One of the most expensive parts of the snake hobby is the cost of the cages. At one time or another, most of us have priced out various store-bought solutions and found them costly.
Beginners rarely know better, but established hobbyists and breeders alike both know a little secret. It’s easy and much less expensive to make your snake cage. In this article, I will take you to step by step through the process of making a simple cage for your snake.
Please note: This method works if you are particularly handy or crafty and creative. If you have some building or DIY experience, then this will work nicely for you.
If not, we suggest buying a pre-made cage. It will save you time, energy, effort, headaches, and much more.
A pre-made cage like you see here, is more ideal for you and it's going to be more aesthetically pleasing as well.
Homemade options, while great, look cheaper and amateur. If you are fine with that, then this guide will be helpful.
For those of you who want to build a DIY snake cage, here's the rundown.
Planning the DIY Snake Cage
Your first job is to figure out precisely what your snake needs for an enclosure. Take into consideration the following:
How large is the snake now? and how large will it be in 6-12 months?
Since making your custom snake cage is cheap you don’t need to make something it will live in for the rest of its life while still a baby or juvenile. At the same time, you don’t want to find yourself building a new cage every other week. Aim for something it can be used in 6 to 12 months.
What are the temperature and humidity requirements?
Every snake differs in this regard, so do some research into this aspect of keeping them. Different sized cages have different requirements in regards to establishing and maintaining the optimal temperature and humidity levels.
Where are you going to put the cage?
Admittedly a homemade snake cage has excellent potential to be ugly. It doesn’t have to be, but it can be. Take that into consideration if you’re planning on the snake being housed out in the living room. You probably don’t want it to be an eyesore. On the other hand, if you’re putting it in the spare bedroom that no one but you enters, all bets are off.
Is it necessary for you to see the animal?
Keep this in mind because you’ll need to choose between clear, smoked, and colored plastic when the time comes to pick up the materials.
Once you’ve got the basic plan for the cage in mind, it is time to pick up the materials. Bring some money, but expect to have some leftover.
Head to your local store (Wal-Mart and Target are both good places) and find a plastic tub with a latchable lid. If you did your homework as suggested above, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what sized tub you need to work with. I use the Sterilite brand, but you can use whatever will get the job done.
Under the tank heating (UTH)
If you’re lazy like me, you can get a pre-made one at your local pet store. I use UTH’s made by Zoo Med. They’re about $25-$35 each and get the job done. If, on the other hand, you prefer to wire your own take a look at Flexwatt tape. Whichever kind you get, try to get enough to cover approximately one-third of the bottom of the plastic tub.
Thermostat / Rheostat
It’s unnecessary to have both, but you need at least one, with the thermostat being the preferred accessory. A rheostat is a dimmer switch like you find on lights, which allows you to regulate how much energy gets to the UTH and control how much heat it outputs.
A thermostat turns the heat off and on, depending on the temperature it is set at. Regardless of which one you get, make sure you get it and use it. Even though the UTH is a low powered device, it has the potential to melt through the plastic bottom of the tub, but only if left unregulated (or improperly regulated).
Thermometer / Hydrometer guages
Pretty self-explanatory. You need a way to monitor the temperature and humidity settings of your snake's cage. There are many to choose from, but I use the analog kind you stick to the side.
Note that these are actual gauges and NOT the stick on the side strips you see at pet stores. They do NOT work for a stackable snake cage. The only temperatures they are going to measure are the plastic side if you use one of them.
Digital thermometer with probe
You could eliminate the gauges and just go with a probed version, but I prefer both. Either way, have a probe with the sole purpose being to measure the “hot spot” in the cage. You want to make sure that one area (generally directly over the UTH) doesn’t get too hot and burn the snake.
You’ll need to put air holes in the plastic tub. A soldering iron works great for this as it leaves no sharp edges to be concerned about. If you don’t have a soldering iron, an appropriately sized awl can be heated on a stove and used.
If you choose to use a drill or similar instrument to make the holes do so from the inside out, the jagged edges are on the opposite side of your snake.
Used to cover holes if need be and to help secure the UTH to the bottom. Not to mention helping you tame some of the cords from the UTH and probes that are strewn about.
You’ll need to get the properly sized hides for your snake, and that can vary depending on species, size, and other factors. All of my snakes have always gotten homemade hides.
Meaning an old butter or whipped topping top with a hole cut on the side and flipped upside down for the smaller ones, and a Rubbermaid contains a hole cut in the side for the larger.
Obviously, it’ll save you a few dollars to use the butter tub type, but if you need a hide, you need a hide. You’ll still save several dollars by making one yourself.
You can get a good-sized dog watering bowl at a local thrift shop for pennies on the dollar of what you’d pay at the store. Size, of course, is dependent on the snake.
You can use old newspapers as substrate. Much easier to clean up than things like cypress mulch or reptile bark. Besides, plastic tub humidity shouldn’t be as hard to control as it is with a glass tank.
