Guinea pigs can live outside if you can keep them in a place that is safe and where they are not too hot or too cold. However, in extreme temperatures, it is often preferable and safer to house them inside your home in a suitable cage because both hot and cold weather can be potentially fatal for guinea pigs.
It's important your guinea pigs have a hutch that is big enough for them. If you're looking for an outdoor hutch for 2 guinea pigs, click here to find out the one we recommend...
- What is a Guinea Pig's temperature tolerance?
- How to keep Guinea Pigs warm in winter
- How to keep Guinea Pigs cool in summer
- What is the best housing for outdoor guinea pigs?
- Where is the best place to position a hutch outdoors?
- How to protect the wood of the hutch
- How to protect the hutch from predators (foxes,rats etc)
- Advice if you are building your own hutch
What Is a Guinea Pig's Temperature Tolerance?
It is important to know a guinea pig's temperature tolerance when deciding whether to keep your guinea pig outside or indoors. This way you can make an informed decision on what you feel would be most beneficial for them. Guinea pigs actually enjoy temperatures similar to humans. In the wild, guinea pigs live outside but they are native to South America which may have a very different climate to where you live.
The best room (hutch/cage) temperature for guinea pigs to live in safely is between 62-68° Fahrenheit (17-20°C).
If winters where you live are much colder you should strongly consider keeping them indoors. However, if you do choose to house them outside, you will need to ensure their outdoor housing is insulated and protected enough to prevent them becoming ill.
If the temperature goes below 15°C they can catch a chill and if they become too wet and cold they can get pneumonia. This could easily kill your guinea pigs.
Hot (or even quite warm) summers can also pose a threat as the temperature goes above 62°F and if it exceeds 78°F your guinea pig can be in danger of suffering from heatstroke, another potentially fatal condition. Remember when it is warm that the temperature in the hutch will be hotter than the air temperature outside the hutch.
How to Keep Guinea Pigs Warm in Winter
When the warm months are coming to a close, you need to think about how to prevent your guinea pigs from getting too cold over the following months.
Sometimes it it simply too cold for them and you will have to bring them indoors. Wind and rain are also not good for them so they need to be protected from these extreme weather conditions.
If your climate is not excessively cold and you can keep your guinea pigs outside, you must still make sure you prepare your hutch or housing for the colder weather:
A lot more bedding should be provided in the winter months to ensure your guinea pigs are warm enough. They can never have too much hay so give them plenty. A pigloo stuffed with hay will give them a warmer enclosed space to sleep and will keep out the drafts.
You should remove wet bedding frequently (at least daily) as part of your regular cleaning schedule. Also remember that lying on hay that is damp will feel much colder and is a bigger risk to them. Find out which bedding is best here...
Felt roofing will protect the hutch from damp, wet weather. The hutch should have 2-3 layers of felt roofing and the roof should slope so that it is high at the front and low at the back and overhang on all sides. Make sure you buy a good quality hutch that has this protection.
Keep Rain & Wind Out with a Hutch Cover
Hutch rain covers (also known as hutch huggers) are great for protecting your pets from the wet weather but can lead to condensation inside the hutch and dampen the bedding. This can cause your guinea pigs to catch a chill.
To avoid condensation, ensure there is plenty of airflow into the hutch while at the same time making sure the rain can’t penetrate.
Put a Carpet or Blanket Over the Hutch Front
It is a good idea in very cold weather to hang a piece of carpet or thick blanket over the front of the hutch which will provide some warmth and protection. But do bear in mind they still need ventilation.
Never Have Just One Guinea Pig
You should never have just one solitary guinea pig. The main reason is that they need a companion to prevent loneliness . However, for a guinea pig who lives outside this is even more important as a pair will have the benefit of snuggling down together and will help keep each other warm. Find out more about why guinea pigs shouldn't live alone...
Place the Hutch in a Shed for the Winter
Putting the hutch into a suitably sized shed for the winter would give your guinea pigs the best protection if they are staying outdoors. The shed should have a window giving plenty of natural light.
It will protect them from wind and rain but you will still need to make sure they are warm enough. Remember that there should be some ventilation so the air can circulate, while at the same time having enough warmth.
