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How to Build Snake Cages & Racks

Updated February 21, 2017

If you are a novice snake breeder, chances are you have stacks and stacks of plastic "shoebox" containers--each housing a single snake or a breeding pair. Working through these stacks as you clean cages, feed snakes, check for eggs or perform daily checks consumes a lot of time. By building a snake-cage rack system, you can decrease greatly your time investment by taking the lids out of the equation, as the shoeboxes will slide in and out of the rack like drawers in a dresser.

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  1. Plan and sketch your rack system before you begin to build. Decide the amount and size plastic shoebox containers your rack will hold. This step is extremely important because the size of the containers will depend on the specific snakes to be housed in them and availability of containers in local stores. It is often difficult to find more than a few of the same size.

  2. Determine the height of your rack side supports. Measure the height of one container without the lid, and multiply by the number of containers to find the total container height. Add the total container height, 3/8" for each container to allow for the thickness of the shelving and spacer and 5 inches to allow for the shelf base. This total measurement (i.e., container height x number of containers + 3/8" shelving thickness x number of containers + 5" shelf base) is the total height of your rack side supports.

  3. Determine the depth of your rack. Measure the length (or width, if you plan to orient them sideways) of your containers, and add 1/2" to the measurement for your total depth.

  4. Determine the width of your shelves. Measure the width of your container and add 3 inches for your total shelf width.

  5. Cut 1" x 4" boards to create the vertical components of your rack side frame. Cut four boards to the total rack height.

  6. Cut 1" x 4" boards to create the horizontal components of your rack side frame. Cut four boards to the total rack depth. Drill two holes, nearly as large as your screws, in each end of the horizontal frame boards.

  7. Place the vertical boards parallel to each other, then place the horizontal boards on top at each end, forming a square. Screw the horizontal boards onto the vertical boards. Use the carpenter's square to be sure the boards are squarely positioned.

  8. Cut 1" x 2" boards to the total rack depth. Cut two support boards for each shelf. Drill two holes--one at each end--through the broad side of each board.

  9. Create shelf boards out of the melamine board. Cut the boards to the measurements of the total rack depth by the shelf width. Drill three holes 1/2" from the edge of the board on each side (i.e., depth), so that the holes are evenly spaced.

  10. Screw the melamine shelf boards to the narrow edge of the cut 1" x 2" boards. Attach one board to each side of the shelf board. The melamine-coated (i.e., white) side of the shelf should face the support boards.

  11. Provide additional support for the lower shelf by adding two additional 1" x 2" support boards perpendicular to the first set. Be sure to drill through the melamine board before attaching the supports.

  12. Cut two 4-inch long strips from 1" x 2" boards. Attach one to the center back of the top side of the upper and lower shelves, making sure to pre-drill the melamine boards. These will provide attachment for the backstop later.

  13. Attach the lower shelf to the rack frame on each side so that the shelf supports rest on top of the horizontal supports of the frame on each side.

  14. Place a plastic bin onto the shelf, add the spacer board on top and place the next shelf on top. This will give you the correct shelf spacing. Screw the shelf to the rack frame.

  15. Remove the plastic bin and spacer board, and repeat the step above until all shelves have been attached. The upper shelf may sit slightly higher than the top of the frame.

  16. Attach a 1" x 4" board to the back of the frame. Connect it to the 1" x 2" strips on the center back of the upper and lower shelves. This will prevent the plastic bins from sliding out of the back of the shelf.

  17. Tip

    Drill air holes in the sides of the plastic bins near the top to ensure adequate ventilation. If you don't have time to build a rack system, purchase a utility shelving system with adjustable shelves. Install the shelves so that there is room to stack three or four plastic shoebox containers with lids. This will make your collection more accessible and save you time on cleaning and feeding duties.


    Do not attempt to house hatchling snakes in your first homemade rack system, as they need only a very small gap to escape. Individual containers with lids may be a better option.

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Things You'll Need

  • 1" x 4" sanded pine boards
  • 1" x 2" sanded pine boards
  • 1/4" thick melamine-coated tile board or marker board
  • Drill and drill bits
  • 1 1/4" wood screws or drywall screws
  • Plastic shoeboxes
  • Masking tape
  • Measuring tape
  • 1/8" thick spacer board (e.g., wood panelling or thin cardboard)
  • Carpenter's square

About the Author

Emmalise Mac has been writing professionally since 2006 and her work has been published online, in newsletters, newspapers and scientific journals and in wildlife guidebooks. She has published on topics including wildlife, pets and pet health, science, gardening, outdoor activities and crafts. She holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in biology.

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