Last Updated: 7/7/98
My Other Animals
Eastern Wild Turkey
General Care and Maintenance
Newsgroups, Catalogs, and Web Sites
My Other Animals
Einstein is my Sailfin Lizard or Dragon. My mother bought him on 10/31/93 at about 2-4 months old. Within a month, I took over all of his care. Due to enlarged femoral pores and two lumps on either side of his rectum, we believed him to be male. A lizard breeder informed me than in fact, Einy is female. I finally got to see a color photo of a male hydrosaurus postulosus in the May 1998 issue of Reptiles magazine. It looks like Einy who is getting a sailfin and has blue coloration on his head. As of July, 1998, Einy's body length was about 10 inches and tail length about 1.5 feet for a total length of about 2.5 feet.
Einy lives in a 40 gallon breeder fish tank. His/her tank has carpeting on the bottom. He/she has an adjustable hot rock with a piece of slate on top, an undertank heater, and three lights. These include a fluorescent strip light with a Vitalite bulb of 20 W. Another fixture holds a 100 W white light incandescent heat bulb and a 75 W night light. Two separate timers turn day and night lights on and off. Einy has a 13"x10"x4" deep plastic cat litter pan of water for drinking, bathing, defecating, and swimming. Above it, there is a mini dripper. He/she also has one plastic red plant, four small round rocks, a pink round toy man, a toy plastic dinosaur with a sailfin, a food dish which was originally a coaster bottom, a large piece of driftwood, a medium fake plastic driftwood, a log house (half a stump), and loose crickets with babies. See below for sailfin lizard care.
Eastern Wild Turkeys:
In 1992, we bought a pair of Eastern wild turkeys. Bonnie and Clyde are certainly not your typical pets. They were born on 5/31/92, and we bought them on 7/26/92 for $20 each from a game farm. Bonnie died 10/19/96 due to a very late total molt and an early cold rain which chilled her to death.
My turkey cage is actually two cages. The older one was just an enclosure below a playhouse so that we could keep quail for a short time before release. It is 6'x6'x6'. This was obviously way too small for Bonnie and Clyde. The addition is 14'2"x8'x8'5" high. The height allows flying and me not to hit my head. A large black cherry tree goes through the roof. On two cut off branches in the cage, a board was nailed which provides the roast. The small room has a slated roof. During winter, I put a tarp over it and around the sides to provide a snow and wind break. I also throw a tarp over the area where the turkeys roost. Clyde roosts on top of Bonnie's nest box. He never roosted on the wood beam with Bonnie. Before the nest box, he just slept on the ground. Clyde does not fly much but he tries to flap and kick me when I am in the cage. I always carry a shovel with me inside to shove him away.
We have seen the following mammals on our land in central Maryland: deer, raccoon, opossum, gray squirrel, chipmunk, bats, red fox, cottontail rabbits, meadow voles, house mice, moles, and brown rats (native rats that live in the country).
We have seen the following rare and/or large birds: turkey vultures, Eastern wild turkeys, red- tailed hawks (they bred on our land, and the babies scream a lot), red-shouldered hawks, goshawks, falcons, Canadian geese, and blue herons.
Other animals we have include a few resident Eastern box turtles, tree frogs, American toads, and millions of species of insects and arachnids.
We know the following exist but we never see them: screech, great horned, and barn owls, and striped skunks (seen a few squashed on the road).
Believe it or not, there have been unsubstantiated sightings of black bear, wolverine, coyote, mountain lion, and wolf. I doubt any were real but you never know!
Thanks to a certain developer who shall remain nameless (so I do not get sued!), about 900 acres abutting and near my land is being destroyed for a mini-city. A state park is still behind us and a county park (former landfill) is in front of us. One city is on 800 acres of abandoned farmland and old growth forest. The other is about 100 acres of 50% corn field and pasture and 50% over 200 year old forest on steep slopes. Needless to say, I detest developers, especially this one. We fought, but he has most government officials on his side. It is all about money. Millions of trees, plants, and animals were and are being killed while others migrate to our land and other semi-safe areas.
