DIY accessibility ramp for elderly dragon

Rocky2022

Sub-Adult Member
Beardie name(s)
Rocky, Ruby
I’m back to this thread again with some more DIY for Spike to make his enclosure more accessible to his mobility and sight needs as he’s aging.
This time I’ve modified the bird ladder bridge between his basking platforms by turning it into a solid bridge.
I planned the design so that I wouldn’t have to do anything to the ladder itself and would be able to revert the bridge back to a ladder if I ever need to and I was able to make it with things I had lying around.

Materials used:
MDF board
Reptile terrarium carpet
Same selleys glue used for the ramp
String (I used waxed string for strength)

Tools:
Drill and size 4 bit
Jigsaw with wood blade
Set square, measuring tape and pencil
A screw
Hammer
Vice grips and work horse table
Box cutter

Process:
Measured the ladder’s length and width and added some to the width while removing some from the length so I ended up with measurements of 29cm by 10cm.
Marked that out on the MDF with the pencil, measure tape and set square.
Cut that out with the jigsaw.
Lined up a corner with the edge of the terrarium mat scrap and pinned that down with the vice clamps then used a box cutter to cut the mat to size.
Positioned the ladder as required and marked out 4 drill holes, 2 at the top and 2 at the bottom then drilled those.
Glued the mat on.
Used the screw and a hammer to puncture through the glued on mat from the reverse side using the drilled holes as a guide.
Placed the ladder back in position on the underside of the board and threaded the string through the holes. Tied the string around the board and ladder to secure the pieces together.
All done.
I’m just leaving it out overnight to air out with the glue before putting it in the enclosure but I placed it back for a few seconds to get a photo of it in and make sure it still fits with the added thickness from the MDF.
I’ve also included a photo of the ladder in my younger dragon’s enclosure to show how the ladder in Spike’s originally was positioned before modification. View attachment 89284 View attachment 89285 View attachment 89286 View attachment 89287 HOW SMART/Creative. I am going to do this! I am wasting my time I'm sure but I will try it anyways LOL
 

Spider8ait1994

Hatchling Member
Original Poster
Always worth giving it a go even if your dragon doesn’t use it for its intended purpose. Spike mostly uses his ramp for its intended purpose but sometimes if he’s very sleepy he won’t make it all the way up before falling asleep so he ends up asleep on an incline and I just lift him up to his bed.
As for his modified bridge he uses it both as a bridge but also as an extension to his basking platforms as he likes to dangle his legs over the edge.
The benefit of doing a DIY mod is you can custom fit things to what you need since stuff you can buy is set to specific sizes which won’t suit all enclosure setups. (And let be real if you have the materials already lying around its so much cheaper and often ends up better quality than anything you could buy pre-made.)
Just remember that when working with wood make sure it’s not a particularly aromatic wood like pine or cedar etc and if using glue or paint and such leave it out of the enclosure for a minimum of 12 hours to ventilate, do a sniff test after the 12 hours and if it still smells let it ventilate longer.
Something else I usually do is use a bit of sandpaper to just round off any corners and sharp edges as a safety precaution (particularly for Spike since his short range vision is gone).
If your dragon has vision issues like Spike I leave his enclosure set up exactly as is so I have a photo I’ve taken and use that as reference if I’ve had to take his stuff out to clean so I can then put things back exactly where they were so it’s still the same layout and he knows where everything is rather than bumping around trying to learn a new layout.
 

ChileanTaco

Juvie Member
Beardie name(s)
Taco
If your dragon has vision issues like Spike I leave his enclosure set up exactly as is so I have a photo I’ve taken and use that as reference if I’ve had to take his stuff out to clean so I can then put things back exactly where they were so it’s still the same layout and he knows where everything is rather than bumping around trying to learn a new layout.
This is always a very good idea! I even do so with my dragon (who is young and healthy) as he hates things changing.
 

xp29

BD.org Addict
Photo Comp Winner
Beardie name(s)
Zen , Ruby ,Snicker Doodles, Sweet Pea, Sinatra
Always worth giving it a go even if your dragon doesn’t use it for its intended purpose. Spike mostly uses his ramp for its intended purpose but sometimes if he’s very sleepy he won’t make it all the way up before falling asleep so he ends up asleep on an incline and I just lift him up to his bed.
As for his modified bridge he uses it both as a bridge but also as an extension to his basking platforms as he likes to dangle his legs over the edge.
The benefit of doing a DIY mod is you can custom fit things to what you need since stuff you can buy is set to specific sizes which won’t suit all enclosure setups. (And let be real if you have the materials already lying around its so much cheaper and often ends up better quality than anything you could buy pre-made.)
Just remember that when working with wood make sure it’s not a particularly aromatic wood like pine or cedar etc and if using glue or paint and such leave it out of the enclosure for a minimum of 12 hours to ventilate, do a sniff test after the 12 hours and if it still smells let it ventilate longer.
Something else I usually do is use a bit of sandpaper to just round off any corners and sharp edges as a safety precaution (particularly for Spike since his short range vision is gone).
If your dragon has vision issues like Spike I leave his enclosure set up exactly as is so I have a photo I’ve taken and use that as reference if I’ve had to take his stuff out to clean so I can then put things back exactly where they were so it’s still the same layout and he knows where everything is rather than bumping around trying to learn a new layout.
Your spot on about the glues, stains, ect. The wood also but just a F.Y.I. any type of Evergreen is toxic and should be sealed. Cedar is the worst and should not be used. (I try to point this out every time someone talks about wood or projects ect. Most folks are unaware they pose a risk)
 

xp29

BD.org Addict
Photo Comp Winner
Beardie name(s)
Zen , Ruby ,Snicker Doodles, Sweet Pea, Sinatra
I love how you care for your beardie
His two guys may be the most well taken care beardies that ever lived. You should read Spikes whole story, it's heart wrenching, but with a great outcome.
 

