If your kids are like mine, their pets are an important part of the family. In fact, I think of the pets as my furry grandbabies. We like to take care of the pets in the most natural ways possible. So we are always coming up with new ways to make them feel like they are in their natural environment. Because of this, our rescued hamsters recently got houses made of coconut shells in their cages. This activity is best done with older kids who have experience using sharp tools. But kids of all ages can observe.
Why Use a Coconut Shell? Hamsters love crawling under and inside coconut shells. An added benefit is that the hard shell gives them something to sharpen their teeth on. Prior to using coconut shells,our hamsters were using the edible store-bought hideaways. We used the design that was shaped like a hut and even had hay on top. They enjoyed those as well. But you could tell they were excited when the coconut shells wee placed in their cages. Unlike with the edible hideaways, that excitement has not worn off. Store-bought hamster houses and hide-aways may look more appealing to a human's eye. But as we discovered with our hamsters, they prefer the natural coconut shells by a long-shot.
Gathering supplies is simple. All you need is a coconut, a large rock, and a small hand saw. You'll need to crack the coconut open in a paved area. If you cannot find a large rock, a hammer will work just as well. Depending on the age of your kids, the adults may need to handle the tools. This is a fun activity. But safety should always come first. If you have another preferred method of opening coconuts, your tool list may be slightly different. Even if the kids cannot physically help, be sure they are still involved in the entire process. Explain to them each thing you are doing and why.
Cracking open a coconut is easy..if you know what you are doing. There are other ways to open a coconut. But this one is more fun when kids are around to observe. If your kids are old enough and skilled enough, they should help. Place the coconut on the pavement. Now take the rock and throw it hard right into the middle of the coconut. If you are using the hammer, bang it directly in the middle. You may have to rotate the coconut a few times with both methods. The shell will not come out perfectly even. But that's what you want. The ridges are where the hamster can crawl under. Once the coconut is halved, take out all the meat. The kids will likely enjoy eating it with you.
Building the hamster house is a fun parent and child moment. Be sure there is absolutely no more coconut meat left in the shell. We also like to rinse and air dry ours thoroughly. Each hamster will only use half of a shell. If you only have one hamster, you can save the other half for a later date or give your hamster two places to hide. If your hamster is large in size, you can line the two shell halves up to create a bigger hideaway. If the shells have broken in a convenient way, you may not need to do anything. But otherwise, use a small handsaw to cut an opening in the side for the hamster to crawl under. Rinse and dry the shell again to clear any leftover cutting debris. Then, place in the hamster's cage and watch the excitement.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network