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Old 03-09-2018, 03:00 AM   #1
mlwinters
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Default My Medium Sized DIY Cage

Hey everyone, I thought I would share some details and pictures of my custom built cage for a syrian hamster.

The inside dimensions of this cage are 1470mm by 507mm giving a floor space of 7434.09≤ cm when taking into account the two vertical supports and 533mm high.
These two supports reinforce two shelves and also holds the acrylic panels upright and against a wooden strip along the bottom front edge. The acrylic panels are joined with a PVC joiner thing, this allow the two panels to be easily and quickly removed.

The cage has three doors, two front doors that open out and the lid/roof that lifts up, it also has locking wheels to allow easy movement. The castors have a foam pads to help reduce vibrations traving into the floor (live in second floor flat). It has three shelves, the lower two shelves are at the same height (~200mm) and an upper shelf (~350mm) with steps on one side and a staircase on the other. I took inspiration from a popular YouTuber for protecting from falls by using around 300 ice lolly sticks to fence off around all shelves, each one was individually glued and placed, indeed this took ages to get right. The edges of the shelves and steps are cladded with balsa wood as with the back of the stairs. I have used at least 50mm of bedding around the wheel and with most places between 75 and 150mm, both for cushioning falls and for digging/tunneling in. Maximum depth of bedding is upto 190mm at the front.
I have put three pull tight latches on the doors, one between the two front doors and the other two on the roof, one on each door. The doors also have magnets on them to hold them closed. Both the doors and roof are very secure when locked
I have fitted three 12V warm white LED strips, one to the roof and one to each end wall at moreless a 45į angle. These LEDs are running at 10 volt to reduce the overall brightness and power consumption. This is something I want to change in future though, I'm not happy with these lights.
The black, well red square thing bottom left of a piece of very dark red lighting gel. Behind is a nest box that the purple tunnel goes to. The LX gel only allows 4% light to travel through and is almost pitch black inside even on a bright day.

Its probably best if you see some photos. I have made a few changes since these were taken, placement of toys, more toys, bigger and better food dish ect but you get the idea as to the construction and basic layout.
Please let me know what you think and let me know if I need to change anything.

There are a couple of things I haven't mentioned in here but Ill save those for another post, another day.

Take Care
Morgan

P.S. Please discount the sticks poking up like spikes, I was trying something out unrelated and was using the bedding to hold them in place. I forgot to remove them for these pictures. These sticks are, as they are here, clearly very dangerous. No animal is living in or indeed anywhere near the cage. Its just that these pictures are the best I have.

P.S.S. Sorry if this is in the wrong place, mods please move if it is.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Cage Normal.JPG (1.82 MB, 152 views)
File Type: jpg Front Doors Open.JPG (1.86 MB, 70 views)
File Type: jpg Front Doors And Roof Open.JPG (1.88 MB, 58 views)
File Type: jpg Top View.JPG (1.80 MB, 59 views)
File Type: jpg Night Lights.JPG (1.57 MB, 74 views)

Last edited by mlwinters; 03-09-2018 at 03:09 AM.
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Old 03-09-2018, 08:58 AM   #2
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Default Re: My Medium Sized DIY Cage

Your DIY cage looks amazing and very spacious!

With the LED lights do you have them on at night when watching your hamster? As I you do I would recommend Red LED lights instead as hamster can't see very well in the red end of the light spectrum therefore allows us to watch them without disturbing them too much and you can get to see what they really get up to when they think no one is watching.
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Old 03-09-2018, 12:53 PM   #3
mlwinters
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Default Re: My Medium Sized DIY Cage

Quote:
Originally Posted by SKB_Hamsters View Post
Your DIY cage looks amazing and very spacious!

With the LED lights do you have them on at night when watching your hamster? As I you do I would recommend Red LED lights instead as hamster can't see very well in the red end of the light spectrum therefore allows us to watch them without disturbing them too much and you can get to see what they really get up to when they think no one is watching.
Thanks for your kind words.
I am quite pleased with how its turned out, it is way better than what I thought it would be when I started on this project. I heard people say to get the biggest cage you can and this was indeed the biggest I could get away with without making my room look too cluttered. Any bigger would have also increased the price of materials by more than I wanted to spend on it, this cage wasn't the cheapest to build as it is.

