Tuesday, June 19, 2007

There's Gonna be a Heartache Tonight, a Heartache Tonight, I Know

Over the past month or so, baby turtles have been featured in the news quite a bit.

As the FDA and individual states plan on lifting the ban of selling baby turtles, the general census of the news outlets is baby turtles are great! go buy one now!

Unfortunately, it's not that easy. And the way baby turtles are being portrayed in these media outlets are necessarily true. They are claiming baby turtles are hatched salmonella-free and are easy to care for.

First of all, even if turtles are hatched salmonella-free (which? what kind of witch craftery is that?), it doesn't guarantee that they will not contract salmonella.

Yeah, baby turtles are not that easy to care for.

Tuckie says Yo.

As you may recall, we were gifted our baby Western Painted Turtle a little over a month ago. My dad found him on a golf course a few feet away from lawn mower. He thought the baby turtle would make a great pet for the kids, given the extensive allergies in our home.

Tuckie does make a great pet, but the most the children are allowed to do is watch him and help find food for him.

The day my dad brought him over, Tuckie was in a small plastic container with some water, a rock and a piece of iceberg lettuce. We immediately went to the garden and dug up some worms to feed him. By that night we had made him a habitat.

Left to right -- a thermometer (to keep his temperature in the correct range) Tuckie's habitat, a small aquarium with strained rainwater and two rocks from the garden (for places to hide and bask in the light), behind that, bottled spring water. Tuckie's food dish with a rock. The worm habitat, with lots of dirt and leaves with worms, snails and millipedes. To the right of that is a water mister (because the worm habitat needs to be kept moist). And behind that a heat lamp.

Now, this is the least amount of shit one can get by with (unless you believe in packaged voodoo food, which we do not; we believe in making his habitat as close to natural as we can).

And there is still more shit we should get him, like a "proper" heat lamp and a full spectrum lamp. As it is now, I take Tuckie outside about every other day (with the lid on his habitat so no birds swoop in and eat him) and place him in dappled shade so he gets some sun. He will also need a larger habitat in the coming years, especially as he grows to be an adult, with a water filtration system.

Other stuff for Tuckie, the long plant is elodea (also known as water weed) which he likes to use as a floatation device, purchased at a local pet store. And the floating stuff is frog bit, scooped from a local pond, which Tuckie loves to munch on between meals.

We feed Tuckie in a separate container. This is because turtles do most of their elimination while eating. And since we don't have a filtration system, it would get too dirty too fast. Also, getting him out and feeding him acclimates him to us and being held. It keeps him social.

We put him in his small container with spring water (tap water is detrimental turtles), because turtles need water in order to swallow their food.

In addition to feeding baby turtles daily, you need to offer them a wide variety of foods. We feed Tuckie small bits of grapes, apples, carrots and leafy lettuce. And just like children, we feed him the healthy stuff before the good stuff (and we're lucky if he takes a bite or two in 30 minutes). His main nutrition comes from earth worms, but he is also offered flies, snails, termites and millipedes. We have also looked into getting him some feeder fish, but we haven't found any small enough for him; but now that he's growing, some baby fish may be added to his diet soon as well.

We do not feed him any purchased package food.

Every week we do maintenance on Tuckie's habitat. This includes cleaning the bottom of his habitat with a dropper and taking out about one-fourth of this water and replacing it with fresh water. He also gets a new piece of cuttlebone (to keep his shell healthy) each week, even though he hasn't "discovered" it yet.

I spend about an hour a weekday taking care of Tuckie, and two hours on the weekend days. This doesn't include time just watching him and the kids watching him. And I'm not even gonna get into how much I wash my hands. And the children wash their hands after looking at him, even though they don't touch Tuckie or any of his supplies.

I'm sure there's some other details I'm missing, but the sum of rambling is this: baby turtles are not the answer to a fast-paced family's desire to have a pet. They cannot be ignored for days on end. Get a fish tank if you only have 30 seconds to commit to a pet a day.


Chickenbells said...

Phew...that's quite a long to-do list for the little guy. Turtles are high maintenance...I had no idea! At least he's bringing joy to the family...I hope anyway?

PamKittyMorning said...

Thanks for sharing the Tuckie info. I have been wondering how that all goes down. Nothing is EVER as easy as they make it sound is it? Love what you're doing with him. Hi to the boys. I think they're swell.

laeroport said...

Exactly why we have a fish tank with 3 feeder goldfish that we paid something like 30 cents for a year and a half ago. And the cats like to watch them.

Ali said...

Yes, this is why we have goldfish. But we do love them. Lots.

oilclothjunkie said...

