-Make a Cage-

[ tom's cage ]


My kids's cage is 2' by 2' by 3' high, made of 1" by 2" fencing, commonly called welded wire or maybe animal fencing if you are looking for it at a hardware store. I only have 2 fuzzies (for now) but I would be comfortable having up to four in here so long as they got plenty of play time.

This is what the finished product looks like if you're interested or looking to make a cage:

**Materials used**

  • About 50 square feet of 14 guage 1" by 2" welded wire (four sides at 2' by 3', 2' by 2' top and bottom, two 2' by 2' floors). Gauge refers to thickness, higher numbers mean thinner wire. I wish I could have found 10 gauge (thicker) wire instead. Thicker wire is more sturdy, but harder to work with. Thinner wire is easy to work with but rather flimsy and needs to be held in place by something or it will lose its shape. Welded wire comes standard in rolls 3' high, so measurements had to be taken with that in mind. You can definitely also use insulated (coated) welded wire if you prefer and can find it.
  • Three pieces of linoleum (one for each level), 2' by 2' each. You can get scrap pieces for cheap or free at local lumber yards or flooring stores.
  • A roll of thin wire (for attaching linoleum to floors and wiring sides together) or zip clips (I wish I had used those instead!)
  • (Optional)Half a dozen *small* industrial springs (they are just like a very large spring that comes out of a pen, smaller than the kind on a screen door). I use these to latch the top, which I hinged only on one side so that I could open it up for cleaning and easy access.
  • 48" by 7" piece of insulated (plastic coated) hardware cloth to make two ramps. This is actually wire, just like the welded wire, but comes in a smaller grid and of course is coated with vinyl or rubber. Soft on fuzzy feet, but with a small grid so they don't slip down the ramps like they would on a smooth surface like plastic.I used 1/2" by 1/2", but it comes in smaller or larger varieties.
  • Six or eight pieces of 1" by 25" wood to put under floors as supports (wooden dowels would work great).
  • One piece of corrugated alluminum (sheet metal), 28" by 28" to use as a base pan.

    Total cost of materials, somewhere around $35-$40.

    **Tools used**

    Regular and needle nosed pliers, wire cutters, tin snips, something hard and pointy to punch holes through the linoleum (I used an punch but an awl or just the tip of a knife could work), a sharp utility blade for cutting linoleum, and a nail pincers (fencing pliers) or a metal file if available (you will want it to take the sharp edges off the wire once you're done clipping it).

    **What to do**

    Step one: Clipping the wire to the desired size for all four sides, the top and bottom, and as many floors as you desire. Use your wire cutters or the wire cutter on the pliers to snip the wire to your desired size. Use the grid of the wire to guide you along and keep straight sides. Try to clip the wire as close to the edge that you are using as possible so there isn't much overhang to deal with later. Clipping so much wire is tough on your hands and forearm muscles (believe me!), so find a helper to switch off with or break the cutting up into a couple of sessions. For the top panel of the cage, I left a 2" overhang on one side and then bent the extra two inches down at a 90 degree angle so that I could hinge the top for easy access and when closed, the overhang would rest on the side of the cage to keep the top from falling into the cage. I should have left overhang on three sides of the top instead of just one, but hey, that's hindsight for you.

    Step two: Trimming the edges of the wire. After cutting all those panels for your cage, you've probably left behind some fresh pointy snags that will really cut you up if you don't do something about them now. Use nail pincers (fencing pliers), if you have a pair, to cut away the sharp edges as close to the panel as you can. If you pince away the edges at an angle facing *in* to the finished piece, it seems to work best. If you don't have fencing pliers, you need a metal file to file down the sharp edges (not a bad idea even if you do have fencing pliers) or else you *will* be getting scrapes from them snagging you when you least expect it. I can't really think of any better way to do away with those edges without using a grinder, which most people don't have at their disposal.

    Step three: Flattening the wire. Easier said than done! Once you have your wire cut to size for the sides, top, bottom, and levels, you need to flatten it. Do this by simply bending the wire backwards a little at a time until you get it close to flat. It is very hard to get completely flat, but with persistence you can get very very close. A great trick is to use a wooden dowel or other solid round object that is at least the width of the piece of cage you are trying to flatten, and roll it back and forth across the wire like a rolling pin while applying some weight. Works really well. I did not do this with mine, just spent a lot of time bending and rebending by hand, and it turned out fine.

    Step four: Sizing your floors and cutting out holes for access. For my cage, I wanted one full sized floor, and one 3/4 sized floor. The 3/4 sized floor was easy, I just cut down the piece I was going to use for that floor to 16" by 24". The full sized floor required a hole to allow access from the bottom floor and large enough to accomodate a fuzzy coming up a ramp. I cut a rectangle 6" by 9" out of a corner of the piece that I was going to use as the second level (the full floor). It was weird to think about when I was doing it, but this kind of shows what I'm talking about:

    Step five: Making the base pan. If you can see from my pictures (especially the next one), I have a metal pan with about a two inch depth that my cage sits into in order to catch all of the bits of food and the occaissional misplaced poops that come with ferret life. I had access to a shop in order to bend the piece of sheet metal that I used. If you are not so fortunate, ask the people at the hardware store if they can do it for you. They will have a sheet metal bender and will know how to help you. Just know that you want the pan to be a little bigger than your cage so the cage can fit into it easily witout being squished. So 24 1/2" by 24 1/2" is a smart size for a 2' by 2' cage. Just leave a 1/2" of space in each direction to be cautious. If you want to bend it yourself and have the resources, you will need to use tin snips cut a square away from each corner in order to allow for the metal to be bent up on each side (you can't fold it together like a piece of paper). The square to cut out on each edge will be equal to the depth of the pan that you are making. For a two inch deep pan, cut a square that is 2" by 2" out of each of the four corners of the sheet metal. If for some reason you wanted a 6" deep pan, you would have to cut a square that was 6" by 6" out of each corner. You also need to be sure to have a large enough piece of metal to accomodate the size of the cage PLUS the depth of the base pan, so for a 24" by 24" cage, a 28" by 28" piece of sheet metal.

