A few weeks ago we lost one of our guinea pigs, Barry, from an upper respiratory infection. Basically, he caught a cold which can be fatal for guinea pigs and sadly in Barry’s case it was. We knew guinea pigs shouldn’t be kept alone as they are pack animals and do better with a friend. So we knew we had to get our 6mth old guinea pig, Ozzy, a friend. I contacted the breeder I had gotten Ozzy from and as she had another baby boar I reserved him once he was old enough to leave his family. As a responsible breeder, even though she had separated him from his mum and sisters at 3 weeks to prevent an unwanted pregnancy (guinea pigs are extremely fertile animals) she still kept him until he was old enough to go to a new home at 8wks.
We had been through all this back in January when we got Ozzy to keep Barry company. So we knew that Ozzy and the new boar, who we named Taffy, would have to be separated for 2 weeks quarantine. This is to ensure he doesn’t pass any illness or infection that he could have onto Ozzy. This is even more important if you get a guinea pig from a pet shop. It also gives Taffy 2 weeks to settle into his new home and all the noises and craziness that comes from being a member of our crazy brood.
Sadly, despite our best efforts. Ozzy and Barry didn’t bond. They fought and surprisingly it was the adult Barry who came off worse. He was covered in bite marks from Ozzy and as they had drawn blood, it meant there was no chance they could be together. Whilst researching why their bonding had failed when we had done our best to help them bond, we learnt something very important. Males, being the more dominant of the guinea pigs, need more space than girls do. Whilst a cage might be big enough for two girls, the same cage would be too small for males and causes them to fight. Shop bought cages are often too small for males, even with the largest cage, the Midwest Plus, two cages joined together is recommended for males.
Because of all of this and as we really wanted Ozzy and Taffy to bond and get along, we decided to build our own cage. These cages are known as C&C Cages and are very popular amongst guinea pig owners for their versatility. You can have them as big as you want and in any layout you desire. They also work out cheaper than store-bought cages.
So last week, ready for Taffy’s arrival and so he could use Ozzy’s cage whilst in quarantine, we set about building our C&C cage.
How to build your own C&C Cage
The first thing you need is grid modular storage shelving units. There are plenty of choice on eBay and Amazon, but you need to make sure the holes in the grid are small enough, especially if you have a baby guinea pig.
We found these in Amazon, the grids are 9×9 which meant the holes were smaller than the others. The other sets had 8×8 grids which meant a guinea pig could get their head stuck in the same way you would check the gaps between the slats of a cot for your baby to stop them getting their heads stuck.
Whilst it doesn’t sound very big, you need to think 3 dimensionally. 4 cubes actually give you 16 grids. With those grids, we were able to build a 2×4 C&C cage and still have 4 grids left over. The leftovers give us the option that should the boys’ fight, we can half the cage by putting two grids in the centre. We do need to buy another set though so that we can build a lid, as Ozzy has jumped out and I’ve already found my 4-year-old in his cage fussing him!
For the floor, you need what is known as correx or coroplast. This is what signs are printed onto and is waterproof so it will protect your flooring. We bought a sheet from eBay for around £10, but I believe that Wickes sell it cheaper if there is one nearby.
You will also need cable ties to secure the grids together as there never seems to be enough connectors in the box of the shelving unit. They also ensure that the grids cannot be knocked down. Other tools are a tape measure and Stanley knife of sharp scissors.
Once you’ve assembled everything you need it’s time to build your cage. Plan the design you want and where you want to put it. There are plenty of ideas available on Google or Pinterest on layouts, some even have a loft for sleeping in. We went for a basic rectangular shape for now as we’re swapping bedroom around during the summer and we can get more adventurous then!
1. Connect the Grids to form the Cage
Now that you’ve decided what shape you want the cage to be, it’s time to build the grids. Use the connectors as feet and once you’re happy with the shape to secure them with cable ties. Remember to snip off the excess.
To give you an idea of how many grids and connectors you need, this is a guideline;
- 2 x 3 grid cage (10 grids and 20 connectors)
- 2 x 4 cage (12 grids and 24 connectors)
- 2 x 5 cage (14 grids and 28 connectors)
- 2 x 6 cage (16 grids and 32 connectors)
If you haven’t got enough connectors you can buy more from Amazon or eBay.
If you don’t know what size cage you need, this is a good guideline, but remember for males you need bigger than for females.
2. Measure the length and width of the inside of the cage
Measure the inside dimensions of the cage. Remember to allow space for the connectors by measuring from the inner edge of them. This will allow the box to sit inside the cage.
With 14 inch grids, the measurements should be around;
- 41 x 27 inches for a 2 x 3 grid cage
- 56 x 27 inches for a 2 x 4 grid cage
- 71 x 27 inches for a 2 x 5 grid cage
- 84 x 27 inches for a 2 x 6 grid cage
Remember to measure your own grids to get the correct dimensions for your cage. Also, remember to measure twice and cut once! This is where we went wrong I think!
3. Add 12 inches to the length and width for cutting dimensions
You need to add 12 inches to the length and width for a 6 inches wall all the way around. You can adjust this depending on your own preferences but I would suggest 6 inches minimum to help prevent hay spillages. If your cage is going against a wall, for example, you could make the back wall 12 inches high to help keep the hay inside the cage. In that case, you would need to add a total of 18 inches to one side.
Your measurements should, therefore, look something like this;
- 53 x 39 inches for a 2 x 3 grid cage
- 68 x 39 inches for a 2 x 4 grid cage
- 83 x 39 inches for a 2 x 5 grid cage
- 96 x 39 inches for a 2 x 6 grid cage
A full sheet of coroplast is about 96 inches or 8 feet.
4. Measure mark and cut the coroplast
Measure and mark the coroplast using a tape measure a pen and a yardstick or a ruler. Cut to the outer dimensions with a pair of scissors or a Stanley knife. A pair of heavy duty scissors or a box cutter is easier but you can use an ordinary pair of scissors. Cut the lines depending on how big a sheet you are using and how big your measurements and cage is going to be.
5. Measure and mark and score the coroplast
Measure and mark 6 inches in from all sides to create the inner dimensions. Score the coroplast along these lines using a Stanley knife. Be careful not to cut all the way through. Scoring against the grain takes less pressure than scoring against it. Practice on a scrap piece first.
6. Cut the flaps
Cut all the way through the coroplast at each corner, just 6 inches in. This creates the flap to make the corner.
7. Fold the edges
Fold the edges away from the score line to form a box.
8. Tape the flaps
Secure the flaps with packing tape or masking tape. A couple of wide strips on the outside works fine.
9. Place the box inside the grids
Place the box inside the connected grids and you’re all done. We had actually measured and cut wrong so we ended up with the cage inside the box, but that actually works better for us as it catches all the bedding and hay which Ozzy kicks out.
At the moment we’re using sawdust but I have ordered some paper bedding from Amazon as that is supposed to be less smelly than sawdust can be. Some people swear by fleece liners. All have their own pros and cons. We might try using some fleece, such as the bedding used in dog whelping boxes, but for now, we’ll use paper bedding.
It really is easy to build your own C&C cage. My 13-year-old daughter and I did it together and I am the most uncoordinated and least crafty person you will ever meet. I can’t do DIY stuff at all, yet we managed this.
As for Ozzy, he loves his new home and he is so happy! We see him popcorning around his new cage and he’s out of his house more often, chilling out or munching his hay!
I’ll let you know how we get on with Ozzy and Taffy bonding at a later date!