Monday, May 11, 2009

Guinea Pig Cages

Okay, so this might seem like a weird post/topic, but we had some fun questions about our guinea pig cages and I'm finally posting the pictures and information. Unfortunately, we didn't exactly take pictures as we made them, we were more intent on making them and it was a couple of months ago. However, they are really easy and simple to make and our piggies love their space. See how Cookie likes to show off her house? Actually she's eyeing us up because we didn't replace her dry food bowl when that picture was snapped and she was slightly put out by it.. or is it because the name plate on her house is misspelled? I dunno, what do you expect when your owner is 8 and loves you so much he can't resist inviting you to tea parties and spelling your name on your house incase you ever got lost.. I'm getting so off topic here..

These cages are referred to as Grid Cages because the "fencing" or "metal" around the exterior (the part that makes it look cage like) is referred to as a grid. I haven't made one of these in America so I can only refer to you to places I've heard tell sell the supplies. We did, however make on in Tasmania, and if you can get the supplies here, I'm pretty sure you can get them anywhere!

With all of that said, everything has it's pros and cons, this is no different:

  • more space for the piggies (if built in such a way)
  • cheaper (by lots)
  • much quicker and easier cleaning out
  • easier for little ones to feed them
  • easier for quick "pat them on the head" moments as you're walking by.
  • They take up more space
  • usually they don't have tops (this is only an issue if you have an animal who is "out to get your piggie")
So, how do you build it? First you need your supplies:

  • coroplast (unless you're in Australia, ask for Coraflute!) -- we got ours from a local sign store. We simply looked it up in the phone book (signs, not coroplast), called the number and asked if they sold coroplast. When told yes we said what we were doing and how much it would cost. They sold us a piece that is as big as a normal sheet of drywall for 20 bucks. (This was big enough to make one MASSIVE cage for 3 piggies, or two smaller cages for 2 piggies)
  • Grids -- (scroll down just a pinch to see pictures and stores) these are supposedly found at Target, Wal-Mart, Costcot, etc.. In Australia we found ours as Bunnings Warehouse. DO NOT call them and ask if they have them. They will most likely tell you no. Simply drive the hour into the city find the home organizational isle and pluck them up from the closet supply area. Seriously, I even saw them listed in their ad, but they had no idea what I was talking about...
  • scissors
  • wire ties (I bought the kind you can actually open back up without having to cut them off)
  • packing tape

First you need to determine how big you're going to make your cage. With one pig in our cage we went with a 2x2 grid formation. That means we have 2 grids on each side of our cage. A nice big square. I know that some people recommend bigger then that, and if you have the space, go for it! However, that size is still bigger then a typical store cage and our piggie has plenty of room to do her normal dance routine for us.

We hook our grids together first. Simply place your grids side by side and wire tie them. I prefer to use wire ties instead of the provided plastic bits because I feel it gives a more secure hold. That's my preference for my cage, but don't feel like you have to do it that way.

I trim off the excess plastic from the wire ties as I go along, otherwise they stick out all over and become annoying. Plus, if your piggie likes to chew he could chew them off, and somehow I'm not willing to bet your vet would advise you to feed your piggie plastic.. Just a thought..

I put three wire ties on each connecting place. This means that for each cage you'll need a grand total of 24 wire ties. Once you have all those connected you're ready to move on. You'll need a tape measure, and if you live in our home you will most likely take an hour to hunt one down.. and even then you won't find one unless you raid the kid's toy boxes or some other highly unlikely place, but back to the cages..

Measure the INTERIOR of the grid. You want to know the distance from one side of the piggie cage to the other so you can make your plastic the right shape and size to fit. I like to add a few extra inches (about 6) per side. Why? Because when our piggies hop, skip, jump, dance, and play they scatter bedding all over the place. Rather then vacuum every two seconds, I put on higher sides which keeps it all in the cage (or at least most of it..)

This is what you're aiming to make, a big huge square. Once you measure out how big you need it to be you'll want to cut it out. There's no magic trick to this. Use scissors or a handy dandy Poppy Knife as my kids call it. (In normal terms we're talking a swiss army knife, or equivalent!) Some of the time you'll be cutting OVER bumps, scissors work best there. Other times you'll be cutting between two bumps, the knife is super quick for that job.