A garage that has natural daylight and is NOT used for a car, motorbike or any other motor vehicle would also work well. Bear in mind that car fumes are toxic and can kill guinea pigs.
You could even move the hutch into a conservatory during the cold months. However, this would not be a good place when the weather begins to warm up as it will be too hot for them. They will then need to be moved back outside (in a shaded area) or to another part of the house where it is cooler.
Use a Heatpad
There are microwavable heatpads you can buy which are great for putting in their sleeping area in cold weather. These will help keep your guinea pigs at a comfortable and safe temperature but will also need re-heating regularly. Consider having 2 or 3 together as it may sustain the heat for a little longer - particularly overnight.
Check Their Water Bottles Don’t Freeze
In extremely cold weather, it is possible that water in their bottles may freeze. If it is this cold your guinea pigs should be inside. However, if this is not possible, read the tips below on how to keep the water from freezing.
You could try wrapping a bit of fleece or towel around the bottle as this will keep it from becoming too cold. However this won’t protect the mouthpiece which is more exposed and if the water freezes in there they won’t be able to get to the rest of it.
If you have a way of securing the water bottle inside the hutch rather than on the outside, it may help keep it from freezing.
It is important to check and replace the water on a regular basis to make sure they can hydrate themselves when necessary.
How to Keep Guinea Pigs Cool in Summer
Guinea pigs suffer badly if they get too hot (they don’t sweat like we do to cool down) so it is important to keep their hutch as cool as possible during the warmer months.
Position the Hutch in the Shade
The hutch should never be positioned in direct sunlight. Find out the most shaded spot in your backyard and providing it is safe, position it there.
If your backyard is very exposed to the sun, a parasol might be the best option.
Provide Plenty of Water Regularly
Guinea pigs will become more thirsty during the summer so make sure their water bottle is kept topped up and don’t forget to change the water daily. It is worth putting out 2 bottles at a time to ensure they don't run out. They tend not to like warm water so make sure it’s kept in the shade and changed more often when it’s hotter outdoors. Find out more about water for guinea pigs here...
Cool Down with Ice Packs
Buy some ice packs or fill an old plastic bottle (not glass) with water and freeze. Wrap it in a piece of fleece and put in the hutch so your guinea pigs can snuggle up against them to keep cool.
Trim Long-Haired Guinea Pigs to Keep them Cooler
Longer haired guinea pigs will really feel the heat so give their fur a trim. This will have the added benefit of helping them keep clean therefore reducing the risk of flystrike in the heat.
Don’t Put the Hutch in a Garage or Unsuitable Shed
It is not a good idea to house your guinea pigs in a shed or garage during the summer. These buildings absorb heat, often don’t have much ventilation and can become extremely hot.
However, a stone built outhouse would probably be a lot cooler. You must judge for yourself and see what it’s like around the middle of the day or early afternoon on the hottest days.
However, a shed that you have turned into a guinea pig house with constant access to an secured outdoor space, with good ventilation and where they can escape the heat if necessary to a cooler spot where they also feel safe is fine. This cooler spot should also have areas where they can hide or they may retreat into the hotter area simply because they feel safer.
Beware of Flystrike
Flystrike is a potentially fatal condition that is more prevalent during the hot summer months. As there are usually more flies outside than in, your outdoor guinea pigs may be more at risk from this awful condition.
Flystrike is a condition that cannot be left and needs medical treatment from your vet. It is when flies lay eggs on your guinea pig after which the resulting maggots (these can hatch within hours) will begin to eat away at your pet's flesh. Find out more about flystrike, how to avoid it and what to do if you are concerned your guinea pig might have it.
Bring Your Guinea Pigs Indoors
Sometimes it is just safer to have your guinea pigs indoors when it is very hot and during these times the inside of your home will generally be a lot cooler than the outdoors. If you need an indoor cage, check out our recommendations on which are the best to buy here...
What is the Best Outdoor Housing for a Guinea Pig?
