You have just bought your new furry friend and, of course, now you have to think about accommodation! The Internet most surely offers a myriad of quality hamster accessories, but you know you can do a better job, so you set out to build your very own hamster cage.
The problem is, you’re almost certainly not the Donald Trump of hamster housing so you might find this guide that we wrote for you very helpful. Even if you are, we promise you might still pick up a trick or two that will elevate your hamster’s condo in no time!
Using bin cages
Even the best builders need to know how to choose materials. Even if technically you can let your imagination go wild, you still need to ensure that your new best friend lives in decent conditions, so here’s what we propose: A bin cage. Think of it like a rented 3-room apartment for the furry one.
Bin cages are the cheap and easy way we advise you use when you want to have a hand-made suitable living environment for a hamster. While a store-bought cage can go up to about $40, you may find these wonderful replacements better and more durable. Here’s how you do it in a few easy steps.
Gather your materials
Obviously, you will first need to purchase one large storage bin, and we say “large” because you don’t really want your hamster outgrowing it. The ideal one would be a clear bin because then you can see inside and your hamster can see outside of it. Try not to get a bin that would require you to make “windows” as some of the furry ones love to chew on bars and metal wires.
Size-wise, you will want to get a bin that is at least 20×30 inches, as this is the minimum comfortable size for, say, one Syrian hamster or two dwarf hamsters. You also need a wire mesh, also known by the code name “hardware cloth” and the one that you need will be around 19 or 23 gauge.
You will also need nuts, bolts, and washers to pin the mesh to the lid of the cage. Don’t forget the water bottle for the lucky tenant and good ole wheel. When it comes to hamsters and wheels, bigger is better. If you got yourself a Syrian, go for an 11” or 12” wheel. If you have a smaller dwarf hamster, you can do with an 8” or 8.5” one. Always buy a plastic wheel, not a metal one.
Get the tools
First of all, you will need a wire cutter to be able to cut the mesh and the wire that is securing your hamster’s new water bottle. Also, get a drill and drill bits to make holes for the screws and maybe provide some extra ventilation as well.
Don’t forget that you will also need something sharp like an out-of-the-box utility knife, a heated knife or something like that. Slowly guide the knife through the bin and trace the rectangle on it. Once the first cuts are made, the plastic should tear without cracking. However, use whatever method works for you here, just make sure you do a good job for your new buddy.
Prepare the lid
Lay out the bin with the bottom of it facing up. Think about making two windows because this is ergonomically the best way to do it. Carefully plan your cutting method – you might want to use a marker to draw it out first – and make sure to leave room for the screws.
If you go for two windows the lid will firstly not lose that much strength in the cutting process and, secondly, you’ll find it easier to work with the mesh in the next step of the process. Also, keep in mind that some lids will tear easily while others will require a cut-and-follow type of process.
Cut the mesh for the windows
If you have a decent sense of accuracy, just eyeball the cuts since you can always trim them after. You’ll want about an inch of mesh and don’t forget to have at least four mesh holes bordering the windows so you can use the screws.
It’s also advisable to either file down the sharp edges or use something practical like duct tape to cover them. This is done to prevent the hamster from potentially cutting himself on those edges if he turns out to be a climber.
Attach the windows
Pick one of the sides and find a marker to use. After placing the mesh properly over the window, start filling in the squares with the marker so you know where the drill holes are going to be. Always go for one of the upper corners first as this will help you in the drilling-threading process. After you have your first hole, thread a screw from the inside, flip the lid over and put the washer on. Don’t forget to tighten on the bolt.
After you’ve done it for the first time, it gets easier. Color the box, drill, use the screw how it’s meant to be used, rinse and repeat. After you complete one window, move to the other side and start the process once more.
Drill the ventilation holes
Like we said earlier, drilling holes for added ventilation can be a nice way to give your hamster more access to the scents and breezes of your house. You can try drilling a hole along the top of the bin and about 3” up from the bottom on the long sides, making a line for air at your buddy’s level.
Pay attention not to drill holes below 2-2.5” else you run the risk of covering the holes you made earlier in the process. Repeat as many times as you want until you’re sure the hamster has a nice, airy space to live in.