Here at Home & Roost, we are all about outdoor pets – it’s where most animals live naturally. Guinea pigs living outside are no exception. However, for them to be happy and healthy outdoors in winter and summer, there are a few things to keep in mind.
In this article, we’re looking at:
- Whether your garden is safe for guinea pigs
- The best temperatures for guinea pigs to live outside
- How to keep guinea pigs warm outside in winter
- How to keep them cool outdoors during summer
- What to look for when choosing an outdoor enclosure
- The best places to put the hutch
Popping with personality and chattering with charm, guinea pigs are in the top 5 list of the most popular pets to own in the UK. They do well living indoors, but can also thrive outside, as long as you take the necessary precautions to make sure he is comfortable and safe. Let’s take a look at these in a little more detail.
Is Your Garden Safe For Guinea Pigs
First and foremost, you need to make sure your garden is safe for your guinea pig. This includes:
- Checking there for potential predators
- Making sure there are no electric cables near the hutch
- Removing any toxic flowers or plants
- Not using any kinds of pesticides or herbicides
What Are The Best Temperatures For Guinea Pigs Living Outside?
Temperatures between 18 and 23 degrees Celcius are ideal for guinea pigs living outside. If it gets colder than around 15 degrees, they can get too cold. While anything over 26 degrees could cause heatstroke.
Guinea pigs’ bodies are self-regulating, which means they can adapt to the varying temperatures. For example, if a guinea pig gets too cold, their blood flow to the skin is reduced to save heat. And if they get too hot, there is an increase in blood to the skin to keep them cool.
Unfortunately, they can’t sweat or pant, so it is up to you to make sure they are not too hot or too cold.
Looking After Guinea Pigs Living Outside In Winter
On average, the temperatures drop to around 6 degrees Celcius in the UK, which is far too severe for a guinea pig. If your piggy is living outdoors during the chillier months, you need to ensure they are warm and properly looked after.
Ensure There Is Plenty Of Bedding
Guinea pigs should always have plenty of good quality bedding, but when it gets cold, you need to provide a lot more for them to stay warm. A pigloo (that’s an igloo for a piggy) filled with hay is one of the best (and cutest) ways to make sure they are snug and cosy.
It is vital that you remove, and replace, wet bedding at least once a day. Damp hay will make a guinea pig colder and can lead to respiratory problems as well as other health issues.
Insulate The Floor
Another way to keep guinea pigs warm in winter is by lining their hutch with a few layers of newspaper. We recommend around 12 sheets for added cosiness. Play hay on top so your guinea pig can still forage and build nests.
Make Sure The Roof Is Insulated
Not only will roofing felt insulate the hutch, but it also makes it waterproof. Ideally, there should be at least three layers of felt to keep piggies warm when the temperatures drop.
Use A Protective Cover
Winter 2019 was a record-breaking one for the UK, with a lot of rain and particularly windy weather. If you haven’t already got one, it is worth getting a protective hutch cover. They are an excellent way to keep guinea pigs dry during the rainy season, and it also provides them with protection from the wind.
Make sure there is enough airflow to stop any condensation from forming in your piggy’s hutch.
Two Guinea Pigs Are Better Than One
Under normal circumstances, guinea pigs are social animals and do better in pairs or herds. In the colder months, however, there is another reason two (or more) piggies are better than one. When it gets really chilly, they can snuggle up together and keep each other cosy and warm.
Move The Hutch
When temperatures drop significantly, you could consider moving your guinea pig hutch into the shed, garage or conservatory. If you decide to do this, make sure:
- The shed has windows to allow natural light in and that there is sufficient ventilation
- The garage is not used to keep any running vehicles. Fumes from cars and motorbikes are incredibly toxic for guinea pigs
- During winter a conservatory is the ideal spot for a guinea pig hutch. But don’t forget to move it again when the weather starts getting warmer
Get Self Heating Heat Pads
Heat pads are a great way to keep guinea pigs warm in winter. There are various types available, but we especially like self-heating heat pads. Because the pad uses the guinea pig’s body heat to warm up, there is no chance of it overheating. And of course, the pad won’t lose any heat during the night.
Place A Thermometer In The Cage
It is a good idea to place a thermometer inside the hutch to keep an eye on the temperature. There are smart types available that send updates to your phone. A good old fashioned thermometer will also do the trick.
Don’t Let Water Bottles Freeze
Don’t forget that in winter there is a good chance of your guinea pig’s water bottle freezing over. To prevent this from happening, you could try placing it inside the cage, or if that isn’t possible, you could try wrapping some fleece around the bottle.
An even better option is a water bottle snug cover. It stops water bottles freezing in winter, and keeps the water cool in summer.
Caring For Guinea Pigs Living Outside In Summer
UK summers are definitely heating up, and guinea pigs don’t do well in high temperatures. We mentioned earlier that they don’t sweat or pant, so it is crucial to keep your piggy comfortable through the summer.
