Sunday, 14 December 2014

Degu Videos

I just wanted to share a couple of photos & a video I took today, I only took them on my phone so not the greatest quality, apologies.

Here is one of the cages:

I had to remove some of the acrylic panels to avoid the reflections.

Morph and Sky looking super cute!

Morph is so chilled out when the camera is around, here are a couple of shots of her.

Only a short post today :)

Louise x

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

My Homemade Degu Cages

I spent all of yesterday furnishing the cages and getting them ready for moving in the ladies. Here are the finished products:

Here are some close ups of each level.

Top level 

The top level has the 35cm diameter wheel and the nest box. I hung the nest box from the ceiling using hooks and used some wooden play sticks as a ramp. Morph is kindly posing in the wheel for me :)

Second level

For the second level I used another branch and some clay pots for climbing. I've also got the offcuts of logs and some coconut shells that I bought from asda and hollowed out. At the back you can see one of the log staircases I made. They work really well and the girls can easily climb them up to the next level. Here is a photo of the little food table I made - the main purpose of this is just to keep the bowls off the ground so they don't get filled with sawdust. It's also super cute to watch them sitting at the tables nibbling their food.

Bottom level

I make and sell my Flying Saucers here

The bottom level has the saucer I made and also the sand bath. I used a terracotta wall pot for the sand bath and I'm really pleased with it, it's big enough for the girls to roll around and the opening is really large so they can jump in and out with ease. Sky is sitting on the staircase wondering what I'm doing, she is a very timid little degu so I was surprised she sat here watching me!

As I was taking these photos Sky & Morph decided to have a little sit down haha - 

& finally just one last photo of the cages side by side. 

The girls seem really happy and it's so much fun watching them running around and exploring their new home. It was a lot of hard work but I'm really proud of the end result. 

How I Built My Degu Cages

The last 3 days have been extremely tiring but I'm delighted to say the cages are now built.

My original plan was to stack them on top of each other and keep them in the spare room where the old cage is but then we put them side by side in the lounge and decided we really liked them here. The wheels and the saucers I made run completely silently so the only sound the girls will make is when they chew at things or let out the occasional squeak.

I took some photos as I was completing the build - although not as many as I should have done, I just got a bit carried away with it...

Day 1:
I collected the melamine boards from B&Q and used their free wood cutting service to cut the pieces to size. It's a great service as the machine they use it accurate to the mm and you know that every cut will be completely straight. My Dad came with me as his car is bigger than mine and he has a garage at his house which I use to saw and hammer without disturbing anyone. I live in a flat so jig-sawing wouldn't go down to well.
First thing to do was to mark out where all my vents would go, this was super easy as I had my design in sketchup already so any measurements I needed to know I used the program to find out.

I then cut out each vent (all 12!) and we covered each hole with wire mesh and held it in place with builders band.

This looks like a really easy job but the mesh is very sharp where it's been cut and the builders band is extremely hard to work with.

The next thing I did was to cut out the pop holes in the levels with the jig saw and attach my kiln dried pine strips. I also then covered the edges of the melamine with more builders band.

It's worth adding the kiln dried pine to the edges of any holes as it stops all the sawdust from falling through the hole and making a pile underneath. The protection I used over the kiln dried pine was some angle beading (normally used for plastering) that I picked up from B&Q, it's £1.98 for a 3 metre length and it works great. see here

Next I assembled my front panels, I had originally intended for the front panels to be made from one solid piece of board but after B&Q had a mess up with my order I had to take smaller panels and this meant my front board had to come in two parts. First job was to put them together using some brackets and then run a strip of builders band along the back.

Along the top of these panels I stuck the glass runners down using a glue gun. The glass runners width was just shorter than the width of the panel so my Dad ironed on white edging strip along the top first. By this time we'd had enough so we called it a day and went out for a meal as it was my Dad's birthday.

Day 2:
I brought all the panels back to the flat and then came the task of assembling it. I started by screwing the front panels to the top of the ledges and marking out where the levels sit on the side panels. I was by myself so figured the easiest way would be to lay all the pieces on the floor on their sides and do it that way. I screwed the side panels to the top and bottom first and then slotted in both the levels screwing through the sides to ensure it was secure.

Once this was done I just placed the back panels on top and screwed them into place from the top and bottom and screwing along the levels too so they didn't sag into the middle. Before doing this I had pre-drilled holes in my back panel for the wheel to slot into.