Spider8ait1994

Hatchling Member
Original Poster
Your spot on about the glues, stains, ect. The wood also but just a F.Y.I. any type of Evergreen is toxic and should be sealed. Cedar is the worst and should not be used. (I try to point this out every time someone talks about wood or projects ect. Most folks are unaware they pose a risk)
Definitely. Theyre a lot smaller and more sensitive than we are and with their enclosures being an enclosed space anything aromatic is going to cause issues, maybe not immediately but definitely in the long term.
It’s why when I do anything like this I research the materials in the context of how safe or unsafe they are for reptiles before I do anything with them.
For his ramp I used Merbau which is essentially a type of Ironwood here in Australia and specifically the piece I used was an offcut I had left over from building a back deck out of it.
As for the bridge I used some Marine Ply because I figured it’s lightweight, easy to work with, pretty durable and of course no aromatics.
Where possible I also try to use materials they’d encounter out in the wild as I’m a big fan of replicating their natural habitat as close as is possible and reasonable in a home environment as i feel it gives the animal a degree of comfort and to have a space that’s natural to their species so for spike he has a ‘tree trunk’ that I created with just a section of natural ironbark which I sterilised and likewise when he outgrew the commercially available hide sizes here I used another section of ironbark to build him a natural ‘half log’ hollow hide and this doubles as a step to help him reach his lower basking platform.
 

xp29

BD.org Addict
Photo Comp Winner
Beardie name(s)
Zen , Ruby ,Snicker Doodles, Sweet Pea, Sinatra
Definitely. Theyre a lot smaller and more sensitive than we are and with their enclosures being an enclosed space anything aromatic is going to cause issues, maybe not immediately but definitely in the long term.
It’s why when I do anything like this I research the materials in the context of how safe or unsafe they are for reptiles before I do anything with them.
For his ramp I used Merbau which is essentially a type of Ironwood here in Australia and specifically the piece I used was an offcut I had left over from building a back deck out of it.
As for the bridge I used some Marine Ply because I figured it’s lightweight, easy to work with, pretty durable and of course no aromatics.
Where possible I also try to use materials they’d encounter out in the wild as I’m a big fan of replicating their natural habitat as close as is possible and reasonable in a home environment as i feel it gives the animal a degree of comfort and to have a space that’s natural to their species so for spike he has a ‘tree trunk’ that I created with just a section of natural ironbark which I sterilised and likewise when he outgrew the commercially available hide sizes here I used another section of ironbark to build him a natural ‘half log’ hollow hide and this doubles as a step to help him reach his lower basking platform.
Setups like that are much more rewarding for us and them. They look really good to. Habitats need to be big, but they don't have to be an eye sore. A well done habitat can add a really nice look to a room, and like you mentioned it's much more comfortable for they to.
 

ChileanTaco

Juvie Member
Beardie name(s)
Taco
A well done habitat can add a really nice look to a room, and like you mentioned it's much more comfortable for they to.
I can agree very much on that with also having a large habitat for my dragon.
I remember when it was delivered - the still empty habitat sitting there on a big table, to be honest, it made the room looking worse than before. It was really "the eye sore", like something was dropped off that doesn't belong here. (My husband was kind of shocked! I was convinced that it will look much better when finished as I looked up a lot of things before, but with looking at that, to some extent I was hoping that please it will turn out nice.) Before, we or I had other pets in terrariums, but those were much smaller pets in significantly smaller terrariums (like: 90 cm length, 40 cm height and depth) and the difference was... huge. :D
But completely outfitted with a naturalistic setup - hey, this in fact looks nice (to both my and his opinion). Like a cut-out from outdoors, and even when Taco isn't visible (he's still brumating - but yesterday he came out a bit, was basking on a medium height, walked a bit, went back in his cave) it looks great and IMHO gives more the impression of e.g. a "vitrine with stones and plants". (There are some stones in, which are functional for my dragon - easier access to a live plant, prevents live plant from being dug out, other stones that help him rub his pores -, which I took from places where it's allowed while hiking. Something pretty for us to look at, something functional* for the dragon.)

*I don't know if he has a sense of beauty, would rather doubt that, but I'm pretty sure he has a sense of "a place where one can feel home" like I guess every animal has it otherwise they wouldn't be found in their typical habitats in nature.
I have the impression that my dragon likes being in his enclosure as when I take him out, despite he looks obviously relaxed and happy, he soon wants to go back inside. He even doesn't want to come out as often as he could.
 

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