Breeder cages are essentially large, wide cages that feature removable dividers. These dividers allow you to introduce and separate your breeding stock as necessary. Additionally, with dividers removed, breeder cages convert to flight cages, giving your bird more room to roam. While commercial models exist, you can save a little money by constructing your own. Melamine is well-suited for cage making, as it is easy to clean, requires no sealant and gives the cages a clean, professional look.
Making the Box
Mark off two 41.5-by-15-inch rectangles on the melamine, using the measuring tape, straight edge and pencil. Lightly score each line with a utility knife. Cut out each rectangle using the table saw -- these pieces will form the top and bottom of the cage. Mark off two 20-by-15-inch rectangles to serve as the cage sides, score and cut them out. Finally, create the back of the cage by marking, scoring and cutting out a 41.5-by-21-inch rectangle.
Drill four pilot holes along the right side of the bottom panel, about one-third inch from the edge of the board. Place two of the pilot holes about one-third of an inch from the front and back edges of the board, and place the other two pilot holes about 5 inches from the front and back edges. Repeat the process on the left side of the bottom panel.
Place the right side panel in the vice grip, with the bottom edge pointing up. Lay the bottom panel on top of the side panel, and line up the boards. Drive a screw through each of the pilot holes, through the bottom and into the side panel. Remove the side panel from the vice grip -- use care to support the structure -- and place the left side into the vice grip. Rotate the bottom panel, align the boards and connect the left side to the bottom by driving screws through the pilot holes. Flip over the three attached boards, so that it is right side up. The structure should look similar to the letter “U.”
Drill pilot holes in the top panel as you did for the bottom panel. Place the board on top of the side panels and drive screws through each pilot hole. You should have a rectangular shape.
Lay the box on its front, so that the backside is facing up. Lay the back panel on top of the opening and drill four pilot holes along the top of the panel and four pilot holes along the bottom of the panel, ensuring they are spaced evenly. Drive screws through each of the pilot holes to connect the back to the top and bottom panels. You should now have a five-sided box.
Constructing the Cage Front
Mark and score two 2-by-40-inch-melamine strips, two 2-by-15-inch strips, four 1-by-16-inch long strips and two 15-by-2-inch wide strips. Cut out all 10 planks with the table saw. Now, you must construct the frames to hold the cage fronts.
Drill pilot holes about one-third of an inch from each end of the 40-inch-long strips. Attach two of the the 1-by-16 planks to one of the 40-inch-long planks by driving a screw through each pilot hole. You should now have a U-shaped structure. Set the left cage front on top of the bottom plank and mark the locations of the support posts; each cage front usually has four posts.
Drill a one-quarter-inch hole at each marked location and insert the support posts. Repeat the process for the right cage front. Place the other 40-inch-long plank on top, mark the location of the support posts and drill holes for each. Attach the top plank to the top of the cage fronts, and attach the top plank to the side planks by driving screws through the pilot hole at each end. You should now have a frame containing both cage fronts, with a 1/2-inch gap between the left and right front.
Assembling the Cage
Insert the framed, one-piece front into the front of the box. Glue the plastic strip to the inside top of the cage, right behind and parallel with, the inserted frame. This will keep the front from falling inward, toward the birds.
Drill two 1/4-inch holes in the front edge of the cage top and two more in the bottom. Thread a screw through each plastic swivel frame clip and drive the screw into the wood. Tighten the screws enough that the swivel frame clips do not rotate freely, but not so tight that you cannot move them when necessary.
Turn the box upside down. Mark a line on the bottom of the box that corresponds with the center of the 1/2-inch gap between the metal cage fronts. Drill three pilot holes along this line. Have a helper hold one of the 2-by-15 strips on the inside bottom of the cage -- because the box is inverted, your helper will be holding the strip against the inside top -- while you drive a screw through each pilot hole. Flip the box back right side up, and attach the second 2-by-15 strip along the top of the box in the same manner.
Cut two 15-inch-long lengths of plastic channel with the utility knife. Glue one to the top divider support and the other to the bottom divider support. Measure and cut a 16-by-15-inch rectangle from the 1/2-inch plywood to serve as the divider. Slide the divider between the metal cage fronts -- inside the channels -- to separate the birds, or remove it to allow them contact.