Confused newbie

Clairabella

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Hi all,

We have two sows, Waffle and Boo, that are now 10 weeks. We brought them home at 8 weeks (two weeks ago) from a guinea pig breeder/farm. They seem to be settling in fairly well (given what I have read here. One is braver than the other but both seem happy to be held and cuddled by my daughter over the past week, feed from our hands, explore around us etc.). However, I'd be really grateful if you could help me out with a few things...

I am not particularly brave (in fact I'm quite nervous) and so have not felt completely relaxed around them as of yet. I've cuddled them both and it has been lovely but then I suddenly get anxious again and want to put them back into their hutch where we are all safe. I was bitten unexpectedly by a friend's dog a couple of years ago, and so I am certain that the anxiety stems from this (plus memories of a very aggressive hamster my sibling once owned could factor in because I never really thought about her again until now...). I know it is mostly irrational, considering that one actively comes up to see what is going on each morning when I clean their hutch, and loves to come near and have a sniff But, even then, I place my hand near her and get scared when she sniffs and sometimes I go to give her a little stroke before chickening out again 🤦🏼‍♀️. I am sure that they are braver than I am. Whereas, in contrast, my daughter has them snuggled with her or is holding and feeding them veggies at least once a day and is reassuring me! 🤦🏼‍♀️

I know that they still have more settling in to do yet and that this is a process for us all and it will take time. Reading through and realising how well they are doing though reassures me greatly. I also know that they have done nothing for me to feel this way and that it is just fine for us to slowly build the trust together.

Having said this however, my daughter mentions this morning, choosing her moment immediately before departing to her dad's for the week, that their privates appear to be different. I've just read a thread whereby someone mentioned 95 guineas in a house because of a case of wrong sexing and no separation and now I am very concerned. I know that I need to pick them up and take a peek myself but, honestly, I dread having to do this because I will, probably and deservedly, be bitten for being so nervous about it. If anyone could possibly offer me some tips as how best to go about this? We have a tube in their hutch that I can pick them up with (I do this to place them in the run), but in terms of then using my hands to lift and look what would be the best steps to take next?

I'm sorry, I know this sounds silly but I'd just rather be best prepared. 😬

I realise now that I need to source some scales to weigh the girls with (I have tiny scales but I am certain these will be useless and stressful for the piggies) but I have noticed this afternoon that Boo (the more curious one) is a little larger than Waffle. This could be because she appears to be the more dominant of the two (and so likes to be in with the food first - I've now introduced two bowls and placed them apart). But, I have not noticed any mating calls or teeth chattering, and definitely no humps. If anything Waff looks to Boo for reassurance and Boo just looks for the food always, leaving Waff behind. They have only ever fallen out (which has never been more than a tiny squeaky tiff) due to Boo's dislike of sharing whatever food is dangling from her mouth, and Waffle definitely still gets to eat. So, I am not certain that a slight size difference can be attributed to a lack of, or inability to reach, food. Which is now ringing alarms moreso with my daughter dropping her observational bombshell earlier on today...

A different query that I have concerns itching. When the girls first came home, I noticed Boo scratching a few times - not relentlessly but here and there throughout the day. Waffle did not appear to scratch much. Boo also sneezed a couple of times. So, I changed the bedding in the hutch from woodshavings to wooden litter pellets. Boo doesn't appear to scratch nearly so much (so I am certain this helped her), but now they both occasionally scratch. I haven't noticed anything on their fur, but I am a little confused as to how much guineas should be expected to scratch as standard (I know that's like asking how often we are expected to scratch and so how do you even answer that) but if it was mites/lice would it be likely for them to itch persistently and with few breaks between episodes or scratching? Or can it present here and there throughout the day? Do you think that it is worth going back and mentioning this to the breeder? They told me to go back to them with any problems, rather than the vet, and they would sort it out for me.

Going back to the 95 guineas thread, I saw that it was mentioned (a few times 😆) that bedding should not clump. Therefore, I realise that I've probably made a mistake with the wooden pellets used under a layer of hay? I can't believe I did this when I'd read a whole other thread on bedding before purchasing, but somehow this information escaped me anyway. I change any soiled parts daily but I recognise that the broken down pellets do resemble a clump and so still wouldn't be suited regardless of scooping and replacing. What could I perhaps use as an alternative? I prefer the pellets in terms of less mess, so is there a similar alternative to these that could be used? If woodshavings are also irritating, I'd be reluctant to continue with those 😬.

