Call for woodworkers - Animal hutches

We’ve had this message from Blue cross Manchester an animal rehoming charity. I don’t think they’re super familiar with what Hackspace is, but if any members want to group together and take on a project for a local charity then i can put you in touch.

Hi to the team at Hacman,

I work for Blue Cross, we’re a local [animal] rehoming charity based in Radcliffe.

I’m reaching out to you as a local community group as we have a real need at the centre for suitable pet accommodation for our small animals, and as a wood working group, I wondered if you’d ever be interested in doing some volunteer work? We rehome rabbits, chinchillas, degus, rats, hamsters, gerbils, mice and guinea pigs and our standards have recently changed for all of their accommodation/caging to ensure best welfare possible.

We’ve noticed a gap in the market to meet these welfare needs and that’s where I feel your group may be able to help. I’d love to hear more about what you do with the projects you create, and see if there’s any way we could work together to meet our goal, and to have hopefully enjoyable and rewarding projects for your group to complete. I understand that it may be the case you’re unable to do this without compensation due to material and labour costs, so this is absolutely an option for us too!

Do please keep us in mind at your next men’s shed meeting, and reach out if you’d like to discuss further.

Many thanks,

I’d be happy to liaise with them about what we can offer in terms of the workshop and potentially help organise members interested in the project.

Great thanks Mark, I’ve emailed them/you.

Spoke to Maddy on the phone this afternoon to get a better understanding of the project scope they’re looking for. Blue Cross have been struggling to find suitable hutches/cages for small animals and the cost of what is available is often too expensive. In addition to this they’re looking to build other things that will help at their centres and with animal enrichment such as garden planter boxes & wooden chew toys.

They’re hoping that we would be able to help design & build better options for them, with the hope that it would also come at a lower material cost/longer lifespan. An example she gave on the phone was one hutch costs £200 and is only expected to last a year. Attached below are documents that outline the Blue Cross’s cage/hutch requirements for the various animals they look after.

This project would be scalable and dependent on requirements. Currently they looking for a couple trial hutches but assuming everything is successful, they’re hoping we can work together to develop plans for when new foster homes are set up as that’s when they’d need a few ready within a couple weeks to avoid buying off the shelf options.

Currently they don’t have anyone available to help with building huts as all their volunteers are busy with looking after the animals. As such the majority of the work would be on us (they’re able to assemble a hutches, assuming its in a similar format to flat pack furniture). I’ll be meeting Maddy at 11am this Sunday to give her a tour of the space. If anyone would like to help or is interested in finding out more please drop me a message or feel free to come along on Sunday. I don’t expect this to be a just a woodworking project either so skills across the board would be appreciated.

Additional information
Cage options for gerbils 2023.docx (23.7 KB)
Cage options for hamsters 2023.docx (26.9 KB)
Chinchilla Accommodation Document.docx (784.3 KB)
Degu Accommodation Document.docx (1.7 MB)
Gerbil Accommodation Document.docx (1.4 MB)
Hamster Accommodation Document .docx (1.3 MB)
Mouse Accommodation Document.docx (1.7 MB)
Rabbit housing guidance rehoming.docx (805.2 KB)
Rabbit housing retailers.docx (27.0 KB)
Rat Accommodation Document.docx (1.7 MB)
Species housing requirements.pdf (322.1 KB)

consider me in! Shall work out exact capacity soon

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Some more information on requirements for each animal from the blue cross:
Rat care at a glance 19.04.pdf (62.7 KB)
Chinchilla care at a glance 19.04.pdf (61.9 KB)
Degu care at a glance.pdf (57.7 KB)
Gerbil care at a glance 19.04.pdf (56.9 KB)
Guinea pig care at a glance 24.4.pdf (58.7 KB)
Hamster care at a glance 19.04.pdf (47.2 KB)
Mouse care at a glance 10.05.23.pdf (69.3 KB)
Rabbit care at a glance 19.04.pdf (56.9 KB)

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Ok I’m in.

