Winter care tips

    • Site the hutch against a solid wall/fence away from prevailing winds – these tend to be south-westerlies. Be aware of which direction the hutch is facing and remember that the northerly and easterly winds will bring the coldest temperatures. (sun rises east, sets west!)
    • Watch the weather forecast every day so that you can plan ahead and can cope with any sudden changes. Be night time temperature aware. Invest in a minimum/maximum thermometer, this will clearly show you the lowest temperature reached throughout the night and then act upon it.
    • Raise the hutch up off the floor house bricks or breeze blocks are ideal. Put a sock over the water bottle to prevent it from freezing over.
    • Concentrate on making one small area of the hutch really warm and cosy. Block up as much as you can of the sleeping quarters allowing a walk through hole/tunnel for ventilation/access from the main hutch living/eating area. The idea is to reduce the amount of cold air going in to the sleeping area whilst still allowing good ventilation.
    • Inside the sleeping area line the bottom with cardboard turned up at the edges to prevent draughts coming through cracks in the floor/door. Cardboard is a wonderful insulator too.
    • Make your own straw pillow. Fill a large paper bag with straw and roll the ends shut. Flatten it to make a pillow (by putting it in a bag it overcomes the possibility of eye injuries) and place this on the bottom of the sleeping area. Then put on top of the pillow a layer of newspaper/hay as normal. Then place a den on top of that. This could to be a paper bag/shoebox/cardboard box/wooden house/sea grass cosy/pigloo, anything that keeps the warmth in and that will fit all your guinea pigs in comfortably. Then stuff the area once more with hay. Don’t use plastic as it will gather condensation and make the bedding damp. It is really important that the guinea pigs have something to snuggle into that acts as extra insulation and prevents them touching the cold outside wall of the hutch. The idea is to think layers. An alternative to the straw pillow is a piece of vetbed which keeps them warm and can be easily washed.
    • Invest in a Snugglesafe pet warmer. These remain warm for several hours and are petsafe. Ideal for those really icy nights, your pets’ very own hot water bottle.
    • Consider ways to insulate and weatherproof the hutch itself. Pay particular attention to how the door fits the recess in the sleeping area. Often these allow draughts in and sometimes wet too. A piece of sacking could be pinned to the outside of the door to prevent draughts. A solid piece of polystyrene can be placed on the roof of the hutch with the whole hutch then covered by duvet or blankets. Cover these with an emergency foil blanket available from outdoor pursuits shops or shops online. The foil reflects and retains the heat in the hutch. This can then be covered with one waterproof/weatherproof outer cover, such as tarpaulin, and held in place with bungee lines. The front can then simply be rolled up each morning tucking the blankets under the tarpaulin to keep them dry. Ensure adequate ventilation at all times and make sure the covering doesn’t flap about creating a draught itself.
    • Sliding night shutters made from wood/ply provide good protection from the weather too. Get your family’s DIY King to do it for you, the guinea pigs will appreciate the extra effort.
    • Guinea pigs do not cope well with large fluctuations in temperature so it is inadvisable to bring them into a warm house in the evening for floortime only to return them to a cold hutch. This can make them ill. It is preferable to allow them floortime in the morning in an unheated room but definitely not out on damp grass.
    • The days are short with little natural light during the winter months, please make every effort possible to spend time checking your piggies and giving them plenty to eat and extra veggies as runs on the grass will have ceased now until May. They will still need to be cleaned out and exercised so in severe weather conditions it is considerably kinder to all parties to bring them indoors. Spend the summer months preparing for next winter and consider buying either an indoor hutch or a small garden shed.
    • Get your piggies to the vet at the first signs of ill health.

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