Many hamster owners opt to make cages for their hamsters using large and relatively inexpensive plastic storage bins and wire mesh or bars. Here are some things to keep in mind when building your bin cage:
It is important to provide ventilation by adding mesh or bars (such as those from repurposed small cages). Exclusively drilling holes does not provide enough ventilation. Wire bar or wire mesh spacing should be no more than ½ inch. Galvanized steel hardware cloth (in either ¼ inch or ½ inch) is a good choice and can be found at Home Depot and Lowes. For a fun and colorful option with fewer sharp edges, try repurposing panels from a small animal play pen such as this one.
Unless you need to stack bin cages, add ventilation to the lid as opposed to the sides. Ammonia from urine rises so you get more ventilation from a similar sized hole in the top of the bin than from the side. Top ventilation will also minimize the risk of your hamster chewing. Additionally, the lid is typically made of a softer, less rigid material and is easier to cut.
If adding ventilation on the sides of the bin, align the opening with the top, ideally leaving at least 6” from the bottom of the cage so you can add ample bedding for burrowing without having too much of it fall out.
~ The minimum sized bin which provides adequate space is a 50 gallon / 200 qt stacker tote ~
The following are the bins which meet the minimum requirements and can be purchased in the United States:
Sterilite 50 Gallon Stacker Tote
This bin provides around 600 square inches of floor space and enough depth for any wheel and ample bedding. Sterilite 50 Gallon Stacker Totes can be found at Walmart stores nationwide, although they often seem to be temporarily out of stock. Home Depot carries these bins in some regions, so check ahead for availability. Target also stocks 50 Gallon Sterilite Stacker totes with a red top for the holiday season, but stock is limited.
IRIS Holiday Tree Storage Tote
Bins designed to store Christmas trees provide over 800 square inches of floor space and are a fabulous option. They are light weight and have wheels for easy maneuverability. These tend to be a seasonal item and aren’t always available in stores but are occasionally available from other sites such as Walmart.com or Amazon.com. One thing to note is the only recommended 12” wheel this bin will fit is the Exotic Nutrition Silent Runner and only when placed directly on the bottom with no bedding underneath. Bucket wheels such as the Carolina Storm Wheel fit well. Modifications can be made to the mesh top to allow other wheel options.
An attractive, clear Christmas tree style bin is available for in-store pickup when ordered through the Container Store. An added benefit of this bin is that it doesn’t have the added storage compartment which either reduces head room for your hamster or takes extra work to remove: