The start-up for a hedgehog can be expensive, but beyond the price of the animal and an appropriate wheel, it really doesn't need to be (in fact, the most expensive thing in my hedgehogs' cage aside from him is the wheel). The majority of cages sold at pet stores and include marketing towards hedgehogs/hedgehog owners usually have more problems then they are worth.
I decided to title this Instructable "Hedgehog Cage $50 or Less" instead of "$25 or Less" because after the price of the storage container and typical pet accessories (food/water dishes etc.) the most expensive thing is the wheel--a good quality wheel makes all the difference and is an essential item your hedgie MUST have.
Things to consider:
Wire: When you pick a hedgehog cage, whether you decide to DIY it or not, you should always consider the needs of the animal. Wire bottoms/ramps/wheels etc. are a no-no. This is because hedgehogs have small legs and tiny toes and these small appendages can be easily injured or broken should a toe or leg become stuck in the wires. It's not worth the risk.
Size: The minimum size cage most suggest is about 24" by 24" square feet. Bigger is better, but if you decide to go with one of those guinea pig/rabbit cages with the solid plastic bottom and wire top, you'll run into issues when it comes to keeping your hedgehog at a proper temperature.
Multi-levels: If you decide you want to give your hog more space way of adding levels, make sure you include some type of railing to prevent your hog from just walking right off the edge of your second (or third) level. Hedgehogs have really bad eye-sight and depth perception, they will walk right off something high and can hurt themselves.
C&C Cages: In the past I have built some pretty spectacular C&C cages for my hedgehogs, these cages were made with coroplast (a plastic cardboard-like material used for making signs), wire shelving, and a whole mess of zip-ties. These types of cages have their own advantages and disadvantages. Cutting coroplast is pain in the butt, making sure all the measurements so your cut coroplast fits perfectly inside the shelves (so your hog is shielded from the wires) is a pain in the butt, heating can be a pain in the butt, and depending on how many hedgehogs and how many levels you need, access can be a huge pain in the butt. That's why after a couple of years we ended up switching back to the trusty old storage container.
Heat: African Pygmy Hedgehogs need constant temperatures between 75-85 degrees. A lot of the ailments you might run into with your hedgehog can usually be attributed to a lack of heat. If hedgehogs become too cold, they will attempt to hibernate and this will kill them. Occasionally I use a small heating pad (without auto-shut off) under the bottom of my cages, however this is not sufficient as the heat from the heating pad doesn't rise. I've picked up a couple small space heaters ($5-10) and usually run one at a time for 12 hours. You can put them on a digital timer and not have to plug/unplug every morning/night as I do. Also, to ensure sufficient temperatures inside your cage, a digital thermometer is always a good idea. I have this one: http://www.walmart.com/ip/AcuRite-Digital-Humidit... , it was under $9 and so far works great. I have it set near the wheel on the end of the cage opposite from the space heater.
Other people highly recommend Ceramic Heat Emitter set-ups, which can be expensive initially but well worth it in the long run. I haven't gotten to this type of set up yet, but probably will at some point.
Lighting: Hedgehogs need a consistent day/night schedule. That means making sure they have exposure to light during the day, and darkness at night. This can be easily done with a lamp near your hedgehogs cage. Hedgehogs should have at least 12 hours of "day light" otherwise they might think winter is coming (doesn't matter if it is or not) and will try to hibernate (this is a no-no). If you're concerned about forgetting to turn light on/off for your hog, a digital timer or the type of timer used for holiday lights work great.
Step 1: Materials & Supplies
-Largest storage container you can find, the smallest suggested size is 2x2 square feet. Preferably clear so you can easily see what your hedgie is up to.
-Wheel: perhaps one of the most important items you will ever buy for your hedgehog. I've used Carolina Storm Wheels for the last 5 years. Hands down the best wheel I've ever had. They are sturdy, easy to clean, easy on hedgie feet, and most of all: QUIET.
- Food dish & water bottle/bowl.
-Cage bedding: I use liners made from fabric, but aspen/pine shavings are also acceptable. I have found liners to be less expensive, less smelly, and easier to maintain. This is an Instructable I made for making cage liners: https://www.instructables.com/id/Hedgehog-Cage-Liner/
-Drill with multiple bits.