Make Sure There Is Enough Shade
A simple, yet effective way to stop your piggy getting too hot is to make sure the hutch is in a shady spot. If you don’t have natural shade, you can create your own with a garden umbrella. Run shades are also an excellent way to prevent your pet from overheating.
Make Sure There Is Enough Water
It goes without saying that guinea pigs need plenty of water, especially when it’s hot. Always check to make sure there is enough fresh, clean water. Because they don’t like warm water, it is best to keep their bottle in the shade.
Get An Ice Pod
You could make an ice pack for your guinea pig, or you could get an ice pod from our online store. It is a great way to help your pet chill when the temperatures soar.
Keep The Hutch In A Suitable Place
Sheds, garages and conservatories can get exceptionally hot in summer. Don’t put your guinea pig’s hutch in any of these buildings when the weather warms up.
During the warmer months, guinea pigs are prone to an awful condition called flystrike. Not only is it incredibly painful, but it can also be fatal for your pet. It is advisable to check your guinea pig at least twice a day for possible signs.
Move The Hutch Indoors
If it gets too hot and you are worried about your guinea pig outside, bring his hutch or run inside. If you don’t have enough space in your home, you could look at getting an indoor cage.
A Guide To Choosing The Best Outdoor Enclosure
There are lots of cages to choose from, but how do you know which is the best one for your precious piggy?
When choosing an outdoor enclosure, there are a few essential factors to keep in mind. Our buying guide will help you with your decision.
Is It The Right Size?
When it comes to enclosures, bigger is definitely better. Guinea pigs need plenty of space to forage, run around and play, so the hutch needs to be the right size. The addition of a run is a good idea too.
Are There Different Areas?
Everyone likes their own space, and guinea pigs are no different. Look for a hutch that has separate compartments where they can eat, sleep and play. Larger areas allow for lots of playtime, while darker spots are perfect for snuggling up and sleeping.
Does It Have Raised Legs?
A hutch must have raised legs, to keep it off the ground. Not only is this necessary for airflow, but it also stops the wood getting damaged.
Is It Easy To Clean?
The only way to keep guinea pigs free from diseases such as flystrike is by regularly cleaning their hutch. Make sure that the one you choose is easy to clean, with access to the different areas and compartments. Also, cages with removable door cleaning bars make it easier to sweep away wet or soiled bedding.
Is It Predator Proof?
To keep a guinea pig safe outside, the hutch needs to be predator-proof. Foxes are particularly good at getting into cages or runs that aren’t secure. Check that it is made using a galvanised wire mesh, and if necessary, buy extra padlocks.
Is The Hutch Durable?
To save you money down the line, it is best to get a hutch that has been treated with a non-toxic pet-safe preservative. Also, check that it is made with a good quality wood that won’t deteriorate in the UK climate. And don’t forget to treat it once a year to maintain it.
Is It Easy To Assemble?
You can choose flatpack hutches that will require some assembly. How simple it is will depend entirely on your DIY skills. Alternatively, there are ready-made options available.
Does The Hutch Have A Run?
We mentioned earlier that guinea pigs need ample space to play and run. We recommend getting a run that can be attached to the hutch. This will provide your piggy with an even bigger play area.
The Best Places To Put An Outdoor Hutch
Where your place the hutch is as important as the one you choose. To make sure your guinea pig is comfortable, healthy and happy outside, you need to place it in the perfect spot.
The Hutch Should Be Raised Off The Ground
Ideally, the hutch needs to be raised. This is to protect your guinea pig from the cold floor and to prevent the wood from damage. If the cage you buy doesn’t have legs, then place it against a fence or wall. We recommend securing it so that it doesn’t topple over. Check that the enclosure is not in the sun, offers your guinea pig protection from the wind and rain, and isn’t near any wet or damp spots.
Keep The Hutch Away From Flower Beds And Plants
Even though guinea pigs are herbivores, there are some plants and flowers that are poisonous for guinea pigs. These include:
- Elephant’s Ear
- Bulbs such as daffodils and tulips
When deciding where to place the hutch, remember to keep it away from flower beds and overhanging plants.
The Hutch Should Be Portable
The best outdoor hutch is portable and can be moved around easily. This way, you can place it in different spots around the garden to keep your guinea pig shaded, warm, or sheltered from the rain and wind.
Protect Your Guinea Pig From Pesticides
Chemicals and pesticides are hazardous, especially for small pets such as guinea pigs. Don’t place the hutch anywhere that they can be exposed to these poisons. And remember that these chemicals can be carried by the wind.
Hopefully, you found this article useful, and have all the information necessary to help your guinea pig live a healthy and happy life outside. As always, we would love to hear from you. Whether it is a question or you want to share a photo of you and your cuddly companion together, leave us a comment below.