Additionally, and for peace of mind, is it about right that I used a large bag of woodshavings and a large bag if hay (both pets at home large sized) over the course of the first week, and then a massive bag of wood pellets and, again, a large bag of hay over the course of the second week? I don't really know whether this is to be expected or whether, instead, I am a little too enthusiastic with the daily spot checks? I know that they need a nice clean environment but should I worry a little less about sifting through for every single bit of poo? Or, is this about right?

I am so sorry for this HUGE essay. I have been sifting through and reading as much as I possibly can for the answers but I thought it'd just be best to join and ask directly anyway, so I know for certain that I am doing the best thing for the piggie wigs. Any help or advice would be so gratefully appreciated!

With thanks and best wishes,
Claire
 

Piggies&buns

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:wel:

Sexing - i understand you are anxious about holding them, but it is absolutely essential you check their sexes immediately and separate them straight away if you do have a mixed sex pair.
https://www.theguineapigforum.co.uk/threads/illustrated-sexing-guide-for-all-ages.156297/
How To Pick Up And Weigh Your Guinea Pig Safely

Bedding - My boys have a hutch but have free roam of the entire shed. I use a mixture of newspaper topped with hay and fleece bedding throughout their home. Ive not used wood pellets myself as I can’t see the are comfortable to walk on?
Bedding For Guinea Pigs - Overview

Piggies need access to hay constantly. I don’t know what pets at home bags are like but I use around 15kg of hay per month between my two piggies (both for bedding and eating).

Scratching - piggies do scratch, a few times a day is fine but if it is persistent then do see a vet. Don’t go back to the breeder. You won’t be able to see mites themselves though but you may see other evidence as such as flaky dry skin or bald patches. A vet can do a skin scraping to check if they think it prudent

Size - weighing them is the only way to check their food intake. Their main food is hay, not veg (they should have only 50g per pig per day) or pellets (just one tablespoon per pig per day) but you cannot gauge how much hay they are eating by eye. They will gain weight in their own time and they come in all shapes and sizes!
Weight - Monitoring and Management
Long Term Balanced General And Special Needs Guinea Pig Diets

New Owners' Most Helpful How-To Guides and Information
 

Piggies&buns

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Another thing, it would be better to use something more secure than a tube to move them from hutch to run. Something enclosed or closed such as a snuggle sack or pet carrier will be safer as there’s isn’t a risk of blind jumps from the other end of a tube

In terms of daily spot cleans, I remove the wet hay and newspaper and then get as many poops as I can. I always miss a few but as long as they aren’t sitting in piles of it and any wet areas are removed
 

MangoMargo

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-For the concerns about gender and your anxiety with the pigs I would watch a few videos first of people determining the gender of baby pigs to know what you're looking for, and then either wrap a pig in a fleece or towel like a burrito with the bottom open if that makes you more comfortable so you are away from their claws and teeth. Or you could also call the breeder about your doubts/concerns about the gender and ask if they would be able to take a look for you.
-about the itching I wouldn't be too worried if the itching isn't constant or abrasive. Checking your piggies' skin for red dots (bite marks) or hot spots or even dryness and flakiness would be a good idea if/ when you are more comfortable. It doesn't seem to be an immediate concern but if you are worried it doesn't hurt to talk to the breeder.
-For the bedding this is definitely where I am least knowledgeable, I do my bedding and hay differently but it does sound like you are using too much, my big bag of Eco-bedding (soft recycled paper material) lasts over a month and my hay longer (though I use a hay wheel, and my pig's bedding is perfect for foraging. It is okay for the bedding to not be perfectly clean, a few poops here and there is perfectly fine, just make sure the cage doesn't get too wet especially where your pigs like to lay. Though I have no knowledge of clumping bedding so I cannot at all offer advice on whether or not you should switch your bedding. <3
 

Piggies&buns

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Again to reiterate, please do not go back to the breeder for advice though. Speak to a vet for any health queries or if you want them to help you sex them (although that will cause a delay and obviously you need to be certain quickly!). If at all possible, and there are two of you there, then you can post photos on here and we can help but it does really need to be a hands on check, as per the sexing guide instructions
 

Wiebke

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Hi!

Here is our bedding overview with their various pros and cons. There are some ecological more friendly alternatives to wood chippings if you are interested.
Bedding For Guinea Pigs - Overview

Do you have got a friend or family member who could hold the babies for you? Ideally you should weigh them and check their bodies once weekly anyway as part of their life long health monitoring.