As I said in my first post, the lighting is something I am not happy with and will be changed soon. This is one of the few errors I made designing this cage and will be done and redone untill its right. Im planning to replace either the centre strip or the two outer strips with red LEDs. I've been trying to find LED chips that are half way between visible red and infrared to reduce the amount to green and blue light as much as possible but this ain't easy with the LED's I want coming on reels or either 1000 or 5000, I don't need quite that many. I have found some which I'm going to order soon. These LED's have to be a specific surface mount chip due to the trunking that the LED's are mounted in. The new LED's would then need to be soldered to a flexible LED strip. Replacing the LED's isn't a complx job, its just time consuming and fiddly with such small LED chips. If I used larger 3 or 5 mm through hole LED's, they would protrude through the trunking, stick out, look ugly and if the hamster bit one of the lens, it could shatter spraying tiny chunks of plastic everywhere and expose live terminals (all be it 10 VDC). This is not something I deem to be acceptable. The current LED's are moreless the same height as the thickness of the trunking's plastic and sits almost flush with the trunking reducing the above issue substantially.
Currently the lights are set to come on at 1630 and turn off at 2330, however they can be made to switch at whatever time I choose (within 1 second) and these times are only for testing everything. They can also be turned on/off at any time manually.
Once I have completed this upgrade, I plan to use the warn white lights as a day lights and for when I need to do a spotclean or full cleanout ect since those will be done at night when the hamster is awake. Red LED's will be on during normal night time hours.

Indeed, the point you are making is a very good one and highlights one of my design errors. It is something I'm working on and should be done within a week or so, I won't be happy untill the lighting looks right (that's what happens when you play with theatre lighting for almost 20 years ).
Rest assured, I am working on it as fast as finances and Royal Mail allows

Thanks for your feedback
Morgan

Last edited by mlwinters; 03-09-2018 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 03-12-2018, 03:23 AM   #4
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Default Re: My Medium Sized DIY Cage

That is wonderful! One of the nicest looking I have seen
This one definitely goes into my ”cage idea” book!
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Old 03-15-2018, 06:58 AM   #5
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Default Re: My Medium Sized DIY Cage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dedenne View Post
That is wonderful! One of the nicest looking I have seen
This one definitely goes into my Ēcage ideaĒ book!
Thank you, I am pleased with how it's turned out .
Feel free to get ideas from or copy it if you so wish. Ill be posting a lot more in the coming days so stay tuned .
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Old 03-25-2018, 04:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: My Medium Sized DIY Cage

As promised, here are some more details about my cage, although just a mini update this time.

During my research into hamsters and hamster care as I was building the cage, I found out about torpor. Although not always fatal, I simply didnít want to take the risk. Being the type of person who prefers to use a hot water bottle and multiple layers of clothing to warm themselves up rather than having expensive nightstore heaters turned up high, my flat can sometimes get to or sometimes go below the point which torpor becomes more likely. One way to help reduce the risk is to ensure the cage temperature is above ~16įC, therefore I have fitted the cage with a digital temperature sensor. Although not the reptile types found at pet shops. The cheaper versions simply tell you the temperature and nothing else, they donít always have an alarm if the temperature is outside of a predefined range. Plus being for reptiles, this range may not be right for a hamster if its factory set and not customisable.

The sensor I have chosen is an Adafruit BME280 sensor. It is powered from between 3.3 and 5 volt DC and uses I≤C, a digital serial interface, to communicate with a controller (details on this to follow). The sensor can give temperature in C or F, relative humidity and air pressure in pascals which is then converted into milli-bar and then pounds/square inch (pressure is also altitude compensated). All readings are accurate to within 10 decimal places, although the readings are rounded to 2 decimal places for my use. The sensor can be read more than 10 times a second, exact speed is unknown, I donít need anything faster. In normal use, itís only read once a second.

The sensor is mounted inside of a vented ABS plastic case which is screwed to the underside of the curvy shelf to prevent the hamster from accessing to. The L shaped, right side shelf is cut short to reduce access further. This is one reason for having fencing in the bottom sheves along with safety and to match the top shelf. I have mounted the case as close to the back wall as possible while still allowing for the cover to be removed. There is no exposed wiring between the sensor case and the back wall where the cable exits the cage that the hamster could chew into. The sensor is soldered to a second circuit board which is then mounted to the plastic case with standoffs to reduce short circuits, mechanical stress from the screws on the sensorís printed circuit board and gives an air gap between the second circuit board and the plastic case to reduce the chance of inaccurate data. The wiring is tied in a loose knot to limit the chance of the cable being ripped out of the second circuit board if the cable at the back gets caught on something, the knot will tighten and get pulled against the sensor case and hole in the cage back wall before it pulls the wires out of the circuit board. This is common place in electronic products and does not affect the sensor in any way.

As I said, this is a mini update just to show you the sensor and its placement. What happens with the data it outputs will be in a later update. Enough blabbering, here are some pictures.

DSCF5068.JPG
Sensor as it was delivered.



DSCF5313.JPG
Placement of sensor case within the cage.