Can I come live with you? If you take that good of care of little Tuckie, you'd take real good care of me. right?
Come on, just for a week or so.

kirsten said...

yet another reason why we have no pets. never have, never will. i'm glad that you take good care of yours - it frustrates me when people don't.

dee said...

Holy moly, Tuckie is ALOT of work.

When we got a puppy, I swear my husband thought it was going to clean up after himself, pay for his own vet bills and give himself a bath. Boy, was he in for a treat.

Angela said...

Good gravy. it is official... I was crap as a turtle mama many years ago. Poor little guy sat in a bowl with a rock and I gave him flies and turtle food. Lame-o. I did set him free in a pond though.
You are a good turtle family. :)

amy h said...

Wow, that turtle is more work than my dog! Good to know. I don't think we'll be having any turtles around here. :)

Mirre said...

I'm glad Tuckie has found such a good home with you!

LLA said...

da-yum... Tuckie is high maintenance! (And I should know - takes one to know one, and all that...)

Good thing he's such a cutie!

Keri said...

I'm SO GLAD I didn't know about this when I was in highschool. I had a little turtle (not as cute at Tuckie though) that a boyfriend gave me and he just stayed in a bowl of water with a rock in it. We fed him some sort of pellet that came from the pet store and put his bowl right by a window for warmth. I had him for about two years before we moved and my mom made me let him go. Man, that turtle must have felt like he was just let out of jail because we were TOTALLY MISTREATING HIM!!!! lol You're a good turtle mama!! Oh and I heard somewhere that the more you feed them the faster and larger they'll grow.

lera said...

Holy cow! I had no idea it was so involved taking care of a turtle. You just elminated one more pet my kids would like to have. (I'm a mean mom.)

Kim - ScrapToMyLu said...

who knew?! He's one lucky turtle.

Hey, I like your new banner. I need a banner. How do I do it, my all knowing computer guru?

babybug said...

PHEW! tuckie sure is a lot of work! thanks for the run-down, very interesting. he's one lucky turtle. i'm glad the boys adore him! i'm sure when they're adults they'll always have special memories of him. and, YOU can remember how much work he was :)

patrice said...

We have a baby (year old now, but he was the size of a silver dollar when we "got" him) Red Ear Slider turtle named Ash. We have the full spectrum set up with filter, basking, etc., and yes, it's work. My point is that I was just in our local PetSmart and they had a pretty good deal on the full set-up. If you're looking to do it, it might be an affordable way to do it. It was around $125, I think. It's much easier, with minimal clean-up with the filtered system.

patrice said...

There's a great deal at our local PetSmart for the full turtle set up if you are thinking about going that way. Full spectrum light, filtration, basking, etc. We have a Red Ear Slider turtle (with the full set up that we bought for a lot more at our independent pet store) that was the size of a silver dollar when we got him. Now he's a year old and doing great. His tank stays really clean and we really enjoy him. Do you have a PetSmart?

Mebsmommy said...

whoa. That's like as much time as I spend on my 3 kids combined.......and they don't get spring water! HeHe.

Heidijayhawk said...

you are an awesome rockin turtle mama! love that tuckie. 10 year old wants one now. thanks. since the turtle in the cup pic.

Suzie Sews said...

Oh my, get yourself your rabbit, much easier!!!
Suzie Sews

Chara Michele said...

Tuckie is making my cats sound like very low maintenance:) (And there are two of them to one of him!)

He is cute though:)

Cathy said...

My son and I found a baby turtle about a year ago... it was so teensy and so cute (about the size of a quarter). It was also a snapping turtle, and the little bugger was trying to bite and scratch us. Even if it wasn't a killer turtle, I would have left him where he was... I don't want any more creatures to maintain. It sounds like you are treating your turtle very well, I could never live up to your model!

nuttnbunny said...

You're a model of thoroughness (thoroughality?, the thoroughnator?)

Angeleen said...

CUTE turtle and "good on ya!" for the way you're caring for him!

I have a friend who's hubby got a turtle when we was, like, 10... He's 27 now. He still has the turtle. He will still have the turtle when he's 40.

That's a looooooong time to take REALLY GOOD CARE of something that won't someday be choosing your retirement home.

Glad I have cats. I'm only roped in for, what, about TWENTY years?! LOL!

monica said...

hey! you must be doing ok, you haven't cursed your husband for being away today at all!!

but then... you're too busy with the turtle!

Lucky animal, that's what I say!!

(we used to fee ours ham... yes, ham. And it grew to be huge, must have been all the growth hormone they feed cows these days...scary eh?)