(Re) Introducing To Feeding Grass/Runtime

“New grass” is grass that is, as the name suggests, newly grown. New grass is “rich” and needs to be introduced gradually to avoid digestive issues such as bloat or diarrhoea for example. These can be fatal if not treated promptly (treatment that often needs to be given before the vet is seen) and the effects can last for days with some guinea pigs meaning a regime of syringe feeding (the correct amounts to suit the condition) and vet visits.

Therefore care needs to be taken when introducing New Grass back into he diet- New Grass can be the grass that grows outside in Spring or grass that is grown at any time of the year, indoor or out; it is still “New”.

  • Introduction begins in the cage/pen/hutch before the guinea pigs go outside. Feed a meal of tasty hay to ensure the digestive system is working well and to fill the guinea pigs up in order to discourage eating too much. This is in no way a fool proof method- the first times in the run/New Grass are very exciting, even for guinea pigs that have grass all year round.
  • Half an hour with their hay to eat should be long enough but if they are still eating leave alone until they have finished (for the first few times at least).
  • Decide how you will limit your guinea pigs’ intake of grass. This will need you to know your guinea pigs and their eating habits. If they are new then choose the method that only allows them a certain amount of time on the grass.
  1. Restrict the time they are outside on the grass and increase it every other day or be guided by your guinea pigs; i.e if 15 minutes on New Grass causes soft droppings only put them out for 10 next time.Grass varies in its richness.
  2. Restrict the space that is available to the guinea pigs (remembering to take into account how long the grass is/if it has been mowed). Again, always be guided by your guinea pigs but this method will probably not need restricted time if the area is small (maybe divide the run up into smaller sections).
  3. Put a large number of guinea pigs out together in a run- in theory they will be able to eat less than if there were only two, but this is the one where you need to know your guinea pigs’ eating habits. If some tend to not eat when they first go out while others tuck in some will be getting more than others. The other obvious factor here is to ensure the guinea pigs are compatible. They will be in a small space and might not have enough room to get away from each other should they want to.
  • Guinea pigs need to be back inside before it starts to get damp. They will often tire after only a couple of hours outside.
  • Guinea pigs must only go out on dry grass, they carry their bodies close to the ground making it easier for them to get pneumonia.
  • Provide appropriate shelters; the first time guinea pigs go out on the grass they can be a little bewildered by the open space and the strange new “feel” under their feet. So that they can take their time to become accustomed to their new environment provide them with a floorless shelter, such as a fiddlestix, so they can be undercover but still explore this strange new world. Eventually they will learn that the grass is tasty and begin to venture outside. Plastic shelters with only one gap for an entrance will soon heat up, choose open ended shelters or an upturned cardboard box with some “doors” cut out will be fine.
  • Put some shade over the run. The sun moves round and therefore the shade must be moved round too. Do not be tempted to put wet towels etc over the run, it creates a damp atmosphere which is not what you want for guinea pigs, if it is that hot they will be happier inside until it cools down later in the day.
  • Put water/drinking bottles outside for them. Never give iced water to drink it is often the cause of diarrhoea. If it is so hot outside that they need something to cool them down (as opposed to providing shade) they should be put out later in the day when it has cooled down.

April 27, 2010   Posted in: Seasonal care