I’ve just built this cage. It has plenty of shelves and has a pull-out litter tray in the base. Would you like to know how I built it? It was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be! Before we get started here are some important tips to remember when building your Chinchilla cage:
(a) You can either build it out of wood (NO pesticides, NO treatments, NO unsafe woods). Or out of a metal bird cage, or something of similar sturdy stature. Don’t get any sort of coated woods. WAY too many things are TOXIC to chinchillas if ingested, and we all know how much they love to chew on anything/everything.
(b) The safest way to secure wood on wood would be screwed. But, make sure they are somewhat removable without completely damaging the external wood, in case you have to replace that shelf from chewing, staining, etc. I would personally suggest a metal frame with wooden shelves because you can get those metal screw/bolt and wingnut things that you can secure in the wood but hold tightly in place on the metal. (Like the ones on the back of high-quality wheels!)
(c) If you have the cage in a corner of a room, where at least 2 sides are covered, you can have the ease of shelf replacement and still let them feel secured by enclosure. I wouldn’t say go for vinyl covering so much, because they can just chew it off and ingest, as with everything
On this page, you will find details of its construction together with hints and tips gained from my experiences. I will not include exact measurements as it was built to fit into a specific alcove – you may require a slightly different size. It was not too difficult to make and should be possible with very little DIY experience.
First Step To Building A Chinchilla Cage
Your first step will be to decide if you want a cage with solid sides and top or mesh sides and top. Also, will it have a solid base or a mesh base with a litter tray? Remember that solid sided cages do not allow the air to flow as freely and in summer are likely to be warmer for your chin than a cage with mesh sides and top. This cage has a mesh base with pull out litter tray.
My next step was to find a local supplier of large rolls of cage wire. The wire needs to be of an appropriate size and gauge (thickness); 3/4 inch square galvanized welded mesh is fine (1 inch will be too big if your chin is likely to have babies). 16 gauge wire is ok if the cage has a wooden frame as this one does, but if building a self-supporting cage then you will need 12 or 14 gauge wire, as these are thicker and stronger.
To avoid extra wire cutting try to buy wire which is the same width as the height of your cage, e.g. for a 2-foot high cage look for a roll 6 meters long by 24 inches wide, for a three-foot cage then 6 meters long by 36 inches wide.
Alternatively build your cage to the height of the available wire, bearing in mind the recommended maximum cage height is 3 foot – this is to help avoid injuries from falls.
Next, I drew a rough sketch of each section on paper jotting down the expected measurements of each section. I then added up the lengths of each section to work out the expected amount of wood needed for the frame of the cage. An ideal wood to use both for the frame and interior shelving is untreated pine which can be bought from a timber merchant or DIY store, never use plywood, as it is toxic to chinchillas.
If you are confident of your measurements then you can ask the timber merchant to cut the lengths of timber you require.
The litter tray and base
Once I had bought a litter tray I constructed a frame for the tray.
For the vertical sections at the side and back of the frame I used the same wood as I did for the main body of the cage; I then attached these side sections to thinner sections of wood to form a base which the bottom of the tray rests on, at the front the thinner wood creates a letterbox effect. The frame is held together with screws, which is why thinner wood is used underneath.
The tray itself provides some support to the piece of wood above it at the front (allow a little clearance both for the tray, and to fix a screw from this piece of wood into the front frame of the cage) – this piece of wood supports the wire mesh at the front of the floor.
I cut the mesh to the exact size I needed before attaching it into its permanent position. I used 14mm staples and a generic staple gun.
Skirting board is what I used as the cover for the front of the litter tray. The timber merchant was kind enough to cut it to 5.5cm from its original 8cm height. My litter tray has just a tad bit of an inset, so I used a thin piece of wood to fill the space behind the cover. And then I attached the handle. The handle was super easy, I just drilled holes in the front of the litter tray, placed the screws into place from the rear and then screwed the handle into place.
Hand saws are lousy, but jigsaws are great!!
Before screwing the wood together pre-drill a hole in the wood to prevent it from splitting.
Fit the drill bit in the drill so that you will be drilling no deeper than necessary.
If building the cage to fit in a specific space then allow a little leeway in case it ends up a little wider/taller.
Check your measurements as you go, and update your rough sketches as you go.
If sandwiching the wire between the front and side section (to keep sharp edges from the chin) remember to amend your measurements as this will add an extra mm or two on each side.
The main body of the cage
This cage was constructed so that individual sections can be removed and replaced, therefore the remainder of the cage consists of:
- a front panel,
- a back panel,
- two side panels,
- and a top panel.
The sections were constructed such that the side panels fit between the front and back panels, to give the cage a neat appearance when viewed from the front. On the front panel, the door is positioned centrally to allow greater access to all parts of the cage. The individual panels can be seen here (to reduce loading time on this page).
The mesh was cut to size for each section and any sharp edges were filed down before being stapled into position, again using 14 mm staples. Where possible the cut edges of wire and the staples were positioned where the chins could not reach them. The side panels were fixed to the back panel with screws, and then the top was added before turning the cage upside down and fixing the bottom into place.
Because the base is quite deep either very long screws are needed, or it is necessary to countersink the screws used to fix the base into position. To countersink drill a hole the width of the screw head in the underside of the base, but be careful not to drill too deep. Next pre-drill a hole for the screw – when the screw is inserted it will lie below the level of the wood.
Flush fitting hinges hold the door in position, and two hook and eye fixings keep the door closed – I used two to be certain there would be no escapes! Before fixing the front panel in place I cut the shelves to size and fixed them in place. To prevent the screws from passing through the wire a thin piece of the baton was placed on the outside of the wire and the screw inserted from that side. You can see this in the picture below. Finally, the front was fixed in position.
To ensure two screw holes in a baton line up with two screw holes in the shelf, hold the baton where it needs to be on the shelf then drill holes in the baton and the shelf at the same time.
The upper shelf in this picture has been shaped in order to give more space to land safely when jumping down to the short shelf below.
Again for safety reasons, the edges of the short shelf have been rounded.
Clyde and Avra provided quality control – here you can see Clyde examining the mesh while Avra makes sure the shelves are up to scratch.
She will check the shelves for chewability later.