Here are our tips on how you can prevent your babies from biting:
" Biting" And What You Can Do (Biting, Tweaking, Nibbling and Nipping)
Understanding Prey Animal Instincts, Guinea Pig Whispering And Cuddling Tips
Who is the boss - your guinea pig or you?
How To Pick Up And Weigh Your Guinea Pig Safely (picking up guinea pigs without handling)
 

Siikibam

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Hi and :wel: sorry about your experiences with the dog and the hamster. Considering some breeders have missexed piggies in the past I wouldn’t go back to them to check for you. It’s best that you learn how to do it. Piggies may nibble on your if they think your fingers are food or if you touch them somewhere they don’t like, but otherwise they won’t bite for no reason. Perhaps you could wrap them in a fleece or towel while holding them.

Another thing I would do is to get them to a vet for a general health check.

Ps I agree with the above re not going back to the breeder. A vet is your best bet if you have any worries. Have a look at the vet locator link below and find one who will give your piggies the once over.
Vet Locator
 

Clairabella

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Thanks for your reply. I understand what you are telling me to do and I have read through each of these links multiple times already... I guess I am asking how to hold the guineas to check this, so that I don't drop or harm or cause any additional stress to them whilst trying to determine if they are indeed both girls...

Thanks for informing me about your choice of bedding. I would prefer to use fleece but read elsewhere that it is not best placed in the hutch incase of rain. Appreciate that yours are in the shed though! I cover the wood pellets with a thick layer of hay and they don't seem to have any issues with it (though also appreciate that they won't show weakness if helped!)

Will keep an eye on itching and also weigh as soon as. Am already following the guidance on food amounts too! 😊 They have access to unlimited hay. Will look at the size of the bag to see how that compares to your usage!
 

Clairabella

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Hi and :wel: sorry about your experiences with the dog and the hamster. Considering some breeders have missexed piggies in the past I wouldn’t go back to them to check for you. It’s best that you learn how to do it. Piggies may nibble on your if they think your fingers are food or if you touch them somewhere they don’t like, but otherwise they won’t bite for no reason. Perhaps you could wrap them in a fleece or towel while holding them.

Another thing I would do is to get them to a vet for a general health check.
Hi, thank you! I will see if I can manage with a fleece or towel. I know inside my mind that they won't bite without good reason, but that doesn't seem to want to connect with my flight response 🤦🏼‍♀️. It is ridiculous. I am going to attempt to look now though and fingers crossed it will be okay (the lifting, the looking and the lady bits!).

I will arrange a vet check but also, do you think pet insurance is worthwhile for piggies, or better to just keep money aside each month instead?
 

Siikibam

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When you pick them up you need to support their bottoms. Best you use something like a tunnel (Make sure to cover the ends with your hands so they can’t jump out), carrier or box to get them out the cage. When you’re going to pick them up off a surface, place one hand under their forelegs and the other under their bottom. You can hold one front leg between your fingers and then lift and bring close to you.

When you want to check, hold them with their back to you and their bottom supported on your leg or something. You are feeling gently for the presence or absence of a penis ridge above the slit (boar). Then part the lips gently and look for the presence or absence of fleshy seal inside the slit (sow).

You say you haven’t seen any dominance yet. Sows go into season approximately every two weeks. In that time they can rumblestrut and mount. Teeth chattering won’t necessarily occur if they’re compatible. And guinea pigs don’t do mating calls either.

Hope the description above helps you. I can try and post a video for you on how to hold them. I’m currently out but let me know and I can try to do it tomorrow.

You will also have to get used to holding them not only for the weekly weigh-in and health check but if they need to go to the vet or you need to trim their nails.
 

Clairabella

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Another thing, it would be better to use something more secure than a tube to move them from hutch to run. Something enclosed or closed such as a snuggle sack or pet carrier will be safer as there’s isn’t a risk of blind jumps from the other end of a tube

In terms of daily spot cleans, I remove the wet hay and newspaper and then get as many poops as I can. I always miss a few but as long as they aren’t sitting in piles of it and any wet areas are removed
Oh okay! I saw the guineas being transported using a tube posted on the thread of 'how to move/lift guineas', so...

I also block both ends with my hands to prevent the jumping. I have transported using a snuggle sack but they squeak like they are really terrified/panicking when I have done this.
 

Siikibam

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With regards insurance i would probably put the money away monthly that you would pay. I had insurance for the boys for the first year of having them and paid around £26 for the highest cover. But when it came to renewal it went up to almost £40 so I didn’t renew. Granted I got a discount on their first year. And there’s only one company that insures them - exotics direct.
 

Clairabella

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When you pick them up you need to support their bottoms. Best you use something like a tunnel (Make sure to cover the ends with your hands so they can’t jump out), carrier or box to get them out the cage. When you’re going to pick them up off a surface, place one hand under their forelegs and the other under their bottom. You can hold one front leg between your fingers and then lift and bring close to you.