DSCF5331.JPG
With cover removed


Let me know what you think.
Take Care
Morgan


Last edited by mlwinters; 03-25-2018 at 04:52 PM.
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Old 03-25-2018, 04:54 PM   #7
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Default Re: My Medium Sized DIY Cage

P.S. There some random forum bug thats messed my last post up and its not letting me fix it properly. Sorry about this.
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Old 05-26-2018, 11:04 PM   #8
mlwinters
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Default Re: My Medium Sized DIY Cage

Time for another update and this one is right up my street, lighting

As pointed out in my first post, the lighting wasn't something I was happy with. I have finally ordered the replacement LED's for the cage lighting and have upgraded all three LED strips. Thanks to SKB_Hamsters, each LED strip now has warm white, red and one other colour. The LEDs are again in groups of three LED's connected in series. Each white LED group each has a 56ohm resistor, each red group and each other colour group both have 120ohm resistors. Each colour has a supply voltage of 10VDC and all LED groups in each strip share a common ground to reduce the amount of wiring thus failure points. The upgrade process itself took a couple of weeks due to this being the first proper time I've desoldered and soldered the 3528 surface mount LED's. Being so small and not having magnifying lens or microscope, it was quite tricky and time consuming. Each group is super glued into the strip and hot glue was used to act as a strain reliever, mainly for the centre strip which is fixed to the roof and therefore it would put stress on the solder joints when opening or closing the roof, the hot glue minimizes this stress, both outter strips have hot glue to minimized this stress during installation but serves no purpose now. Each strip was left in my living room for at least 2 days for the fumes of the super glue to disperse (cage is in bedroom). The trunking around each LED hole was also sanded to remove as much of the dried super glue on the exposed side as possible to minimize the chance of ickle one injesting it. Most of the LED's aren't accessable but they were still cleaned off anyway.

Each of the strips have a slightly different colour sequence and are as follows, starting from the back of the cage to the front:
Left side: White - Red - Other Colour - Red - Blank
Centre: White - Other Colour - Red - Other Colour - White
Right side: Blank - Red - Other Colour - Red - White
(Blank means there are no LED group)

All three colours are switched on/off automatically by the controller between the following times:
White: 10:00:00 - 16:59:59
Red: 17:00:00 - 23:59:59
Other Colour: 00:00:00 - 09:59:59 (but only if a certain condition is met)
Full details of the other colour will be released soon.
The lights are switch to within one second of these times (less if I really wanted the accuracy) and can easy be changed to what I want.

Each colour can of course be switched on/off manually if needed however, one can only switch colours. Each LED, group or strip cannot be switched individually. The power supply is able to power all three colours at the same time but there are two seperate safeguards in place to prevent this from happening. More details will be in future posts.

The switching itself is currently done as a snap change, in other words, the LED's are either on or off. This is the next this I need to work on as I am not happy with it as its, from an engineering viewpoint, ugly. The LED's are currently connected to a relay (a mechanical switch using an electro-magnet to move a magnetic switch plate), this is far from an ideal solution due serveral factors, an audible "click" when the switch plate moves, vibrations and power consumtion (each coil pulls around 50mA at 5V). The use of a 3 amp relay was always a temporary solution until I knew the power consumtion of the cage lights.
I have re-designed an upgraded switch board that use medium power transistors (electronic switches) for each of the lighting circuits. This will eliminate the audible click and vibrations. This upgrade will also reduce the power consumtion down to less than 1mA at 5V.
Doing this will also allow me to fix the snap change issue with the LED's so that they crossfade (colour X will slowly fade up while colour Y fades down). Ill go into more detail in a later post about this. I will be making and installing the upgraded switch board over the next couple of weeks.

Enough text, picture time:
white lighting upgrade forum.jpg
White Lights

red lighting upgrade forum.jpg
Red Lights
(my stills camera hates taking photos in red light, these are the best it could do)

The other colour is not shown as they serves a different purpose. As I've said, Ill post full details of this soon.

Sorry the photos are a little small, I didn't want to clog up the forum or mess up the layout.

I hope you like the upgraded cage lighting as much as I do (ignoring the lack of crossfading).
Morgan

Last edited by mlwinters; 05-27-2018 at 10:32 AM.
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Old 05-27-2018, 04:30 AM   #9
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Default Re: My Medium Sized DIY Cage

The light for you DIY cage look really good and it lovely how you have them on a timer to switch at different times. I too find it very difficult to take photos with the red lights on!
I don't have good knowledge on electronics but it was interesting to read about the step you took to assemble your lights.
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Old 05-27-2018, 05:42 AM   #10
mlwinters
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Default Re: My Medium Sized DIY Cage

Quote:
Originally Posted by SKB_Hamsters View Post
The light for you DIY cage look really good and it lovely how you have them on a timer to switch at different times. I too find it very difficult to take photos with the red lights on!
I don't have good knowledge on electronics but it was interesting to read about the step you took to assemble your lights.
Thanks I'm glad you like it. I took ages to get right but the end result is worth it.

"a timer", yeah.....it's a bit more complex than that hehe :P

The electronics for the lighting is actually quite simple, a low power transistor switching a relay. The magic happens inside the controller. All will be revealed soon
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