Buying the supplies for your branch will require a trip to the local big box stores or even your local hardware store, but if you have different kinds of reptiles, you most likely may have some of this stuff already, plus scrap PVC pipe can be gotten from plumber friends and the infrared stripper lamp borrowed from painter friends. The benefit is that once the supplies are in hand, you are now equipped to make several branches for any size habitat.
The branch I made was for my small-ish stunted iguana, who does not have very good use of his back legs. The branch needed to be big enough for a comfortable basking branch and allow a good grip since he is a weak climber.
A word of caution about bending the PVC pipe. The use of a heat lamp, such as is used to strip paint, is desired over the open flame of an acetylene torch. A hand torch will work but be aware that burning PVC fumes can, well, kill you— so use the heat lamp and obey all safety precautions.
Step 1: Step 1: Preparation
5 feet of 2" PVC pipe
Concrete bonding adhesive
small bucket or container
Roll of landscaping burlap
Terrarium moss reptile bedding
Coconut husk reptile bedding
Infrared paint stripping heat lamp
Other materials you'll need include a tarp or plastic drop cloth when brushing on adhesive, heavy work gloves for handling hot PVC, latex gloves when working with the adhesive, and a wide container for mixing the moss and husks.
Prepare your materials:
• Cut the burlap into eight strips about 3 feet long and 6 inches wide.
• Break up equal amounts of the coconut husks and moss and crumble together in a wide shallow bin or container. You will have to shred the moss into small bits.
• Clear out an area and lay down your drop cloth.
Step 2: Step 2: Treeify the Branch
Hold the heat lamp right up to the spot you want to bend. Turn the pipe a quarter turn or so every minute. The pipe will become soft enough to bend in about 3 minutes. Put some pressure on the lower part of the pipe with your foot as it heats. You will feel when the pipe is soft enough as it will start to give. Careful not to melt the pipe! You just want to soften it enough to bend. Move the lamp away and push on the pipe with your foot to the desired angle and hold it there for about 2 minutes to let the pipe cool and harden in position. How much of a bend or what kind of shape you want will be determined by what your needs are. I made two good bends that twisted and put a curve in the middle potion of the pipe to give it all a nice natural feel. As you put more bends into the pipe, it will twist and give you a natural contour.
Step 3: Step 3: Mummify the Branch
Step 4: Junglefy the Branch
When dry, shake off the excess, turn the branch over and repeat until you have good coverage over all sides of the entire length of the branch. The burlap base provides a natural texture so it is OK if your coverage is not thick and some of the burlap peeks through. Make sure you shake or gently pull off as much loose material as you can. If you don't, your reptile will and either eat it or make a big mess. (My iguana is likely to try and eat it anyway, but it won't hurt him and hopefully he'll realize quickly it doesn't taste very good! He's also likely to create a big mess anyway, but hey…)
Step 5: Ready to Go!
The overall time waiting between letting layers dry was long, but each session layering on adhesive and moss was quick. And yes, it was messy, but the effect of realism is both attractive and functional!