Four water bottle caps
Get four water bottle caps of the same size. You’ll use them as spacers to get some clearance between the UTH and the top of whatever your snake's cage sits on.
That wraps up the supply list. It looks like a lot of stuff, but it’s really not. It is pretty much everything you’ll need to get started with a snake, regardless of what kind of housing you use.
There are multiple advantages to using a plastic tub; ease of cleanup, ease of regulating temperatures and humidity, and last but not least, cost.
Putting the cage together
Trust me when I say this takes almost no mechanical aptitude. Which happens to be just about how much I have. So if I can do this so can you, and you, and you, and you… Here’s the way I go about making mine.
Clean the tub out
Wash it out with mild soap and water and RINSE very, very well! Some people use a highly diluted bleach mixture, and others use veterinarian grade cleaning supplies. Any of it will work, but if you don’t think you’ll rinse well enough, go with the vet cleaning supplies as they are generally non-toxic, and snakes don’t like toxicity at all.
Poke some holes
Fire up the soldering iron (or stove if you’re using an awl) and go to work poking some holes in the side and top of the plastic tub. I generally start with 5 in opposite corners and 5 in the top across the middle for 15 total holes.
Once everything else is done, I set it up as if the snake were in there and let it sit for about two hours. If the humidity is too high, I add a few more holes. Too low and I tape a few up.
Same thing with the temperature. It can take a few tries, but you’ll come to a happy medium between holes, temperature, and humidity with a little effort.
Place the UTH
After I put the initial 15 holes in, I flip the tub upside down and attach the UTH to the bottom of it. I try to cover about 1/3 of the bottom of the tub. I also place duct tape around all four edges of the UTH.
For the simple fact that I’ve had them fall off before. Please note the duct tape can dry out and potentially be a fire hazard. If you’re not the type, who would pay attention to it regularly consider a heat-resistant tape of some kind.
I just use duct tape because I have it for other parts of the project and it’s simple. Part of attaching the UTH is to set up the thermostat or rheostat. You can do it at any point, but since I’m working on it, this is when I do it.
Attach the bottle caps
Self-explanatory. Just tape them on with duct tape. You could always melt them in place, but I’m a fan of duct tape. Regardless put them on; you don’t want the UTH in direct contact with the surface the snake's cage is sitting on.
Add the substrate
Flip it over and put some newspaper in. I generally put about six layers over the UTH and 2-3 elsewhere. Extra over the UTH to help insulate the snake if he’s lying on it. You’ll need to determine for yourself how thick you need it to be. That’s why a thermometer with a probe is so important.
Put your gauges in place
Add the gauges into the tub. I generally put the two analog gauges dead center in the middle about how the snake is tall. I’m just trying to get the ambient background temps and humidity in general with those.
I tape the digital to the top of the cage and run the probe into the UTH side and top it down to the newspaper. I keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t get too hot or too cold.
Add the rest of the stuff
Hides, water bowls, and whatever else goes in should go in now. I also crumble up some newspaper and put it in the tank to give it more “volume”. I’m not setting up a display case, so it doesn’t have to be pretty; it just needs to make the snakes feel secure. The extra newspaper and hides help to do that.
Test your setup
As I mentioned before, after setting the cage up, I like to test it before putting the snake in there. In general, the testing lasts for about 3-4 hours as I adjust the number of holes to account for humidity and temperature.
Move your snake
Once everything is working and all temperatures and humidity are stabilized, move your snake into its new home. Latch the lid down and wrap a bungee cord or two around it for that little extra security. Then just watch.
Your snake will probably explore a bit, which means “look for a way to get out”. Better that you catch it in the act than not find out until it has escaped.If you find it does manage to start getting out, you’ll need to figure out a way to manage any gaps.
I’ve always had great luck with a bungee cord or three. Some people use clips, and others will drill holes and use zip-ties. No doubt there are other methods as well.
Let them settle in
Give your snake about five days to settle down in its new home before you offer it food or handle it excessively. Just make sure you keep the basics going (water, humidity, temperature), and it should settle in reasonably quickly.
Here’s the part you’ve all been wondering about. The total cost of the project I described will vary depending on the cost of materials, but I’ve had it run me anywhere from $75 to $100. You can save about 50$ by building your own.
But like I said in the beginning, this may not be the best option for you to save 50$. IF you aren't a DIY crafty person, then you may actually lose money by trying to experiment building your own and messing something up, wasting all of the materials you bought.
So there is definitely a trade-off. It's worth it for many of you to get a guaranteed cage that has all the components you need.
You spend slightly more money, but you gain back time, effort, energy, and the risk of not making it correctly and wasting everything you put into it.
There are plenty of places online with snake cages for sale. You can do some research and find a suitable option.
If you’re at a place where you want or need a new cage I hope this article will prove helpful to you.