Wooden hutches or a converted shed (or outbuilding that is NOT used for motor vehicles) with constant safe access to a run area are the only type of housing you should use if you plan on having your cavies outdoors.
Metal cages are not safe for outdoors unless you put it in a secure shed or outbuilding.
What is the Best Place to put an Outdoor Hutch
The location of your outdoor hutch is important to protect them from predators and all types of weather.
- The hutch should have legs to protect the wood from deteriorating.
- If your hutch is tall (a single tier with long legs or a double decker hutch), place it against a wall or sturdy fence. If you can secure it to the wall or fence this is even better.
- Position the housing out of direct sunlight, shaded from the wind and away from any damp areas in your backyard.
- A hutch that is relatively easy to move is a good idea as it will allow you to change its position depending on weather conditions and will also allow you to move the hutch into a shed or conservatory during the cold months or in bad weather and into a more shady area when the weather is especially sunny and hot.
- Guinea pigs must not be placed in an area where they may be exposed to chemical pest control sprays that are either used in your backyard or in a neighbor's backyard or field where there may be crop spraying. These chemicals can prove fatal. Don’t forget that the wind can carry these chemicals so if you live in a rural location where crop spraying takes place, you would be safer to keep your guinea pigs indoors.
- NEVER put the hutch in a greenhouse. As mentioned earlier, a shed is not advisable in the summer due to the way it heats up on hotter days unless you follow the guidelines about sheds discussed on this page.
How to Protect the Wood of an Outdoor Hutch
Your hutch must be treated with a pet-friendly preservative which protects the wood from the weather as well as giving protection from the ammonia that is in their urine and droppings. If you're building your own hutch, do check that the preservative is safe for use with guinea pigs.
Some hutches have already been treated with a preservative but it something that is required on a yearly basis to ensure the hutch is kept in good condition.
How to Make the Hutch Safe from Predators
Foxes, rats, raccoons and other wild animals can and will attack and kill guinea pigs if they can get to them. Don't forget that domesticated dogs and cats are also a danger.
It is important to make your hutch as predator proof as you can. Some animals can manipulate bolts on hutch doors. Additional bolts (eg padlocks) are a good idea for added security if you have these visitors to your backyard.
If you have a hutch and run combo with the run area directly on the ground, you must always make sure the run is not accessed by your guinea pigs during the night. Close the hutch doors and double-check they are secure. Wooden double decker hutches that have a run on the lower level usually have a sliding door that fits over the top of the ramp to prevent your guinea pig accessing the lower area. This should also be closed off at night so your pet isn’t at risk from being attacked by predators (wild or domesticated). Take a look at the recommended hutch and run combo here
A guinea pig must NEVER be left in a run or have access to a run overnight as it is not safe enough for them.
How to Make Sure Rats Don’t Attack
Check your hutch regularly for any attempted attacks by predators. Rats could gnaw through the wood including the back of the hutch and you may not even realize that this is happening until it is too late. This is why it is important to buy a good solid hutch that has thick wood panels.
Advice if you are Building Your Own Hutch
If you are constructing a hutch yourself, you must NOT use thin wood for the sides and back, even if the hutch is to be kept in a shed, as rats may gnaw through thin wood.
Tongue and groove on the back and sides of a hutch will give strength. Exterior grade plywood is a good option (particularly for the flooring) but ensure that it is thick enough for stability and security.
Not all woods are safe for guinea pigs. MDF is not safe because of the glues that are used in it’s manufacture. Resin producing woods such as cedar are dangerous because of the aromatic oils (known as phenols) which emit from these types of wood can damage the respiratory tracts of your pet. In general, softwoods have more resin than hardwoods. It is best to stick to a hardwood if you are making a DIY hutch.
Should I House My Guinea Pigs Outdoors?
Keeping guinea pigs outside in the correct safe and secure environment that provides enrichment for them can give them the opportunity to experience something closer to their natural habitat (if they are in a very large enclosure) than being kept indoors.
However, keeping them indoors is generally the recommended option nowadays. If you can't provide the safe conditions they need to be outside or if you would prefer to have them in your home, read our page which is full of advice and tips on what you need to consider when housing guinea pigs in your home...
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