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Hi All

Apologies for not posting an update of the meeting with Maddy from Blue Cross sooner. We discussed what Blue Cross’s requirements and limitations were and how the hackspace could fit into the picture and what limitations we have on our end to help manage expectations. To summarise the meeting:

  • The Manchester branch of Blue Cross doesn’t have the ability to look after animals on site as its just an office so is reliant on foster homes.
  • There are a few fields of ‘products’ blue cross struggle to get when outfitting foster homes.
    • Outdoor rabbit hutches & runs
    • Small animal cages
    • Animal enrichment toys etc.
  • Blue Cross manages foster homes for a wide range of small pets with rabbits being the main type they have in their care.
  • Blue Cross have a budget for outfitting foster homes but this is often exceeded when buying off the shelf options which are typically not up to their standards and don’t last long.
  • Blue Cross would be able to cover any material and/or consumable costs, however members time would not be paid. A donation to the space may be possible but that wasn’t discussed at the time.
  • Their requirements for the ‘products’ above would be ad-hoc, with them mainly needed when outfitting new foster homes/replacing old stuff.
  • Currently there isn’t any major urgency for any of the stuff above, but they’d be interested in getting the ball rolling on finding a solutions/options as their situation can quickly change.

Blue Cross’s documents

The pdf documents I shared in posts above contain all the specs that the Blue Cross consider a minimum requirement for each animal’s cage and care. This is a nationwide standard for the blue cross so any solutions we find could be used across the country.

The minimum cage size specification is more to do with surface area, so a longer but narrower cage will often still be suitable.

Rabbit hutches & runs

Blue Cross’s biggest requirement is for the design and construction of rabbit hutches and runs for use outside. Currently the options available online are often not fit for purpose and/or very expensive.

This line of work would likely take a fair bit of time to develop something the Blue Cross is happy with, but if members have experience/ideas please let me know. Maddy advised that they are more interested in finding a suitable design for the runs as they need to be quite large which adds to their expense.

Small animal cages

As the Blue Cross manage foster homes for small pets like mice & guinea pigs they often need to buy suitable cages. Current options on the market don’t fulfil the Blue Cross’s requirements and they often modify what they buy to suit.

Several of the animals have similar requirements so a design that could suit multiple types would be ideal. Any design would need to be easy to assemble, clean and maintain by the foster homes. Again, if anyone has experience with cages for small animals, please let us know.

Animal enrichment

This has the biggest range of possibilities for us, and somethings could be made right away. The Blue Cross also manages larger pets in care like Cats & Dogs, so we wouldn’t be limited to making things for just small pets. Some examples we discussed were:

  • Cat scratching posts
  • Hammocks
  • Raised garden boxes
  • Gnawing toys

Because of the range of things we could make for this, it expands to utilising multiple areas of the space and does not limit the scope to just those who can use woodworking tools. Soft items like hammocks for hamsters & mice would obviously need members with sewing skills. Each animal ‘at a glance’ document has several enrichment options so if anyone fancies making a few they’d be greatly appreciated. And if anyone has ideas that aren’t already listed, we’d love to hear them.

As mentioned above materials for these items would be paid for by Blue Cross so receipts for fabrics etc would need to be kept.

Helping out

I’ve had a few members come forward interested in helping so I’ll list them here just for my own ability to keep track. Always open for more help, even just providing advice/experience on the stuff above would be appreciated.

I’m intending on asking other Hackspaces across the county if they are interested in helping as its likely there will be local Blue Cross centres local to them interested in getting help. I’ve also asked Tom about seeing if the LGBTQ+ charity would be interested in helping as well.

Members who’ve expressed interest in helping:

If anyone listed above would like to be removed/no longer available just let me or a board member know, or if I’ve gotten your name/details wrong please let me know

When do we start!

I mentioned to Maddy my intent to organise an event day one weekend at the space where anyone interested in helping could come to help work on any of the items above as a team, with a few enrichment projects prioritised as a starting point. I’m anticipating this could work like a ‘Hack the space day’ with lunch provided to members. The event would be a nice way to kick-off some projects with the aim for Maddy to be able to take some items back at the end of the day.

Maddy confirmed that while members of the Blue Cross team would be in attendance, unfortunately they wouldn’t be allowed to bring any animals as per the charities policy. That said as per the hackspace rules if any members wanted to bring their pets along, they’d be more than welcome.

I don’t currently have a date set yet as I’ll need to check the availability of the Blue Cross team, but I’m hoping one Saturday mid-late August would work.

If anyone wants to know more information about this collaboration, please give us a shout on telegram (@Marcus6275) or message below :slight_smile: