Plastic Bins as Cages
by Karen Waterbury
Modified Bin Cage
Modified Bin Cage
Homemade Bin Cage -- top and side view
Plastic bins are fast becoming a popular housing option for hamsters, as hamster owners realize how efficient they are. Plastic bins (or Ďtubsí), such as Sterilite or Rubbermaid, are inexpensive, light-weight, easy to clean, and provide plenty of floor space.

I purchased a 90 quart Sterilite bin at Wal Mart (shown above), with lid, for about $9. Itís slightly longer and wider than a 20 gallon (long) aquarium. Iíd say it took about 10 minutes to modify the bin for ventilation. I drilled 13 holes along the length of both sides of the cage, making them high enough that my Roborovski girls couldnít reach them. There is a possibility of tiny teeth getting in the holes and making them larger! To provide ventilation from the top of the cage, I used a sharp knife (not the type you use in the kitchen!) to cut a square out of the plastic lid. I then took a wire plate (that had previously come with a hamster cage as a wire floor), and bent the edges of it downwards. I drilled four holes, at each corner of the square I cut out of the lid, and inserted the wire plate into the holes (see picture below). Iíve heard of people taking apart small animal playpens ($10 at Wal Mart for 8 panels) and using those in the lid, as well. It comes out to a little over a dollar per panel, so you end up with about a $10 cage (90 qt. size), if you use one panel. If your hamster enjoys climbing, you can also put the wire panels in the sides of the bin.
Modified Bin Lid
Modified lid using a wire plate which sometimes come as a cage floors in wire cages (and we recommend that you remove such floors since they often hurt little feet)
Modified Bin Cage
The most popular method of attaching the wire panels is using screws and washers. Cage pictured to the left belongs to a friend of mine. She built it for her rats.
Modified Bin Cage Modified Bin Cage
For a more finished look, it is possible to use rivets to fasten 1/4 inch hardcloth to the inside of the lid.  This large opening allows maximum ventilation while still preventing drafts.
You also have the option of attaching the wheel directly to the side of the cage, by cutting a hole in the wall. My Rob girls prefer running along the sides of the cage, so I havenít attempted attaching the wheels.  

The only problems Iíve heard of with using plastic bins is some hamsters can chew through them. If they dig and chew in the corners long enough, they are able to make a hole. Of course, extra space for more toys and activities balances any reason theyíd need to chew!

Plastic bins may look like boring, dull cages at first. But you have the ability to modify and personalize them to your tastes, so they can be as colorful and fun as you make them! Sterilite and Rubbermaid bins are readily available at Wal Mart, Target, and most home and garden stores.
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