I LOVE bin cages for a variety of uses. They are the absolute perfect maternity cage, hospital cage, travel, quarantine or temp cage. They are cheap and fairly easy to make.
A lot of people worry that bin cages are not a good cage, that they do not provide enough ventilation, a stimulating environment, are too small, or that people are just trying to cheap out by using one. None of that is true when it comes to properly made bin cages!
1. Bin cages provide perfect ventilation just as any normal proper cage would. Ventilation means air can freely flow through the cage. A bin cage should have windows added to both long sides. This provides free flowing air and causes no ventilation issues. You can even add windows in all 4 sides and the top if you wish.
2. How stimulating an environment their cage is depends on what you add to it. You can pack a bin cage full of fun beds and toys and things to give rats a fun and stimulating cage. People still hang hammocks, beds, baskets, have hides and toys. And as you see below with #3, My rats love to dig and burrow in their bedding. This provides tons of fun for them as well and brings out their natural instincts.
3. Bin cages can be quite large. There is a misconception that rats need these hugely tall cages. That is just not true. Our rats are fossorial by nature. This means they prefer to live in burrows and dig and have dens. They are not tree dwellers and floor space is far more important than height. Height can be fun if properly used (which it usually is not in these tall cages) but height is not needed and floor space is always more important.
The smallest bin cage for actually living full time in, I would suggest 105qt or a 110qt. You can also connect bins using tunnels/pipes and make them longer or stack them for more height!
4. Bin cages are generally much cheaper than a normal cage. But it is a bit of a pain to make lol I'd say anyone who doesn't try to save some money sometimes is silly but trying to just be cheap isn't the reason most people go with bin cages.
Sadly there are not really super amazing cages out there for rats (at least in the US). Rats should have large floor space, deep sides to hold lots of bedding. Many plastic cages are cheaply made and easy to destroy (properly made bin cages rarely can be chewed out). Large metal cages are often a pain to keep clean which is really really important not just for our sanity and noses but for the health of our rats. A large cage like a critternation or similar, should be fully taken apart and cleaned every few weeks to a month.
Bin cages are insanely easy to keep clean. Dump the bedding, wipe down with cleaner, dry. This keeps odor and ammonia at bay and keeps our rats healthy.
A large plastic storage bin.
-You want one with fairly flat sides. Edges, lips, corners can be a potential spot for chewing a hole and escaping.
-costs about $10-20 and can be bought at any large retail store like walmart, target, kmart, etc...
-I suggest 105 qt - 110qt Sterilite brand is best. For a small travel cage around 60 qt is ok
-Make sure it has either 1/2" or 1/4" holes (use only 1/4 for mice)
-Found at any hardware store near the chicken wire. I think some walmarts even carry it. I get mine at tractor supply.
-About $10-15 a roll, one roll will make many bins!
Zipties or bolts/nuts
-zipties are generally fine for attaching. If you have a big time chewer bolts/nuts are a better idea. But if you attach enough zipties and check often it should be fine.
-You need 24+ nuts, bolts and washers for two sides.Get 3/8" machine screws (8-32x3/8), size 8 washers.
I now only use nuts/bolts/washers. I find them more secure and they look nice.
I have also seen people use craftwire though it is kindof a pain to use.
-Something to cut the bin with safely: either a dremel, utility knife, soldering iron. I have tried all and the dremel works best.
-Small pair of needle nose pliers
1. Draw windows on your bin. You want to have enough room to attach the hardware cloth along the edges and make it a bit high so that bedding does not fall out easily. I actually make the windows higher than in this pic. 3-4 inches up seems best.
2. Cut out the window. Safety first! if using the dremel or soldering iron you should really use it outside and away from your rats for safety. The fumes of melting plastic can be harmful for animals and people!
Go slow and take your time. It is a bit tedious but isn't the worst thing in the world lol. It doesn't have to be perfect.
3. Cut the hardware cloth alittle bit larger than the window. I usually go for about 2-3 rows past the window. Try to trim the wire close to the edge but if their are pokey edges I bend them down with the pliers. Some people cut the edges off or dremel them off. I am not handy enough to do so.
4. You want to make holes to attach the hardware cloth. I hold the mesh to the window and mark dots with a marker where I want to drill. Go slow with the drill so it does not crack the plastic.
5. You need to attach the hardware cloth INSIDE the bin. If you attach it to the outside you will leave the window edge exposed, the rats will very likely chew on it, even if they are not known chewers. And be able to escape! Always attach it INSIDE!
Do not worry about having the mesh being inside. It is safe and makes the bin secure.
I suggest doing two large windows on both long sides. I don't suggest doing all four sides because you don't want it to be too unstable. You can do the lid as well.
Clean it before using it for the rats. it can have a nasty plastic smell that can be washed and aired out.
Seen here with a blanket over it for privacy.
You can easily attach water bottles and hammocks etc...