PVC Knock Down Cageby Catherine E. Rigby-Burdette
Sometimes an iguana is in the need of a small sunning cage, or a light-weight regular cage, or a traveling cage. Don't let the fact that you've never built anything in your life stop you from having a roomy cage for your iguana. PVC could be the answer!
Using PVC pipes and PVC 90 deg. "elbow connectors" you can make rectangular "panels" to serve as the sides of the box that will become part of the finished cage. Cover these pipe panels with mesh by securing the mesh to the pipes with cable ties (zip ties). Attach the panels together with bolts and butterfly clasps. Attach the door with large cable ties for "hinges" and latch closed with Velcro or Velcro Grippers (tm). It will look something like this when completed:
The rough directions below are for a small cage measuring 4 ft wide, 4 feet tall, and 2 feet deep. It was made as a traveling cage/ small sunning cage and had to be able to fit in the trunk of my car. You may want to adjust finished size for your own needs. The general steps are more or less the same regardless of the size of the cage. Bigger cages may need cross supports added with T-connectors. Larger cages indoors may also need to be stabilized by attaching the back cage wall to your room wall with screws.
· hacksaw pr PVC cutter (to trim pipe)
· drill and drill bits (to make holes for bolts)
· Sharpie (TM) marker (to mark pipe)
· bolt snips (to trim mesh, cable ties)
· ruler (to measure)
· duct tape (for holding things temporarily)
· masking tape (for labeling parts temporarily)
This is an estimated materials list for my small cage. Your cage may or may not use all these items -- it really depends on the finished size of the cage. My cage cost $60 to make, and the most expensive part was the $40 plastic coated mesh in the small gauge. It took only one afternoon to make!
· (20) 4 ft lengths of PVC
· (10) 2 ft lengths of PVC
· (4) T-shaped PVC connectors
· (28) L-shaped PVC connectors
· (500) small white cable ties
· (3) large cable ties
· (24) bolts and butterfly clasps
· Velcro or Velcro Grippers (tm)
· roll of plastic covered wire mesh
If you know your sizes, have them cut it for you at the store if the cuts are free! If not, take a hacksaw (or PVC cutter), Sharpie tm) marker, and a tape measure with you. Buy the PVC and carry out the 8-10 ft lengths to the car. Then measure it, and saw it. PVC is very easy to saw -- it won't take more than a few minutes to get it so it will fit in your car. This is what I did, and I am sure people thought I was weird, sawing pipe in the parking lot. They think I am weird anyway because I keep iguanas -- so what? Ha.
Be smart and get a big bag of cable ties to start with in natural or white so it will blend with the white pipe and look nicer. (I ran out near the end and when I went back to the store they only had colorful ones left! So my cage has weird little colors all over the front!)
I used 1" PVC, so I had to use 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 " bolts. Just be sure to get bolts a little more than twice the thickness of your PVC. The diameter of the bolt is up to you -- the critical thing is the length because the bolt is passing through two pipes. Just get matching butterfly clasps and get round heads. The heads will be inside with the iguana and a square or polygon shaped head could nick or scratch him. Rounded heads are safer.
Velcro or Velcro Grippers (tm)
I used Velcro Grippers (TM) to latch the cage but you could also use regular Velcro. If you wanted to epoxy more traditional latches onto the pipe you could do so with regular epoxy or with PVC solvent.
Grippers (TM) are Velcro with a notch where you can slip one end in and it will close like a belt does. You just wrap it around the pipes through the mesh and press closed. They come in assorted colors. I use three: one for the top, middle and bottom.
Plastic-Covered Wire Mesh
I used a plastic-coated mesh (hardware cloth) at a gauge of 5/8" because I have little ones who use the cage as well as older ones. The 5/8" holes were small enough to keep the babies' heads and appendages in, but large enough to keep the large iguanas from getting their toes caught and pulled out.
I highly recommend a strong wire mesh for outdoor cages because it will keep the iguana from tearing out, or a stray animal from tearing in. (All plastic mesh may be fine for indoor cages, but not outdoors!) Use a plastic-coated wire mesh over plain, because the iguana within will invariably be rubbing his snout against the mesh, pushing his nose through the holes, or tugging the holes with his hands and feet in attempts to escape. A bare wire can cause a lot of rostral abrasions or cuts to hands and feet. Plastic-coated won't prevent all injuries but it is kinder to iguana parts!
