These reptile cage making tips are not comprehensive by any means but they will hopefully help those of you who want to build your own snake or lizard terrariums.
The first, and one of the most useful tips is:
If at any time you feel frustrated or stuck, walk away and think about it for a while.
Rather than persist, I have found it is better to give yourself a break for a bit. Often the solution to the problem will come to you when you least expect it or you will be more relaxed to tackle something that have found difficult.
It is important to know the needs of you reptile before you start even designing a reptile cage.
Ask yourself questions like:
• Is it an arboreal enclosure or terrestrial or a bit of both?
• Does your herp need lots of water?
• Would it do well with a sandy cage or desert vivarium setup?
• What sort of substrate is best?
• Do you want sliding doors, perspex doors – drop down or swinging or a wooden/glass/perspex combination? Each of these has advantages and disadvantages. Think about how you would like to access you herp
• Do you want openings at the top or sides as well?
Another question you need to consider is what materials will you make the snake or lizard cage from? There are quite a few choices and you need to spend some time find out about this.
Have a reptile terrarium plan and draw it up. It may take quite a few sketches before you get it right or satisfy yourself that it is what you want. Draw your final cage from different angles. Use a ruler and pencil to make accurate pictures of your reptile enclosure so you get your measurements correct. Drawing from different angles, eg side view, front view, top view, back view will allow you to not only get your measurements correct but helps to give you visual cues when you start making it.
This also has the advantage of reducing the materials costs as you know exactly what you need. It avoids making multiple shopping trips – although, I always forget something.
Make a list of materials you need from your drawings, including sundry items like screws, glue, nails, hinges, sliding rails, vents etc. This is useful for when you go shopping.
Determine how you will set up heating and lighting for your snake or lizard enclosure.
• Will the lights sit above the herp cage, above a mesh or a circular hole or will they be fitted inside the cage to allow stacking
• Do you need to stack the reptile cages or allow for the possibility of stacking?
• Do you need protective coverings for the lights?
• Are they purely for basking or do you need UV lighting and if so how long will your cage need to be? If you do need UV light, this can impact on door locations should you want an opening at the top.
• Will you make your own heatmats? What sort of temperature control will you use?
Will your reptile cage be moveable? If not there is no need for castors, or it can be places on top of cupboard. However, if the cage needs to be moved from time to time it is useful to put heavy duty castors on it. Alternatively, place it on a cupboard that has castors and can be moved.
One of the hardest parts is getting perfect right angles and nice straight cuts on large MDF or melamine sheeting should you choose to make your cage from these materials. One way around this is to get the timber accurately pre cut from either where you purchase it or from a local cabinet maker. They may charge you a few dollars but it is well worth it if you do not have the tools at home for accurate cutting. Clamps and timber pieces with electric or hand saws will work but you only need a clamp to slip or go a bit awry as you cut and the edge will be awful, or worse still, the piece has to be thrown away or the cage resized.
Before you start making it, are there some tools you need to borrow or purchase? If are unfamiliar with tools, do you need someone to help you? Make sure you know how to handle a particular tool. If you are uncertain, get someone who knows to show you. Chisels, drills and electric saws can all be dangerous if you do no know what you are doing.
Plan the assembly. Does something need to be done before something else? In what order will you put the pieces together. Does something need two people to make it easier? It is better and less frustrating to ask for help and make a task more successful and easier rather than doing it alone and making a mess of it.
The order of putting things together is not always intuitive. Making large vent holes is easier with the cage in pieces than after it is assembled. For small vent holes, this does not matter. Another example is if you have a top door, putting a UV light in before attaching it, and other doors makes it easier to attach. If you intend to paint the inside, it is sometimes easier to do so inside before you assemble it.
Are you going to paint your reptile terrarium? If you make if from MDF you probably need to paint it but if it is made from laminates, than there is no need. If you are going to paint it, will you spray paint it or paint it with a brush? Are you going to line the inside of the cage? If so, what with? When should you do this?
If you do paint your reptile terrarium, makes sure you leave adequate time for the paint to dry between coats. Give more than one coat and leave the paint to dry for quite a few days at the end before you house animals. This makes sure that the fumes are removed or reduced to an acceptable level.
If you want to decorate your reptile cage, what are you going to do it with? If you intend to put a rock wall in it, you will have to make it a bit wider than you would otherwise to allow for the wall. If you want to have branches in your cage, you need to make sure you can install and remove them easily. How will you attach them in order to do this? You need to treat any timber you use in the cage to remove parasites and unwanted visitors.
Making your own cages can be a rewarding, fun and satisfying experience provided you spend a little time planning and above all, don’t rush it.
About the Author:
Mark Chapple is the Author of “How to build enclosures for reptiles” This ebook shows you how to build homemade snake cages, lizard enclosures, large cages, arboreal cages, waterproofing them and a host of building tips and ideas. Full color pictures, detailed diagrams and easy to follow, step-by-step instructions.
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