We have been breeding our own rats since early 2003 after our frustration with the pet-store quality and prices of the rodents available to us at the time.   In this section, I will discuss what our rat set-up consists of and what has worked for us.  I’ll cover food, bedding, watering, materials/assembly of our racks, and our bins. After having done some research into the nutritional requirements for breeding rodents, we chose to use a lab diet formulated specifically for that purpose; we chose Mazuri 6F.  Though there are many high-quality rodent lab diets out there, we have had great success with our colonies eating Mazuri 6F and highly recommend it.  Mazuri can be found at most Co-op or farm feed stores at a price point similar to a lower-end dog food. The bedding that we currently use is a shredded aspen.  I prefer the shredded aspen to the chipped type as it is softer as a bedding for newborn pinks, it also has more surface area for better absorption.  Though we clean the rats every three to four days, I have noticed that shredded aspen has worked better at absorbing rodent odors than the other beddings that we have used in the past.  Aspen bedding can be found at pet stores and various chain stores and also at Co-ops or farm feed stores.  Shop around for the best price; $3-$5 per compressed cubic foot is an average.  I have also recently switched our water bottles for a gravity-fed semi-automatic watering system.  With a reservoir tank above each rack, and 3/8” tubing feeding a variable-flow drinking valve clipped into each rat bin, we can now provide our rats with a cleaner, constant supply of water while at the same time saving us the time of having to clean, disinfect and fill 40+ water bottles.  A gravity-fed watering system can be had for roughly $8-$12/bin. After first hearing of, and then seeing firsthand the utter indestructibility of Ikea’s “Slugis” storage bins, we knew these were the bins for us.  Coupled with its roomy 600+ square inches of floor space, allowing us to comfortably run colonies of 1.5.  thus making it the perfect bin for our space.     Built from 2x4 spruce, each of our four racks utilizes four bins; one on each level.  After the “frames” for each individual level were built, I covered the top of each with ½” hardware cloth; perfect for allowing the rats to eat from, yet small enough to prevent escape.  An additional 2x4 was run width-wise six inches in to create both a food hopper, and an area for the variable flow drinking valves.  1x2 spruce boards were run the full length of the bins below the frame, creating a guide to allow the bins a rail to slide on for ease of opening and closing.  After the frames were built, they were assembled using three inch wood  screws and spaced 12 inches above each other and attached to the supports/legs, which I installed castors on to allow for easy moving for cleaning purposes.    updated Feb 1, 2011