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This article is about an older version of DF.
Materials Workshops Labors
For information on cage traps, see traps.

Cages are used in cage traps, jails, zoos, pits and aquariums. A glass cage is called a terrarium or, if filled with water for holding captured live aquatic vermin, an aquarium.

Cages are stored in an animal stockpile (unless they have been worn out somehow, in which case they are stored in a refuse stockpile). Dwarves will attempt to collect and store cages in stockpiles if the "Dwarves Gather Animals" order (o-a) is enabled.

Empty cage storage can be controlled by toggling the "u: empty cages" option for animal stockpiles. (j toggles animal traps.) To set a pile to accept only empty cages, set up an animal stockpile (or a custom pile) and in its settings block all then enable empty cages with u.

Building and using a cage[edit]

Cages work well for humanoids as well.
Capturing that thing was the "easy" part.
Art by kruggsmash

A cage can be constructed from a log of wood at a carpenter's workshop, three bars of metal at a metalsmith's forge, or from glass at a glass furnace.

You can then either build them on a tile via b-j (this is needed for linking a lever to them, or assigning a tame animal to it) or simply keep them stockpiled so they can be used to load cage traps.

When building a cage, you can choose a cage that already has something inside. To precisely select which cage to use, you can expand the list of cages with x.

Creature containment[edit]

To assign creatures to a cage, first build the cage in the location you want using b-j. Then press q and move the cursor over the cage. Use + and - to scroll up and down the list of creatures, and Enter to assign them to the cage. Creatures currently assigned to the cage are listed at the top; the rest of the creatures are listed in order of arrival on the map (including any inaccessible creatures). Note that tame grazing creatures will starve if left in cages, though pet owners may feed their pets. Instead of caging grazers, assign them to a pasture that has plenty of tasty grass and/or cave moss.

Multiple creatures can be assigned to the same cage with no penalty. It is possible to fit hundreds of puppies with dozens of dragons, and whatever other animals are on hand, in a single cage with no ill effects. This has led some players to conclude that cages include some sort of hidden "cage space" that allows infinitely tight packing of creatures.

There is no particular labor for releasing creatures from built cages. Use q to examine the cage (it must first be "built," not just stored - use b-j to build cages, and x to be sure to get the right cage), a to assign, and then use enter to toggle the animal(s) currently inside (animals assigned to the cage will have a green "+" next to them). Any available dwarf will perform the job, so beware of pitting untamed or hostile creatures with a weak dwarf.

Alternatively, creatures can be released from un-built cages provided that they are able to be assigned to a pasture, ie. animals, tame or otherwise. Once assigned to a pasture, a dwarf will automatically remove them from their cage and lead them to their assigned pasture. Note that if the cage containing the creature is already within the pasture, the creature will not be released, as it is considered to be already in its pasture.

Caged citizens of (and visitors to) your fort, if wounded, will be freed by the "Recover Wounded" job and taken to the nearest hospital zone. This mostly occurs during loyalty cascades, when separatists are knocked unconscious while fighting on a cage trap. If the hauling dwarf is from the other faction, it is possible that they lay the patient in bed and then immediately attack her.

You can get details about the creatures which are in a built cage by pressing t and then enter. There, you can scroll the list of creatures and get details, for example, you can tell whether a creature is male or female, which is useful if you are preparing a breeding program.

Vermin can also be assigned to cages, to save space or animal traps. However, if you try to release them (q and then a), the dwarf will pickup an animal trap and put the poor creature back in a stock cage. To explicitly release an animal, instead "pull" the animal somewhere else: either assign the animal to a pit (which could simply be a hillside outside your fortress), or a pasture. This has the benefit of making it clear where the animal is being released. However, keep in mind the dwarf will uncage the animal first and then lead it to the release, so large/dangerous animals may escape en route. Consider using the dump command to move the cage before release, or assign the animal stockpile next to the pit/pasture.

Bees show up in the list of creatures that can be assigned to a cage, but the dwarves will not start the task, and it will not be shown in the jobs list.

Creatures in cages cannot be attacked (though any existing attack orders will not automatically cancel, leaving your militiadwarves milling around the cage uselessly). Most caged creatures are also unable to attack, although some special attacks (such as gaseous noxious secretions) can still be used. Creatures in cages are also immune to damage from falling, and falling objects. Breeding creatures are unable to get pregnant if caged, although they will give birth while caged if they were already pregnant. Creatures in cages also age, so kittens in a cage will eventually become adult cats. Creatures in cages are affected by extreme temperatures, and atom smashing the cage will also obliterate the occupants, even if they are normally immune to smashing. Casting a cage in obsidian will not harm the occupants (though the temperature might, if the cage is subjected to magma for very long).