General Care and
Sailfin Lizards (and most other similar lizards):
Sexing and Breeding
Lighting and Heat
Housing, Feeding, and Breeding Crickets and King Mealworms
The sailfin dragon is also called the sailfin lizard, Soa Soa, and hydrosaur. Hydrosaurus amboinensis is from New Guinea and Indonesia. Hydrosaurus pustulosus and weberi are from the Phillipines. I think I have a Hydrosaurus pustulosus. The pet store said he was a Hydrosaurus weberi, a breeder who saw my lizard's picture on this page said pustulosus. The May 1998 issue of Reptiles magazine has the first color photos I have seen of all three Hydrosaurus and this seems to confirm that I have a Hydrosaurus pustulosus. The classification is still changing and weberi may not be a separate species from pustulosus. Males can grow to four feet but three feet is an average, including tail. Weber's sailfins are a bit smaller. Because they are fairly delicate, prone to mouth rot and parasites, and like to smash into the tank, they are not good for beginners. This said, I was a beginner to reptiles when my mother brought our surprise new pet home on a whim. Males have larger sailfins on their back and tail and larger femoral pores. Juveniles can be sexed by probing (only if you know what you are doing).
Larger cages are best since sailfins grow to 2-3 feet for Weber's sailfins and larger for other species. Large glass tanks with mesh lids or custom made wire and wood cages all work well. Be sure to include a large container for water. Sailfin lizards LOVE to swim. They also prefer to defecate in their water so it must be changed often (daily). I have heard that two sailfins will not get along unless they are a breeding pair in a large cage. My 2.5 foot sailfin is in a 40 gallon breeder tank but I would really like to buy him a 120 gallon tank. Unfortunately, I cannot find any tanks suited for semi-aquatic lizards. Such a tank must hold water, have bottom drains, vents, holes for electrical lines, ramps, sturdy mesh lids, and a lot more. There are "lizard tanks" but these cannot hold water! There are aquariums but these cannot be drilled!
Sexing and Breeding:
Sexing is determined by the size of the sailfin and femoral pores, with males' being larger. It helps to have color photos or live specimens for comparison. Males also may have more green and/or blue coloration. Apparently, sailfins are not the most willing breeders. Thus, if you can get your sailfins to breed, you are lucky. Not only will you increase their numbers, decrease capture of wild specimens, and enjoy them, but turn a nice profit too. They tend to sell for about $70-150 each depending on species, availability, sales, etc. Females need a dirt-like substrate to lay eggs. They should be incubated elsewhere at about 82-85 degrees F for about two months. Females start laying after the age of two. They lay about 8-11 eggs once a year in the late spring after breeding a few months earlier. Find the book, The General Care and Maintenance of Green Water Dragons, Sailfin Lizards and Basilisks by Philippe de Vosjoli, Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1992 for more information on breeding or contact another breeder. If anyone would like to have my sailfin join a breeding program, please e-mail me. Whatever sex Einy is, I am sure that he/she would love to breed too.
Lighting and Heat:
Sailfin lizards prefer a range of temperatures from the upper 60's during nights in the winter to the upper 90's under their heat lamps most of the year. One source I have says a gradient of 76 to 88 degrees F during the day and 70 to 75 degrees F during the night. They require sources of heat. These should include incandescent spot or heat lamps and a bottom source of heat. Either a hot rock or undertank heater will work. Lizards can get burnt on hot rocks so be careful. Adding slate on top can help prevent this. One can also cover three sides of the tank with cardboard to retain heat. Obviously, cages with metal bars will release most of the heat to the room. In that case, either heat the room or hope the lizard knows to go to the heat sources. Besides light for heat, they also need full spectrum lighting to thrive. In addition to making them feel awake and alive, the full spectrum lighting helps them manufacture and/or process vitamins.
This is the area where I have the most difficulty, trying to keep the humidity high. Sailfins are tropical and come from areas with high humidity. Ways to increase humidity include large water dishes, aeration of the water, increasing heat, partial covering of the lid (or sides in an open cage), water drippers, heating the water with a heater or undertank heater, and frequent misting. I have tried all of these but the humidity never goes above 25% and only when Einy spills a lot of water. Usually the humidity is under 10%. Because of this, Einy has lost four of his/her toes. When he/she shed, the skin dried and cut the circulation off.
There should be some sort of substrate. It can be something like CareFresh (look on my mammal page under maintenance, rabbits, bedding), shredded newspaper (can stain), wood chips or bark chips (most frequently used), pebbles, corn cobs, or carpeting. I use carpeting even though I have heard that it is bad since the lizards can get their toes stuck in it. It is easy to scrub down every few weeks and bleach every few months. I mentioned the water pool which is essential for drinking, swimming, and defecating. Smooth (no sharp edges) rocks, driftwood, logs, fake grass and plants, and some live plants should be added so the tank is not boring although none of these are necessary except for a place to hide. Sailfins will beat themselves against the glass in attempts to escape from people. Mine feels safest and sleeps in his/her log. Also, three sides of a glass cage should be covered with either aquarium backdrops, cardboard, etc. on the outside. This makes slamming into the glass occur less often. Sailfins also need a dish for their plant food.
