Sunday, March 16, 2014

Build Your Own Sugar Glider Exercise Wheel

Finally! A tutorial about how to build your own sugar glider exercise wheel. I hunted online endlessly but never could find a complete step by step so I resolved to making one myself using various bits of info from here and there.

So lets get started!

Step 1: List of supplies
  • Drill with 5/16" bit (or one that matches whatever size bolt you choose to go with depending on the diameter of your bearing.
  • Hammer
  • File
  • Wire cutters (to cut zip ties)
  • Dremel with small bit (or you can use your drill with a small bit)
  • Hardware mesh
  • (2) 5-gallon bucket lids
  • 4 inch zip ties
  • Scissors (to cut hardware mesh)
  • (1) Stainless steel, 5/16" x 3" bolt
  • (1) Stainless steel, 5/16" lock nut
  • (2) Bearings (skate board wheels or roller blade wheel replacement bearings work great)
  • (1) Ceiling box cover plate
  • (1) 1/2" PVC Tee
  • (1) 1/2" PVC Plug
  • (2) Nylon washers
  • Plastic connector T (Don't know exact name of this. Comes in an 8 or 10 foot strip and is very thin).
  • Tin snips or other cutting tool (not pictured)
  • Lighter (not pictured)

Step 2:
Cut a hole out of the center of one bucket lid. I used a 10-inch cake pan for a guide. You can make this as big or small as you want. I suppose you could even cut multiple small holes, like a Wodent Wheel. Different lids have thicker or thinner plastic so you'll have to decide what will cut through yours best. I used a pair of tin snips. Afterward, I filed the edges with a metal file to smooth and sharp points, then ran a lighter around the edge to smooth it.

Step 3:
Drill a hole in the center of the other lid using a 5/16" bit (or whatever size bolt you want to use).  Sorry, my picture is upside down but I don't suppose it matters.

Step 4:
Drill a hole in the middle of your ceiling box cover plate.

Step 5:
Since the bearing will be slightly too big to push into the PVC Tee, carefully file around the inside opening of the Tee to allow the bearing to fit. I tried just hammering it into the Tee, but it kept flying off when I'd hit it. Filing it was the only way I could get the bearing to go in. One guy suggested heating the PVC at 200 degrees for 5-10 minutes. I tried this, but still could not get it to go in. 

Step 6:
Carefully hammer the bearing into the Tee until it is flush with the rim. Next, you'll need a cylinder type object to hold against the bearing while you hammer it own into the Tee until it reaches the little ridge inside. I used a long socket. You want whatever you use to cover most of the bearing so it slides down level and not cockeyed. Using a screwdriver or slender item will not work. Your bearing will go in crooked and I doubt you'll get it back out. Tap it slowly and evenly to move it.

This is what it should look like. I know it's hard to see, but the bearing is down inside the Tee. Repeat this process for the other side and bearing.

Step 7:
You will need several items for this step. I have laid they out in the order they will be assembled in starting from the bolt.
Bolt, nylon washer, lid, nylon washer, cover plate (with hole, I forgot to show this step with the one I cut already), Tee, lock nut, and finally the cap.

Be sure to start your assembly on the inside of the wheel and work your way backward. That is why I laid them out from right to left. the inside of the wheel will have the groove. This is where we will seat the mesh to make the running track.

This is what it should look like from the inside.

This is what it should look like from the back before you place the plug. Do not tighten the lock nut down or your suggies will not be able to turn the wheel. Just tighten it until you feel a slight hesitance when you turn the wheel. It should rotate smoothly. If you want your babies to get a little more exercise, you can make it a little snug so they'll have to push harder, but don't get carried away or the wheel will be useless.
You can always pop out the plug and tighten or loosen as needed.

Completed assembly from the back, plug in place. Now, because you filed some of the edge away on the Tee, the plug may not fit snug. If it wants to slip out, just wrap a little tape around it and that should help. You won't need much. Maybe 1 circle around the end of the plug.
With me so far? Its really very simple once you start assembling it.

Step 8:
Hope you don't mind drilling a gazillion little holes....Okay, maybe not a gazillion, but it feels like it. To hold the running track (hardware mesh) in place, we'll have to zip tie it. This lid has nice little marker tabs around the edges so I just drilled a hole in the middle of the outer rim at each one of these little tabs. You'll do this for both lids.

