FREE RANGE YOUR GUINEA PIGS!
My Guinea Pigs And Their Home
The author writes: There is no bar rattling for my pigs. They do not crave escape from any cage -- but instead have a whole room to enjoy. Block a corner of the room from them they will try to break in -- or break out. If you want happy pigs and have the space:
Give Your Guinea Pigs a Room!
Main living area
Most of our guinea pigs spend the majority of their lives in a cage. Ideally it is spacious and stimulating (see Teresa's wonderful cages ) but it is a cage, just the same. The pets may be handled frequently and provided exercise but space is limited. Some of us are brave enough to share larger areas of our home, especially if there is no danger from other family pets.
I have only had guinea pigs for a couple years (as I write, it is early December, 2001). And I only have three (females). I began with two guinea pigs in a homemade cage, about 7 square feet in area. The floor was covered with pine shavings and topped with hay, as was recommended to me by the breeder who sold the two pet quality pigs. Cleaning it was messy and hay ended up all over my house.
Looking for a better way to house them, they were soon moved to a larger area on the floor. This 20 square foot space was covered by a heavy cotton cloth and included a towel covered heated shelf and bathroom area (cat litter box filled with a couple inches of pine shavings and hay on top). Early on, I would periodically let them run around in the room, luring them back with food where I could close the gate.
Then in 2000, I removed the gate and opened the space to the whole 400 square foot room. All electric cords were carefully concealed and spaces under dressers and couches blocked off. A foot high board placed at the doorway to the room keeps them confined. While they do not have the run of the house, they do have the run of the room -- which in the end could be described as just another cage, albeit a large one.
Their Living Space Today
There are two main living areas. This gives them somewhere to go when cleaning one area and allows a pig to get away from it all should a companion be obnoxious and hard to live with. In the photo below, their primary living area is to the right; to the left, the grass and vegetable restaurant. The wire shelving walls now aid in cornering a pig to be picked up.
Towels or heavy cotton material covers most of the surfaces
Vinyl, stainless steel or heavy plastic is placed underneath the living areas
The litter tray is filled with shavings and soft meadow grass hay
Plastic stools and towels are draped to provide privacy
Pellets and water are always present and changed daily
The single towel on the floor of the covered shelf in the main living area is removed and shaken out on a daily basis (air dried overnight and flipped over for another use).
The litter trays are filled with an inch or two of pine shavings and covered with soft grass hay. I used photo developing trays made by Cesco-lite. Use new trays, as used ones may be contaminated by chemicals. Their spacious size (16 X 20 inches) allows all three pigs access at the same time. Only three inches tall, they are easy to get in and out of but don't do as good a job containing hay as the smaller 4" high cat litter pan first used. I seldom find stray droppings on the floor, as most of them end up in the litter boxes or on the covered sleeping area (heated shelf) in their primary home. All hay is removed in the primary litter tray and replaced daily. Wet bedding is removed daily. Every three days or so, the shavings are completely discarded and the tray cleaned (see below for cleaning tips ). Used bedding ends up in the garden as mulch, where the hay, droppings and pine shavings improve the soil and make weed control much easier.
A supply of towels for perhaps 8 to 10 days will fill a hot wash laundry load. Bleach can be added if desired to disinfect.
The stools are a wonderful find. Purchased from the local dollar store, they provide a sturdy, colorful and easy to clean shelter that allows for infinite arrangements. An astute pig will notice she can escape from all four directions. The dozen or so stools make the litter boxes more private and are very popular.
In order to encourage order and decency, colors have recently been carefully coordinated to make their homes, if not truly tasteful, at least not garish. I suspect the pigs could care less, but it makes me happier. Typically they will periodically start up a chorus demanding food once or twice a day. They usually do not spend time out in the open though a small amount of care is needed to ensure you do not step on them.
The restaurant. Fresh grass offered daily is a favorite:
The vacation home (second litter box and hangout area):
Addendum: it is now the summer of 2005 and only one guinea pig, Snowflake, remains. She spends more time in the litter boxes these days, traveling from the main area to the vacation home, still obviously enjoying her freedom. With only one pig and two large litter boxes, cleaning is often not required daily.