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Guinea Pig Breeding: How to (Responsibly) Make it Happen

josh

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When most people hear someone say, “breeding like rabbits” they associate the term with a rabbit’s propensity to reproduce quickly. Similarly to bunnies and many other species of rodents, guinea pigs can breed at a young age and deliver their piglets after a gestation period of just under 3 months. Guinea pig breeding may appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds for reasons such as producing companions for their existing pets or pairing two stand-out specimens in the hope that their young will be able to win best-in-show at a guinea pig competition. Whatever your reason is for choosing to pursue breeding your pigs, you must follow safe, time-proven protocol to ensure that your female guinea pig and her babies will emerge unharmed. Knowing about the critical periods in the guinea pig breeding cycle, the pairing of male and female, gestation length, and care after birth can increase the odds that your breeding endeavors will be successful and stress-free for all parties involved.

When Are They Ready?

Screenshot from 2020-05-16 13-19-51.pngAlthough most guinea pigs are theoretically able to breed by the age of 5 weeks, the average age of sexual maturity, you must have an accurate estimate of the age of your female pig before you make the call on whether breeding is a viable option. In most cases, the male guinea pig is capable of breeding for most of its life after the age of 5 weeks, however, for females (sows) giving birth after the age of 10 months can be potentially fatal to her and her babies. After 10 months, the cartilage in the guinea pig’s pubic symphysis can cause birthing to be an impossibility without a c-section procedure by a veterinarian.

While physiologically being able to breed after just over a month of age, sows do not reach the appropriate size to safely carry and deliver their piglets until about 12 weeks of age. Because guinea pigs have an average gestation of 59-72 days, you must plan the pairing of your male and female pigs to be anytime after 3 months of age, but before 6 months, to give your female plenty of leeway to giving birth before the critical 10 month period where the pubic symphysis begins to fuse.

Pairing Your Pigs

Before being bred, your sow must be in heat (her breeding season) before you attempt to introduce your male for mating. Sows in heat exhibit distinctive behaviors to indicate that they are ready to mate such as arching their backs and hindquarters sharply and even mounting other female guinea pigs that they are living with. If you have multiple sows exhibiting signs of being in heat at an appropriate age, you can introduce a mature male, which can impregnate up to 10 different females. If a male encounters a female who is not receptive to his breeding advances, the sows will attempt to deter the male with signs of aggression such as showing teeth and lunging at it.

If the female guinea pig allows advances by the male guinea pig, you may leave them together until you are positive that a pregnancy has occurred, indicated by a large bulbous mass in the female guinea pig's abdomen along with a dramatic increase in food and water intake.


Gestation and Birth

Once you are sure that your guinea pig is pregnant, the waiting game has begun. You will need to provide her with ample food, water, hay, and vitamins to make sure she is maintaining good health while her piglets are developing. After about 7.5 to 8 weeks have passed, you should begin to closely monitor your sow daily for signs of impending birthing such as a widening of the pelvis, or squatting and hunching in the final stages of gestation. While birth usually occurs 59 to 72 days after conception, you can never begin checking too soon.

The guinea pig mother will usually deliver 3 to 6 piglets after a very brief labor period of up to 30 minutes, with an approximately 5 minute period between each birth. Guinea pigs, unlike other rodents, do not typically kill/eat their young following birth, and will promptly begin to clean fluids and debris accumulated during birthing from their babies. Like many animals, the mother guinea pig and possibly her cage mates will take part in eating the placenta after she has tended to her young.

Nursing and Weaning

Immediately following birth, guinea piglets will gain their primary sustenance from their mom’s milk which she will provide during the nursing period which can last until they are two to four weeks of age. Guinea pig keepers should begin to wean their piglets from milk to solid food between 14 to 28 days after birth and can hand rear (feed) the babies starting at this time to ensure that they will grow up to be tame and sociable with humans. Mother guinea pigs usually allow humans to remove and handle their babies which, after being weaned from their milk-based diet, can be cared for as an adult pig would be. Male guinea pigs are not participatory in the raising of their young and should be completely separated from the baby females after 21 days as there is a possibility that they can become pregnant at that early stage, without having achieved adequate body mass or maturity.


As soon as your pigs have surpassed the weaning stage, you can introduce them into enclosures of guinea pigs of the same sex where they can begin learning to socialize and build healthy relationships with their cage-mates and any other pigs they may meet!

Responsible guinea pig breeding can allow you to learn more about these fantastic rodents, and develop an appreciation for the experience caring for them offers. When done correctly, breeding two pigs can give you 3-6 furry friends that you can keep for yourself or share with friends and family, giving years of enjoyment to come.
 
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