Guinea Pigs do not require either large or elaborate quarters and the
average man or boy can easily prepare a suitable place for them. There
are two methods of housing usually used, namely, hutches and pens.
Among breeders generally the hutch method is preferred. They occupy
less room, are easier to keep warm in the winter, and are easier
handled. We illustrate several
types. Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 are the kind
used by the U. S. Department of Agriculture in the Bureau of Animal
Industry. They are about 20 inches wide, 3-1/2 feet deep and 18 inches
high. They will accommodate a male and three or four females and young
ones until weaned.
The door covers nearly the whole front and is made of wire netting. In
the back is a screened opening for ventilation. Each hutch should have a
shelf about four inches high in the back as they like to get on and
under it. These hutches are made to stack one on another to utilize
small space and are kept indoors.
Fig. 3 shows a type of hutch that can be built against the side of the
wall. It is not best to have the wall of the house serve as the back of
the hutch, it might be too cold. These can be built in tiers of three,
each tier about 18 inches or two feet high. The size of each hutch can
vary, depending on the number of Guinea Pigs you have. The entire front
should be of wire with large doors so as to allow ventilation and to be
easily cleaned. In the winter a small box can be put in each one for
sleeping quarters and this box kept full of straw.
Some breeders prefer pens and the pen system does have some advantages.
In the first place, it gives the animals more room, has to be cleaned
out less frequently and is more economical.
If you have a suitable place for making pens it will be all right to use
them. Of course, it is harder to protect them from cats, rats and dogs
in pens, and it is also harder to keep them warm in winter. In summer
the pens are really to be preferred. If you have space in a barn, wood
shed, attic, basement or any place that is protected from wind and rain
and cats, rats and dogs, you can easily fix up a place for them. A place
six by ten feet will accommodate from 30 to 50 Guinea Pigs. Your space
should be divided into several different pens with 12 to 18 inch board
or wire netting. Guinea Pigs do not burrow, so a board floor is not
necessary. The floor should be covered with litter of some sort. Saw
dust is good for a bottom layer. Hay or straw can be put on the saw
dust. In the winter, if the place is not heated, boxes with a small hole
for them to run in and out of and which should be filled with hay or
straw, should be supplied for sleeping quarters.
Heat in the winter is not considered necessary by many very successful
breeders, but we think it best they should have some protection,
especially in very bitter weather, and the warmer you can keep them the
better. They thrive better when the temperature does not fall below
freezing. If given well protected, tight quarters with plenty of bedding
they will get by all right without heat. However, the females that are
about to litter should be kept in a warm place, as the little ones will
freeze if the weather is very cold. After they get about a month old,
you can, during a warm spell, move them out with the others. One of the
most successful breeders in the West, whose stock brings fancy prices,
opposes artificial heat and says they are better without it. Other
breeders use oil stoves in the severe weather and some of the largest
Caviaries have elaborate heating arrangements.
Out Door Hutches.
In the summer you can build a pen of wire netting for them to run in
with a small tight box for sleeping quarters and protection from storm.
Use small mesh chicken wire for the sides. The top can be of netting or
boards. The size of the pen will of course depend on how many Cavies you
have. These pens can be moved from place to place on the lawn, giving
them good green grass. Very little other food then will be required.
Give your stock all the room you can spare. Do not see how little room
you can use, if you have room to waste. Be sure that they have
ventilation, even in the winter. Animals, like humans, need fresh air.
See that your hutches are kept clean and dry. Do not let your Cavies get
wet. There is no need to build expensive and elaborate hutches,
especially at the start. When you get a larger herd you can decide on
some uniform style of hutch or pen and make them all alike. This makes
them easy to handle and enlarge. Local conditions and circumstances will
determine how you will keep your Cavies.