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How to build your own small animal cages.

This article is for the folks who've already decided to get rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, or other critters needing small wire cages. As you've found out by now, cages can be either expensive to buy, hard to find, or needing repairs.

When we moved across a couple states with 30-plus rabbits in assorted carriers and cages, I found no reason to buy cages here. Then I met a new friend who told me how she made her own cages, and here we are.

I've been making my own cages now for nearly a year, and love the ability to design cages to fit my--and the rabbits'--needs and comforts.

First of all you'll need to invest in wire. Though a 100' roll of wire is expensive, you'll be surprised at how many cages you get from it. The size of wire you'll need depends on what will live within. For my rabbits, averaging eight pounds adult weight (more when a doe has a litter with her), I like the 1" x 1", or the 1" x 2" for the sides and top, and the 1/2" x 1" for the bottoms. (You want a smaller wire on the bottom so the kits' paws won't fall through, yet large enough for the droppings to fall to the ground.) Welded wire is preferred, and I don't recommend coated wire for any animal or fowl that'll chew or "mouth" at the wire.

You may find the building materials you need from local sources such as feed mills or farm supply stores. I personally use both local and mail order sources.

Once you have the wires you need you'll also need the clips to build with (I find the "J" clips are the easiest to find and use), clop pliers to apply the clips, a good pair of wire cutters, leather gloves, and clop removal pliers. Then of course you'll need the latches for the doors (if you'll make your own) or ready-to-install doors (I use those for convenience), and lastly the kind of feeders you'll be using. For my rabbits I like the "J" feeders with wire screens on the bottoms, and homemade hay feeders using squares of hardware cloth.

Now that you have all your supplies assembled, you need to decide what size you want your cages. For the example here, the cages I make measure 24"x22"x18". Open the roll of side wall wire, and lay it on the ground where you can unroll a length. Then I like to cut all the sides or tops of each cage needed at this time. Managing that roll of wire isn't as easy as it looks, and I prefer not to have to cut wire any more often than needed. Repeat the process with the wire for the bottoms of the cages.

Once the pieces have been cut from the roll, they'll need to be trimmed to size, and trimmed of all the sharp edges. Then sort your cut and trimmed pieces into complete cage units.

Now you're ready to build! With your bottom piece, and one of the sidepieces, line them up and start clipping together, side to bottom, and along one side only, using the "J" clips. Note: There is a "top" and "bottom" side to the wire--you want the smoothest side toward the animal's feet.

To use the pliers for the clips, insert a clip with the "J" part against the two-prong side of the jars. Entrap the two wires (one from the bottom piece, and one from the side piece) and squeeze the handles. The clip should close around both wires, and totally encircle them.

Once you've clipped that side, fold it up into position, and clip the next side to the bottom, fold up and then clip the two sides together.

Continue until all sides are attached to the bottom and each other, then attach the top to each of the sides. You now have a wire box, ready to cut the door and feeder holes.

Figure where you want the door and cut the hole to fit, attach only the hinge side of the door to the cage.

Continue to install the remaining feeders and you're ready to install your critters!

Once you've discovered how simple it is to make your own cages, you can even make cages to sell. And you'll find it fairly easy to repair or rebuild cages, saving yourself considerable money over the course of a couple years!

LORNA JEAN BANKS

BLAIR, NEBRASKA
COPYRIGHT 2006 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Livestock housing
Author:Banks, Lorna Jean
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Words:750
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