Housing and Bedding
Big is best, and bigger is even better! We just love to run around and jump about (popcorning) so please make sure our home is as large as possible (min 4′ long for 2 piggies) and has ease of access for cleaning. This will need to be done twice a week using a good quality disinfectant. If the hutch is to be sited outdoors we need it in a sheltered spot away from draughts, the elements and predators. Damp is bad, dry is good. Oh and it needs to be well ventilated too. We like to be kept cool in the summer and warm in the winter (much like humans really) but in the summer we can be put out in runs on the lawn as we make excellent lawn mowers, please make sure we have some shade though! (However, if you have treated your grass recently, your guineas could ingest poisons, so do be aware). We are though, brilliant pets to be kept indoors. Those that are lucky enough to live indoors tend to be friendlier as they are more integrated into the family and no we don’t smell either! Watching us having fun beats watching TV any day.
Inside our hutch we usually like a layer of newspaper then some warm bedding on top preferably good quality hay. (Chopped straw or vet bed can be used as an alternative.) Please do not use sawdust as this can lead to respiratory problems, we are burrowing animals after all and fine dust up our noses can be a quite a problem. Sawdust can also be very drying on our skin. We don’t like straw because it can scratch our eyes and with hay it means we can nibble our bedding throughout the day too. Nice eh? Lining the bottom of the hutch first makes it easier to clean us out, just roll everything up and get it recycled. Easy! Keeping us really clean will help to prevent mites etc too. Oh and we never want to live with a rabbit either (nice as they are) they will just try to mate us and can cause us some very nasty injuries. Yuk !
Our outdoor guinea pig runs were made to our specific requirements. They have proved ideal for the summer months when the piggies love the time spent on lawnmower duties in the field.
What housing do we recommend?
This is the one item that should have the most thought given to it, get the biggest and best you can possibly afford. This may well be their home for 7 years, you want it to last and you want them to be comfortable. If you wouldn’t like to spend 24 hours a day living in a closet then don’t do that to your piggies. Give them the home they deserve – spacious, warm and sturdy. Little Brambles will check out the hutch before rehoming and a minimum of 8 sq feet is essential for the welfare of two rescue piggies. Please call the rescue if you want advice before you buy. Please ignore any recommendations made by pet shops as they are ALWAYS too small. Think rabbit sized. BIG !
It is definately worth considering having an indoor home for your guinea pigs, they don’t smell and they can become very tame when living indoors. Get the biggest one you can find, at least 4′ for 2 piggies, search the internet, but try to get one with side openings as the piggies are then easy to reach. Top only openings can be difficult to get into. The indoor ones are easy to keep clean and usually have a plastic bottom with a wire top. If you have other animals in the house ensure the top is sturdy and will clasp shut.
Another type to consider is C & C cages (cubes and correx) – Google them and you will see some wonderful examples of fabulous piggie homes. It is wire grids locked together to form open housing, they can be made any size to suit you and are relatively cheap and can be extended quite easily. The correx is lightweight plastic that can be formed to make the base – easy to clean and replace. It is the same stuff that estate agents for sale signs are made out of.
Finally, the wooden hutch. Many people tell us that they have a double decker hutch and that the measurements are 3′ ish x 18″ ish. Unfortunately this is just too small for piggies and the rescue could not agree to our piggies being housed in them. In addition, double deckers are generally unsuitable for the following reasons:
- Guinea pigs are not natural climbers and I know of piggies who will never ever use the ramp which immediately reduces the amount of floor space they have to exercise in. Many of them end up simply spending all their life in the sleeping area and never stretching their legs. That’s cruel. If they do use the ramps it takes away the flat floor space the piggies love to jump about and popcorn in. A large flat area is preferable.
- Piggies have been known to fall down the hole and injure themselves.
- Guinea pigs are naturally shy animals and even tame ones put up resistance when being picked up. If you have two tiers they will always run into the opposite one from the one you are trying to catch them in, this results in a scared piggie and also a frustrated owner. I have known owners who just don’t handle their piggies because they are so difficult to catch in these types of hutches.
- There is a constant cold draught/damp coming up the ramp hole which means that they are more likely to suffer with ill health, piggies do not cope well with draughts or damp at all. Also the bottom tier tends to be open to the elements with no sheltered compartment.
- The double decker hutches tend to be very heavy so can not easily be moved into a sheltered area or easily insulated in the winter. The hutches sold as an all-in-one run and home have proved to be so heavy they never get moved off the same patch of grass and access to damp areas could spell disaster for your piggies health
- They can be awkward to clean out and piggies often chew the ramp so it needs to be replaced regularly. Bending down to clean out the bottom for the umpteenth time is not something to look forward to either.
The hutches with two tiers that have adequate flooring on the ground floor, have solid sides and back at the lower level (to provide all round weather protection), have a sheltered hidey hole/sleep area AND measure at least 4′ x 2′ MAY be acceptable. Please ask the rescue.
We do not recommend two tier hutches at all if the bottom tier goes straight onto the patio/grass/decking and has no bottom or sides, this is simply inadequate housing for our rescued piggies.
We RECOMMEND a one tier sturdy wooden hutch, on a stand to raise it up off the floor and to make cleaning out easier. The hutch needs to be made of sturdy material with no sharp corners or wire. The individual door fasteners need to be easy to operate and the doors fit securely. It should be spacious enough to put in wooden hidey holes, veg/food bowls and a place to stretch out as well as have a run about – 4′ x 2′ is minimum. You will also need to consider a secure area seperate to their hutch for floor time and exercise on a daily basis.
ALL housing must be brought into a sheltered and weatherproof area during winter, a shed, summer house, wendy house, utility room, garage with no car, outbuilding are all ideal. You won’t want to be outside cleaning an outdoor hutch out in the freezing cold, driving rain and howling gales so why should you expect you piggies to live out there too? Be kind to your piggies, be kind to yourself, get your piggies indoors during the winter.