In the last week I have turned into a tortoise shepherd! Yes, you are reading correctly. There are many differing opinions on whether or not young tortoises should be out in the garden or not with regards to foraging on weeds, exposure to natural UV light,but also possible exposure to parasites, predators, chemicals etc. Rocket is by no means a hatchling, but she is still tiny! (weighs 132 grams and is 8.3 cm long precisely - I just checked!)
However, based on Tortoise Trust and their online booklet "Taking Care of Pet Tortoises" young tortoises can go out in suitable weather and should not be kept exclusively indoors for the first four years (which is what I was told).
Once I got her out onto the lawn (where no chemicals or fertilisers are being used to help it grow - I checked with the site manager), I realised how much happier she is when she is outside. She immediately went for it and started eating, walking, eating, exploring, then some more walking and eating, simply foraging, which is something she cannot really do in the tortoise table, even though we try and spread the food out for her as much as possible. She really looked content.
One thing that I was worried was the temperature - tortoises cannot regulate their body temperature and when in full sun for too long without any opportunity to hide in the shade they can overheat. That is why I took my non-contact digital infrared thermometer with me. The recommended basking temperature is 90F. When Rocket's body temperature got to 96F she retreated into the shade as a good girl.
Being out and watching her makes me happy and also reminds me of all the times I have done this back at home when I was a kid with my Horsfield tortoise. It is simply a time to sit back and enjoy being outside whilst watching the little amazing creature (and you have to watch her because no matter how content she looks munching on that little patch of plantain, she will leg it and disappear when you least expect it). Life slows down for a moment and that it exactly what I need.
Eventually my aim is to build Rocket an all-day enclosure in the garden which will be planted with all sorts of weeds she can eat. However, that step would involve some serious moving up the property ladder and so for now whilst we live in rented flat, these little walks will be making sure that she doesn't get bored or unhealthy.