My kids have their three guinea pigs split between their two bedrooms and two cages. They needed a larger area and putting them together made sense because they are very social animals. But this projects was more about an opportunity to spend time with my son and pass along some of the skills and love of making that my dad passed along to me.
- 1X2 pine
- 1x4 pine
- 1/8" plywood
- 10 feet of 24" wire screen
- 24" x 36" plexiglass
- wood glue
- pocket hole screws
We built the cage using basic lumber and simple pocket hole joints. They consist of a series of box frames connected together. The base was built as a seperate cabinet and then the two were screwed together. The cage measures 60" x 20" x 24" (tall) and the base cabinet is 60" x 20" x 18" (tall).
Step 1: Building the Frames
Using a miter saw or simple hand saw, cut the pine 1x3 and 1x4 down to dimension. Its really up to you what size and shape you create, just keep in mind the standard dimensions of your plywood so you don't run into problems. Each joint is glued, clamped and then screwed into place. Pocket holes are easy and quick joints and a very easy joint to teach to kids. My son liked drilling all those holes and I didn't mind watching him work. Each joint used two 1" pocket hole screws. We first made "L" shaped corners and then cut and joined the long sides and short sides until we had a basic frame. After that we started adding in support where we needed it.
Step 2: Attach the Bottoms and Sides
We glued and nailed the floors and sides in from the inside. No fancy dado slots here. I didn't get as many pics as I would like. We added a sliding door in the bottom to make cleaning easier. I'll explain more in the next step. You can add a lip at the top and simply stack the two together. I decided to go ahead and join them securely with 6 pocket screws down into the base.
Step 3: Sliding Trap Door
Sorry no good pics in here. I'll have to try to get one next time he cleans the cage. With a cage this large, the first thing on my mind was making this thing really easy to clean. If it was hard to clean, it would make it a struggle every week. We came up with adding a pull out bottom in the cage. The yellow trash bin fits under the door. To clean the cage, simply slide the door out and scoop all of the bedding towards the hole.
To make the door we first made the frame that it would slide in, making sure that the door would be smaller than the bin underneath it. Once we cut the 4 sides to dimension, I ran each through the table saw to cut slots in them for the floor panel. The door frame was glued up square and dried overnight. We screwed the frame into place and then used a router to cut an opening through the front of the cage for the door to slide out. The door was cut long so that a handle could be attached to the front. The handle was a piece of scrap with the slot already cut in it from the frame. I cut it long enough to hide the panel and then sanded it smooth.
Step 4: Finishing Up.
After rounding all the corners with a router and sanding the entire cage together, I coated the entire cage with two coats of spray polyurethane. I used appliance paint for the floor to try to provide some moisture protection. Once the screen was attached, I cut the Plexiglas down to 10" strips and attached it with silicone caulk and clamped overnight. We still need to build some cabinet doors to hide the bottom cabinets. The base gave them space for the trash bin and three additional openings for their other supplies.
The sliding "trap" door idea really turned out great. The boys can quickly clean out the cage and put fresh bedding in it. I think they clean this one more quickly than the small ones they had to take apart and dump. After the first cleaning I added 8" strips of scrap 1/8" ply over the wire at the bottom to keep the bedding inside the cage.
The boys and the guineas seem much happier now. They have a good view of each other and it is easy to reach in and interact with them.The only regret I have for this project is working so fast, we didn't take enough pics. It was a great project to do with kids. This cage can easily be scaled up or down to suit your needs. We plan on building a narrow platform level for the guineas across the back. (That's the reason its 24" high.)
Please let me know what you think. Comments and questions are welcome!