Beware of cages that contain creature(s) with very high internal temperature, such as fire imps. They cannot harm your dwarves directly while caged, but their body heat can; by heating up the tile that the cage occupies. If the cage-hauler is very slow and weak, they may spend enough time in each tile to feel the effects of the heat, and they will, dutifully but foolishly, continue to haul the cage until their head melts off. To move "hot" cages safely over long distances, make sure that a strong or fast dwarf hauls it.

"Deconstructing" a cage via q-x with creatures in it does not harm the cage, the dwarves will return the cage (with the creatures in it) to the nearest animal stockpile.

If you melt the cages, creatures inside will be released.


To set a cage as a jail, query the cage, designate it as a room, and then set it to be used for justice. Only metal cages may be used in this way, despite wooden cages being strong enough to hold dragons.

If the cage is already located within a designated Jail room, it will be automatically included in the jail.

Remotely opening cages[edit]

A built cage can be linked to a lever to remotely open it. When the cage opens, the occupant(s) inside are released, the cage and mechanism deconstruct and can be returned to their respective stockpiles. Note that you have to use a "built" cage as described above, it won't work with cages on your stockpile. Also note that the mechanism attached to the lever will not automatically deconstruct; you have to manually deconstruct the lever to get back the mechanism used to open the cage.

Alternately, when traders are around, you can select "move good to trading depot" and select the cage of choice. When a hauler takes the cage, any untameable creatures inside will be released; be sure to disarm the creature beforehand... This is also the easiest way of releasing caged dwarves.

A way to release creatures from stockpiled cages (which have not been built) is to assign the creatures to a pasture (which is possible for any living thing except dwarves). The same precautions as for trading the cage should be taken first.

Another way is to use the container spilling effect: cages hurled from a colliding minecart also spill their contents upon collision (see this forum message). This combines timing control of a lever or pressure plate with the reusability of pitting. If you want to deliver Goblin snatchers into your target practice room despite thieves' ability to wriggle out of normal pitting, or a bunch of cave floaters toward invaders, this method may be preferable.

Cages and fluids[edit]

A cage will protect a creature inside it from drowning, so if you want to drown a creature in a cage, you must open it remotely, as explained in the above section (as a corollary, if your fortress is drowning in water, you can cage your dwarves and rescue them later). However, built cages will not protect caged creatures from magma, making this a somewhat faster option, as it doesn't require linking each cage to a lever. Cages which are not magma-safe will be degraded and/or destroyed by this process, and cages which are made of flammable materials (such as wood) may be set on fire. Any items the creature had equipped will teleport [Verify] to wherever the creature was caged, typically a tile with a cage trap on it. These items may or may not be on fire; no case of teleporting !!large cave spider silk sock!!s have yet been observed, but this doesn't prove it can't happen. Exercise caution.

It's also possible to cage fluids(done by pushing uncaged animals/invaders over armed cage traps with water.) The cage containing the liquid must be built to remove the liquid. *magma not tested (yet)

Buying cages[edit]

Traders may bring cages for sale. If those contain a tamed creature or vermin, the item will be listed as (creature) cage, and the material will only be mentioned in parentheses behind the item name, e.g. Wolf Cage (Oaken).

Selling caged creatures[edit]

If you want to sell an animal, you need to assign it to a constructed cage first (see above) and then deconstruct the cage by querying it and pressing x. You can then select the cage in the trading menu.

Note that only tamed animals can be traded safely. The dwarf assigned to hauling a container will look through its contents and chuck out anything that can't be traded. In the case of cages, this means anything sentient - including such nasties as cyclopes.Bug:4065 Letting such monsters loose in the middle of your fort is good fun.

How to disarm hostiles in cages[edit]

An easy way to take away all prisoner-held armor and clothing is via the mass designation tool. Designate an area with d-b-c to claim and d-b-d to dump an area (i.e. your animal stockpile, filled with caged prisoners). Afterwards, hit k, and go over each cage and press d for each of them - this stops the dumping on the cages themselves. You will need a garbage dump set up already for the dwarves to take the dumped items to. The dwarves will strip the prisoners naked and haul the items away. The cages themselves (and the creatures within) will remain in place. The items will end up in the garbage dump zone. If you want to reuse the items, you need only to designate claim d-b-c on your garbage dump zone to reclaim the items after they are dumped there. If your animal stockpile is outdoors, you need to have the "Dwarves Gather Refuse from Outside" o-r-o order set.

An easier way to selectively disarm prisoners is to designate mass forbid d-b-f and mass dump d-b-d on all of the caged prisoner stockpile. You will need a bookkeeper for this. Press z and go to the stocks screen. Find an item category with items marked F and D. Press f to remove the F for those items, but don't remove the D. This will unforbid them, but they will remain marked for dumping. When you exit the stocks screen, the dwarves will haul those items from the cages and drop them into the garbage dump. When the dwarves have finished the hauling tasks, designate a mass claim d-b-c and mass undump d-b-D on the same area as earlier to remove the forbid and dump designations from the cages and the rest of the contents.

