Having a litter of newborn guinea pigs is exciting, whether there’s a pair of piggles or a bigger litter coming. Before birth, you should know a few things about your home’s new additions.
Guinea Pigs at Birth
Unlike many rodents, guinea pigs are born with their eyes open and their first coat of hair. The little ones are capable of movement and will want to explore their surroundings once their sow dries them off.
Little guinea pigs are inherently curious. They will start exploring their surroundings, usually within the first hour. Seeing their reactions to the world is incredibly cute, and they will always come back to mom to nurse.
Water for Guinea Pig Litters
Newborn guinea pigs are curious by nature, and you will see them begin to play with the bottle or dish you use to give their mom water. It will not hurt them if they get water but be prepared to handle a little mess as they experiment. However, be careful about water depth if you’re using dishes.
Little guinea pigs technically do not need water when they’re first born. Instead, they get all the liquids they need from nursing, assuming mom has access to everything she needs to nurse the whole litter. As they grow and nurse less, the little ones will start drinking independently.
Food for Newborn Guinea Pigs
Like all mammals, little guinea pigs nurse when they’re first born. Typically, they will nurse for varying lengths of time for the first three to four weeks of life before mom takes a hard line on weaning them. This lines up with when guinea pigs need to be separated by sex.
You will, however, see newborn guinea pigs poke around the food dish on their first day. They’re rarely sure what to make of food, and their reactions are truly adorable when they try it. Over time, they’ll start to eat more, so make sure to increase the available food.
Housing Baby Guinea Pigs
Little guinea pigs are curious, which means you need to update their housing. Typically, a shelter in the cage big enough to hold the sow and all the babies comfortably is a good idea. If you don’t have one already, draping an old towel over half the cage will do.
The other consideration is ensuring there are no escapes, especially if your guinea pig housing is off the ground. The trick is to remember that if a little guinea pig’s head fits, the rest of it can follow. When we had litters, we used to push plexiglass against the bottom half of the cage sides to prevent escapes.
Handling Little Guinea Pigs
Generally, you can handle little guinea pigs a few hours after they are born. Typically, you want them to bond with their mom first and get their feet under them. A good rule of thumb is four to six hours before handling.
When handling small guinea pigs, it’s important to remember that they will wiggle, move, and try to jump. Their instincts say you’re a predator after all, so handle small guinea pigs with caution. At the same time, they’re still developing, so you can’t hold them too tightly without risking injury.
A good compromise is handling the little ones first while they’re still inside their cage so they get used to your hands. After some success, you can move them out of the cage and hold them against your chest or shoulder. Remember, they’re little and easy to stress out, so keep handling to short periods.