that these eggs could be fertilized at all, but I still wanted to try to hatch them. Thirteen days later, Nomi again laid two eggs. All eggs were tiny (about 1.8 x 2.2 cm) and weighed 4 g or 5 g. After nearly six weeks, one egg from the first clutch burst. It was not fertilized.
The other three eggs remained in the self-built incubator, for they seemed to be progressing growth. I was very curious and wanted to examine and observe everything exactly, so I could not control myself and had carefully candeled them, to see if at least in the other three eggs were any signs of life. I could see clearly the blood vessels and a small black shadow, the embryo, in the eggs. After 71, 81 and 92 days three tiny healthy baby tortoises hatched. Now, I incubate the eggs with a professional device.
The following year, Nomi started the new egg laying season quite early, already in mid-February. At intervals of 17 to 23 days she laid one to two eggs per clutch. A total of ten with a fertilization rate of 100%. Although the first of the ten eggs showed signs of development at first, unfortunately it stopped developing after a few days and was removed from the incubator after six weeks.The temperature in the incubator is constantly 32.5-33 °C. With this temperature I aim to incubate female hatchlings. The humidity (measured in the substrate) is about 72%.
My second adult female Levi had a hard time with her first oviposition. For nine days she walked around restlessly, looking for a suitable place, did trial digging and then stopped again. This is not an unusual behavior at the first oviposition. Finally, she layed her first four eggs in a fairly deep nest. The following ovipositions, she made without any complications within a few hours. In total, she laid seven eggs in three clutches at an interval of 17 to 27 days with a fertilization rate of 86%. One egg was unfertilized.
Another method is to incubate a few eggs in the most natural way, that is possible in human care: natural brooding. Under the outer edge of the light beam of a 50 watt UV lamp some eggs breed in the soil of the hatchlings terrarium. Here, the temperature is subject to large fluctuations, due to the night reduction and the heat emission of the lamp. Temperatures drop to a minimum of 18-22 °C at night and rise to 34-36 °C during the day. The aim of this experiment is to breed male animals through a low mean of gross temperatures.
How I raise my hatchlings
As I always try to be as close to nature as possible, I have thought a lot about how I would like to raise my hatchlings. Since the Egyptian tortoises are generally inherently equipped with everything they need for life, I have decided to intervene as little as possible and to create conditions that are equally applicable in the habitat for hatchlings, juveniles and adults. Nature makes no exceptions. That's why I design the rearing of my hatchlings and juveniles as well as the keeping of the adults, only in a smaller terrarium. As a hatchlings terrarium, I have set up a commercially available OSB terrarium measuring 120 x 60 x 60 cm.
It is technically almost the same equipped as the large terrarium of my group of five. After the exhausting slippage, my hatchlings remain in the incubator for a few hours in a box with moistened paper towels. Later they are set directly into the rearing terrarium, after a short weight and size check and a bath in very shallow handwarm water.
They live there on sand-clay mixture, have different possibilities to hide (under plants, in igloos made of clay or under a large piece of wood), they can bask under two different UV lamps, have flat climbing opportunities and get the same food like the adults. Hatchlings, that still have a yolk sac after hatching, remain until the yolk sack is fully absorbed, on moistened paper towels in the box in the incubator.
Despite the close-to-nature breeding, in human custody the mating, oviposition and hatching periods deviate from those in nature. That´s why you should make an important exception when raising the hatchlings. In nature, the baby-tortoises hatch towards the end of the aestivation, when the temperatures have dropped a bit and the first rains soon start or have already begun. So food and water are available soon after hatching. However, in human custody the babies often hatch shortly before or during the summer rest. For this reason I offer the hatchlings, while the adults are having summer rest, the climatic conditions of the habitats immediately after the end of the summer rest (as in the end of September and October), that is, the period in which they would naturally hatch.
Of course, I also feed dried and fresh wild herbs from my garden. Even occasional small rain showers and the regular wetting of the sleeping places are particularly important for hatchlings and juveniles for a healthy smooth shell growth.