susceptibility to bacterial infections and vulnerability
to parasites are two of the many challenges faced by
chameleon keepers. Proper air circulation greatly
reduces both of these threats. For this reason
experienced chameleon keepers prefer to use enclosures
constructed mostly if not completely of screen. The
ground dwelling species are an exception and may be
housed in terrariums.
The instructions below demonstrate
how to build your own 251/2"W X 251/2"D
X 371/2"H all screen enclosure using supplies
commonly found at a hardware or home improvement store.
With a little calculation you can make adjustments to
suit your needs.
The difficulty level of this project
is medium. Presumably you have a good working knowledge
of tools and basic shop techniques. The project should
take about 4 hours to complete, but this depends on your
ability and effort.
Screen Frame - the individual strip of aluminum with the
spline track which is used to hold screen in place
Frame Pieces - the cut pieces of screen frame that will
be used to construct the screen panels
Screen Panel - The assembled four sided rectangle or
square covered with screen
Door Stop - the piece of screen frame used to prevent
the door from opening to the inside
Swing Panel - the bottom panel on the front which pivots
open to allow easier cleaning
Support Panel - the panel used to give the front
strength and stop the doo
Measurements are given in inches - 1 inch = 2.54
centimeter or use the
Click on images to enlarge. Many images also include
Click pic to view a
picture of the tool or supply.
Box Cutter/Carpet Knife
Standard Straight Slot Screwdriver
1/16th inch, 1/8th inch, and a #1 Philips head drill bit
Hack Saw and Miter Box
- 8 ft (96") screen frames
8 packs of 4 corner braces
1 knob of choice (may substitute loop latch)
50 self tapping #8 3/4inch sheet metal screws
1 pair of 1 inch hinges
50 ft of .125 screen spline
Package of 8 nylon turn buttons
Package of 4 wire loop latches (used to pull door open)
16 ft X 2 ft screen
Measure and cut the screen frames.
For this design, you will need:
36", 5 pcs 26", 10 pcs 233/4", 2 pcs 231/2",
4 pcs 231/4", 4 pcs 16"
15", 2 pcs 8", 2 pcs 53/4"
how these are used:
Top and Bottom
Right and Left Sides
I used the Stanley Clamp Miter Box. It has convenient
peg clamps to hold the piece you're cutting.
I marked the frames by scoring them with a screwdriver
(top of image). Place the scored line in the center of
the 90º cut guide on the miter box (bottom left inset).
Clamp the frame piece in place and cut with the hack saw
(bottom right inset). Remember to "measure twice and cut
Assemble the screen panels.
Each enclosure is a six sided box constructed of screen
panels. Group the cut frame pieces into the 4 sections
needed for each screen panel. This design calls for 8
panel frames; the top and bottom, right and left sides,
the back, and three panels for the front of the
enclosure. The three front panels are the door panel, a
support panel and a lower swing panel to facilitate
cleaning. Your panel measurements are: two panels 251/4"
X 243/4"for the top and bottom, two panels 251/4"
X 371/2"for the right and left sides, one
panel 251/2" X 371/2"for the back,
one panel 91/2" X 25" for the swing panel,
one panel 71/4" X 271/2"for the
support panel, and one panel 171/2" X 271/2"for
Insert a screen frame corner into each end of two cut
sections from one panel frame (bottom right inset). The
screen frame corners are designed to be "Murphy Proof"
meaning you can not put them on the wrong way. Now
insert the adjacent frame piece from the same panel
frame into the other side of the screen frame corner
piece to form an L. Repeat this with the last piece of
this panel frame. Connect the two "L's" together by
sliding the open ends into the open end of the screen
frame corner piece. This should form a square or
rectangle depending on which panel frame you are
Repeat this until you have assembled all of the panel
frames needed to construct your cage.
Pre-assemble the enclosure.
Assemble the panel frames and secure them together
using the masking tape. See
assembly diagram. The two sides fit against the
back. The top and bottom will be inside of the back and
two sides flush with the back. All three of the front
panels are attached inside the sides, top and bottom.
Check all corners and edges for a square and tight fit.
If you need to make any adjustments, it is easier to do
so before the screen is installed.
Pre-cut the screen to the size of the panel frames.
If you are using a soft poly or fiber screen, you will
need to allow a couple of inches over hang. If you are
using an aluminum screen, cut it to fit with only 1/4
inch overhang all around. The poly/fiber screen is
easier to work with, but panels made with it are not as
strong and may not support plants or withstand the
extreme heat of basking lamps. You may want to use a
sheet of plastic (PVC) or aluminum screen for the bottom
and aluminum screen for the top. Lay the screen over the
frame Start at a corner and push the spline into the
spine track. Use the spline tool to push the spline into
the track all the way around the frame (top inset). Push
the corners into the track using a screwdriver (center
inset). When constructing the swing panel, insert the
wire loop latch before pushing the spline into the
Assembly - top, bottom, and sides.
Assemble the enclosure temporarily using masking tape
to hold the panels together, as done in step 3. Drill a
1/16th inch pilot hole approximately 3 inches from the
edge and 1/4 inch from the top of the right side screen
panel continuing through the top screen panel (top
inset). Pre-drilling ensures that the holes lineup and
that your screws do not "travel" across the frame piece.
Screw a self tapping #8 3/4inch sheet metal screw into
the pre-drilled hole taking care not to over tighten it.
Repeat this process until you have 4 screws on the long
panels and 3 screws on the shorter panels of the top,
bottom, back and two sides. The front panels will be
Final Assembly - front door, support panel, and swing
Cut a 30 inch and 18 inch piece of screen frame for door
stops. Measure and mark 5 inches and 12 inches from the
top and 5 inches and 12 inches from the bottom of the
support panel. Drill four 1/16th inch pilot holes on the
marks as close to the outside edge as possible. Place
the 30 inch piece of screen frame (door stop) on the
back side of the support panel allowing as much as you
can to overhang. Install a nylon turn button to the
support panel and door stop in the top and bottom holes
using the #8 3/4 inch screws. Screw two more #8 screws
in the two middle holes. Secure the other door stop to
the top inside (bottom right inset) using the same
procedure. Drill four pilot holes in the left side and
into the support panel and two holes in the top and into
the support panel and secure it to the enclosure. Drill
a 1/8 inch hole in the door panel in the middle of the
left side and secure the knob (left inset). Drill 1/16th
inch pilot holes and secure the hinges to the right side
of the door about four inches from the top and bottom of
the door panel. Measure 4 inches from the bottom on both
sides and pre-drill. Screw the swing panel in place.
Install a nylon turn button to each side of the swing
panel about two inches from the bottom of the panel.
Rinse or vacuum inside the enclosure. The drilling
will leave metal shavings which need to be removed
before use. Add your choice of plants, lights, and
hydration equipment and your ready to move your cham in.