Step 2: Cage Prep
Might seem silly to add, but you want to make sure you pull off any stickers and give the cage a good washing just to be sure there isn't anything harmful that could be lurking.
Step 3: Water Bottle Placement
So, the first thing I did was decide where I wanted the water bottle to hang.
I recently came across a comment in a hedgehog forum (yes, I'm that dorky) while looking for suggestions on a better bottle that wouldn't leak, the comment basically said that you should place bottles as low as possible as hedgehogs do not have the same kind of neck/spinal movements as a mouse. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense since hedgehogs are not going to sit up on their back legs and use their from paws to grasp at the bottle nozzle.
Since a leaky water bottle was a problem, I decided I would buy a new one and place it lower in the cage so it meets Cas's height. I also put a small ceramic dish below the water bottle to catch any drippings, and if it turns out he likes the dish better, I'll get him a bigger one.
Once I knew where I wanted the water nozzle to come out, I marked the spot off with a Sharpie. Then I marked off where the bottle hanger holes would go as well and got my drill out. I matched the nozzle and hanger pieces to the drill bits I had and then made my holes, the nozzle I had to widen with the drill but only took a few seconds and worked great.
Make sure you clean the plastic pieces out before continuing.
The final picture is of the new water bottle I bought for Cas. Sadly, it had a small, but serious enough accident to render it utterly useless when my dog decided to jump in the front seat of my car and somehow cracked the nozzle off. 5 minutes after I bought it.
Step 4: Set Up
After the water bottle is in place, you can go ahead and set up the rest of your cage. I put down the liner (https://www.instructables.com/id/Hedgehog-Cage-Line... and then set Cas's wheel (www.carolinastormhedgehogs.com---I am not affiliated with this company, I just think Larry's wheels are amazing and a fantastic deal!) at the opposite end from the water bottle.
I was going to try and do something fancy with the thermometer, like velcro or magnets, but in the end, I decided just to leave it behind the wheel facing out so I can easily see it. Works great so far.
On the side of the cage with the water bottle, I also put Cas's food dish and his house. I have since changed from the little crock-style dish to a small, low to the ground lizard dish that looks like it has little rocks around it. Cas makes much less of a mess with his food now. I'll post new pictures soon.
The final picture shows one of the space heaters I bought, I try to keep them pointed at the cage but far enough away that melting/making the water bottle hot isn't an issue but the temp. stays around 75-80. I get really anxious about this, especially in the winter. They say "a happy dog is a tired dog," well a happy hedgie is a warm hedgie. As I've mentioned in previous steps, if hedgehog are subjected to temperatures below 70 for too long (or sometimes even a matter of minutes or hours) they'll attempt to hibernate. Hibernation is dangerous to African Pygmy Hedgehogs as they are domesticated animals and do not have the ability to regulate their own temperatures and pull themselves out of hibernation. Hibernation also makes hedgehogs more vulnerable to illnesses.
The best way to tell if your hedgie is at risk of hibernating is to feel their belly. A cold belly is a bad sign and you must do everything you can to warm your hedgie up. There are several places you can find more information about this, such as www.hedgehogcentral.com and by Google search.
Another thing I do, partially for warmth, and partially to force my hedgies to love me is that I give them t-shirts from either myself or my husband after they've been worn. This helps with bonding as hedgehogs will become used to your scent and will associate you with comfort. Bonding is a big deal if you want a friendly hedgie. Soon I will post an Intructable for making bonding bags so you can walk around all day (or even nap) with your hedgie.
We also just added a bicycle computer to Cas's wheel so we can track how much he runs each night. The purpose of this is mostly to keep an eye on his health. Hedgehogs can walk 3-4 miles a day, so if Cas's running starts to decline it could be a symptom that something is wrong. So far I have noticed that when his nails get a tad too long (and his nails grow faster than any hedgehog I've ever owned) he won't run as much.
Step 5: Additional C&C Cage Photos
I was looking through my FB account and found some more photos of the C&C cage I built a couple years ago.