Sunday, November 22, 2015

The DIY: Chinchilla (Stealth) Cage Collossus

Hii! I haven't done my nails for a bit so I'm going to talk about my chinchillas this time! I know when I was doing my research and all, I looked for a lot of inspiration online, and it was always nice to find anything. But photos by themselves are not enough! I always like step by step instructions to guide me, especially with some of the more complicated cage designs. Also my woodworking experience amounts to grade 6/7 Tech Ed classes.

So there's a couple things I needed from a cage. Bigger is always better for animal cages and I needed it to be easy to clean and to transform into innocuous furniture at any given moment (stealth cage!). I learned melamine is the easiest thing to make a cage out of because its resin coated and therefore the easiest to clean. Chinchillas are unable to grip on its faces so there is no scratching and chewing which is really good since the plywood center is toxic to them. So melamine wardrobe! Great! I scoured Ikea websites, Rona, Home Depot, anything I could to see if I could find a melamine wardrobe or shelf that was at least two feet deep and three feet wide. That two foot deep requirement proved to be a very rare thing so I expanded my search to DIY instructions to make my own.

I eventually found this:

Clickable link!
I forgot to mention wheels! Melamine is HEAVY and I need to be able to roll this thing! Anyway, this was perfect and one weekend boyfriend and I went on the adventure of getting it all cut up and transported home. Needless to say it was far too large for the little Mini and I had to call my dad to help us but all the supplies to make this part of the cage cost $160, cheaper than the Ferret Nation or Critter Nation cages available in Canada.

Step 1: Glue and nail the sides together

Linky link

This sat for a day or so, and then we wrestled it over the back piece and attached the doors.

We borrowed the drill from his dad, but apparently you can rent tools from Home Depot as well! That saves some money if you're like us and don't need them for more than very specific projects.

We attached the wheels and ally-oop, got it upright. It was admittedly a bit of a struggle.

Lookit him, so proud <3

That's the exterior done! The interior was more of a creative endeavour, with a bit of trial and error. In a chinchilla cage, there should never be a stretch of open space underneath a perch exceeding 18 inches. Anything greater can cause serious injury should your little friend slip. And they will! They are not the most graceful of creatures.

To make the whole thing waterproof, you have to caulk the inside edges with silicon. The caulking tube  was a fight and a half to figure out, and punching through the aluminium seal inside the nozzle itself was terrible. I recommend having an unraveled wire coat hanger handy, and realizing that even though it's stuck on like nobody's business, the point of it has a LID. UGH.

Needless to say, we butchered that thing. It's not reusable now, but it was only $8. In the future the chins may strip the sealant off which would require some maintenance work and a redo, so keep that in mind.

Okay! Step 1, measure entire height of cage in inches and divide by 18. This tells you how many levels you should have. The reason I used 18 is because there should be no uninterrupted fall greater than 18" in a chinchilla cage or else they could really hurt themselves.

Our cage is 5'5" or 65". 65/18 = 3.6 = 4 levels. I split the cage into quarters and decided on a step design.

Terribly drawn general plan
So we got some pine shelves and attached them. Fighting a screw through melamine is HARD! All our shelves are attached with metal corner supports, not shelf brackets.

Trial and error
This was our trial and our error was that the shelves leaned toward the middle quite a bit! To support them better, we used some pine pieces to hold it all up at the outer corners.

As you can see, the center is now fully supported. We added uncovered PVC tube which is checked every day for any signs of gnawing (and has so far shown none) as a high hideaway. Given we were a bit sparse with the hiding places at first, this was their favourite spot while they were still deciding how cool we are.

Our finished product! Almost, I mean. I had ordered a huge box of toys, perches and accessories from Drs. Foster & Smith to start us off, and the wheel came from Flying Saucer Wheels in the states. I recommend not bothering with that rat rope, as our friends never climbed it even once (which makes sense, they are for hopping not for crawling).

So the base is done. The hardest part of this project was the doors. We needed and got some extra help with that. It required glue, clamps and patience.

Make sure you measure properly!!

This photo shows the side of the doors that will face the chinchillas which is why I am posting it despite the embarrassing extra foot-long mistake. We bought metal siding (like, for floors) that already had holes drilled in and used that to cover the pointy edges of our mesh which is 1/2" squares.

Anyway, sent that back to boyfriend's parents' house to get lopped off and fixed and VOILA.

Babies' new home! They moved in May 18, 2015.

As I mentioned we did change some things around. A lot of their living requirements (the litter box, water) was moved upwards for ease of access. I guess it makes sense of course, nobody wants to go four floors for a midnight (day?) bathroom break if there's a perfectly good corner right nearby.

As of today, they are quite comfortable all over their cage, and Peanut has even learned to use his wheel!

I meant to upload this post long ago, so here is a current pic of our beautiful cage.

I caught Peanut on the Sharky cube ;D

I hope you guys are looking forward to some more nail posts and some more chinchilla posts! I hope I'm back, and I am glad to be back. Thanks, all of you, for sticking around!