Make Your Chinchilla's Cage Bigger.




About: I'm an engineer but I prefer to consider myself a doitneer. My style of making is more of a seat-of-your-pants approach. Get it done, then figure out how you could improve it next time - but there usually ...

A little while ago we rescued a chinchilla.  His cage came with him but it was just too small for such a busy little animal.  He loved his time out of his cage but due to busy lives and kids with short attention spans he couldn't spend a lot of time out and about exercising.  I had a limited budget for this project but luckily had miscellaneous materials and hardware laying around at my disposal so I went to work building our little chin an addition on his old wire cage.  Unfortunately I got too busy building and forgot to take pictures along the way, so most of the pictures showing details, had to be taken after it was assembled. 

Step 1: Materials

With chinchillas you have to be very careful which materials you use as they like to chew on whatever they can get their  teeth on!  This means no pressure treated lumber, woods like cedar that contain harmful oils or plastics of any kind.  I chose pine lumber, 1/8" luan or plywood, and 1" chicken wire.  I wanted to get the more rigid 3/4" or smaller wire, but since I was trying to make this as cost effective as possible, I went with the less expensive wire.  It still keeps him contained, but is just a little more flimsy.  The 2x2's were cut to the lengths I show in the picture.  One 96" board was cut to 4 - 16" pieces and 1 - 28" piece, the 2nd was cut to 4 - 24" pieces and the third was cut to 3 - 28" pieces.  The 1x6 was cut to various lengths for shelves and floors and the luan was cut to fit the dimensions of the existing cage which was 19" x 31".

Step 2: Assembly

The luan was used as a cover over the top of the existing cage so he was not stuck walking on the exposed wire which could hurt his feet.  The 24" pieces were the uprights, the 16" pieces formed one side and the 28" pieces formed the other side.  I fastened them together as shown in the picture to create a nice box shape that would accommodate 2 levels.  From there I added the wire.  A 24" x 10' roll was just enough to wrap the sides, so I just had to figure out how to cover the top or make an access door.  I didn't want to go out and buy more materials so I was forced to scrounge and improvise.  I found 2 pieces of 12" wire closet shelving cut to 24" lengths which would serve as two doors.  I could only find three of the four brackets, so I had to raid one from our bedroom closet shelving which I replaced with something else I found in my junk box. (This always makes my wife nervous when I have to do these things - which is quite often!) 

Step 3: Finishing Touches

I had to cut a hole in the top of the existing cage and cut a corresponding hole in the luan which I wired down to the top of the cage.  I fastened the existing wire cage to the uprights using Mod Truss screws and fender washers.   I also threaded a very light gauge wire through the chicken wire onto the existing cage.  this would keep him from being able to get through and would help hold the new structure to the old.

Step 4:

I added two latches to the top to keep the doors shut.  This was done with a bolt, nuts as spacers and a piece of oak cut to roughly 1-1/2" length.  I also nailed some of the 1x6 boards into place to create little shelves or sitting areas for him, but I left the bigger shelf unfastened for easy removal and cleaning purposes.

Step 5:

I spent $14 dollars and used miscellaneous items from around the house that could have eventually been thrown away and ended up in the landfill.  Now our little Chili has 3 times the area to run, climb and play!  We can even put his dust bath in there and keep that contained!  He still gets time out of his cage, but his time in his cage is more enjoyable and we have peace of mind that he is not too constricted and has a better life than he did before!

Step 6:

One thing I need to do is add some quarter round or some small pieces of wood to the sides of the shelves to keep his droppings and hay from falling out of the cage. 
This instructable is not meant to imply that this is the only way that this project could be done, but rather a way to let others know how I increased the size of our chinchilla cage with minimal materials and items I had on hand.  I'm sure there are numerous ways to improve this or do it better, but It works!

2 People Made This Project!


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28 Discussions


2 years ago

But, how do you gain access to the middle floor of the cage for cleaning? I don't see any access.

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

The top of the addition had wire shelving what acted as doors. When you opened them, then the middle shelf piece was removable and you could reach all the way down to the top of the existing cage.


7 years ago on Introduction

Hello, this is amazing, I have 2 chinchillas, and a larger cage than you have pictured, but I'm about to add another level to it.

How did you cut the top of the existing cage? Did you sand down the wires to make sure the chinch doesn't get scratched?

4 replies

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

also, quick question about the dimensions. if the cage is 31" long, why did you use 28"-long boards for the frame? Shouldn't it be 27" if you're using 2x2 and they sit inside the vertical boards?