Step 9:
Cut your hardware mesh. This will be a pretty long strip. Since your lid size may be a little different due to varying lids you can buy, I can't really give an exact length. You'll need to wrap it around the lid to get a good estimate. Cut a little extra just to be sure. My first one was 1 square too short. 1 friggin' square!
Width wise, I used 11 squares. This will also depend on how wide you want your running track. I have a Stealth wheel so I just used about the same width as that was.

Step 10:
Cut your plastic T strip the same size as the width of your mesh. I couldn't find this strip any shorter so you'll have a crap load left.

Step 11:
Place your mesh inside the lip of the back part of the wheel. I found it easier to zip tie this side first, then do the front. Also, I put my seam at a hole. The plastic T will sit here and join the seams.

Step 12:
Begin zip tying. I wanted the end to fit inside the ridge so I pushed my zip tie to the inside before tightening it down.

This is what it should look like once you've tightened it.

Use your wire cutters to snip the end. I found wire cutters work a lot better to do this than scissors.

You can see that the end has a little sharp part. I didn't want my suggies getting cut on this so I pressed it into the groove with my fingertip.

It might be hard to tell, but now it is down into the groove and poses less of a cutting threat.

This is what it should look like from the outside. Now go around and finish putting zip ties in the rest of the holes. Do not put one in the hole under the seam. You can see that hole in this picture.

Step 13:
Once you get to the hole below your seam, slide your plastic T strip into place. I put the larger side on the inside, and the smaller one on the outside. I don't know if it really matters which way you do it. I just figured it'd be less likely to get pulled out by them if the larger side was inside.

Step 14:
Place the front of the wheel onto the mesh, making sure the mesh slides into the groove on the inside. Be sure to try and line your holes up between the front and back. It probably doesn't matter if they are off, but looks neater if you do.

Step 15:
Begin zip tying. Because you have a lot less room to maneuver in now, I found it easier to pull the tie almost tight, then slip it to the inside for the final tightening.
Continue around the wheel, being sure to snip and press your ends into the groove on the inside.

This is what it should look like when you are done zip tying.

Front view.
That's the hard part! Now you can make whatever kind of stand you want. I made a basic floor model which I show next.

Stand parts list:
(4) 1/2" PVC corners (90 degrees)
(1) 1/2" PVC Tee
(1) 1/2" PVC pipe cut to 10 inches
(4) 1/2" PVC pipes cut to 5.5 inches
(1) 1/2" PVC pipe cut to 12 inches

Place the 10" piece in the Tee opening on the back of the wheel. This is the one facing downward.
Next, push the PVC Tee into the bottom of this piece to make room for the arms.
Place one 5.5 inch piece of PVC into each of the opening.
Push a PVC corner piece on the ends.
Place one 5.5 inch piece of PVC into the corner openings.

Place a PVC corner piece on the ends.
Lastly, push the 12 inch PVC into the corner ends.

Ta da! All finished. Sorry I didn't have pics of the stand build. I'll add those next time I build one. Be sure to check back soon, I'll be posting on how to add sandpaper to the outside to help keep them nails trimmed.
One issue I noticed with the stand is the wheel has a tendency to tip forward. You can fix this easily by putting a bit of pvc glue on the joints to keep the frame upright. You might even tip it back slightly before glueing, so when your gliders are in it running, it's not dipping forward at all. I have a cage built out of pvc and hardware mesh and I found hanging the wheel from the top rather than sitting it on the bottom works best.
Good luck with your build. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for improvement.
Oh, and if anyone knows the official name of those flat, plastic T piece, for goodness sake, help a gal out and tell me what it is.
Note: Please use stainless steel only for your metal pieces. Any other metal is dangerous to suggies.


What I feed my gliders

When it comes to raising sugar gliders, one of the most important things to educate yourself about is diet. The number one reason sugar gliders get ill and develop diseases--often times fatal ones--is because of poor diet. Because they are exotic creatures with very delicate organs and specific needs, I can tell you that you'll not find a good solid diet in anything intended for cats, birds, hamsters, rabbits, or any other animal. The only exception to this is the HPW diet, which uses Wombaroo Powder and Bee Pollen in it's mix.

Cat food, canned or bagged, it not sugar glider food. Baby food by itself, is not sugar glider food. Even bagged pellets with a picture of a sugar glider on it, is not good sugar glider food. Why are these so popular? Well there's at least 2 reasons. One, they're easy. Open a bag or can, pour in a dish, and you're all done. Hey, more time to do something else, right? Two, because glider mills who want to push their sales convince people that glider care is easy, including their dietary needs.

