Bin Cage Tutorial

Selecting a cage can be confusing and overwhelming. There are many different options out there to consider, and what works for one person may not work for another. While there are several excellent cages available on the market, I personally like bin cages; they are very customizable, lightweight, and fairly inexpensive to build. Bin cages aren't commercially available, and the process can be a bit intimidating. So I've made a tutorial showing how I make my cages, and hopefully it will be helpful for those wanting to make their own!

 

Now let's get started!

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Materials:
1/2" Hardware cloth
Fasteners (zip ties, nuts/bolts, etc)
Marker
Needle nose pliers
Tin Snips
Rotary tool with cutting disk/drill attachments.
And of course your bin of choice. I advise looking for a bin with a snug fitting lid, and smooth inside surface. Areas that 'pop out' are more likely to be chewed.
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Place & Cut Hardware Cloth
The first thing you need to do is decide where and how big you want your windows. 
 
Don't go to low or the bedding will be tossed out! I add windows to 3 sides of my bin, and the lid.
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Place & Cut Hardware Cloth
Cut the hardware cloth with the tin snips. Try to cut as close as possible, so you don't have wires sticking out; they are very sharp!
Place & Cut Hardware Cloth
You can see that this style of lid looks 'compartmentalized". I like to make 4 small windows rather than cut out the entire center of the lid. This helps keep the lid sturdy while still opening it up.
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Place & Cut Hardware Cloth
I cut my lid pieces to overlap the 'ridges' slightly; this helps to prevent chewing in these areas, and allows me to maximize the size of the windows.
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Trimming Tabs
My lid had little 'tabs' that prevented my hardware cloth from sitting flat. I used my rotary tool with cutting attachment to cut these flush to the inside of the lid.
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Trimming Tabs
Here you can see the tabs have been cut down, so the hardware cloth sits flat and unobstructed.
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Mark & Cut Windows
Once all of your hardware cloth pieces are cut, you can start marking your bin for cutting.
Holding your hardware cloth firmly in place, use a sharpie to mark your cut lines. You want your cloth bigger than the actual window - I mark on the third row of squares in from the edge.
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Mark & Cut Windows
Repeat with the cutouts on the lid. Make sure the hardware cloth sits where you want it to be when you are finished.
If the cloth slips or you mis-mark, hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol can remove most of the sharpie.
Mark & Cut Windows
Using your rotary tool and cutting attachment, cut out all the windows you have now traced on your bin. 

I purchased heavier metal cutting attachments for my rotary tool than the sandpaper type that come with it. The standard ones broke a lot and I was constantly replacing them, using multiple for each bin. The metal ones will get me through several bins!
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Mark & Cut Windows
Now that your bin is cut, you will probably have little melted plastic bits on the edges. I wait until I'm completely done cutting, then just pull these off with my fingers. You can use sandpaper or a sanding attachment on your rotary tool if you want cleaner edges, but I don't take the extra step. 
Mark & Drill Holes
 
Next, you need to decide on your hole placement for your fasteners. You will want to place them fairly close together; both the hardware cloth and the plastic bin are flexible, and a determined rat can squeeze through a much smaller space than you think! I keep mine a few inches apart, and close to the corners, and always place them in the outer row of squares. You want them as far from the cut plastic edge as possible.
Mark & Drill Holes
 
The largest drill bit that fits my rotary tool does not make big enough holes to fit the zip ties i use. To get around this, I drill all of the holes, then go back through and enlarge them with a different attachment. It's an extra step, but for precision reasons I would rather do it this way than use a drill.
Attach Hardware Cloth
 
Now that you have all of the holes drilled, it's time to attach the hardware cloth. Here I would like to stress to put the hardware cloth on the INSIDE of the bin. The reason for this, is that it prevents the rats from chewing an escape route from the window edges. They can chew the exposed plastic edge, but can't get past the first wire of the hardware cloth.
Attach Hardware Cloth
 
Losely place your fasteners to hold the hardware cloth in place. You want to make sure the position is correct before you tighten them down, especially if you are using zip ties, since you will have to cut them off and use new ones if they are placed incorrectly.
Side Note: Metal Zip Ties
 
While many people use nuts and bolts to attach their hardware cloth, I prefer stainless steel zip ties. They are a little more difficult to work with, but I like the way they look instead of the bolts. Unlike plastic zip ties, I have yet to have a rat chew through a metal tie.

I order them in bulk on Amazon, here or here. The length of the ties doesn't matter, you'll cut off the excess.
Side Note: Metal Zip Ties
When working with the metal zip ties, be very careful! The cut edges are VERY sharp, and I have carelessly cut myself several times.

Once you cut them, you need to cover the sharp edge. I use a pair of needle-nose pliers to roll them under tightly. This does two things, it safely tucks away the sharp edge, and cynches the tie good and tight!
Finishing Up
Now that the hardware cloth is all attached, and any sharp edges are hidden away, you are almost done. Now comes the fun part - setting up the cage! As with a traditional cage, you can add hammocks, hides, and anything else you want.
Finishing Up
Here is my completed bin cage. I added a hammock, food hopper, baskets, and a hide all from a dollar store trip, and a water bottle from Wal-Mart. The hammock is made from a bath mat cut in half, with holes clipped in the corners. The hide is a stackable storage bucket, and the food hopper is a basket cut in half. I use plastic zip ties for all of the cage accessories and just replace everything when I clean the bin. 

Materials cost breakdown (Not including tools, bedding, or accessories):

    $10        Storage bin with locking lid

    $9          5' x 2' roll of 1/2" hardware cloth

    $10        Stainless Steel Zip Ties, 100 pack

= $29 total cost of materials.

 

I still have enough hardware cloth left on the roll to make at least 2 more bins, and  20 zip ties left over.

I hope you have found this tutorial informative and easy to follow.  If you have any questions or need clarification on any of the steps, please don't hesitate to contact me

Happy DIY-ing!