A 2x2 is really 1.5 x1.5 so if you have 2, that's a 3" difference. I did file the wires down, but in the plywood I laid down over the top, I made the opening just smaller than the opening I cut in the cage. That covered up the ends of the wires in the cage I cut. He did chew the plywood but I knew he would, so the little bit of overhang gave him a little bit of chewing room. The wire that the cage was made out of is just a light gage wire, so any sort of wire cutter or tin snip will work to cut it.


hey, just wanted to share, I made this over the weekend!! thanks for the super awesome instructable. I used woodscrews bc I didn't have a staple gun, and 2x3's since they were on sale.

the only thing is- it took the chinchs a while to figure out how to get out on the top. I think they never thought about moving upwards in their cage before. It took like a day before they got up there. Maybe I'll add a little ramp later.


Reply 3 years ago

I see this was posted 5 years ago, but I'm trying to create an enclosure for my chinchilla with chicken wire. Can they chew through the chicken wire? My little guy is an escape artist, so I can't let there be any loopholes.


6 years ago


It's been a while, but I think it said I spent $14 on the materials I had to buy. The closet rack was a leftover piece as were a few other boards. All in all if you had to buy everything I don't think you would have over $25 or $30.

T Orp

7 years ago on Step 5

I love this idea for expanding one of those small wire cages. I'd suggest a support that reaches the floor, too, but otherwise it's a good way to give your chin more room without having to give it more floor space you may not have to offer. And it offers lots of chewing room with those thick frame posts. Great instructions, too. It was nice to see a few pictures of successful cages built from reading this.

I'd just like to add an update on safe and unsafe wood for chinchillas. I'm working on building a chin-safe cage and looking for ideas and a couple of the materials used in this posting are on the unsafe list now. This actually prompted me to sign up so I may be posting my building attempt for future critiquing. :)

Luan, or plywood, is not considered safe. It's a composit panel made up of thin layers of hardwoods glued together. While the glue may be safe, the wood may not and it's not clear what woods are included in the layers. I looked up what plywood is made of and most descriptions just say hardwood but I did find one that referenced mahogany, a known toxic wood for chins. You want to also avoid using oak anywhere the chin can reach. Oak is another known toxic wood. The latch pieces in this design are identified as oak. They are used on the outside and look unaccessable in the closed position so they may be ok. The last step suggests edging the shelves. Many 3/4-rounds are made from oak or cherry (both toxic to chins) so check your wood carefully and build safe.

If you have any questions concerning your materials, search for safe wood for chinchillas. Many sites now offer quick reference lists of safe woods that can be used for and offered to chins.


8 years ago on Introduction

Great idea, I can see you utilized wire shelving, too, it's GREAT! Sometimes the local Restore, Habitat for Humanity store has it very reasonable.
I put an access hole for my "cages" so I could reach from my sunroof. I portray the dog because I had trouble situating camera to show ME up there. smile.

Oh I see below someone else wrapped wire around the house, NEAT. I hope to extend my "cat cage" that is 150 feet going through garage, utility room and up from basement...I will dodge where company comes, foyer, living room, dining room, kitchen....

I got a 100 feet of hardware cloth from an online company delivered and I see you can spray it gold and it's pretty, I do not know if that is toxic though? I have not figured out how to do pretty cages in the awesome set up is on cats 101, favorites must love cats..the url is on my instructable..I don't know If it will post here.

garage (2).jpg

9 years ago on Step 5

 one thing i did to keep hey and other things in the cage was tied cardboard to the outside of the cage. i only put it on the sides and back of the cage with the front exposed


9 years ago on Step 1

This is great. Chins in small cages are not happy.
I raise chins, and I would like to remind everyone not to use treated wood of any kind. Pine is good as long as it's not treated. If you're not sure when buying, ask an employee.

FYI if you have small babies you have to use 1/2" hardware cloth ... Its not really cloth its made of 20 guage wire so its similar to chicken wire. But babies cant sick thier little bodies thru and excape. plus you can buy it at HD or LOwes


9 years ago on Introduction

A friend at university had a hamster.

Her house-mates decided it needed more space, so they made lots of tubes of chickenwire and threaded them, first around her room, then around the house, through walls and under furniture.

It had such a wide range that, by the end, you could go for days without seeing it, just hearing it scritscritscrit along its tubes from room to room (even along the side of the bath...)

1 reply