I won't mention names, but these are the groups that come to the mall, or have booths at the yearly home and garden shows. They whip out these adorable little creatures and wow the crowd with a spiel about how easy and wonderful sugar gliders are. LIES! I tell you. All lies.

Not the wonderful part, but the easy part sure is. Sugar gliders are wonderful, but they are not easy. In fact, I try to disuade people from rushing over to hand the sales man $500 for an itty bitty cage, a mill-bred glider that's probably too young to be away from it's parents and has hidden health issues, and a bag of pellet food meant to last you a couple of months. These are the poor babies that end up being given away multiple times because the owner can't handle them, or surrendered at a shelter and left to live their life (up to 15 years!) without the love and bonding they need to thrive. Before purchasing any pet, you should do your homework. For sugar gliders, it should be mandatory. I could get into a whole other discussion on glider emotional needs but we'll save that for another blog.

There are several proven staple diets for sugar gliders: BML, Leadbeaters, HPW (original and instant), etc. Each has it's own good and bad points. I personally don't want to have to order stuff online if I don't have to. I tend to procrastinate and it's certainly easier to run to the store to get last minute food necessities as opposed to having to order something when you need it RIGHT NOW! I'm usually not very prepared ahead of time in that sense. However, a good diet is only good if your glider eats it. If they don't, then you'll have to find something they will, even if it means getting better prepared and ordering ahead of time. 

For me, I like Judie's Modfied Leadbeaters, which can be found on her website My Little Gremlins. Why? Because it's easy to make, inexpensive, and provides excellent nutrition for your gliders. It also has a high calcium content so trying to find the right mix of fruits and veggies every night that provides the recommended 2:1 ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus isn't as difficult.

What's a Calcium to Phosphorus ratio and why is it important for sugar gliders? Sugar gliders can develop conditions like Hind Leg Paralysis and Head Tilt if they don't get enough calcium in their diet. Both of these conditions are fatal if not caught and treated early. Prevention is the key. While some people think that by sprinkling a little vitamin and/or calcium powder on their gliders' food will prevent this, they're are overlooking the obvious issues with this technique. Without an exact measurement of what you are giving them, you may be over or under dosing them. Unless they clean their plate of every morsel, they may simply be eating around the food with the powder because they don't like the taste, resulting in under dosing. When it comes down to it, this is just not safe or good practice in regards to making sure your babies are getting the nutrients they need.

Each fruit and vegetable has a specific Ca:P ratio. By combining certain ones together with your staple, you can make sure you're gliders are getting what they need, while staying close to the recommended 2:1 ratio. Bet the people who told you to throw an 1/8th of an apple in their cage every night didn't tell you about this did they! *snort* Yes, I'm being snarky.

There are a several charts and spreadsheets available that list the Ca:P ratio for fruits and veggies. I would suggest find some and begin looking them over. One word of caution, some veggies tote a really high Ca:P ratio, meaning they look like they provide a ton of calcium. These are usually greens, like kale and spinach. While they are healthy and do provide a lot of good nutrients, they also have a high oxalate content, meaning almost all of the calcium they contain is bound by the oxalate and not absorbed, making the Ca:P ratio pretty useless in regards to figuring them in your 2:1. While they won't provide the calcium you might be looking for, they do provide some good vitamins and such and should not be overlooked or eliminated all together. Feed them occasionally for the other good stuff they provide. I'll do a more thorough blog on Ca:P ratios and Oxalate content in foods at a later date.  

A wonderful lady named Candy has made a great website called Glider Kids, which is all about glider care which includes instructions on how to calculate the Ca:P ratio in your diet. She's even got a nifty Ca:P calculator.

You can find some great information on diets and other glider topics at Gliderpedia.

So here it is, the diet I use:

Judie’s Modified Leadbeaters
• ½ Cup Honey
• 1 Egg (scrambled or hardboiled, shell removed)
• ¼ cup Apple juice, or juice blend (apple-grape, etc.)

