I’ll be honest, this pet project is not for amateurs. Tina built this amazing hamster habitat out of an Ikea Expedit bookshelf and has kindly sent over instructions on Pawesome readers can make their own critters one of the most amazing living quarters known to hammie kind. After the jump, every step you need to get started.
What You’ll Need:
- Ikea Expedit 5-by-5 bookshelf
- Wardrobe backplate from hardware store
- 2 sets of IKEA Capita 6 3/4″ legs
- Several aluminum L-shaped, U-shaped and flat aluminum ledges you can get at the hardware store.
- Aluminum vent covers
- Wire mesh or expanded metal
- Aquarium silicone (this is safe for animals in case they get to it later, DON’T use standard silicone)
- Some wooden beams
- Sliding door guides
- Glass panel cut to size
- IKEA Dioder LED lights
- Red LED lights (I used a cheap christmas light chain with LEDs)
- Wood glue
- Circular saw
- Dremel with mini angle grinder if you want to use expanded metal
- Hand saw
- Wire cutters
- Caulking pistol
What to Do:
1. Shorten the sides of the Expedit to desired height with the circular saw. Be careful to make both sides exactly the same length or the shelf will be crooked. Since the sides are hollow, you’ll need to cut a wooden beam to fit the hole and glue it in.
2. Cut air holes in the sides and top. The air holes should be big because rodents need good ventilation.
3. You need to seal the hollow inside of your vent in order to prevent parasites from getting inside of your Expedit should you ever have them.You can cut the leftovers from the shortened sides to seal the tunnels, gluing them in with aquarium silicone.
4. Cover the side of the vent holes that will be on the inside of the cage with wire mesh or expanded metal. If you use expanded metal, cut it with a mini angle grinder (eg. by Dremel). If you use a wire mesh, simply cut it with wire cutters. Glue the mesh/expandable metal to the side with the aquraium silicone, then glue the aluminum flat beams (I-beams) on top to cover the sharp edges so your animal won’t hurt itself. Use the hand saw to cut the aluminum, the cut will be much cleaner.
5. Shorten one of the long inner shelves to get a deep area and a shallow area with the circular saw.
6. Build the Expedit more or less according to the Ikea manual. Seal all raw sides of the inner shelves that point towards the cage area with AQ silicone.
7. Screw the backplate on while the Expedit is still lying on the floor.Use screws all around the side frames but also to keep the inner (shortened) shelves in place.
8. Attach the legs and then raise the Expedit.
9. Build a frame from wooden beams for the deep area. Seal the wood completely with aquarium silicone or use varnished particle board.
10. Seal all corners and edges of the cage with aquarium silicone.
11. Attach plexiglass to the front of the deep area. Glue it on with silicone and tighten it down with screws. Carefully drill holes into the plexi before driving the screws through, otherwise it can break.
12. Attach the LED strips for lighting to the top (use aquarium silicone). Lead the cables of the light along the top of the cage and exit through the back plate. Use the white light for cleaning or for photographs. The red light is for watching your hamster at night — hamsters are red blind and won’t be disturbed by the light.
13. Glue the aluminum L-beams and plastic sliding door guides. One L-beam covers the “step” where the deep end and the shallow end meet. This is to prevent the hamster from getting a “grip” on the edge and gnawing through the cage. The others are glued on the front and lower sides and hold the long glass panel that prevents the bedding from falling out. Another one goes on top as a glare cover for the lights (similar to the glare cover for under cupboard lights in a kitchen). The plastic sliding door guides go in front. Explanation of the sliding doors here. Use clamps to hold everything in place until the AQ silicone cures.
12. Measure and get the glass professionally cut. The long glass panel should not be wider than 10cm (3.9″), otherwise it becomes impractical to reach inside the cage. The sliding doors must be cut very exact otherwise they will either fall out or not fit in.
13. Attach the vent covers on the outside.
14. Let the silicone cure for several days until the stink wears off.
Furnishing the Interior
Furnish the inside of your cage to your taste. All heavy items (sand bath, stones, roots, wheel) should go in the shallow area and be placed directly on the cage floor or on legs/little platforms. This is to prevent the hamster from digging under heavy items and being squashed. In the deep end only put lightweight items — cork items, grass nests, grass or cardboard tubes, etc. — which are safe to dig under. You should offer a house in the deep area because the hamster can use it as a starting point for digging a burrow.
Use wood based bedding mixed with hay for the deep area so that the burrowings of your hamster will be stable. Use Aspen bedding to prevent irritation of your hamsters respiratory tract (avoid cedar and pine) and freeze any hay you use for at least 48hrs to kill off mites. Press down the bedding really hard or the hamster won’t be able to build a burrow.
You don’t need to clean out all that bedding very often – most hamsters use one corner to “go to the bathroom” and you can place a ceramic toilet with chinchilla sand there which you can clean every day. The rest of the bedding never really gets dirty. Only remove obviously dirty bedding and otherwise leave it. In fact, cleaning a cage too often and removing all bedding will completely stress your hamster. Offer your hamster a sandbath with chinchilla sand – especially dwarf hamsters love it to clean their coats.
Avoid plastic in your cage – your hamster could chew and swallow it and get hurt. Use natural materials like untreated plywood to make your own houses and other hamster “furniture”. Or use chew-safe materials like ceramic or terracotta.
Offer your hamster lots of hiding places — at least one house and another hiding place is a must but the more the better, especially if you have a Roborovsky hamster (which are very shy). If you put one house “underground” you don’t loose any space for that house. Your houses should have removable roofs so you can check the hamster’s nest without destroying it.
Thank you so much for sharing Tina!
Have a pet project you’d like to share with us. Email us the deets and we may include it in a future post!