Omg I love this! Great job!! And I absolutely love the 3 terra cotta pot that you have in there!
2 degu boys - Moose (born 3/29/11) and Rocket, 4 turtles named Koopa, Bowser, Lakitu, and Chomper, 2 lovebirds named King Neptune and Luna, a Silky Terrier named Roxy and a beautiful betta fish named Mooshoo=]
The divider for the digging pit: this is not secured to the sides, so it can be slid closer or farther from the end to make the digging pit larger or smaller, and to recollect the chips/hay mix as it gets moved about.
Each main level has the clear proplex (less expensive plexiglass) guard all around. Six inches (about 15cm) for the bottom, 4 inches (10cm) for the upper. Then inside that is a strip of aspen wood, 1x4 inches (2.5x10cm) for the bottom, 1x2 inches (2.5x5cm) for the upper. These are held together and to the cage by screws and washers. We used machine screws, which do not have a pointed end, instead of wood screws, which do have that sharp pointed end, in case the guys ever chew down that far. Predrilled all the holes, which both helps get a machine screw into the wood, and prevents splitting when installing the screws.
We put the aspen strips inside the proplex so that it would rest on top of the lip of the plastic trays, hopefully blocking them from being chewed. So far, so good.
For the intermediate shelves, on the plastic/wire support ones that came with the cage, we put 1x2 inch aspen strips (2.5x5cm) all around, using machine screws and washers to secure to the cage, resting on the edge of the shelf. Front strip, where the doors are, is screwed in at the side end.
For the wooden shelves we added, we screwed blocks of aspen wood to the side of the cage, then put the shelf on top and secured with screws. Then added 1x2 inch aspen strips to be able to hold in a light layer of woodchips for pee absoprtion. Covered plywood shelf with stick-down floor tiles.
Installed the back strip first, then the sides, then fit in the front.
For across the front, where the doors are, we simply screwed the proplex to the wood, with a washer as well, and it slides inside the little doorstop on the frame to hold it in place. Just needed careful fitting of its length, and those of the sides, to make it stay neatly.
Secured the wheel to the side by taking two long metal strips, one inside and one outside, and putting several screws through it, to disperse the weight and pull of the wheel on the cage bars. Makes it quieter, and less likely to stress and break the cage. Because of the wooden edge below, we had to put it up a bit high, so there is a stone in front of it as a step. On the side of the cage next to the wheel, we have added a proplex shield full height, as one of them loves to pee while running, and the dried pee dust was getting everywhere.
The stairs are a cherry branch, sliced into about 1-2 inch slices (2.5-5cm), then screwed together offset to make the stair shape. Used long screws, put in at an angle. Predrilled the holes to prevent splitting. Added some birch sticks for stabilization. Secured to bottom of shelf with screws and screw-eyes.
The ramps are mostly cherry wood branches, split, and smoothed with a hand plane, and if necessary a bit of a sanding sponge to remove any sharp, brittle edges and splinters. Secured with screws & washers, or screw eyes, or a small woodblock underneath at the cage edge.
the covering on the upper shelves is coconut hull matting, the kind of stuff that lines planter baskets and boxes. We get it at local garden stores, some sell from big rolls, you buy it by the length you want. Also use the basket liners, turn upside down and cut doorhole and window (they always seem to like two openings). It normally has a kind of waxy feel to it. However, make sure IT DOES NOT SMELL LIKE PESTICIDE. Sometimes it has been treated to make it last longer when used in planting. It should just smell like natural, dusty, coconut shell kind of stuff.
We put the pieces down, then screwed the wooden edging over it to help hold it in place. A birch or cherry stick was screwed in from either end to help hold it down at the open end of shelves. The goos have, of course, ripped some of it up to stuff their huts, even tho I always leave lots of extra pieces lying around for the taking. It can be taken out and washed through with a hose, let it dry in the sun, and re-used. Stuff that is no longer a good flat base, I use for the extra pieces for them to take for bedding. I take a shop vacuum or little hand-vac and vacuum up the poos and hay crud about weekly, and then once a month take up the cocomat and wipe clean the shelf underneath, and either rinse out or replace any badly peed on parts, although they seem to be peeing down in the woodchip part more than up on the cocomatting.