This method can be used to confiscate specific items from caged prisoners, like weapons, armor or bags containing stolen property or kidnapped children. It can be more useful to just remove their weapons if you want to use your caged prisoners for target practice; they will be more durable with their clothes and armor equipped, but not very dangerous without their weapons.

To selectively remove only weapons from caged prisoners, first claim the entire prisoner stockpile, then d-b-h to hide everything including cages, buildings and prisoner equipment. Go in to your standard (non-dfhack) stock screen and browse the weapons section. Anything tagged with a blue H is a hidden prisoners' weapon, dump them. Once you have selectively removed only their weapons, use d-b-H to unhide everything. This works with everything like shields and armor, not just weapons.


Alternatively, dfhack 'stripcaged' is available, but the 'weapons' switch also removes their shields.

Emptying refuse[edit]

If you tame an animal while it is inside a cage (a process which involves feeding a plant to the caged animal), you may leave seeds inside the cage. To get these out, you must mark them for dumping, designate a garbage zone, and wait for a dwarf to dump the seeds in the garbage zone. Then you can reclaim them.

Animals that expire in a cage (built in a zoo, or just sitting in an animal stockpile) also clutter up the cage until removed. If the cage is unbuilt and the animal is butcherable, your dwarves may haul the animal, cage included, to the butcher shop for processing. If not, you will need to manually clean the cage by dumping the corpse and any other items.

Marking refuse for dumping can be done by pressing k for an unbuilt cage (t for a built cage), then selecting the cage and pressing Enter, then selecting the item and pressing Enter again, and finally pressing d to mark the item (rather than the cage) for dumping. Or if there is a lot of refuse, you can use d-b-d to mass-dump everything in the tile, and then un-mark the cage itself.

How to quickly empty out many cages[edit]

If you have many cage traps then you may have trouble emptying out cages quickly enough at times. See Mass pitting for suggestions on how to quickly recycle cages. Be advised that there are now reports of frequent escapes while using this method (confirmed for v0.40.10).

Another easy way to quickly empty cages is to simply send the imprisoned creatures to a pasture, where your squad can slaughter them. (Your dwarves can drag every goblin except thieves). The easiest way is to place the pasture right next to the cages and let your dwarves shoot them down. This way you can kill the thieves and monsters too.

Another fun method is to put a 1x1 pasture in the middle of your barracks. Next, tell a squad to kill the target creature in the cage and watch them line up around the prisoner. Finally, assign the prisoner to the pasture in the middle of the barracks. A dwarf will be along shortly to drag the prisoner from the stockpile to the pasture, while your squad beats on them enroute. Even thieves that can't be dragged are still mobbed by your squad waiting as soon as the cage is opened.

Comparison of cage types[edit]

As stated before, cages can be made either of wood, metal, or glass. The choice of material reflects the cage's usefulness at certain tasks. To compare:

  • Wooden cages are light and cheap, and easy to mass produce in most biomes. They are notably not resistant to fire, and will burn up in a forest fire, even when already loaded into an otherwise fire-safe cage trap. Wooden cages can also be bought from elven caravans if your site has no access to wood itself.
  • Metal cages have the advantage of not being flammable. These are usually fire-safe, and a few types are magma-safe as well, but this varies depending on what metal they are made of. These cages are inferior for usage in cage traps, though, because of their high weight they take a lot of time to be hauled back and forth. Cages made of cheap metals (copper, tin, zinc, nickel, lead) can be bought in bulk from human and dwarven merchants, and are the only type of cages these merchants will ever sell.
  • Glass terrariums can be made at a glass furnace from as little as a bag of renewable sand. The three types of glass have exactly the same physical properties, they differ only in value. All are magma-safe, having a melting temperature higher than any metal. They are heavier than wooden, but much lighter than metal ones, and their weight usually does not inhibit hauling jobs. For all non-decorative uses, green glass should be chosen, as it requires less ingredients and takes less time to be produced than other types of glass.

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Related articles


  • Creatures in cages that come from dead merchants can only be freed by assigning them to a pen/pasture zone and then when they have been put there, deassigning them from the pen/pasture.
  • When bringing a cage to the Trade Depot in order to trade it, any untameable creatures inside the cage will be freed. Tamed (and presumably also wild but tameable) animals can be safely traded. Bug:4065
  • Aquariums cannot be used to store large fish (they will drown), though vermin fish work just fine. Bug:1590
  • Dwarves trapped in cages cannot be directly freed. They can only be released by building the cage and connecting a lever to it, or ordering the cage be brought to a trade depot. Bug:3070
"Cage" in other Languages Books-aj.svg aj ashton 01.svg
Dwarven: mokez
Elvish: ofúru
Goblin: obtux
Human: tin