Once you're all cut out you need to perforate all four sides. This sounds harder then it is. Seriously. Take a deep breath, pull out your Poppy Knife and get ready. Find your six inches of over lap and then draw a straight line just the other side of it (or mark it in some way on your plastic.) Then take the knife and cut HALFWAY through the plastic. The aim is not to cut all the way through, remember it's corrugated which means you've got more then one layer there. Two sides are always easier (the lack of bumps..) This would, I'm sure be a LOT easier with a picture, but we didn't photograph this part in action. If there's confusion I can take a close up of how this is done on some leftover plastic we have. In short, though, the perforation is what allows you to fold the edges up to make it into a proper box shape.

Once you're perforated the whole thing you'll need to perforate the corners. I do this as if I were wrapping a present. I line it up and usually cut the LONG sides so that they fold flatly against the short sides. This may make NO SENSE to you now, but if you're working on the project it will, I promise! I tape the exterior of my corners, some people don't, they feel once it's all in place it'll be fine. So be it, I like tape, I tape.

For the record, I do not tape the interior of the cage in any way. I suspect our male piggie would enjoy chewing on tape, after all he enjoys chewing on everything else. In fact, the kids put "name plates" from regular recycled printing paper on their "homes" and he ate his before I thought to pull it out, have no fear the extra fiber was a once off deal for him!

Once your four corners are assembled and you've got your grids wire tired together pop the wire grids inside the plastic base, it should fit snugly (or close to it.) Yes, there's really a piggie in there, you can just see his nose sticking out of his "house", he wasn't impressed with the invasion of a camera.

Now, rather then buy an expensive hay rack I opted to make a "built in" hay rack of our piggies. I don't like giving them hay to sleep in because it stinks and requires cleaning more often, plus it's kinda wasteful considering I buy my hay from the local grocery. Yes, really! If you're in Tasmania you can buy RSPCA certified hay for your piggies or rabbits at your local Woolies, we get our feed from there too (also RSPCA certified.)

To do this I simply line up an extra grid and attach with a few wire ties. Some piggies are stronger and smarter then others and it can require more wire ties. Mine are complacent and willing to contentedly sun themselves while chomping on hay (Peanut is especially fond of this past time..) I simply put two wire ties (one on each side) on there, pulled them MEGA tight and then when it's inside the base we fill it halfway up with hay. That lasts each piggie about 2 weeks. Or rather, we fill it one week while cleaning cages, next week there's no need, following week we refill..

There you have it, two cages side by side on top of an old kitchen table. They do visit each other, through the partition of the cages, because well.. Peanut thinks highly of himself, and Cookie could care less about his boyish ways.. They are also great for poking their heads over the sides of the cage each time they hear plastic bags rattling around because they suspect it might mean more veggies for them. May I just say there's NOTHING louder then two kids wrestling, a dog barking at them, and two guinea pigs screaming all while trying to assemble veggies for dinner..

Without a hay rack this cage would seriously fold right up for easy moving, etc. With the hay rack it doesn't fold up quite as compact. All though don't ask me why you'd want to compact your cage if you own a guinea pig! I will say that during cleaning time we take the grid bit of the cage outside and set it in the lengthier grass (ie, that which isn't cut super short) and put one piggie inside each cage. However, we DO make someone sit with the cage at ALL times. The cages aren't SUPER stable that way and the neighbor's cat could easily come visiting.

Usually the boys stand guard, but if they need a potty break (because of course you can't sit outside for 5 minutes without having one, right?) Then either Lawrence or I will take over. We've considered employing Buster for the job, because he loves the guinea pigs and will carry on a conversation at all odd hours of the day with Cookie, but his mind wanders and he usually wanders with it.. Which means if a leaf blows by he's likely to follow it, or if an ant waddled by he'd probably follow that too. In fact, I'm pretty sure if anything moved he'd go off to see what was up, and he'd probably forget he was on guard duty and wander off to the beach, unleashed, just to see if he'd be able to convince someone down there to give him a bite to eat.. Mm yeah, we don't let Buster have a shift on Piggie Duty to be honest..

You can read more about grid cages here, or you can just ask, and we'll do our best to answer! Please be aware that if you opt to register and post on the forums related to the webpage I've listed that they are very helpful. However, they are also very passionate about their guinea pigs, and they have their own opinions on what is humane and inhumane. I will not say that I agree or disagree with everything that is stated, I'm just giving you fair warning. With that said, I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest you adopt a guinea pig before "buying" one. Animals in shelters need homes too, and they make awesome pets!


door name plates said...

Funny name plate. :) Sometimes it is really simple to make one, but if we want more professional design we should order it. You can find tips about name plates on my blog.

Shauna Swith said...

These cages seem to be really stable and sturdy. I am glad to find this website.