Chester, who is our nesting goo, despite being male, has recently taken to stuffing the hut so tightly that they can't get in, so they sleep on top of it. Since it's underneath a low shelf, it evidently seems secure and comfy that way, even without getting inside.
So far, they are madly chewing the wooden edging, and the bark off the sticks and stairs, but have left all the plastic and proplex alone. But then, that's why we put so much wood in there. For some reason, they seem to be truly offended by the square edges of all the aspen lumber, as they are rounding it off all over the cage rather than chewing through it in any one spot. (Having just said that, I will probably wake to utter destruction tomorrow...)
And I must say a huge, eternal THANK YOU to my hubby, who did most of the actual construction for me, and put up with all my crazy ideas and instructions.
Wow, is right. Paradise, for sure. Cool. Totally inspiring. Amazing. So creative and resourceful. Great idea using the coconut matting to cover the shelves, etc. etc. etc. I'll certainly be applying many of your ideas (if you don't mind). I have the same cages for my goos but they've been limited to straw mats, wooden chinchilla shelves and other huts and things I pick up at the pet store. Though I'm limited in my woodworking skills (none), I will have my husband have a look at this and see if he might be able to help. This is so inspiring. Thanks for the detailed photos and how-tos. ;D Love it, love it, love it!
Please do use any ideas you like. We spent a lot of time working out how to make it just right, so if I can save anyone else all that extra time and frustration, I'm glad. If you have any questions on how we did something, just ask. Not a lot of fancy woodworking skills, used a hand saw for cutting, a drill for making the holes (and you could even use a little hand drill, power just goes easier and quicker) and a screw driver. To cut the proplex strips, he used a little hand-held razor-cutter knife thingy designed for just such a job, this took a lot of time, if you have a home-building store that can cut it for you, well worth having them do it.
I LOVE the coconut matting. In our first cage, which was too small, and had wire shelves, I used it to cover all the wire mesh to protect their feet. You can cut it to any shape and size, you can sew it into shapes (made their first huts before going to the pre-made basket liners), you can put extra layers down in their favorite peeing spots, they tear it up and stuff their huts with it , but unlike paper it doesn't get all bogged down and disgusting when wetted. Since the garden centers tend to carry it in the spring and summer, but put it away in the fall, we make sure we buy a couple yards/meters of it by September to make sure we have enough to last the winter.
Now I have trouble finding them because there are so many places for them to be!
So nice not to have to worry about is the cage too dirty yet, are they doing okay in their little space, how can I rearrange to make it better or more interesting....?
Now, when they get their oats, or seed mix, we scatter it in over several levels so that they can/have to go foraging for it. Before, I would scatter it in, but it was simply a matter of collecting for them, because there weren't that many places for stuff to go.
they actually seem to scuffle more now, have had to break up a few good fights, no rfbod or injuries (maybe because I broke them up?) but serious-looking fights. These mostly happen late at night, so I interfered because I needed sleep and couldn't stay up to see how they progressed just in case. BTW, found that a squirt bottle of water, set somewhere between stream and mist, (so it is putting out a broadened spray stream) works wonders. Have one on hand for dog and cats, found that after the initial direct shot or two got them separated, just spraying to prevent them from heading back to reengage settled things down after several attempts on their part. And a spray bottle applies minimal water.
It sure does!! I had forgotten that I actually used that with our boys in the later stages of their adolescent issues and rfbod episodes. It got to the point that all I had to do was make the sspppfffftt ssspppffffttt sounds with my mouth and they would run to opposite sides of the cage. LOL!! Found that very handy!!
1 Bichon/Shi-t-zu Ollie (b'gollie), 1 Standard poodle, Indie
It started a couple weeks after, I think it has mostly calmed down because as soon as the scuffles sound like they're going to get serious I tell them "Guys! Cut it out!" and they stop and look at me like, "Oh no, is she going to get the water bottle out again?"