The Shape of Enrichment

A source of ideas for animal enrichment

Fire Hose Hearts

By Luke Siberry, UK

Cover photoWhether intentional or not, many enrichment items have more than one benefit. They benefit the animals that they are designed for, promoting naturalistic behaviours, reducing stereotypies and increasing wellbeing. Furthermore, they enrich the experience of visitors, allowing for the general public to see these naturalistic behaviours and watch animals interact with their environments in a positive way.

This is the purpose of this piece of enrichment. It allows the public to share a celebration, in this case Valentine’s day, with their most beloved animals. This heart also represents a novel shape to be chewed, swung from or simply sat on by the animals. This experience can always be heightened with the addition of scent or food items. It is particularly easy to push leaf matter between the woven firehose. The fire hose heart will also last a long time, so even if they are only used one day a year, you only have to make these once and then store them until the next Valentine’s day!

Figure 1Equipment and Materials

You will need:

  • Good heavy duty scissors or a serrated knife
  • Power drill
  • 10mm drill bit
  • Socket wrench with 10mm socket
  • 10mm spanner
  • 7 pairs of M6 25mm nuts and bolts
  • 14 Penny washers
  • Tape measure
  • Marker pen
  • Notebook and pen
  • Fire hose

Step 1: Measuring and Cutting

Figure 2To create the heart shape you will need 7 lengths of firehose. You will need to pre-cut these according to the size of the heart you want to make. So it is important that you take the time to estimate how much hose you will need for each length. The most important measurement used to estimate these lengths is the width of your fire hose (Fig. 2). This measurement is important as each length of firehose has to pass over the others across their lengths. It is important that you follow these formula when cutting your lengths:

  • 2 short lengths = (6 x the width) + 15cm
  • 4 medium lengths = (8 x the width) + 15cm
  • 1 long length = (12 x the width) + 15cm

Figure 3The extra 15cm that I have added to every length allows for the weave of the firehose and 2.5cm at each end which will be where the firehose overlaps when bolted. You may find that you have thicker firehose than I am using. In this case add a little extra length to your calculation. It is better that the shape is too loose rather than too tight, as you can always trim off any extra. This is also why I suggest you use a notebook, record your measurements and find the measurements that work best for you. From Fig. 2 we can see that my hose was 10cm wide which means my measurements were as follows:

  • 2 short lengths = (6 x 10) + 15cm = 75cm
  • 4 medium lengths = (8 x 10) + 15cm = 95cm
  • 1 long length = (12 x 10) + 15cm = 135cm

Figure 4Figure 5Figure 6Once you have your measurements you’re ready to measure and cut your firehose (Fig. 3). Once you have cut your lengths you will need to drill holes at each end so that you can bolt them together. This is where the 2.5cm that I added to each end of the measurements is important. Using a tape measure mark a point on the ends of each piece of firehose that is in the middle but also at least 2cm from the edge, as shown in Fig. 4. When drilling these holes, it is important that you have something safe to drill into underneath your firehose, I use an old wooden stump. It is also very important that the holes on each end of each length are lined up. To do this drill the first hole and then fold that length in half so that the ends are on top of each other (Fig. 5). Once you have lined up the ends drill a hole into the other end in line with the first. Doing this will ensure that even if you drill the first hole off centre at least both holes will still overlap when looped. Once you have drilled holes in the ends of all 7 lengths of firehose it is time to bolt them together. Use the socket wrench and spanner to tighten the nuts and bolts together and do not forget to place a washer on both sides of the fire hose. This will stop the bolt falling through if the hole is too big, but also will allow you to easily unbolt these lengths if needed. You should bolt the small and medium lengths, leave the longest length as we will be weaving this through all of the other loops later.

Step 2: Weaving the Hose

Figure 7Figure 8Figure 9Weaving the firehose in loops should make this build a little easier than trying to bolt the lengths after weaving. To start we need to take the medium lengths and build our heart from the bottom up. When weaving firehose remember that each length of firehose should follow a pattern of over, under, over, under etc. As you weave the loops into each other try and hide the bolts. Hiding the bolts now will be easier than trying to do this later. Fig 7a and 7b show how bolts can be hidden as we weave the loops. All 4 of the medium loops should be woven in the way shown in Fig 7. As you can see the heart shape is coming together. To weave the loops we have to alternate between tucking a loop through one loop and around the next. I have included a side view in Fig 8 to help visualise this. The loop is woven around one loop and then tucked through the next, hiding the bolt in the process. The next step is to take the small lengths and weave these in the same way as the medium lengths but this time we are only weaving them through two loops to create the shape in Fig. 9.

Figure 10Figure 11Hopefully this has been easy so far. At this stage the loops can fall out of place, however they are not difficult to put back. The next step is to weave the long length through the outside of this shape. Fig. 10 shows the process of weaving over and under the outside of the heart. At this point you may find that you have too much hose, and you may want to trim a little off and drill a new hole (Fig. 11a). Once your holes are lined up you need to use the final nut and bolt (don’t forget the washers) to secure the final length (Fig. 11b). Work the final length around your heart so that you can hide that final bolt and you’re done!

Figure 13Figure 12An Optional Extra

Figure 14Figure 15Figure 16At the moment your firehose heart would be perfect as a chew toy to be left in an enclosure. However, there is an alternative, with a length of rope and some splicingknowledge you could hang this in an enclosure. The best way to hang the heart is a simple loop threaded through the woven firehose. Insert the end of yourrope through the top of the heart (Fig.14a), then, depending on how tight you have made your heart insert your hand and pull this rope through and out of the heart (fig 14b,14c). Now this is where the ability to splice comes in handy. I am not going to go into how to splice in this guide, however there are plenty of guides on the internet. We are splicing the rope back on itself which will create an eye slice with part of our heart trapped within it (Fig. 15a, 15b). The length of rope that you should be unwinding to splice back onto itself depends on your target animal, the bigger the animal the more rope you need to splice onto itself. Finally, you are ready to hang it in an enclosure!

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