Monday, January 2, 2012

Outdoor Pen How-To

These are instructions for building a portable lidded guinea pig pen that could be used indoors or outdoors.  Please note: This pen is not intended to be animal proof!  It is designed to keep guinea pigs contained and to slow down a passing predator that may see them as an easy meal.  When this cage is in use, it should be monitored at all times.

The measurements in these instructions are based on a 14" grid, so if you have grids that are a different size, you will have to adjust the lengths of the PVC pipe.  And the instructions assume you are somewhat familiar with cage building as seen on

You will need:
  • pair of pliers
  • pair of needle nose pliers
  • wire cutters
  • saw
  • 24 C&C grids
  • 4 grid connectors
  • zip ties
  • 2 T connecters for 1/2" PVC pipe
  • 4 elbow connectors for 1/2" PVC pipe
  • 4 lengths of 1/2" PVC pipe, 12 1/4" long (a little on the skimpy side)
  • 3 lengths of 1/2" PVC pipe, 25 5/8" long
  • 12 6" lengths of wire (I used coat hangers for the wire)

First, zip-tie the grids together.  You will need a string of 14 grids for the sides and a 2x5 panel for the top.  I find it best to zip tie the grids on an angle, two zip ties per grid, so that they don't slide up and down from each other if you grab them by the top.

I'm still deciding how best the top should be zip-tied (and whether I should switch to the 50lb zip ties).

Next step is to make the hooks.  These hooks go on the PVC support frame and hook over the grids.  There was no easy way to explain what I did in print and photos, so I videoed it, instead:

Once you have the hooks ready, the frames can be assembled.  The two PVC frames help keep the cage square, plus it give the top something on which to rest.  The joints don't need any glue to stick together, which is good - I ended up pulling it apart multiple times, because I forgot to put the hooks on, or some of them were on upside-down.

Now you can put the frame together.  The frame gets two hooks on three sides: two on one of the long sides, and one hook on each short section of PVC.  Assemble hooks and pipe so that it looks like this photo.

You have all the pieces to put up your pen!  Make an 2x5 grid rectangle with the string of 14 grids.  I link the two ends together using the grid connectors.  Now place the first frame on one end of the rectangle.  The PVC goes in the inside of the cage, and the hooks should be facing out (if they're not, flip over the frame and try again).

It's hard to get a photo of the hooks - this is the best one I could do showing the hooks around the PVC, pointing out to hook over the sides of the cage.

Make sure you have the three sides of the frame that has the hooks against the three edges of the grids.  Repeat the process with the other frame on the other end of the pen.  Now, just put on the top.  I find it easiest to fold it up as a 2x2 square, place the four grids on one of the frames, and then unfold it over the rest of the cage.

Taking it apart is pretty easy, and it all folds up to a compact size.  I velcro-strap the grids together so I can carry them in one hand, and the frames in the other.

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