Blend well, then proceed to the next ingredients:

• 4 oz bottle of PREMIXED Gerber Juice with Yogurt (mixed fruit)
*This comes in a 4 pack. If you cannot find this, you can substitute 2oz of plain yogurt and 2 oz of mixed juice.
• ½ tsp of Rep-Cal HERPTIVITE Vitamin Supplement
*White container with blue label. DO NOT SUBSTITUTE

Blend until smooth, then proceed to next ingredients:

• 2 tsp. Rep-Cal Calcium Supplement, non-phosphorus with Vitamin D3
*White container with pink label.
• (2) 2 ½ jars of Chicken baby food (chicken with chicken gravy or chicken with chicken broth is fine)
• ½ cup dry baby cereal (mixed or oatmeal)

Now blend for 5 minutes until ULTRA smooth, then pour into ice cube trays and FREEZE. As soon as cubes are solid, transfer to bowl with lid to keep them from getting freezer burned.

  • I’ve only been able to find the baby Gerber Yogurt Juice at Meijers. It’s in the baby food section.
  • Don't forget to refrigerate your wheat germ after opening, it spoils if left on the counter.
  • Each glider should ultimately eat a cube each, but mine still share one. In addition to this staple food, you must give them 1 tbs of fruit and 1 tbs vegetables, each, every night so if you have 2 gliders, that’s 2 tbs of fruit and 2 tbs veggies, total.
  • Get a bag of the mixed veggies (corn, greenbeans, peas, carrots) and keep frozen. I buy mine at Sam's club. It's a huge bag with 6 smaller bags inside.
  • The main fruit selections with this diet are: apples, grapes, blueberries, red cherries, and melon (honeydew, cantaloupe, water melon).
Please note: There's been some controversy about if you can feed other fruits and veggies on this diet. Many people will tell you no, you can only pick from the fruit and veggies listed, which is pretty limited. I went to the source and asked the diet's creator herself, Judie. She told me "Yes" you can feed other fruits and veggies. I would advise looking at the amount of Ca:P in the recommended fruits and veggies with this diet, and selecting others that are similar if you want to give your babies a variety.

  • You can keep most of your fruits and veggies frozen so they don’t spoil. I cut them up and put them in small Ziploc baggies, then I put it all in one big Ziploc to keep it organized.
  • Cut things up into small, glider-hand-sized pieces. They are more likely to eat them rather than if you leave things in big chunks.

This just scratches the surface of sugar glider dietary needs. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you do your own research. Owning a glider is big responsibility, part of which is providing proper nutrition. We've opted to remove them from their natural environment and make them pets so it's our duty to ensure they can live happy and healthy under our care.

Liam and willow LOVE scrambled eggs but only get them every once in a while. Today was a special treat.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Make Your Own Zippered Bonding Pouch

Here are the supplies you will need:
20 x 8 inch piece of fleece
6 x 4 inch plastic screen mesh
Rotary cutter and mat (or scissors)
Straight pins
Bias tape
6-inch zipper
24 inch Cord/rope (or longer if you want it to hang lower)

Step 1:
Cut the bias tape to go around outside of mesh. To make it easier, I cut each side individually and then sewed each in place. You can also run it around the outer edge in one piece but you will have to fold the corners as you sew. To do each side individually, you will need to cut two 7-inch pieces of bias tape, and two 5-inch pieces. When you lay bias tape out, you will notice that the outer edges are already folded inward.

To keep the ends from fraying you'll want to fold the ends in 1/2 inch on each end. That is why you cut the bias tape 1-inch longer than the length of your side (6 and 4 inch sides).

Step 2:
Lay the mesh edge on the center of the bias tape. Since it is already folded inward on the long outer edges, if you place the mesh in the middle, you can then fold the front edge up, sandwiching the mesh in between. Pin in place.

Step 3:
After you've pinned the bias tape to all outer edges of the mesh, sew in place. Hint: it helps to make sure all of your pins are going in the same direction so as you sew you can easily remove them. Be sure to clip all thread ends.

Step 4:
Now place the mesh on the top edge of the inside or wrong side of the material. Some fabrics look pretty much the same on both sides so this may not matter too much. If you have a strong pattern with a definite direction, meaning the pattern has to go a certain way or it's upside down, be sure to lay your window accordingly. Think about where the window should be when it is completed. Your pattern should be facing up and your mesh should go on that top edge. Clear as mud? Let me see if can explain that better. Say your fabric has a flower pattern and all the flowers go in one direction so there is a right side up and an upside down (I'm only referring to the pattern here, not the inside of the material or wrong side). You would want your flowers to be facing up like they will be on your finished product, and your mesh to be at the top of your bag, not the bottom, so you would lay your fabric with the flowers up and the mesh at to top edge.