Sailfin lizards are omnivorous. They should have about one half animals to eat and one half
plants to eat. Alternate animal feedings with plant feedings. I alternate every other day.
The animals include a lot of crickets, king mealworms (sometimes called superworms but really beetle larvae), and perhaps others. The others, which I have tried but were not even attempted to be eaten by Einy, include regular mealworms, wax worms, small fish (goldfish, guppies, or rosy red minnows are all sold as "feeders"), and pinkies (baby mice which I refuse to try). Before giving crickets and king mealworms to the lizard, shake them around with some reptile vitamins. I use two kinds together which taut different uses. I do not kill or incapacitate crickets or king mealworms before feeding. Some people do this to ensure the insects do not bite or harm the lizard. I have never had this problem.
Plant foods include probably hundreds of species of fruits and vegetables. I routinely give grated carrot, squash, and zucchini; torn up kale, collard greens, spinach, and romaine; cut up apple, pear, grapes, cucumber, strawberries, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon; and others when I have them for the other animals. Grapes are by far Einy's favorite; I have to peel them for him/her! Grated carrot is the only plant that Einy gets every other day no matter what (since I have rabbits).
Housing, Feeding, and Breeding Crickets and King Mealworms:
I keep about two dozen crickets or mealworms at a time in 2 gallon plastic aquariums. Larger
cages and 10 gallon glass aquariums are good. Kept in too small containers, they will die and/or
you will have to clean up often. Provide pieces of cardboard egg crates, toilet paper rolls, and
paper towel rolls for them to stand in and hide. Crickets and king mealworms eat dry powder
foods that you can buy from reptile suppliers. They much prefer fresh fruits and vegetables.
Basically, any of the plants that I listed above for the lizard can be fed in smaller portions to
crickets and king mealworms. The king mealworms like a carrot to bore into. To provide water,
wet a paper towel and ball it up, removing most of the water. They will suck water out of it. If
you provide water in a dish, they will drown and make a mess.
My crickets breed on their own in the lizard's cage which is warm and moist. Warmth and moisture are the keys to breeding crickets. Occasionally, one of my mealworms will pupate into a beetle but not often. I have never had more than one beetle at a time so that I have never had baby king mealworms. There are sites for breeding you own crickets and breeding king mealworms.
Daily, you need to feed the lizard, change his water, mist him and the tank, and be sure he looks okay. I also mist my lizard with a vitamin spray. Clean the lizard's cage completely at least every two weeks. Put him somewhere else while you work since he will get overly excited. Sailfins can take being chilled for short periods so unless it is really cold, they do not need heat while waiting for their cage to be cleaned. As the lizard's stuff starts to stink, soak it for 20 minutes in a 1:20 solution of bleach and then for 20 minutes in clean water with a dechlorinator before drying and setting back up. If you use a substrate other than carpet, change it totally while you clean. Avoid using bleach or window cleaner inside the tank. There are safe cage cleaners on the market including through That Pet Place listed below.
Wild Turkeys (and domestic turkeys for that matter):
Domestic turkeys can be kept like goats in fences but wild turkeys fly very well. Unless you intend to clip their wings often, you need a totally enclosed cage. It should be at least 80 square feet and at least 6 feet high for one or two turkeys. More is much better if you care for these animals instead of keeping them for human food. The cage should be 1 or 2 inch chicken wire all over with supported wooden framework. The cage should have stiff metal dog wire of about 3-4 feet tall along the bottom in addition to the flimsy chicken wire. Besides keeping out dogs, turkeys can really fly into or kick fencing. A roost (beam of wood or branch) is needed. Also, at least in the winter, part of the cage should be covered to provide a rain, snow, sleet, hail, and wind break. Turkeys will not move to shelter in bad weather. This often leads to them being called stupid. My hen died during a cold rain (she was naked due to a late total moult) from which she did not get out. You must put a tarp or shelter wherever they roost. Be sure the door is secure with a spring lock and that you and a shovel can fit through. If a wheelbarrow can fit through, that is even better. The floor can be dirt (in my case), dirt with hay, wood, or cement. Cement is the only one that can be cleaned well but it is worst on the turkeys' feet. Unless a rot proof wood is used with narrow slats to let liquids out, a wood floor is not a great idea. Turkey feces are usually dry enough to not rot wood but they can get diarrhea which would quickly foul any floor. With dirt floors, you just use a shovel to remove waste every week or so. As dirt is removed over time, haul fresh dirt back in. Turkeys love nothing more than scratching in loose dirt. I use the resulting hole to dump future waste that I remove. If you have a hen, provide a nest box. You can E-mail me if you would like the dimensions I used.
