Questions on how to mod doors onto cages pop up semi-regularly in the habitat board. Most of time someone pokes me to reply. A while ago I said that the next time I happened to mod a door onto one of my own cages, I'd take photos as I went. So here we are!
Other people probably have slightly different methods, but this is my 'best practice' I've got to over time with a lot of trial and error along the way. Similarly if you're modding a door onto a cage which has thicker bars to start with (I never have), you may need to modify this method a little.
Wire cutters, mini metal file and a junior hacksaw.
Also some needle nosed pliers that didn't make the photo, but this is them
You could add some more in if you want, but this is the bare minimum for me.
The cage I was modding this time was a Marchioro Tom62. These are really fab-sized cages (5 on the CC) which flatpack, but they come with only two small 13cm doors. On this occasion I was adding a large Ferplast door on one side, to act as the new front door.
Stage #1 - Working out where you want to put the new door.
Consider both access for you into the cage, but also access for the rats to come out of the cage. If you're using an actual spare door, open the hinges with your pliers (even carefully using some kitchen scissors and rotating them while in the hole works) and loosely attach it to the cage rather than just holding it up nearby.
Your new door may fit the support bar distance of your cage perfectly, or as with mine, it doesn't. The majority of the time a bit of overlap is fine, but this is why it's important to superimpose the new door on top first to check the closing mechanism.
Once I've decided where the door is going I use my pliers to close the hinges so it can't fall off. This makes double checking as I go easier and means I'm less likely to accidentally cut too big a hole.
Stage 2a - Cutting the door hole
I usually cut the bottom-most wire and the top-most wire first, using the wire cutters. Then I can clip away between these points rather than continually checking that I've not gone too far. I also like to do all my double checking at once, as if I have something to do later, I might forget.
First off, I do not advise cutting as near to the support bar as possible like this. I used to do it like this (hence the photo!) but it makes later stages more challenging.
Instead I cut in the middle of the bar, and usually rather than each cut being at exactly in the same place as the previous, I like to stagger them a little. As I go, I bend them in a little on the side where I want the edge of the doorway to be. More on this later, but for now it gets them out of the way.
I do both edges of the doorway like this. If the door you're cutting is just between two support bars then you'll have slightly bent back wires on both sides of the gap. If the door you're cutting also includes needing to remove a support bar, then you'll get this type of arrangement.
Double check! This cage has bar spacing which is suitable for mice and hamsters, so as an extra safety measure to ensure I can continue to use it for smaller species in the future, I have left an extra bar uncut at both the top and the bottom of the door. If I was just using this cage for rats I wouldn't have done this.
Stage 2b - Removing the central support bar(s) if your door dimensions require it
I usually slightly bend in the cut bars on the support bar too, as it keeps them out of the way a bit and reduces the chances of me catching myself on one. If you have better proprioception you can probably skip this!
Bend the top few slightly downwards, so overall it looks a bit like a drunk Christmas tree. Similarly bend the bottom few slightly upwards
Rather than going straight in with the hacksaw, I use my wire cutters to score a deep band around the wire first, as close to the edge as possible. I.e. if your wire cutters have angled blades, make sure you're holding them the right way around.
Then saw through the little bit that's left.
Personally I find cutting the top one first and then the bottom end neater overall. The 2nd cut is trickier to do neatly because the support bar then has less support, but it is much easier to neaten up the lower cut later on. If your door is on the roof of the cage or if your support bars are horizontal then this is less important.
Stage 3 - Removing the other bars. Those ones that you slightly bent in before, but have been ignoring for a while.
Horizontally, bend them in as far as they will go, then still horizontally, bend them out. The bar should snap very close to the support bar at the end of the hole, and the sharp bit that remains will also be pointing out at you, not in to the cage occupants. Some bars may need an extra in-out to snap.
Some snapped bars
Step 4 - Endless filing
If you didn't have the radio etc. on previously to aid concentration, you might want to change that now. Use your finger to test each bar end for smoothness, but you may want to use lower on the pad of your your finger rather than right at the tip. Rather than just filing horizontally across the end like the top end of a cylinder, I also try and add in an angle to take the corner off and have it more rounded overall. This is why I recommend a mini file over a more standard sized one.
Step 5 - Neatness
Coat the exposed metal at the bar ends. If you can be bothered. In this instance I could not. I also couldn't be bothered to coat the door itself.
A previous bit of door modding (this door originally a Gabber Jolly wire shelf), I could be bothered. But not enough to do a paint match.
My new door. And yes, that previous bit of modding above was the same cage!
A couple of the other doors I've modded on:
13cm hamster door onto a Speedy Chinchilla
This cage originally had one 13cm door on the front, and one 13cm door top right (also one top left but that stayed the same). I moved the small roof door onto the front next to the pre-existing one, and also removed the support bar in the middle, tying the two together with garden wire. The hole in the roof where it had come from I extended to put a large Ferplast door on. Photo taken at a time when I couldn't find where my files were, so covered the sharp bits with duct tape for the time being.
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