Small radiated tortoises can take several days to hatch. We always leave the hatchlings in the incubator until they have completely crawled out of the egg and no large remains of the yolk sac can be seen on the abdomen. While well intentioned, we strongly advise against providing any form of midwifery to weak babies. If the little ones don't manage to hatch from the egg on their own, they are usually not able to survive and die weeks later due to weakness and exhaustion, even despite comfort care. We leave young animals that hatch with a relatively large yolk sac for a few more days in separate, warm containers lined with slightly damp kitchen paper until the navel region closes.
After hatching, they are relocated to rearing tubs in the indoor enclosure. The rearing tubs (100x100x25) are filled with a mixture of loamy garden soil and sand to a depth of about 10 cm. An area is always kept slightly damp and sprayed daily. Pieces of bark, roots, buried flowerpots and potsherds serve as shelter and hiding places for the little ones. Depending on the season, grass and meadow herbs can also be sown in these tubs. A few tufts of grass or succulents can also be brought in without any problems. A couple of crushed pieces of sepia, eggshells and mussel grit are also part of the independent calcium supply in the tub. Several Lucky Reptile Bright Sun Desert emitters (150 watts) with ballast are mounted at different heights above the rearing tubs and provide heat, light and UV supply. Whenever possible, however, the young animals are housed in the outdoor enclosure in a separate area with a heatable shelter and, like the adult animals, soak up natural sunlight there. The outdoor enclosure for the baby tortoises is also covered with a net to protect the little ones from birds of prey.
Immediately after hatching, the babies begin to drink and eat independently. Finely chopped and bite-sized premium food (see section Chuck) is offered daily. A low-protein diet with a high raw fiber content and a balanced calcium-phosphorus ratio (2:1) during rearing should definitely be died off and consistently implemented. Even more than in other tortoise species, growing young Astrochelys radiata tend to have humped shells, metabolic disorders and organ damage if they are not fed properly. Young animals have a higher fluid requirement than adult specimens, which is why we offer water in very shallow bowls three times a week or bathe them carefully in it. When choosing the water bowl, make sure that the bowl is particularly flat and not slippery, otherwise the babies can easily tip over and drown. The fluid requirement decreases with age and should also be reduced slowly after two to three years (see section Water).
When rearing, increased humidity of 70% to 80% is essential, because otherwise the fine, white growth seams between the armor plates, which are heavily supplied with blood, dry out during growth spurts and growth disorders can occur. Small Radiated Tortoises that are reared with air humidity that is permanently too low tend to develop unsightly humps despite proper nutrition. A high level of humidity can be achieved with air humidifiers, ultrasonic nebulizers, lush planting and the daily, gentle spraying of the turtle shell with warm water.
In the first years of life, young animals still show a pronounced escape behavior. It can be assumed that hatchlings in the wild want to get away from predators immediately after hatching and immediately seek protection in hiding places. In the first years of life and up to a certain size, the young tortoises live hidden in the thicket and bury themselves under leaves in the sandy, moist soil when it is very hot to protect themselves from drying out. Due to their baby markings, they are excellently camouflaged on the ground and in dried plant remains. In the undergrowth of dry forests, there is a special microclimate due to the fallen and rotting leaves, which is perfectly suited for the growth of young animals and is therefore preferably used as a nursery. This biotope can be recreated with some leaves on a sandy and moist subsoil in the rearing tubs. After about 1 ½ year, with the appearance of the first growth rings, the first signs of the later ray markings can be seen.
It should be emphasized once again that Astrochelys radiata hatchlings are not terrarium animals and it is not possible to raise them healthily without regular access to natural sunlight.