The basis of my turkey's diet is Market Bird Finisher, formerly Turkey Finisher, from Southern States. It is a grain pellet, like a yellow rabbit pellet. On top of this, I add about a Tablespoon per turkey of Quaker Multigrain cereal. You can add cheap oatmeal to save money. This is not a necessary food. Only the pellet and some grit is necessary to keep turkeys alive. If you want happy turkeys, then feed them fruits and vegetables too. These include the ultimate favorite grapes, kale, grass, weeds, some leaves, any kind of berry sold for people, wine berries, Russian olive berries, poison ivy berries (wow!), wild grapes, honeysuckle berries, acorns, wild nuts and fruits, broken open apples, etc. They are very opportunistic. Things that they will not touch when there is a lot of food, they will woof down in winter. For example, clippings from white pine are the only wild foods I have to offer in winter. The turkeys eat the needles. Feed hens crushed oyster shells. Turkeys also need small rocks or grit for their gullet. I have a rock and dirt road so I get some from there. Also, be sure they always have clean water to drink.
Use a flat edged shovel to scrape the bottom of the cage every week if you have just a few turkeys. Throw the mix of dirt, turkey feces, leaves, and left over food in a hole in the ground or some other compost or manure pile. If the floor is dirt, replace with fresh dirt as needed.
As it is illegal here to breed turkeys without a permit, I will not discuss it. My turkeys bred and produced eggs but my hen would not sit on them. Artificial incubation is necessary. If you have a permit and would like details on breeding, you can E-mail me. Release of wild turkeys is also prohibited as some people are afraid that released turkeys may not be 100% whatever species of wild turkey is in the area. Only government groups can release turkeys. No one told us this until after we had our turkeys. If my hen's eggs had hatched, her poults could never have been legally released. I think that if an official deems them 100% wild species, release should be allowed. Officials have released their own bred stock in a state park abutting our property. We have only had about two confirmed sightings of loose wild turkeys. As about 900 acres of abandoned farmland in the area is being turned into a city, I am sure we will never again see them.
I have the following books on lizards and sailfin lizards. Finding books on sailfin lizards and wild turkeys is difficult. I only have a xerox of part of one book on turkeys that is very old. If anyone knows of a book on wild turkeys still in print and for sale, please let me know.
The General Care and Maintenance of Green Water Dragons, Sailfin Lizards and Basilisks by Philippe de Vosjoli, Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1992.
The Right Way to Feed Insect-Eating Lizards by Philippe de Vosjoli, Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1990.
The Lizard Keepers Handbook, by Philippe de Vosjoli, Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1994.
Lizards in the Terrarium by Harold Jes, Barrons Educational Series, Inc., 1987.
I only have been able to find one good book on wild turkeys. It is long ago out of print and covers their behavior, feeding, breeding, hunting, and cooking their corpses in great extent. It is an excellent book (if you ignore the hunting and eating sections). If you would like information that may be in it or know of a book on wild turkeys still in print (with more than a few sentences), please E-mail me.
Newsgroups, Catalogs, and Web Sites
Newsgroups to which you might subscribe:
Get a free reptile catalog from That Pet Place by calling 1-888-THATPET.
Pet Warehouse will send you a free reptile catalog if you call 1-800-443-1160.
Water Dragon and Basilisk Herp Forum - postings of questions about semi-aquatic lizards, some sailfin lizard questions.
Tricia's Water Dragon Page includes information on water dragons (similar to sailfins), some other reptiles, and care and breeding of insect foods. She has a page which includes a little bit of information on sailfins.
A number of links on turtles can be found at this site. I would like to have turtles one day. My mother had red eared sliders when I was very young. I would like to try Eastern Painted turtles.
Visit the National Wildlife Federation to learn about wildlife. They sell great magazines which I read.