1) The Panels
This is actually pretty easy. All you need to do is stick the pipes in the holes of the connectors. It's a lot like tinker toys!
Now you should have made:
· (2) 4 x 4 ft panels
· (5) 2 x 4 ft panels
You will have 4 T-shaped connectors and (2) 4 ft. pipes leftover.
2) Making the Door
You will need:
· (1) of the 2 x 4 ft panels
· hacksaw or PVC cutter
· a marker
What you need to do is trim the pipes on this panel to make the overall panel slightly smaller. Then you should be able to lay it within another 2x4 panel and it will just fit inside of it snugly. This slightly smaller panel will be the door. Just undo the panel, trim the ends down, and put it back together.
3) Adapting the Front Panel
You will need:
· door panel
· (1) of the 4 x 4 ft panels
· (4) T-shaped connectors
· (2) 4 ft pipes
· a hacksaw
· a ruler
· a marker
You are going to add the inset for where the door will hang in the front panel. It will look like the photo above. Lay the front panel flat on the ground, center the door in the middle. Mark the edges of the door on the front panel so you know where to cut to insert the T-connectors. Insert the T-connectors and the support pipes that you had left over. These will also need to be trimmed down slightly so that the overall panel (T-connectors and support pipes and all) still will measure 4 x 4 ft.
4) Drilling the holes for the bolts
You will need:
· Ducts tape
· Drill and drill bits
· All the panels except the door
This sounds harder than it is. Put the panels together and hold them temporarily with duct tape. Mark where the hole should go for the bolts. With a steady hand, drill through both pipes. I found it easiest to start slipping in the bolts now, and then take off one panel at a time to hang the mesh on later.
This is the step where you will see how strong the bolted cage is and if everything is level. If it is not, you may want to try cutting down the top and bottom panels of the box to lay flush inside the "walls" created by the other 4 vertical panels. Just trim it down like you did for the door.
If it was a bad job, you may have to trim all the pipes and end up with a slightly smaller cage than expected. If the whole project went to heck, save the pipes for iguana climbing furniture and go to the store and get a new set of pipes! PVC is cheap, mistakes can happen. Don't be discouraged!
5) Attaching the Mesh
This is easy. Just trim the mesh to size with the bolt snips and lay it on the panel you are working on. Then slip a small cable tie through a hole and tighten. Do all four corners first then the "seams." I'd suggest using a cable tie every 3-6 holes so the 5/8" gauge mesh is tight against the pipe. you do not want gaps where the iguana can squeeze out! If you make a mistake and the mesh starts going diagonally that is ok. Just cut off all the cable ties with the bolt snips and start again!
Once the panel is "meshed" , trim the excess cable tie sticking out and bolt it back and remove another naked panel to cover until all the panels have been done.
6) Hanging the Door
This is the last step! Use three or four large cable ties for hinges on one side of the door and loop it to the side support pipe.
Now thread your Velcro to latch it. You are done!
This cage is actually fairly water-resistant! It will require little maintenance other than cleaning up after the iguana. Once in a while check the ties and replace weakened ones. If the bolts starts to rust, replace those as well. Should you ever want to store the cage, just store the unbolted panels( a partial dismantling) or do a full dismantling and snip all the ties and roll up the mesh and pipes.
VARIATIONS AND IDEAS
For more secure panels that can still be taken apart dribble some Elmer's White (school/craft) Glue into the joints before inserting the pipes. When you want to take it apart later, pull hard, or soak in warm water and then pull.
For permanent panels use a bit of PVC solvent or epoxy in the joints when assembling the panels for the final time. Be careful! Once this stuff cures you will never be able to take the panel apart!
Instead of a panel design, use a 3-way connector and skip the bolts. This design will not be a knockdown design, but a permanent structure.
Instead of making a cage, make a large room partition and partition part of a room off for the iguana with a PVC "screen."
Make iguana PVC furniture and climbing toys!