I then stood the cage up and pushed my aluminium tube supports into place (they are held in place by the pressure) and glue gunned the other half of the glass runners to the underside of my levels.

Then came the moment of truth...the acrylic sheets, they actually fit and I was so relieved. Everywhere I have read online says to only order the acrylic once the cage is assembled but this would mean assembling the cage and then waiting another week for the acrylic which I knew I would hate. I ordered the acrylic sheets to be exactly 10mm shorted than the gap they would fit into and it worked great, they fit perfectly. They have about a 6mm gap above them which is perfect because it means you can easily lift them out for cage cleaning. Of course once this was complete I had to do the same thing again with the second cage!

I'm so delighted with how they look though and was pleasantly surprised and how much they look like the design.

Day 3:
Finally I used a pet safe, non toxic silicone around all the ledges so it's waterproof and nothing will get down the sides and start lifting the melamine coating. I then left the silicone for 24 hours to cure before I could start furnishing. I also ran a strip of builders band down the inside of the back panel so they wouldn't start chewing at the seam between the two panels. I thought the silicone would be an easy task but I was very wrong. I'd never used silicone before and I managed to get it everywhere, I even got some in the ends of my hair which will not come out - thankfully I'm having a haircut on Thursday...

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Cage Preparations & Log Staircases

I'm still waiting for my melamine faced boards to be delivered to my local B&Q so this weekend I've been busy preparing everything I can so once the wood arrives I can just piece everything together. It's amazing how time consuming some bits of the build can be that you just wouldn't expect could take so long. I cut down all the wire mesh for my vent holes and the strips of builders band that will hold it in place and protect the edges. I had to buy some tin shears to do this as the builders band is very tough which hopefully means my girls won't be able to eat their way through it. I sawed my kiln dried pine to the correct lengths for the pop holes and covered them with the angle beading for chew protection.

I also cut down all my PVC corner strips that I will be covering the outside of the vents with. I'm hoping this will look OK, I settled for PVC strips because for aluminium strips it was easily double the price and where my cage is going to be positioned the sides are barely going to be visible. Finally I cut down my aluminium support tubes to the correct lengths - I had to use a mitre saw for this.

In my previous cage I used kiln dried pine as ramps throughout so my girls could climb the levels but they loved to just gnaw through them and very quickly they just started to look shabby. I thought for this cage I would try and make the interiors look more natural and I'm going to try and make all the toys and accessories myself out of natural products. I had an idea of making mini spiral staircases out of logs and asked a local firewood dealer if he could supply some logs approximately 300mm long with diameters between 50mm-100mm. He did a great job and supplied me with some great Ash and Oak tree logs, if you are unsure of which would is safe here is the list I use to check - Safe Woods List
I then just cut them into 4x lengths of 250mm, 200mm, 150mm & 100mm so they would fit under my levels. My dad very kindly bought me a mitre saw as a -very- early Christmas present today and I am so happy with it, I keep trying to find more things to saw now!

I cut some of the old ramps from my current cage in half and used them as bases for the logs to sit on.

Lastly I drilled through from the underside and secured the logs in place with screws. So here we have it, four degu staircases!

I'm really pleased with how they have turned out and hopefully they'll look great in the cage.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The New Cage Design

I have had my current cage for just over a year now and it has served me well but the sawdust falling out is a problem and it's just starting to look a bit worn. I decided I was going to build a new cage with better ceiling heights for the girls and the glass doors raised off the ground so as to hopefully reduce the amount of sawdust that falls out when the doors are opened.

As mentioned in my previous post I have 4 girls that are currently separated into two pairs of sisters. One pair who are 1 year and 8 months old and another pair who are 11 months old. I decided to make two cages that can stack on top of each other so if/when we need to move the cage it should be a lot easier than moving a giant cage - like we have at the moment.

I decided the floor measurements of 120cm by 60cm for each cage with a base and 2 levels. My current cage has a depth of 50cm and I think 60cm will be better. This gives each group a CARA of 21,600cm2. (recommended minimum for 2 is 18,000cm2).

Here is the design for each cage - drawn using Sketchup.

DIY degu cage
DIY Degu Cage

I will be using conti melamine faced board as the main material for the cage as this is basically waterproof which I am hoping will be much easier to clean.

The heights of the levels are:
Bottom - 30cm
Middle - 30cm
Top - 40cm to accommodate the 35cm diameter wheel

I would have liked the top level to be 50cm high ideally but overall the cage would have been too tall for me to actually see into or clean.

