Fitting new Heaters and Thermostats to Bertie the Boa’s Vivarium

Bertie the Boa, less then one year old

Bertie has quite a vivarium, one that I thought had enough redundancy to protect him. The substrate is a base of coarse and fine coco substrate and orchid bark giving a mix of textures and the ability to hold moisture and release it slowly without feeling wet.

On the power side, there are two independent power sockets each feeding a six way with surge protection.

There are three lighting systems, a high intensity UV that I run from midday to four in the afternoon, a daylight LED system on a timer giving eight hours in the winter and up to fourteen hours in high summer. There is also a coloured light for dusk. All these are on separate digital timers.

The vivarium has two 150 watt heaters, one in the middle on its own controller giving a background day temperature and a different background night temperature, plus one at the far end giving the hotspot.

The brown out earlier in the week had blown both controllers (I now know just the fuses), and one of the ceramic heaters. Despite my precautions of separate power and surge protection we had lost all the heating.

As a temporary measure I hooked up a 50 watt infra bulb and a spare controller and thermostat and set the room radiator to be permanently on instead of it timing mode. I ordered two new controllers and new heaters, and a set of fuses.

Replacing the controllers and thermostat probes was the easy part. The old controllers together with the extra heaters will act as spares.

The heating units were more of a challenge, I replaced both the ceramic holders and the ceramic heaters.

While all this was going on we removed the glass front to the vivarium so had the room radiators on high and we had the fire on. This made the room hot for us so we were working in tee shirts but Bertie was comfortable.

Temperature Data

Wild boas have been recorded active at temperatures as low as 62°F (17°C) and up to 104°F (40°C) between the hours of 7am and 7pm, although most of the data is clustered between 90°F (32°C) and 66°F (19°C). This temperature range contradicts what most keepers assert as “the best,” but proves that with correct husbandry, these animals are hardier than previously thought. Do you think that nature always stays at the perfect temperature? Of course not, and these animals are adapted to deal with the fluctuations of their region without getting sick. The key is to create a full temperature gradient so your snake can warm up and cool down as desired. The hottest areas will be closest to the heat source, and the coolest areas will be farthest from the heat source.

  • Chiaraviglio, Margarita, et al. “Intrapopulation variation in life history traits of Boa constrictor occidentalis in Argentina.” Amphibia-Reptilia 24.1 (2003): 65-74.
  • Waller, Tomas, et al. “Ecological correlates and patterns in the distribution of Neotropical boines (Serpentes: Boidae): a preliminary assessment.” Herpetological Natural History 3 (1995): 1.
  • McGinnis, Samuel M., and Robert G. Moore. “Thermoregulation in the boa constrictor Boa constrictor.” Herpetologica 25.1 (1969): 38-45.

Thanks to the ReptiFiles https://www.reptifiles.com/red-tailed-boa-care/boa-constrictor-temperatures/

Brownouts – the joys of rural living: cold snakes

During the COVID-19 shutdown we had a few brownouts and power cuts. This is a bit of an issue when your trying to work on line at home.

My computer equipment is all protected by a UPS and I have surge protectors on the control units and lighting equipment for our two big vivariums where Oz the Corn Snake and Bertie the Boa live.

I was horrified to find this week after a brown out that both control units and one of the heater elements had blown on Berties viv leaving him with no heat. We quickly ramped up the central heating and I had a quick run round of local pet shops to see which were open. In the end I managed to get a little infrared bulb together with an old thermostat in the attic, to rig up some heat. I am now waiting for my on line order to come through with new controllers and heaters (I’ll be getting spares as well).

Home Update – Gardens and Chickens

Garden Chickens Project-2We have now lived in the new house for a year and a lot of work has been done.  The dream we had was a new bungalow in the country, with cosy real fire, a dedicated formal dinning room, plus kitchen diner.  There was also our hobbies, Caroline wanted her own craft room and I wanted an office to use as my digital darkroom, plus we wanted a room to use as a studio, music room and library.

Garden Chickens Project-3

Around the house we have replaced all the doors and windows, had the chimney reworked so we can have a real fire and replaced all the major lights with low energy 1 to 1.5 watt LED lights.  Caroline’s craft room and my digital darkroom are complete so the house is well underway, with only what we are calling the sun room still to start.  This room will be a second living room used for music, a library and my studio.

Garden Chickens Project-4

The garden has been a major focus for us this last year, and just this month we finally completed the raised beds.  They have been successful and we have now had our major harvest of butternut squash, courgette, beans and peas, plus lettuce, cauliflower, beetroot, leeks and carrots.  We learnt a lot, things we raised in the cold frames then transplanted to the garden worked well, things we direct sowed into the raised beds got attacked by birds.  Everything worked except the cauliflower, we had netted them off to protect them from the birds, but all that did was protect the caterpillars, which enabled them to decimate them.

Garden Chickens Project-5

One the garden front as well as the vegetable plot we also wanted to keep bees and raise chickens.  We bought two flat packed hives, but apart from the stands and the brood box we did not find the time to finish them so thats on hold for now.

Garden Chickens Project-7At the bottom of the garden behind the garage we built a large compost bin, beside that was a rather nice looking but very rickety garden shed.  The plan was to tear this down and in its place build a chicken coop.

The old shed took a lot of getting down, it seems that ivy is the perfect way to hold up a building.

Garden Chickens Project-8

Once down we dug over the area and laid a rectangle of paving slabs.  These would help discourage the foxes from digging under to get at the chickens.  The bed of the coup run was made up of soil, gravel, sand and topped with bark.

Garden Chickens Project-10

If your on a budget then you can find plans on the internet for building your own coops and runs.

Garden Chickens Project-11

We took the easy root and purchased a coop with integrated run; it came in prefab’ed sections that just needed putting together.

Garden Chickens Project-13

It went together easily and then it was ordering the feeders, waterers, and other accessories.

Garden Chickens Project-15

It was not long before we were ready to get the girls.  We purchased four Copper Black’s a modern hybrid cross based on the Maran.

Garden Chickens Project-14

With the girls moved in, we let them have lots of peace and quiet, but did hand feed them a treat just before they put themselves to bed.

By the next day we were surprised to find an egg, so its safe to say the girls are settling in.