These wire cages are really easy to make and completely enclose poultry or small livestock that you want to keep safe from predators. A smaller version filled with chicken supplies also makes a great gift for a fellow chicken lover or someone who is just getting started. We usually let our hens sit and hatch out chicks this time of year, but every few years we purchase a few from the feed store to re-fresh our flock. When we do that though, the chicks don’t have a mother hen to help keep them safe. The threat source can range from our own grown hens and roosters to foxes, coyotes and even our own gigantic dog who is just curious and wants to move them back to wherever she thinks they “should” be. To remedy this, we enclose them in fully enclosed cages like this one that is portable and even sometimes small make-shift areas that we put up and take down as needed. By far, these portable ones are much easier.
In this example, the cage is 30″x36″x12″ and to make a similar cage, you’ll need the following supplies and tools:
- (1) 36″ x 10′ roll of 1/2″ grid galvanized Hardware Cloth (some call it rabbit wire)
- Hardwire cloth crimping tool
- Hardwire cloth clips
- Wire Snips
Begin by straightening out a section of wire. When you start unrolling it, it will be bent in the roll shape, but it’s pretty easy to flatten out if you have a straight edge to bend it over. I made this cage inside, because it was so hot out, so I used the edge of our kitchen table. Keep working it, bending a little every few inches until you have a large section to work with. Save the strand of wire that was wrapped around the roll at the factory to hold it secure, because you can use it later for handles.
Once you’ve decided on the size of your cage, you can start cutting. If you want to make one like this one, cut your pieces in the following dimensions:
(2) 30″ x 36″
(2) 12″ x 30″
(2) 12″ x 36″
The easy thing about hardware cloth is that you can get it in many sizes, but if you get the 1/2″ squares, you automatically have an easy way to measure it. Count out your length of wire (I measure using two fingers, one on each square, to count in inches) then make sure to start cutting on the OTHER side of the wire so that you have a solid edge and you don’t short yourself a square by cutting the end of it off.
Snip the horizontal wires along the outside edge of the piece you’re working on. It’s a lot easier if you snip from the underside. Your wire snips will have two sides, one that is concave and the other that is flat. Position the flat side toward the edge you want to cut to make sure to get a close snip.
In order to make use of the next section, (the one on the left of the photo above) you’ll need to go back and snip off the points sticking out. There are varying schools of thought on this, some people snip them off and others simply bend them inward.
Once you have all your sides cut, begin joining them together with the wire clips. To do this, place a clip in the crimping tool with the bent side on the bottom. Everyone does it different, but I find it easier to see what I’m doing if I come up under the wires with the tool. Make sure you have both pieces of wire inside the clip and squeeze the handle to mash the clip closed.
Go down the length of the edge you’re joining, placing a clip every 6th square or so. Then move on to put the other sides together. There are no right or wrong sides to the wire like there is with fabric, so just put them together.
Once you’re done, it’s time to cut a hole for the entry and a door to close it with. Whatever the size of the hole you cut for the entry, make sure that the door overlaps by 2 or 3 squares (an inch to inch and a half). This will ensure that interested predators can’t push through.
Join your door to the cage along whichever side suits your needs. I joined this one at the bottom so that I could hook it with some springs from our old rabbit hutches. Since the bottom was going to be securely held by clips, my overlap there was only one square (1/2 inch).
If your cage is large, it helps to have handles. If you saved the wire that originally held the wire roll closed, you can make the handles from that. Measure how much of a handle you want and double the wire so that you can twist it together for strength. An easy measure for making a handle like this is to make it as wide as your two hands placed together, side-by-side, plus two addition inches on both sides.
To attach your handle, bend the bottom of the wire up so that you can “fish” it down through one 1/2″ square and up through the one beside it.
Once you’ve fished the handle wire through the hole, twist the end back around itself to secure it. This cage has handles on both sides.
That’s it, you’re ready for some babies to put in it!
One of the places we use these cages is in our already enclosed chicken coop so that the chicks get accustomed to where they are supposed to roost and lay. In addition to being predator proof, it also lets the grown-ups get used to the chicks. They will still have to sort out their pecking order among the flock once they’ve grown big enough to let out, but they have at least a little advantage because they’re already used to their surroundings.
Another use for the cages is to transport chicks that you’ve bought at the feed store or other sale. Usually you wind up with a cardboard box from the feed store, but this fits nicely in the bed of a pick-up truck or even the back of a car with an appropriate liner laid down.