Fighting? Dominance Issues: Adding 3-Year-Old Sow to Bonded 9-Month-Old Sow Pair

cavymom32

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Hey guys!

First of all I apologize if this is wordy or doesn't make sense, I'm very stressed out currently and I just want some input as I've been doing a lot of research online and there's not a lot of information, the line for normal and worrying behaviour is very thin it seems...
As I saw in other posts, location seems to be helpful in determining options, so I live in Canada.

I'm posting today regarding my issues with bonding my piggies... we recently adopted a new guinea pig (3 years old and very large compared to my other two (Abyssian and Peruvian) )
I tried introducing them yesterday in a neutral area and all seemed well, no fighting they basically all ignored each other for the most part. So I moved them to the same cage together that currently houses my two younger sows. (C&C, 20 sq. feet total, we are planning to expand the cage to fit everyone comfortably, just waiting for the grids in the mail.)

One of the two younger ones (Peruvian) immediately started nose punching the older, and they had a little tuff of dominance that was super scary to watch as the size difference is so dramatic between them. (older one was swinging her butt back and forth, both were chattering teeth very loudly, and at one point the younger one jumped at the bigger one. No bites, no blood drawn but we did separate them as we were really freaked out. (I know realize that it stresses them out even more to separate a fight.) Neither wanted to back down from proving dominance) We immediately took the larger one out of the cage as we assumed it was due to territory and moving them in together too soon. Tried again in the neutral area outside the cage, (fenced with lots of space) and right away they were at it again. We decided to call it a night and get them both to calm down, so decided to try again tonight with the much less dominant one (had absolutely no issues before, she just does her thing with both other piggies and doesn't fight at all) but the older one immediately started nudging her, chasing her around and nose punched her right in the face. We moved her back to her cage after as I was worried it was bullying.

I'm just at a loss now as to what to do, if she's starting fights with the obviously submissive one, I don't know how they're all going to get along. I'm so scared to let them sort it out because of the sizes, and I'll also add that when we got the older one, it was from an ad on kijiji and she came in a cage that is way tooo small for her to run around in, and the owner told us she had a cagemate who passed away a few months earlier. Maybe this contributes to her behaviour a bit?

Any help is very much appreciated. Thank you very much!
 

cavymom32

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Couldn't edit in time, but forgot to add that the second time we tried to introduce them in the neutral area: the younger one (original instigator) was scared away by the older, trying avoid her, but the 3 year old just kept following her everywhere she went relentlessly and kept chattering teeth at her until they got into another tiff.
 

Piggies&buns

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She you introduce piggies you will always see dominance, they need to work their hierarchy out between the two and then it filters down. If the top two can’t figure out who is going to be the dominant, then there is going to be trouble. Adding a single sow to a bonded pair is not always going to work. Trios can be tricky to get right and are the most prone to problems.
You also can’t know how much of what you’ve been told about the new sow is true. She may be fear aggressive, may not have had a cage mate etc.
I’ll add in some guides below which may help you to decipher the behaviour you are seeing and whether it’s normal behaviour or that they are signs it isn’t going to work. In which case, she will need to live in a separate cage alongside your pair.
Sows: Behaviour and female health problems (including ovarian cysts)
Bonds In Trouble
Moody guinea pigs: Depression, Bullying, Aggression, Stress, Fear and Antisocial Behaviour
Adding More Guinea Pigs Or Merging Pairs – What Works And What Not?
Dominance Behaviours In Guinea Pigs
 
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