    Step six: Wiring together the cage body. Now comes the part where your cage takes shape. Use the roll of thin wire or zip clips to wire the body of your cage together on all four sides, every few inches. I actually bent strips of sheet metal to attach the sides to each other, but it wasn't really worth it in the long run. I did make sure to wire one corner where two sides come together so that now when I have to move the cage (I'm a college student, so me and the kids get new homes more often than we would like) I can unwire that one side and the cage folds almost flat on itself for easier moving.

    Step seven: Where to put the floors and doors? Now comes the time when you decide how high to place your floors and where to put doors on your cage. I started with only one door and the top that opened. It was not enough for easy access. Now I have four doors, all 10" by 10", two facing each other on opposite sides of the bottom level, and the same for the second level, plus the top that opens. You have to think about where the doors should be and how high to place the levels because once you cut a hole into your cage, you can't just make it disappear. I personally left 14" of head room for the bottom floor, 12" for the second, and 10" for the third. The doors need to be conveniently placed and large enough for you to have enough access. Use your pliers again to cut the door holes to your size in the sides of the cage. Use spare wire to cut the actual door to put in the hole you just cut. You are going to want to smooth all of these edges again. Be sure to cut the holes such that it is not just bare wire sticking out, you want to "frame" the hole if that makes sense, and the same with three sides of the door that you cut to cover it. This is the best illustration I can give you:

    Now I said frame THREE sides of the actual door. I personally left as much bare wire as I could hanging off of the fourth side so that I could bend that around the doorframe on the cage to hinge it on. This is blurry, but if you look at where the door and cage meet in the foreground, I've bent the extra wire from one side of the door around the frame on the cage to make a hinge:

    However, it would be just as easy or even easier to either wire the doors on or use some of those zip clips. I have a friend that used that method with great success.

    Step eight: Attaching linoleum to the cut floors. Pretty simple. Use the floors as a tracing pattern to cut around on the linoleum. Be sure to cut on the BACK of the linoleum, it just makes things easier. Once you have the linoleum sized, punch a few two holes in it at every spot that you want to attach it to the floor. I suggest leaving the floor on top of the linoleum and punching holes around the wires rather than guessing where the wires will line up. Be sure to attach the corners extra securly. Four attachments on each side should be plenty. Slip some of your wire or your zip clips through the holes in the linoleum and around the wires of the floors and secure them. If you use wire, be sure to clip it very short and bend it UP, facing the bottom of the floor, so that there isn't a sharp pointy wire waiting to poke your fuzzy.

    Step nine: Placing the floor supports. The floor supports for this cage are movable and removable because they are simply pieces of wood or dowels slipped across the cage level that the floors rest upon. Be sure to have plenty of support in the middle of the floors so that chunky boys and multiple ferrets don't make the floor start to bow in to the middle too much. Here's a pic:

    That pic also shows the hinge I was talking about with the doors (just below the right hand piece of wood). I also notched my pieces of wood with a small hand saw (the one on my leatherman pocket tool) so they couldn't slip out and make the floor fall. That's a good idea, but not necessary. You could also wire the floors to the cage in addition to having the supports if you were worried about the supports slipping. Once you have support in place, place your floors and we'll get ready to make ramps! If anyone has any better ideas for floor support I would love to hear them, not that I am looking to change mine, but I always thought it could be done better.

    Step ten: Ramps. Remember that piece of coated hardware cloth? Well, now is its time to shine. Use the wire cutters to clip it into two 24" sections. In order to make support for the ramps, bend 1/2" of the welded wire in on both of the long sides (facing in the same direction) to a 90 degree angle. Now bend another 1/2" of the same sides of the welded wire in another 90 degrees. When you are done, it should roughly resemble the shape of two long open squares or triangles running along under the edges of the flat surface of the ramp. That will give it enough strength to not fold in half when your chubbiest fuzzy waddles up it. I think that this picture shows that a little bit, as well as how we will attach it to the cage:

    You can kind of see the bend that we just did on the left side of this ramp. To attach the ramps to the cage, simply use the overhanging wires on the ramp. Slide them over a wire on the side of your cage and bend them down and around a little. Be sure to trim the base of the ramp so none of those wires are where your fuzzy can catch himself on them. If I remember right, to get the ramp to sit properly at an angle, you will have to also trim back about 1" of the part that we rolled under for support on the top and the base of the ramp (otherwise it won't sit flat).

    Step eleven: Use wire to keep your doors closed, or devise your own closure system. Wire works very well for me. Insert litter boxes, bedding, sleepy sacks, cuddle cups, food, water, ferrets, and enjoy!

    One last picture with a little discription: This is where I used the springs on the cage. They hold down the top, which is attached only on one side, and has an overhang bent down to a 90 degree angle on the side that is showing in this picture. I also use one spring on each side of the top to keep the kids from being able to push it up and squeeze out.

    This is definitely not a tiny project. It is also not a huge project. I think it is about a weekend or two's worth of work, depending on how well I described everything to you. It took me about a day and a half to do alone. Materials cost under $40 and I have never had a problem with it except the little bandits finding ways for me to improve on door latches. I hope this has helped some people out there who want to make their own cages, or has at least given you some ideas on things that work and others that might not work so well.

    Much thanks to Tom for letting me use his ferret cage instructions!