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The Rathaus September 28, 2004 11:33 AM

I posted this to another group and wanted to share it here too. It is a recycled a birdhouse built by my son in Scouts to make a nest box for our rats. Because we have cats and lots of cats in our area, putting a birdhouse outside is like creating a kitty buffet. I won't do it, so the birdhouse sat cluttering the house till we got the rats and the idea for the "Rathaus" was born. For any who speak German, Rathaus means city hall, and I always snigger when I say it in reference to our rats nest box. First off, remove the lid of the birdhouse. Most that are cheaply made are nailed on. You have to hinge it to make it easy to clean. If the lid is really big you may have to trim it. Ours needed an inch trimmed off the front. The top makes a nice sunning spot for the rats, but since they won't need the rain protection the front ledge doesn't need to be so big. Next, enlarge the hole. Estimate how big your rats will get, or plan to make it bigger with time. They can squish really small so it shouldn't need to be too big. Aim to make the hole higher in the box rather than lower as this makes it less likely they will catch a draft. We didn't have power tools so we took the front off the box and then chiseled out the hole from both sides. Cut two small blocks that are a cm cube sized. Nail them at the front corners of the birdhouse on the top side of the front. I used two small nails on opposite diagonal corners so they don't pivot. This acts as "tail protection". If you are taking a rat out the lid may slam if you aren't careful. This allows a 1 cm gap to prevent tails from being pinched. Sand the whole things smooth. If there are gaps that might catch claws or cause a problem fill them. Any rough edges the rats might chew so smooth it as well as you can. Paint with a non-toxic scrubbable latex paint. Opt for the most safe paint you can. If it smells offensive to you it probably isn't good for the ratties. Paint a few coats to ensure that the aromatic oils of the wood don't make your rats sick. I was afraid of dangers associated with chewing paint so I didn't paint the box right away. Our box was made of pine and unpainted it caused Rocky to get congested and sneezy. We used a kitchen and bath paint and let the completed box "outgas" in a warm ventilated area for at least a week before putting it in the cage. To put the lid on, make a hinge by cutting a 2 litre ice cream bucket lid to get a 2cm by 10cm strip of plastic. Fold in half lengthwise to crease it. Use eight sharp tack nails to afix it to the top and the back of the box. Try to get the crease into the join as flush with the corner as possible. Voila, you have a rathaus for next to nothing! I put 2 cms of shavings in the box and top it with a little square of fleece. Every couple of days I put the fleece in the wash and dump the damp shavings. A comfy cozy warm bed for ratties that is draft free. They also have a brick just outside the hole as a front step.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 
Hmm September 29, 2004 8:40 AM

Aww. Somebody needs to invent a huge, inexpensive ratty palace.  [ send green star]
 
Rat condo September 29, 2004 9:26 AM

We are building, not huge but big, a condo. It will be like a standard bookshelf style with holes in the shelves for the rats to go from level to level. Some holes will be larger to allow people arms in to clean. The middle section of shelves will be wire mesh on the front for ventilation. The bottom shelf will be two aquaria to provide draft free spaces for sleeping or rats wanting draft free and the top shelf will be plexiglas front, again for draft free but still accessible. My dad cut the sides and shelves of laminated MDF and there will be a bottom shelf for storage that has a cross piece to support the weight of the aquaria. The back will be a solid wood sheet. It will double our rat owning capacity and give the boys lots of territory to explore. There will also be the option of dividing floors if ever there are violent squabbles that need dealing with. I've seen bigger and fancier cages, but this one will be compact like a bookshelf so it doesn't take much room and yet still has lots of rat space available. And our two "rat haus's" will provide the step down from one level to another and more draft free sleeping spots. I'm so excited but without power tools to cut the holes and drill holes I need to wait for when my sister has time. We have visions of ladders and ropes for the boys to climb. I'm sure they will have fun.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 
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