Pin the mesh in place and sew. I sewed just inside the previous seam where I had added the bias tape to the mesh. Try to keep this stitching even and straight as it will show on the outside once you flip it over.

This is what it should look like when you flip your material over. This will be the front of your bag. Clip all loose thread ends.
Step 5:
Here comes the tricky part. It's not hard once you figure out how to do it, it's just difficult to explain in a way that makes sense. Fold your material in half, right sides together. This is where having a cutting mat with the inches laid out down the side comes in handy. As you can see, with my bag folded in half, the bottom edge is now at the number 10, and the top is at the 20 mark.
Fold your top layer downward until the fold reaches the number 11. Essentially, this creates a 1 inch fold above the original bottom edge (which is at number 10).
Now fold your top layer back up until the bottom edge reaches the number 10 again. Once again, this creates a 1-inch overlap. If you look closely at the top edges, you'll see they are no longer even. Now the front top edge is approximately 2 inches below the back top edge.
If you carefully lift the bottom edge, you'll see that you've made a small accordion like shape. This is what's going to create the pocket in the bottom of your pouch and give your babies a little more wiggle room.
Here's a side view so you can see the accordion shape a little better.
Pin your folds on each side so they don't come apart when we add the zipper, which comes next.

Step 6:
Carefully turn your fabric so the right sides of your pouch are facing outward. Try not to dislodge the pins holding the pleats you made in the previous step (which should now be on the inside). As you can see, the front top edge is still 2 inches below the bottom top edge. The pins should have helped you maintain this shape.

Next, place your zipper underneath the top front edge and pin in place.
Fold down the back edge to pin it to the other side of your zipper.

Now sew in place. Since you no longer have a nice flat piece to sew, you'll have to be careful not to catch sections of your bag in your line of sewing. I found it easier to sew if I unzipped the zipper, but I would wait until it is pinned on both edges before unzipping it. Just go slow and move the excess out of the way as you go. Clip all loose thread ends.

Step 7:
Carefully turn your piece of material so the right sides are together, and the wrong side of the fabric  is outside. Basically, you are turning it inside out again. Be careful not to displace the pins holding your pleats at the bottom.
Step 8:
Place your cord/rope inside your material so it is sandwiched in between the right sides of your fabric. Pull one end of the cord so that is even with the top outer corner and pin in place. Repeat for the other side. As you sew your sides, you will catch the cord, securing it in place. Pin along both outer edges to keep the fabric from moving.Hint: If you use parachute cord, be sure to use a lighter to burn the ends to keep them from unraveling.
Step 9:
Sew approximately 1/2 inch inside the outer edge. As you near the zipper, be sure to squeeze the edges together to keep them from spreading as you sew. This will prevent a large opening at the ends of the zipper. I don't know if it would be large enough to allow an escapee to make a getaway, but eliminating that possibility is easy enough to accomplish with some careful sewing. Clip all loose thread ends.
Step 10:
Now turn your pouch right side out. Almost finished! Looks like a pouch now and not a mess of fabric, mesh, and zippers.
Step 11:
Sorry this picture is so blurred. My camera is kind of hit or miss on good shots. I will try to replace this with a better picture when I make another pouch. Ok, so now you want to cut away the material over the mesh. Pinch the fleece and pull it upward so you can snip an opening. Just be careful not to cut through your mesh. Cut along the seam, being careful not to cut through it. I stayed about 1/8 inch away from the stitching. You can make this a little bigger (1/4 inch) if you're afraid of getting too close.
Step 12:
Tada! You've just made a zipper pouch. That wasn't so bad now was it.
Really fuzzy picture again, sorry. Be sure to check the hole size around your zipper.
If it's bigger than you're comfortable with or you have a little Houdini who can wiggle him/herself through impossibly small spaces, you can fix this by turning your bag inside out again and sewing a little closer to the zipper down both edges (maybe 3/4 inch instead of 1/2 inch).
All that fancy accordion folding should have left a nice little pocket in the bottom of your pouch, ensuring your babies can get comfy before going to sleep.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure you've cut all loose thread ends. Check and double check. Any loose thread poses an amputation hazard for your glider's toes, fingers, and tails. It can also be a choking hazard if long enough.

If you have any questions/suggestion, please feel free to contact me at author_shannon_leigh @ (no spaces). Have something you want to make but don't have a clue where to begin, send me a picture and I'll see if I can make a tutorial for it.

Happy sewing!