How to house your guinea pigs

Although guinea pigs are small creatures, they need plenty of space to run around. Providing them with spacious housing and a secure outdoor run will help keep them active, happy and healthy.

Guinea pigs can live indoors or outdoors – there are pros and cons to each.

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Keeping guinea pigs indoors

Indoor cages can come in large sizes – but they’re often very cumbersome and leave little opportunity for you to be creative with the environment.

If you’re thinking of keeping indoor guinea pigs, look out for modular cage ranges like those offered by C&C. They’re more flexible and more suited to empty spaces in your home - plus relatively low cost and easy to make.

  • Pros of indoor guinea pigs: your piggies are likely to become more confident around you and being hand fed. You’re more likely to spot health concerns, and these may even be reduced as they will be in a dry, warm environment with a reduced risk of fungal and respiratory issue. They’ll also be safe from wild predators and bad weather
  • Cons of indoor guinea pigs: it may be tricky to find a room that gives your guinea pigs quiet time. If you have cats or dogs they’re more likely to watch the piggies and cause them stress. They will have reduced opportunities to graze on grass, as they will need to acclimatise to the outside temperatures. You may also be allergic to their bedding.

Keeping guinea pigs outdoors

There are many hutches available in pet stores and online. However, many are very poorly made and often fall apart within the first two years. Consider investing a little more with a welfare approved hutch company where the hutch is made of strong wood with suitable bolts on the doors.

Double level hutches are not ideal for guinea pigs. Although some will use both levels, most only end up using one. They’re also at risk of falling down the ramp or floor hole when they are elderly and less mobile.

Consider using sheds or Wendy Houses

Whatever hutch you choose, try to place it inside a shed or well ventilated out building with natural daylight. This will keep your guinea pigs safe from predators and warm in the winter.

In fact, wooden Wendy Houses or garden sheds make an ideal home for your guinea pigs, especially if you have a group. Sheds can easily be converted with mesh doors and a step over barrier to stop them escaping. The shed offers more floor space for the guinea pigs and suits families who want to socialise with their guinea pigs but may be put off by the weather.

  • Pros of outdoor guinea pigs: they will have a larger living area if you use a Wendy House or shed, and a calmer, quieter area away from determined pets such as dogs and cats. It’s easier to allow them to graze throughout the year, as they will be more acclimatised to the weather. It’s also safer if anyone in your home suffers from allergies
  • Cons of outdoor guinea pigs: you’ll have less opportunity to socialise with your guinea pigs. They’re more likely to have health issues that go unnoticed for longer periods, and are at risk of wild predators such as foxes, stoats and rats. A risk of them becoming cold and damp during winter and overheating during the summer.

Ideal enclosure sizes for a pair of guinea pigs

Whether you choose an indoor or an outdoor set up, here’s how much space your piggies will need. Males often prefer a slightly larger space to avoid squabbles. Groups of four or more guinea pigs need a larger indoor set up or a converted shed or Wendy House.

  • Hutch or indoor cage – 5 ft long by 2 ft deep (153 cm by 61 cm)
  • Run for the garden – 6 ft long by 4 ft wide by 18 inches high (2 m by 1.25 m by 46 cm).

All guinea pigs need a garden run

Guinea pigs are naturally grazing animals. Weather permitting, they need a minimum of 4-6 hours a day on grass or with access to a good mixture of safe garden plants. Guinea pigs who are confined to a hutch for long periods of time are more likely to suffer health conditions and potentially fight with their companions.

The garden run needs to be secure, have a lid and be well-built to prevent predators and young children trying to climb in when you’re not able to supervise.

Metal folding runs and A-frames are not suitable for guinea pigs. Metal runs don’t often have a secure lid and are flimsy against predators and weather. A-frames often only have one door so rounding up the guinea pigs can be very tricky – and they’re rarely available in the required minimum size.

Your guinea pigs will need at least three hiding areas or tunnels within their run. They don’t feel safe grazing in open spaces and will often hide in one corner or under the only shelter if they don’t have several options to move between.

Building your own: what you need to know

If you’re considering building your own guinea pig accommodation, it’s vital you use the right materials. Here are a few things to bear in mind before you start building:

  • Chicken wire is not suitable for animal housing. It is too weak and easy for your piggies to damage and escape from
  • Use small gauge, strong welded mesh. The mesh should be nailed or heavy-duty stapled on to prevent your guinea pigs from forcing the mesh from the framework
  • Outdoor hutches, sheds and runs will need secure bolts placed on the doors, not swivel latches. Predators and young children can easily open swivel latches or flimsy bolts
  • Run lids will need to be strong enough to withhold a predator or windblown items landing on them. Ideally, make the roof in three sections with a supporting beam to aid the strength and prevent dipping in the middle
  • Cable ties are not suitable for tying run panels together. The hutch or run must be secured with suitable wood screws
  • Plastic children’s play houses are not suitable for guinea pig housing
  • Chicken coops or plastic pods are not suitable for guinea pigs – the housing area is often very small and can become damp and mouldy. It’s also a very limited space if the run area is too wet.