Bullying Behaviour And Solutions Help Please!

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Sasco

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I have 3 sows, a 3 year old and two 4 month olds. They were bonded successfully when the babies were 8 weeks old and have shown no aggressive behaviour up to now (the babies are sisters). One of my two babies has a growth disorder and is very small. Her sister is now chasing her away whenever she tries to go any where near her. There is no aggression other than this. Does anyone have any ideas on potential solutions. I have space to introduce a couple more rescue pigs if needs be, but don't want to upset the good relationship they both have with the older female, who adores them.
 

Wiebke

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Hi!

Your girls have now hit the teenage hormones. They happen in sows as well, but they usually not lead to outright fights so it is much less known. You have to judge whether it is just a temporary hormone spike, in which case you leave things be, or whether there is some long term problem in the offing that is going to rear its head again and again.

In sows over 18 months, you also have take the possibility of ovarian cysts into account when it comes to sudden aggressive behaviour because a sow is basically nonstop on season. However, this stroppy behaviour is more general and usually not targeted at just one lower-ranked sow in a group. Introdcuing a neutered boar into sow group will not cure a strictly interpersonal or hormonal problem.

However, bullying can happen and does happen in sow groups. Once it has developed to a persistent level over the course of a few weeks or months, the best solution in my own experience is to move the bullied piggy out and to find it a new friend, ideally a laid-back rescue dated piggy. A full-on case of bullying is usually connected with a weight loss from the constant stress.

When looking for a new companion for a sow of any age, you can look at either sows or boars of any age; it is the mutual liking and character compatibility that counts. Dating at a good rescue (if that is an option for you) allows you to let the piggies choose each other, so you come home only if there has been acceptance, and you have the assurance that any new piggy is healthy, properly sexed and guaranteed not pregnant.
Guinea Pig Rescue Centre Locator

By the way, I've just split one of my groups because of a bullying case in two 4 year old piggies (part of the same uncontrolled multiplying group that was rescues from horrible circumstances) that I adopted as a bonded pair. Although they have never been best of friends, three years on they have had a fall-out and the junior sow has been waging a sustained war on the other one.

I have introduced my bullied piggy and the bottom piggy of the same group to a mixed gender couple to form a new mini-group and avoid the potential outsider trap in a trio. This has thankfully gone well (the bullied piggy has not been able to challenge the lady in the pair for dominance). It also means that there is no longer a lower ranked piggy remaining for my bully to start in on now that her current victim has been removed. Instead of a group of 6 and a cross gender pair, I have now got two groups of 4.
However, I always give any moved piggies the opportunity to move back into their old group after a few days in case they feel happier with their old friends (a few companions have done so, but never a bullied piggy). Thankfully, neither moved girl did show any interested past saying a friendly hello to their old companions before trotting off after their new husboar when they touched noses through the grids with their old mates, so I know that I have made the right decision.

If you do not want to opt for an outright split, I would consider taking either the bullying or the bullied piggy out for a day or two for a next door trial separation and see whether your other bullied girl is suddenly perking up noticeably. If yes, then she has been feeling stressed. You can in that case consider whether you'd rather find a new mate for the bully or fr the bullied piggy. Your older sow as the leader is not involved in and hierarchy/bullying issues apart from the fact that it is stressful for the whole group. And you have to brace yourself that the bully won't happy if she's being removed, but her reaction doesn't count - you want to check whether the your little girl is feeling stressed out or notby the constant chasing.
 
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Sasco

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Thank you! I have just been watching the two youngsters interacting with the older sow out of the way and there is no doubt that Ethel, the larger baby is seeking Mabel out and then chasing her or jumping at her. Mabel just runs to a new location and then the whole process is repeated. It happens less with Teasel there to moderate things. Ethel and Teasel have bonded very well so I was considering removing Mabel and bonding her with new pigs but I would prefer to solve it so all 3 get along, or failing that to introduce new pigs into the single group if possible. What do you think? My mum, who helps me with cleaning them out etc due to my disability, will kill me if I get any more. I, of course, utterly adore guinea pigs and would have hundreds of rescue pigs if I had the space :)
 

Wiebke

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Thank you! I have just been watching the two youngsters interacting with the older sow out of the way and there is no doubt that Ethel, the larger baby is seeking Mabel out and then chasing her or jumping at her. Mabel just runs to a new location and then the whole process is repeated. It happens less with Teasel there to moderate things. Ethel and Teasel have bonded very well so I was considering removing Mabel and bonding her with new pigs but I would prefer to solve it so all 3 get along, or failing that to introduce new pigs into the single group if possible. What do you think? My mum, who helps me with cleaning them out etc due to my disability, will kill me if I get any more. I, of course, utterly adore guinea pigs and would have hundreds of rescue pigs if I had the space :)
Unfortunately, adding new guinea pigs to the group (whether that is sows or a neutered boar) won't solve the problem between Ethel and Mabel. It is always upsetting, but not all that rare that sisters are not getting on. :(
 

Swissgreys

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And in addition to Wiebkes excellent advice I just wanted to add that a threesome can be tricky anyway - so much chance for one piggie to be left out, as you are finding out.
I think if two of them seem to have a good bond I wouldn't risk upsetting it by adding more guinea pigs. I would seperate Mabel and find her a new companion to live with.
 

Sasco

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I guess her size issue doesn't help her either. It is just such a shame that Teasel loves both of them so much. I will go on a trip to wood green animal shelter, which is just up the road from me, and see who they have there looking for a new home :)
 

Wiebke

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I guess her size issue doesn't help her either. It is just such a shame that Teasel loves both of them so much. I will go on a trip to wood green animal shelter, which is just up the road from me, and see who they have there looking for a new home :)
They are a good place to contact and go to with lots of experience! Best of luck!
 
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