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.
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.
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!
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!