Tortoise Sleeping Outside Hide

Tortoise Sleeping Outside Hide – Why And What To Do About It

Being a tortoise owner is a joy and I love it but our shelly little friends can have us worrying about their behavior at times. A tortoise who has always slept inside their hide to hen start sleeping outside the hide can be a big worry, but is there any need to worry? 

A tortoise hide is there to offer your tortoise protection from the heat and predators. A tortoise sleeping outside the hide is nothing to worry about and shows they feel safe in their surrounding. A Change in the environment can cause it to happen.

So while it is nothing to cause too much stress there are a few little things that could be causing it to happen. Below we go into detail about what these things can be and how to put them right and answer the ultimate question do tortoises even need a hide?

Do Tortoises Need A Hide?

Often when tortoise owners hear that it is perfectly fine that a tortoise does not sleep in a hide the next question is to ask do tortoises need a hide? As lots of tortoises tables come with built-in hides are they a waste of space? 

Yes, tortoises still need a hide even if they do not sleep inside. Tortoises need to feel comfortable and safe and having access to a hide can offer this. While a tortoise may not sleep in a hide they can shelter from predators and the weather.

We are not watching our tortoises 24hours per day and during that time the enclosure could get too hot. Your tortoise is excellent at regulating their own body temperature and they will do this by taking cover and the hide will be the perfect location. 

Outside is the same bad weather and predators are your tortoise’s nemesis and leaving a hide for when they need it is a must. 

No matter how tempting don’t remove your tortoise hide indoors or outside. 

Tortoise Just Started Sleeping Outside The Hide Why?

Your tortoise sleeping in the open can be worrying more so for a tortoise owner whose tortoise has always slept in the hide.

While it should be perfectly fine for your tortoise to sleep in the open if you are like me you will want to know why they have started doing so. There are no hard facts on why a tortoise can just start sleeping in the open. Over the years with talking to fellow tortoise owners four main changes seem to always crop up. 

Comfortable In Their Surrounding 

When you first get your tortoise in most instances they will be nervous and a little stressed about their new home. So they will seek out the hide for shelter and sleep. 

However, once they become used to their new home they become comfortable. As most starter pack tables hides are not the best they just start sleeping in the open. It is a good sign that your tortoise feels safe but also the hide is not the best. More on this subject below on getting the best tortoise hide.

Change of Substrate

Tortoises are strong-willed animals you only have to see them climbing a wall to see this in action. Many will see behavior changes when they change the substrate. 

If you have changed the substrate within the hide and don’t put it to the level it was your tortoise can refuse to sleep inside. 

Try adjusting the level of the substrate in the hide if you have recently changed it. I have known tortoises to wonder in like they are checking the level then return to open-air sleeping. Tortoises have been known to do this every day till it is at a level they like. 

It may sound strange to someone new but tortoises are very strong-willed and like their hide how they like it.

Change Of Temperature 

As the seasons change the temperature in our homes changes so the temperature in the hide can become cold for your tortoise.

Tortoise hides are normally the coldest part of the tortoise table and when our home temperature drops it can become cold. 

If you are using a UVB heat bulb to give your tortoise heat after 6/12 months the bulb can degrade. The heat that is given by the bulb will start to drop and your enclosure could start to become too cold.

Having a thermometer in the enclosure can help you make sure you keep a steady temperature. A sticker thermometer is what most will use and will allow you to keep a close eye on the temperature.   

Wrong Type Of Tortoise Hide

When many buy their first tortoise they get a started kit that includes the tortoise and enclosure. While these can be great to get you going some will come with a built-in hide.

Which are simply not the best for your tortoise and while they may use it at first. They will soon find it inadequate and move to a different sleeping area. 

They are big and open and can let a lot of light into them all things your tortoise will not like. If you have planting or other items your tortoise can snuggle into in the enclosure your tortoise will likely opt for this as their sleeping area. 

Getting the best hide doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive but not offering everything your tortoise wants will have them sleeping outside the build-in hide. 

What Is The Best Tortoise Hide?

I think it is fair to say that most prebuilt tortoise tables you see do not come with adequate tortoise hides. However, with that said they can be turned into a perfect tortoise hide. 

So what does the best tortoise hide need?

  • Snug – A hide should allow your tortoise to squeeze inside and snuggle under a low roof with a soft substrate that allows them to burrow.
  • Cool – A tortoise hide should be cooler than the rest of the enclosure as tortoises like a lower temperature at night. 
  • Big – A tortoise will want to feel no predators can see them so the further back they can get in the hide the better they will feel.
  • Dark – Your tortoise hide should not let any light in many commercially available fail with this point. Tortoises in the wild will sleep in complete darkness.
  • Safe – When constructing a tortoise hide it needs to be safe. Not over damp or it can cause shell rot. Not too small your tortoise will get stuck. Not weakly built that it can easily collapse on top of your tortoise.

Many tortoise tables your buy with pre-made tortoise hides will be just large boxes and will fail on all the above requirements. 

The most simple and effective hide you can make is by propping a piece of wood against the side of your enclosure. Cover most of the opening with the substrate so your tortoise feels secure inside. Packing loose material inside (a moss for example) will allow your tortoise to snuggle inside.

Your tortoise may climb on top of this style of hide so you will need to make sure it doesn’t allow your tortoise to get over the walls of the enclosure. Also, they will burrow and move things around so it may need rebuilding every few weeks. 

How To Get Tortoise To Sleep In The Hide

If you have the best tortoise hide there are some steps you can take to help or encourage your tortoise to start sleeping in the hide. It may be in their best interest if you have predators as it will be unsafe in these cases so you will want to do all you can to get them back inside. 

Change The Hide

If you are using the hide that is already built into the enclosure you don’t want to remove this but add another. If the hide is a large part of the enclosure you could build a better tortoise hide inside that better suits your tortoise.

By not sleeping inside the hide your tortoise is telling you they don’t like it so you only have one option and that is to change it. 

Some will be lucky and change the hide style and the tortoise will start to sleep inside. However, some will need to change it up a few different times before they get a hide that their tortoise will use. 

Move The Hide

Tortoises are cute and adorable but they are very stubborn when they want to be. They will sleep where they feel most comfortable and won’t change because we want them to sleep somewhere different.

If you have built the perfect hide and your tortoise still refuses to sleep inside then the only option is to move the location. Try moving the hide to where your tortoise likes to sleep. 

Should I Put My Tortoise In The Hide At Night?

We should keep picking up our tortoises to a minimum and allow them to exhibit natural behavior. However, that is not to say if your tortoise will be in danger by sleeping outside the hide you should move them. 

I would only pick up your tortoise and place them inside the hide if you feel they will be in danger. You may find it just causes unnecessary stress as they will just wander back out of the hide to seek their preferred sleeping area. 

While it may be tempting to do I would always advise changing the hide style and location rather than picking them up and placing them in the hide.


Your tortoise sleeping outside the hide and sleeping in the open is a sure sign they do not like the hide you are offering. Change up the hide to one best suited to your tortoises needs changing its location to find a hide they prefer.

Dry avoid picking up your tortoise and placing them in a hide this will cause stress and rarely works.

A tortoise not sleeping in the hide is not too big of a problem unless they are outside and have predators. A little planning and perseverance and you should be able to find your tortoise the perfect tortoise hide.