Each level has a 30cm by 10cm vent on either side which will be covered with wire mesh and held in place using builders band. On the front of each level is 10cm high edge, on top of which will sit the sliding acrylic doors. In the middle of the level at the front there is an aluminium tube which will prevent the level above sagging in the middle and stop any pressure being applied to the acrylic sheets.

How the whole cage will look - yes it's pretty intimidating!

homemade degu cage

 I have put together a materials list which I have detailed below so I could keep a track of the exact cost of making this giant.

Shop Material Price Quantity Total
B&Q Melamine board 2440 x 1220  £30.00 4 £120.00
B&Q Softwood Rough Sawn Timber (T)22mm (W)50mm (L)1800mm £1.98 1 £1.98
B&Q Diall Gloss Melamine Edging Tape (W)18mm (L)5000mm (T)0.03mm £7.00 2 £14.00
Cake Craft Shop Cake tin 14"'x4" £22.03 2 £44.05
Cutplasticsheeting Clear Perspex 620x190x4mm £3.24 8 £25.92
Cutplasticsheeting  Clear Perspex 620x290x4mm £4.95 4 £19.80
Ebay 120cm FULL LENGTH VIVARIUM PVC 4mm GLASS RUNNERS track for 4ft wide vivs WHITE £9.95 6 £59.70
Wickes Wickes 6mm Galvanised Mesh Panel 600mmx900mm 3.59 2 £7.18
B&Q White PVC Corner (H)15mm (W)15mm (L)2m £2.98 6 £17.88
Ebay ALUMINIUM ROUND TUBE 30mm OD x 300mm LONG 2mm WALL £2.63 4 £10.52
Ebay ALUMINIUM ROUND TUBE 30mm OD x 900mm LONG 2mm WALL £7.02 1 £7.02
Wickes Wickes Multi Purpose Builders Fixing Band 20mmx10m £9.92 2 £19.84
B&Q Loctite Hot Melt Glue Sticks £4.91 1 £4.91
Seapets Silicone £10.25 1 £10.25
B&Q 200 Wood Screws 40mm  £6.08 1 £6.08
B&Q Screw Cap (Dia)4mm, Pack of 20 £1.00 2 £2.00



I admit that this not a cheap project but hopefully by building this cage in the most degu-proof way possible it will last for years and it will be worth the initial expense. I have ordered all the materials now but I have to wait until next weekend for the wood to arrive so I can start the build

DIY Exercise Wheels & Saucers

These saucers are now available for purchase here: 38cm Silent Flying Saucer

Here is a quick guide to show how I have made my flying saucers and running wheels.

The degus international community forum states: The minimum diameter is 33cm/13" for wheels and 42cm/16.5" for saucers. At the time I made my saucers their minimum recommended diameter was 38cm so that is the size I used.

I had been struggling to find a good flying saucer for my girls for ages and I had seen videos of saucers made from the Ikea snudda lazy susan but firstly, it seems it is always out of stock in the UK and secondly it sounded really loud.

For the main plate I used a large wooden chopping board.

I used a roller blade wheel for the bearing and attached it using nuts and bolts.

 Firstly I had to saw off the handle, I used a coping saw for this so as to get a nice rounded cut.

I then found the centre of the circle using This Technique and drilled a hole for my bolt to go through.

I then made the base for the saucer sit on using some kiln dried pine I had left over from the build. (One of the pieces is a bit chewed already as I used it for the base of my previous saucer)

I then cut a hole out of the piece of wood using a hole saw bit on my drill for the roller blade wheel to sit in. I chose to do this so my wheel would sit into the wood and my girls wouldn't be able to get to it and chew at the rubber. You don't have to do this step you can protect the wheel with some builders band or something similar instead.

I put a longer bolt through the centre of the plate and then sat the wheel on top with 3 bolts ready to fix to the base.

 Then I used a computer vent cover to screw into the base so that I could attached the bolts to it and used more nuts to hold it all in place. These kind of vents can be bought from eBay in packs of 3 for 99p.

Finally the last step was to roughen the surface of the saucer with some sandpaper for grip.

I have also just made some new wheels using the exact same method but made from large 35cm diameter aluminium cake tins purchased from this site: Cake Craft Shop
They are going to go into the new cage and so I haven't had a chance to test them out yet - as soon as I do I will post an update but I am hoping they work well. I've used extra long bolts here as they are going to attach directly to the back of the cage.

I have been using the saucers for 3 months now and I absolutely love them, they spin completely silently and the girls love them too.