Hammocks can be expensive to buy, and it often seems that the more they cost, the better they taste to a chewy rat. I've gathered few ideas here for making your own hammocks.
Before you start, consider which method you're going to use to fix the hammock to the cage:
|Paper clips, pushed through the cloth or attached to loops, S hooks purchased from your hardware store, or shower curtain rings.|
|Little keyring carabineers like these ones from blankplastic.co.uk, used singly or to make chains.|
|Key clips, with the key rings pushed through the cloth or attached to tape/ribbon loops.|
|Metal grommets can give a strong and neat edge to holes - I prefer the ones that hammer in, rather than using the plier type, because the pliers tend to be expensive or become misaligned.|
|Key chains, dog chains, or thick rope can be threaded through tube-type hammocks or clipped to each corner.|
|Bird perches, threaded through tube-type hammocks.|
|String, pushed through a small hole at each corner, or sewn into the seam during production.|
|Loops of ribbon or cord, with the ends sewn into the seams during production.|
|D-rings - fold the material around the D-ring and oversew around the straight edge, or just fold a corner of the material through the d-ring and sew it down. These give a permanent fixing for your clips or string.|
|If you're making your own hammock, leave a gap in your machine stitching, pop the ring into the steam, and back-stitch through the ring.|
The tea towel:Take a cheap or old tea towel or pillow case. Fold it in half if itís too big for your cage. Attach each corner to the cage.
The jeans leg:When your jeans are too far gone to wear any longer, cut the legs off to hammock length, and thread onto chains or bird perches to suspend across the cage. Fix the chains/perches close together for a tent type hammock, or further apart for a shelf type. (You can finish the edges of the cloth if you like - frayed edges can form dangerous loops when you wash them, so this saves having to trim them).
The jeans seat:When you've cut off the legs take the remaining top piece and sew across the leg holes to make a large pocket. Attach one side to the side or top of the cage using the belt loops.
The old hat:Your old fleece hats make a lovely snuggle pocket to fix to the side of the cage.
Tunnel mad:Use a pair of toddler's fleece trousers, thread a a couple of perches or chains in through the waist and out through the legs (The legs can be fixed on different levels to make tunnel ramps).
School uniform:My children wear sweat-tops as part of their school uniform. These make wonderful hammocks when they're outgrown. There are two ways to use them: Either turn the sleeves inside out so they run through inside the body, and thread a perch or chain down each sleeve, or turn one sleeve inside out, running through the body, and put one perch/chain down this sleeve, then thread the other fixing through the body from neck to waist. This method leaves one sleeve hanging loose, giving an entrance/exit tunnel. It needs fixing fairly well stretched if you're using the second method to stop the tunnel twisting round to the bottom.
Take the Tube:Use one leg of your old trousers or the sleeve of a jumper to make a tube hammock. Fix it on with just one chain/perch, and sew in a couple of large macrame rings or rings of plastic cut from a drinks bottle to hold the ends open. Warning: plastic bottles don't machine wash. Yes, I did.
The Denim Skirt Special
Jan's Tented Pillowcase Hammock:
These instructions make double-thickness hammocks which may last a little longer than the shop bought ones. It just depends how determined your little darlings are.
Plain rectangle:1. Find a piece of fleece or other material a little more than the width you want, and about twice the length. Use the fluffy side of the fleece as the outside.
|2. Fold in half with the right (fluffy) sides together.|
|3. If you're adding loops, slot them into the seams with the ends sticking out between edges of the material.|
|4. Machine most of the way around.|
|5. Turn right side out, and sew up the hole.|
Triangle:This makes a hammock that will fit into the corner of a cage.
|1. Cut the material into a square.|
|2. Fold across the diagonal, right sides together.|
|3. Trim one side so the long edge is slightly shorter. This makes it taut across the front when the hammock is hung up.|
|4. If you're adding loops, slot them into the seams.|
|5. Sew around the edges, leaving a gap to turn it through.|
|6. Turn right side out, and sew up the gap.|
|7. Run a line or two of stitching along the longest edge to strengthen it.|
This works best with polyester fleece, as it gives a cosy surface that doesn't fray.
|1. Cut the material a little more than the width you want, and four times the length.|
|2. With the right sides together, machine across the edge opposite the fold to make a long loop.|
|3. Fold the material as shown to form four flat layers.|
|4. If you're adding hanging loops, slot them into the seams now.|
|5. Machine along the two edges, leaving a (fairly large) gap to turn it right side out through.|
|6. Turn right side out (to the middle layer), and sew up the gap.|
|7. Here's the result.|
This works best with polyester fleece, as it gives a cosy surface that doesn't fray.
|1. Cut the material a little more than the width you want, and just over twice the length.|
|2. Fold over and neaten the two short edges.|
|3. Put the cloth on the table, right side up, and fold one short edge to just over half of the way up the cloth.|
|4. Take the other short edge and fold it down so it just overlaps the first edge.|
|5. Machine twice along each of the two raw edges.|
|6. Turn right side out and add fixings to the corners. I just pushed a skewer through the fleece and fixed on some carabiners.|
|7. Here's the result (- just a slight continuity error with the fabric).|
Measure the cage to work out just what area your hammock should cover. This hammock goes right up to the edges.
Add a four inch or ten centimeter border to each edge, that's eight inches or twenty centimeters to each measurement you've taken. This is the size you need to cut your fleece to.
Cut through the border on each corner.
Tie the hammock onto the cage using the cut corners. See, I told you it was lazy.
The method of destruction for this hammock is to chew the knots off the corners. Strangely enough, this makes the hammock collapse. When the hammock is dead, just use it to make a play tent (next idea).
I called this a play tent because it reminds me of the sheet over the washing line tents we used to make when I was little, many, many years ago. It doesn't tend to get chewed too much, firstly because they can already get in and out all around it, secondly probably just because it's not that expensive to make.
To make a tent you either need to have a shelf just a little way under the top of the cage, or to have a full width shelf lower down.
All you have to do is take a piece of fleece fabric and attach it to the cage at two points, pulling the sides out to make a tent shape. My ratties love to stuff it full to bursting with shredded paper bedding.
This is an extension of the play tent idea. You need a large piece of polyester fleece or similar, the width of the finished hammock plus twice the height of the marquee, by the length of the hammock plus twice the height of the marquee.
Mark out the corners of your hammock size, central in the piece of cloth, and add fixing rings.
Hang the cloth above a shelf, so the sides hang down to make the marquee. The rats can sleep on top or inside.
This isn't really a hammock, but it fits in with the general idea. Their plantpot with a hole melted into one side began use as an igloo, but when all six ratties were in it they oozed out of the bottom making it more like a hat on top of the rat heap. Now it hangs upside down from the top of the cage, giving them a ratty swing. It would probably work just as well without the hole.
Later Note: the plantpot above was unstable when the ratties climbed over the edge, so I now have it fixed up with four chains which go off in four directions to clip to the sides of the cage. It's much more stable.
A simpler alternative is to use a pot with one large drainage hole in the base. Just thread a piece of rope through the hole, knot it below the plantpot, use the rope to hang it up, and it's finished! The pot will hang askew, but the ratties won't mind.