What kind of materials should you use when constructing a snake cage? Snakes come in many different sizes ? but usually only one shape. Even so, there are many different housing systems and styles for snakes. These depend on the adult size of the snake, how much room you have, the environment it normally inhabits and how much money you are willing to spend.
Aquarium tanks can be used for keeping snakes under 6 feet requiring a swimming pool or humidity. A screen top for ventilation for arid or desert snakes and a partially covered screen top raise the humidity for rainforest snakes. Viewing is unrestricted and the tank can be easily cleaned. It will not get scratched and temperatures are easy to maintain. They are cumbersome and can be difficult to move, especially big or fully-loaded ones. They need to be on a solid table or stand. If you do need to move them, put solid castors on the stand.
Plastic/Rubbermaid tubs are useful as breeding racks, during the quarantine period before to introducing a new animal to an established collection, as an emergency/isolation enclosure, feeding tub and for juvenile snakes. They are no good for arboreal species, as they cannot climb.
Melamine cages are easily cleaned and melamine is perfect for cage bases or indeed a whole cage. It resists moisture, and you can get melamine specially made for bathroom cabinets. Custom-made enclosures are sometimes made of melamine with different laminates, and you can build furniture-quality enclosures yourself. These can be made to fit anything from a Corn snake to a Burmese. With a glass front, these enclosures hold humidity very well.
Plywood cages are much cheaper than melamine and easier to work with. Plywood comes in various grades. The better grades give a much nicer finish to your cage and are worth the extra money.
Screen cages/Reptariums are good for transporting smaller animals but not much good for keeping snakes. They can be unstable and larger snakes will knock them over.
MDF or craftwood is similar to Melamine but much cheaper. It can be used in combination cages ie Melamine base with MDF sides, back etc. MDF has very good thermal properties (retails heat well) and if used in conjunction with an internal coating material such as Contact, will hold humidity well. Excellent to work with and has a smooth finish for painting. Always wear a mask when cutting or routing MDF as it is dusty and the dust can cause damage to nasal passages.
Pine or Cedar: Neither of these timbers should be used to construct a cage. Both timbers emit aromatic hydrocarbons. These can cause health problems for your snakes. They can be used for framing cages.
Do not use pine or cedar as a substrate. Wood shavings have a very high surface area, releasing hydrocarbons more readily and rapidly. They can be toxic, particularly for animals that like to bury themselves in their substrate material.
Snake owners who construct their own cages, do so from plywoods, melamine and MDF types of materials. These materials all have good insulating properties. Glass loses heat rapidly and is usually only on the front of the cage. Glass cages are also more difficult to make yourself, requiring special tools and some specialist knowledge.
The front of the cage can be sliding glass, Plexiglas or a constructed wood/glass door. Using a decorative timber at the front gives the cage a professional appearance. Cages constructed from the more expensive laminated melamine materials can look furniture grade but you do need know what you are doing to achieve this level of appearance.
Let painted cages dry out for a minimum of 2-3 days, 5-7 days would be even better, to release the paint solvents.
Building you own snake cage is a fun and rewarding experience.
Mark Chapple is the Author of "How to Build Reptile Enclosures" Find out how you can build your own reptile cages. Full color pictures with detailed diagrams and easy to follow, step-by-step instructions. http://www.reptile-cage-plans.com