Teddy's Second Home
It was back to the drawing board, so to speak, once I saw how cramped Teddy’s 10-gallon aquarium was when it was filled with what I considered essentials. Certainly hamsters lived in less space and survived. But I wanted Teddy to have the optimum house, not one that was just adequate.
In hamster age, Teddy, at a year old, was close to being an “old man.” He didn’t climb much although if food was out of reach, he could usually get to it, even if it took time and effort. He tried to use his flying saucer exercise wheel but it was a bit smaller than what he needed so I ordered an ASPCA approved Transonig Wodent Wheel. Unfortunately, the proper size wheel for Teddy was too tall for the aquarium, but the smaller ones would have been just as ineffective as the flying saucer wheel.
The challenge was to find a larger cage, one that was taller, longer, and wider, but not heavier. A 20-gallon glass aquarium didn’t really give that much more floor space and it was significantly heavier to lift and carry to another room at cleaning time.
More online research turned up good ideas for making hamster cages from storage bins. It seemed simple enough. I would need to buy a large storage bin with a secure top, some hardware cloth, and nuts and bolts to secure the hardware cloth to the large hole I would cut in the bin’s plastic lid. In order to see Teddy, the bin would have to be clear plastic or at least opaque. It needed to have straight sides and no bumps or other chewable spots on the bottom or sides. I found an excellent bin on Amazon, this Sterilite 70-Quart See-Through Ultra-Storage Box which I would have ordered but it only came in quantities of four.
I bought a storage bin at Walmart but once I got it home I realized that the wheels underneath the bin were recessed into bump-outs that might allow Teddy to gnaw his way out of the bin and it seemed a little small. I searched for bins at Home Depot and Lowe’s without success. They had bins, just not the ones I wanted. I returned to Walmart and bought a larger, more opaque, bin without wheels or gnawable bumps, and a fairly secure locking lid.
The steps to making a bin cage are: 1) Buy a suitable bin; 2) Cut a large hole in the top, then cover the hole with hardware cloth or some type of wire mesh for good ventilation.
That’s the express version. There are various ways to convert the bin top into a secure and safe screen top. I chose to cut a large hole in the top, using an indented area as my guide. Cutting, without adequate tools, is not advised. It took me more than a day to cut the hole and it wasn’t a neatly done job. I planned on attaching the aquarium screen top to the plastic top but the hole was too big.
Once I had the hole cut in the top, and realized the aquarium screen top wouldn’t work, I took the top to a locally owned hardware store (bypassing the bigger stores where I figured the clerks would probably laugh at my cutting skills), and explained that I needed some wire mesh or hardware cloth, screws, washers, etc., in order to complete the construction of my hamster cage.
As I looked at the hardware cloth (which the clerk cautioned me would be very difficult to work with) and other screen materials, I found some sheets of metal with holes throughout in various patterns that gave me an idea. What if I forgot about the plastic lid and bought one of the metal sheets and turned it into a topper for the bin? By now two clerks were helping me and both thought that was a better, and safer, idea than working with hardware cloth.
I chose a silver sheet that was a few inches larger than the bin top. If I used the bin top as a template and bent the metal on all four sides to 90 degree angles, I’d have my cover without dealing with hardware cloth, bolts, screws, washers, wood strips, glue, wire cutters, and bandages.
The metal sheet was about $30 but one of the clerks was more than happy to bend it into the cover I envisioned, without additional cost. He did a great job and I left the store with a cover that was exactly what I needed to complete Teddy’s new bin home.
I covered the floor of the bin with a thick layer of Aspen bedding, put the Wodent Wheel against a side wall, clipped the water bottle over one side, moved Teddy’s food dish and other items into the bin. I put some of the Aspen bedding from Teddy’s aquarium into the bin so he would know this was his home, then lifted Teddy out of the aquarium and placed him in the larger bin cage. I’m not sure, but I think I saw him smile.
I put the cover over the top of the cage and placed a rock on top to secure it although I doubt that Teddy would be able to get out of the cage even if it didn’t have a top on it.
This is Teddy exploring his newly cleaned cage. The bin is 27 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 13 inches high. This also gives a good view of the metal cover. The bin is almost as clear as the glass aquarium.
This is an overhead view of his bin cage. The floor is covered with brown paper (for easy clean-up), a thick layer of Carefresh bedding (CareFresh comes in a variety of colors, this is the multi-color with some blue added), and a thin layer of alfalfa hay. This was the last brown paper I had so I ordered a roll of white easel paper; newsprint and other papers with colors or inks might not be safe since hamsters do like to chew so much.
At the top right is a shallow metal dish with about a half inch of Charlie Chinchilla Bathing Sand (never use bathing dust!) which Teddy generally uses as a toilet. At the bottom right is a glass food dish with Supreme Hazel Premium Hamster Food. The orange dish in the middle contains rodent lab blocks, another food Teddy enjoys.
A salt wheel and chew stick start out on top of the larger wooden house and Teddy will occasionally drag one or both elsewhere. The two houses actually are one two-story wood house but Teddy wasn’t using the upper level. I put it at ground level, removed the ladder at the side, and connected the two using a Trixie Wicker Bridge. The only way to get into the houses is through the door at the front of the larger house then travel through the tunnel into the smaller house which is where Teddy sleeps although he does occasionally sleep in the Wodent Wheel.
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