When you want to check, hold them with their back to you and their bottom supported on your leg or something. You are feeling gently for the presence or absence of a penis ridge above the slit (boar). Then part the lips gently and look for the presence or absence of fleshy seal inside the slit (sow).

You say you haven’t seen any dominance yet. Sows go into season approximately every two weeks. In that time they can rumblestrut and mount. Teeth chattering won’t necessarily occur if they’re compatible. And guinea pigs don’t do mating calls either.

Hope the description above helps you. I can try and post a video for you on how to hold them. I’m currently out but let me know and I can try to do it tomorrow.

You will also have to get used to holding them not only for the weekly weigh-in and health check but if they need to go to the vet or you need to trim their nails.
Thank you! I meant rumblestrut not mating call, but couldn't remember the name and had typed too much to go back and risk losing!

Above description is helpful, I have a better idea. Thank you. Please enjoy your time out!
 

Piggies&buns

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Thanks for your reply. I understand what you are telling me to do and I have read through each of these links multiple times already... I guess I am asking how to hold the guineas to check this, so that I don't drop or harm or cause any additional stress to them whilst trying to determine if they are indeed both girls...

Thanks for informing me about your choice of bedding. I would prefer to use fleece but read elsewhere that it is not best placed in the hutch incase of rain. Appreciate that yours are in the shed though! I cover the wood pellets with a thick layer of hay and they don't seem to have any issues with it (though also appreciate that they won't show weakness if helped!)

Will keep an eye on itching and also weigh as soon as. Am already following the guidance on food amounts too! 😊 They have access to unlimited hay. Will look at the size of the bag to see how that compares to your usage!
Fleece outside in summer is ok, but it’s not suitable in winter though if you are planning on them being outside year round. It takes a lot of work to keep them warm enough outside so do ensure you do your research in advance of cooler weather
 

Siikibam

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Thank you! I meant rumblestrut not mating call, but couldn't remember the name and had typed too much to go back and risk losing!

Above description is helpful, I have a better idea. Thank you. Please enjoy your time out!
I’m at work and not out out 😁 perhaps what you can do to try and get yourself used to them is to sit by their cage daily for five minutes and just talk to them. Put your hand in the cage and just leave it there for them to come sniff, nibble (not always a bad thing) and whatever they want to do. It would benefit you as much as them 😁
 

Clairabella

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Fleece outside in summer is ok, but it’s not suitable in winter though if you are planning on them being outside year round. It takes a lot of work to keep them warm enough outside so do ensure you do your research in advance of cooler weather
Ok, I will have a look at fleece options, thank you. Yes, have read about the need to keep piggies warm in winter (heat pads, thermal covers, carpet on top, bringing indoors, etc), definitely will not let them suffer the cold!
 

Clairabella

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I’m at work and not out out 😁 perhaps what you can do to try and get yourself used to them is to sit by their cage daily for five minutes and just talk to them. Put your hand in the cage and just leave it there for them to come sniff, nibble (not always a bad thing) and whatever they want to do. It would benefit you as much as them 😁
Oh! Well, sorry for you but also glad that's the case! I would not be wasting any out out opportunities these days, so would not want you to either! 😅

I spend all day beside them 🤣. I sing them 'how much is that piggie in the window' and 'what shall we do with a drunken piggy' and I bring them grass and the odd dandelion leaf and tbh they're probably sick of the sight of me outside their hutch. And I make sure I touch their stuff each morning so that they definitely still know who I am when I am not there 🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️. I bring them on the grass beside me and in the house to their little corner in their tube. So we have definitely bonded, it's just that I need to stop being so insecure about them not liking me and actually stroke them and hold them myself more. My daughter has no issues with them and it would be fine is she was here. But, it's just me so I need to get on with it. I've been telling them what I'm going to do for 20 mins now.

So. Now I just have to do it.
 

Siikibam

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Okay. Just know their liking of you has a limit because you’re not the same species. They will show you in their way and not in the way you may expect them to. If you haven’t done anything then there’s no reason for them not to like you. Just enjoy them being piggies and doing their piggy thing. And give it time as well.
 

Clairabella

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Okay. Just know their liking of you has a limit because you’re not the same species. They will show you in their way and not in the way you may expect them to. If you haven’t done anything then there’s no reason for them not to like you. Just enjoy them being piggies and doing their piggy thing. And give it time as well.
Oh, of course. I don't expect them to do anything to appease me or to even show me affection. It's just because the dog also seemed to like me but then also bit me out of the blue, so I guess in my mind I'm expecting a bite to occur out of the blue from them too. It's 100% me and my issue, not the pigs! They have been wonderful as they are and they carry on as they are, which is mostly ignoring me until I clean them and bring food.
 
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