I have purchased modular, welded steel panels with 1" x 1" openings in the past, but that company has closed its doors. Since then I have been searching for other low height, kennel type panels to build my predator protection cages for nights. These modular Animal House panels fit my purpose well.
The Lucky Dog "Animal House" series is a modular caging system by Jewett-Cameron that can be used to build expandable outdoor cages for tortoises. These welded steel panels are modular and can be attached together in endless ways to create strong, protective pens or pen covers in all shapes and sizes, from small to large and low to tall.
Animal House wall panels and gate doors are available in 60" x 30" and 30" x 30" sizes. The standard heavy duty panels have 2" x 2" wire openings and the ultra heavy duty panels have 3" x 3/4" openings.
Update 2021: It's incredibly difficult to find kennel panels with small, 1" or less, mesh openings. So it's disappointing that these Animal House pen panels have disappeared from the Jewett Cameron website. Probably discontinued. Too bad, they were my favorites. Luckily, a few online sellers still have these panels in stock.
Night protection cage built with Animal House steel panels. During the day, the cage door is left open to allow tortoises to access to the main pen.
For this small night cage, I used 2 large gate panels (60" x 30") on top for full access and 1 small gate panel (30" x 30") in the front. Each gate panel has 2 latches, one at each end. These are the ultra heavy duty panels with the tighter 3" x 3/4" wire openings.
We all probably have rats around, especially at night, even if we don't see them. When I use Animal House panels with the larger 2" x 2" wire openings, I like to cover them with 1/4" steel cloth for extra protection from rats. Smaller rats can squeeze through very tiny openings.
During the winter, I cover the whole cage with a tarp or a large piece of thick plastic. This keeps the cage area dry during rains. The insulated night house is heated with a reptile radiant heat panel (if needed) controlled by a thermostat. Our winters are mild with little rain, so this setup works well for me. If you live in a colder climate with below freezing temperatures, you'll need better insulation.
Walk-in night protection cage built with Animal House steel panels placed vertically. Again, during the winter, I put a large tarp over the cage to keep the inside dry during winter rains. The tortoise house inside the cage may be heated or unheated depending on the species and weather.
Chain link dog kennel runs can be used as outdoor tortoise enclosures. Vinyl coated mesh is available in several heights and colors. Black or green mesh seems to blend in the surroundings better than galvanized.
On the other hand, if you'd like to build a walk-in tortoise pen with a top, tall kennel or tennis court chain link panels are perfect for that. Large, outdoor walk-in bird aviaries would work as well, but they tend to be quite expensive.
Nowadays, many dog kennels and runs are made with welded wire mesh panels instead of chain link. These modular panels are nice looking, strong, and they are available in several sizes and heights. They can be attached in various ways to create pens in almost any size to fit your available space. The wire mesh is usually black and the mesh openings are quite large varying from 1" to 4” and larger. Steel hardware cloth with 1/2” or 1/4” openings can be attached to the panels to keep rats and mice out of the pen.
To prevent your tortoise from seeing through the wire panel walls and trying to get out through them, cover the bottom of the run about a foot high with wooden boards, plants, or chain link fence slats. You can also plant grasses or vines along the sides as a vision barrier.
In addition to dog kennel panels, you can use chrome wire shelves, closet wire shelves, garage wire shelves, etc. to create predator proof enclosure enclosures and covers. If the openings are large, cover the panels with 1/4” or 1/2” hardware cloth.
I used these 3ft x 3ft modular, welded steel panels with 1" x 1" openings until the manufacturer shut down. For best security I covered them with 1/4” hardware cloth. I cut the wire mesh to size with snip scissors and then tie it to the panels with wire or UV resistant outdoor zipties.
Concrete and steel bunker used as a night fortress. Walls are made with concrete blocks and the roof with the 3ft x 3ft welded wire panels. The door opening is closed at night.
The safest outdoor netting to use is tightly woven steel hardware cloth. The mesh openings should be 1/2" or smaller to keep all sizes of rats out and 1/4" to keep small mice out.
The 1/4" mesh hardware cloth is typically made of 23 gauge steel. It’s fairly easy to work with and cut to size. The 1/2" mesh hardware cloth is thicker and less flexible being made of 19 gauge steel. It’s stronger, but also much more difficult to cut than the thinner 1/4" hardware cloth. It can be a real pain in the bu** if you have to cut complex shapes out of it.
Rats and raccoons are some of the worst and most common predators that attack and kill tortoises and turtles. Usually at night. Raccoons are very clever and good at manipulating objects with their hands. Rats can squeeze in through small openings and chew through many materials.
Leaving dog, cat, and commercial tortoise food outside overnight attracts rodents and other predators. I empty all food and water dishes every evening and then refill them the following morning.