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Mar 10, 2009
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Coventry UK
Guinea pigs can make bird-like sounds, which we call ‘chirping’. Whoever comes across them for the first time is often extremely surprised and pretty puzzled!
However, chirping is pretty rare. Even as a long term owner you may never hear it!

Here is a video of a rare daytime performance out in the open by my own Heulwen (the white and ginger piggy on the mezzanine), which I was lucky to catch on camera. When you look closely you can see her mouth moving!

For that reason and because it is near impossible to research due to its unpredictability, any explanation attempts I have come across are still falling rather short and are not satisfactory. It is still the biggest and most enduring cavy mystery!

What we can say:
  • Some guinea pigs are more prolific chirpers; a few piggies will chirp perhaps once or twice in their lifetime. The vast majority will never chirp.
  • If you have a regular chirper, you are more likely to hear another of your piggies chirp at some point.
  • Each guinea pig seems to have their own 'song'; some are very monotonous whereas others are a bit more melodic.
  • Most chirping seems to happen at night or during quiet hours.
  • A chirper will often stop if you startle them or come too close to them or if they feel observed.
  • Chirping seems to happen more frequently if there is a general sense of unease or conflict amongst the piggies in my own experience with my own regular chirper Heulwen. Some sows may chirp when coming into season.
  • Often however there is no obvious cause whatsoever that might have triggered chirping. A few piggies are known to chirp in order to delight their humans.
  • Any companions are very quiet and somewhat transfixed during a chirping performance. They do generally not act frightened though.
  • On the other hand, playing a chirping video or audio can totally spook guinea pigs, even if it is a replay of their own chirping! Other piggies will be puzzled and some will simply ignore it. I have got very different reactions playing the same video at different times.
This suggests that there is likely a strong situational component attached to chirping, whose meaning is still eluding us and which may yet provide the key to how we have to interpret chirping. It remains to be seen whether there is one simply explanation to it anyway, or whether it is rather more complex than that. But whatever it is, the message is obviously quite a powerful one!

If you ever witness it, chirping is something very special indeed. Please do not feel left out if your own piggies are never doing it! You are with the overwhelming majority of owners. The reason why chirping videos and audios abound on social media lies exactly in the fact of chirping being so unusual and so special.
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