are bin cages good for gerbils?
Care Guide

Can Gerbils Live in Bin Cages?

A bin cage is a large plastic tub that can house multiple gerbils. While they’re not as good as gerbilariums, they’re an easy way to keep gerbils safe while providing them with enough room to run, play, and burrow.

Plastic bin cages are a suitable short-term housing option and are cheap compared to glass gerbil enclosures, but they’re not ideal for permanent use. That’s because there’s too high a risk that your gerbil could chew through sharp points or edges and escape. Accidentally swallowing plastic pieces is also a health hazard.

You can make your own bin cage using a plastic tub, mesh wire, drill, and zip cables. It’s easy to do, but you must ensure all pieces are correctly fastened, and there are no edges for your gerbils to chew through.

Are Bin Cages Good for Gerbils?

Bin cages can be a good option for gerbils, but only if they’re made securely and adequately. If they’re not, gerbils can easily escape. They’re more popular for hamsters and mice, but they are suitable for gerbils as a short-term solution.

Bin cages are made from clear, plastic storage bins. The top must be cut away and replaced with a breathable wire mesh material, as the mesh is vital to allow gerbils to breathe. The best gerbil cages have:

  • Plenty of floor space. This will change depending on the number of gerbils you have.
  • Enough depth. Gerbils need at least 6-8 inches of bedding at the bottom of the bin cage because they naturally enjoy burrowing and digging tunnels.
  • Quality materials. Gerbils mustn’t be able to escape or chew through the bin cage.
  • Space for accessories. Your bin cage needs enough space for accessories, such as a wheel, food bowl, and litter tray at a minimum.

As long as you meet these requirements with your bin cage, it’ll make a suitable short-term home.

Can Gerbils Chew Through Bin Cages?

One of the main negatives of bin cages is that gerbils can chew through plastic. Gerbils have an instinctual desire to chew on things, which is primarily fuelled by the need to keep their ever-growing teeth filed down.

Even though plastic seems solid, it’s flexible, making it easy for gerbils to chew without hurting themselves. Similarly, if there are edges or pieces of molded plastic on the cage, your gerbil could bite through it and escape. Even if they don’t escape, you’ll have unsightly bite marks all over the tub.

The good news is that gerbils rarely swallow the plastic they chew because they understand it’s not food. However, some plastic tubs are made with poor quality materials that become harmful once they mix with your gerbil’s saliva.

Providing chew toys may discourage your gerbil from chewing its plastic cage, but this isn’t a reliable fix. As soon as your gerbil’s bored, it’ll go back to biting on the plastic tub.

If your gerbil’s prone to chewing plastic, choose a glass cage instead. They cost more and are heavier, but your gerbil won’t be able to escape or chew on the glass.

How To Make a Gerbil Bin Cage

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a gerbil cage. Instead, you can make a DIY gerbil bin cage using the following steps:

Find the Right Size Tub

Before you get started, purchase a clear plastic bin with a lid, which you can find in most department or hobby stores.

Ensure it’s at least 10 gallons for one gerbil and a further 5 gallons for every additional gerbil you have. For example, a pair of gerbils need a cage that’s at least 15 gallons and deep enough for them to burrow and build tunnels.

The Russian Journal of General Biology explains how gerbils have high levels of individualization and need enough space to be alone every now and then. That’s why you should make your gerbil’s bin cage as large as you can.

Similarly, according to Alternatives to Laboratory Animals, if the cage is too small, gerbils develop stereotypic behavior, such as compulsive digging and bar chewing. That’s why choosing the correct plastic box is the most critical step.

how to make a gerbil bin cage

Measure and Cut the Lid

The next step is to draw an outline of a rectangle on the lid, leaving a gap measuring two inches between the edge of the lid and the lines of the rectangle. This space is vital for attaching the wire mesh to the bin cage. 

After measuring, cut out the center of the bin lid by puncturing the line with a sharp knife or blade. Use a pair of scissors to cut out the outline and pop the redundant piece of plastic from the lid.

Using a pen, mark out small holes around the outside of the lid, leaving a three-inch gap between each one. Put the lid back on and drill holes using a 1/4 inch drill bit through every hole.

Attach the Mesh

Purchase a piece of hardwire mesh online or from any DIY hardware store. Choose one made of metal rather than plastic that gerbils can’t chew through.

Measure the width and length of the lid and cut the mesh using wire cutters or strong scissors to be the same size. Take your time on this step, as this will enable the gerbil to breathe while preventing it from escaping. Then, file down any sharp points or edges to make it safe. Alternatively, cover them with duct tape.

Attach the mesh to the bin cage using zip ties, threading them through the mesh and the holes you drilled. Tighten it as much as you can and repeat the process until all the holes are filled with a tie. Then, cut the ends off each tie so that they don’t stick out. This forms the basis of your bin cage.

Clean the Cage

Before putting your gerbils into the cage, you must clean them to make them safe. You don’t know how long the plastic tub was sitting on the shelf, so assume it’s unclean.

Fill a bowl with cool water and a small amount of liquid bleach and mix it. Wearing gloves, dip a cloth or towel into the solution and wipe the inside of the cage, the mesh lid, and the zip wires. Disinfecting all areas of the cage will remove chemicals, minimizing the risk of your gerbil getting sick.

To ensure you’ve completely removed the bleach, rinse the cage with clean water and tip it down the sink. Then, dry the enclosure using a separate clean rag or kitchen towel. It might also be worth leaving it to air dry for an hour or so before adding anything into it.

Add Bedding and Accessories

Once the cage has completely dried out and you’re happy it’s disinfected and clean, add a 6-8 inch layer of bedding. The best bedding includes a mixture of hay, aspen shavings, and paper-based materials. Next, add all the accessories your gerbils need to the cage, including your:

To add the water bottle to the cage, figure out where you want it to sit, ensuring the spout is at least 1 to 1.5 inches above the bedding. Mark out two holes on either side and use wire support to keep it in place. Don’t use a water dish, as they’re easy to tip over and are a drowning hazard.

This should provide your gerbils with everything they need to be happy and healthy. Keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t escape by biting through the plastic.

What Is the Best Type of Cage for a Gerbil?

The best type of gerbil cage is a glass tank with no plastic pieces. That’s because gerbils can’t climb up the glass to escape or squeeze through any bars. They also have plenty of room at the bottom to build tunnel systems. Not only that, but these kinds of tanks are easy for owners to clean, enabling gerbils to live in a cleaner, more sanitary condition.

Wire mesh cages with a glass tub are also suitable for gerbilariums, although they are more of an escape risk than glass tanks. That’s because if the bars are wide enough, they can squeeze through them.

They’re also able to chew on them, potentially breaking through. However, choosing one with metal or stainless steel bars can prevent gerbils from escaping easily, as they can’t be broken apart.

As mentioned, plastic hamster cages are the worst kind for gerbils, especially if they have tubes and pipes. Gerbils will easily destroy them. Most plastic store-bought cages also have flimsy doors with simple lock systems that gerbils are intelligent enough to crack open, so your pets won’t stay secure for very long.

Gerbils spend most of their lives in their cage, so the one you choose must provide enough safety, security, and comfort for them to live happily. While plastic bin cages are a simple and cheap temporary option, update to a glass tank as soon as it’s feasible.