Sunday, February 19, 2012

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Dandelion Greens?

Let's make one thing absolutely clear up front: Our humans bought us organic dandelion greens from the store. You can pick your own dandelion greens, of course, but you've got to be careful; you don't want to just grab dandelion greens from areas where people might walk dogs or use pesticides. Assuming you have dandelion greens that are safe to feed us, we can have them 2-4 times per week. The flowers and roots are also edible.

For this new food tasting, the humans fed all 3 of us together. They said they wanted to try to get us to bond this way before using the dreaded bathing technique.
Okay, Broccoli, none of us wants a bath, so let's just play nice and get through this, okay?
What are you doing, Broccoli?! BACK OFF!
Mine! Stay back!
The dandelion greens were great, which was more than I could say for the company. Broccoli kept poking his nose onto my side of the plate, invading my personal space. He even ran around behind me and tried to mount me in the middle of my meal! That's extremely poor etiquette, and of course I had to lash out to let him know that's not okay. The humans had to separate us again, though, which makes me think we're all going to be bathed soon. Uh-oh...

Oh, right. I almost forgot I'm doing a review here. Dandelion greens get 5/5 stars.


  1. Been enjoying your piggie blogging adventures for a while now! One of the things I've learned through volunteering at MGPR and playing piggie matchmaker that I thought might be helpful - unless there is serious aggression from BOTH pigs, you might just need to let the females put the boar in his place. If Broccoli isn't acting aggressive, he might just need to learn on his own from some bops from the girls. Obviously if there's teeth involved ("alligator teeth"!) or if Broccoli starts attacking in response, then definitely separate. But sometimes humans can actually pull pigs apart too quickly and not give them enough of a chance to establish dominance. Not saying that this applies to your current situation, but just a thought!

  2. Thanks for your reply, Elizabeth! Do you you have any advice regarding whether to introduce one female to Broccoli at at time, verses letting all three pigs meet? Lola gets aggressive around Buffy after Broccoli spends time with them, so maybe it's a sow jealousy thing?

  3. (Part 1)

    Hey guys! Just watched your new intro video - poor Broccoli!!!

    I'm not sure about the jealousy - definitely sounds possible to me, guinea pigs are funny that way. I once introduced a young foster boy to my herd (we have 5 girls and 1 boy), and it made the most passive girl extremely aggressive, so I immediately separated them. Fortunately, she went back to normal, but I've heard of cases where new pigs will disrupt the "balance" of the herd. You know your pigs' behavior better than anyone, so I would trust your instincts. If a boy is making Lola extremely aggressive, it might just not be a good match. :(

    But I can tell you what I've learned on how to introduce pigs. These are the steps I follow to know for sure:

    1. Set up a small pen (about the size of a 2x3 cage) ideally on neutral turf that the girls won't recognize. Keep it empty (no hideys or toys) with just a towel or puppy pad. The idea is to force the pigs to confront each other in order to see if they can get along. Make sure you have a separate towel at your side at all times, ready to throw on top of the pigs if they start to fight. Don't stick your hands in to separate them if they're fighting, and it's better not to stick your hands in at all (for any pets or hello's) while they're meeting.

    2. Put the alpha female in FIRST. Give her a minute to scope out the pen, then put in the rest of the existing herd, putting the most passive pig in last. Give them a few minutes to explore. Then add the new pig on the opposite side of the pen.

    3. Watch for aggressive behavior - teeth are bad. Fights are bad. Crazy balls of fur attacking each other is really bad. If this happens, it might just not work out. Make loud sounds and throw a towel on top of them to confuse and startle them so that you can take the new pig out.

    4. Bops are OK! Nose to nose (where they get on their hind legs and try to put their nose above the others') is not necessarily bad, unless they start to show their teeth. "Drill head", where they get up off their front feet and shake out/fluff their fur is also another sign of dominance. They might just need to figure out who's the boss. Dominant females can get pretty aggressive in their attempts to put the boys in their place. I would advise to wait as long as you possibly can (as long as there are no teeth) to leave them in together, even if Broccoli seems uncomfortable - the girls might just need some time to feel comfortable knowing he's submissive and won't attack them if they chase him.

  4. (Part 2)

    5. If there are no teeth, leave them in the pen for at LEAST 15-20 minutes. I've paired pigs where the first 10 minutes seem great, and all of a sudden they decide they don't like each other and will start to fight.

    6. Look for GOOD behavior - good social behavior is grooming (if they are grooming, that is a VERY good sign), no teeth chattering, no raised fur, exploring together, piggie trains, etc.

    7. If 15 minutes go by and they still seem to be getting along, the next step is food. Put a piece of food in the cage that they MUST share - like a baby carrot, or small piece of lettuce (just like you did with the dandelion greens! But in this case, only put in 1 piece). You need to see how the react to food, and if the girls will share. If the girls start attacking him over food, it might not work out.

    8. If they can share food, then leave them be to eat for another 5 - 10 minutes.

    9. The last step, if they've made it that far, is to take the alpha pig and the new pig and hold them together in your lap with a towel. Pet them together and with opposite hands so that their scent mixes with each other. Pet them smooshed together in your lap for another 5 minutes, and then put them back in the pen together. If after all that, they still get along, YAY! Most likely, it will work out. (There is always the very small possibility that even after all that it won't work, so be extra vigilant the first few days).

    10. The most important thing (that I learned the hard way) is that introducing a BOY into a GIRL'S cage is not good... the cage must be cleaned. There needs to be fresh fleece/bedding, or else there's a good chance the girls start fighting with the boy. This happened to my herd. It's not as big of a deal if you are putting a girl into a boy's cage, but new boy in a girl's cage MUST be cleaned first.

    OK sorry that was so long-winded! I hope this helps... guinea pigs are so very fickle, it's always hard to tell who will get along with who!! But I REALLY hope that these guys can get along.

    I think the fact that Broccoli wasn't fighting back is a very, very good sign.

    Best of luck, can't wait to hear how it goes.


  5. Elizabeth, thanks so much for these helpful tips! Broccoli hasn't fought back, but he does seem very interested in approaching the girls. Even when food is put down, he is less interested in the food than butt-wagging to the girls. He inches towards Lola, then backs off, then inches up again, then backs off. I think he realizes she's not to be messed with (she is also significantly larger than either Buffy or Broccoli- she weighs about 200 grams more than them), but him and Buffy are always chattering off. Maybe they're fighting for second place?

    It works when they're on the big striped carpet because they can run if things get ugly, and because there are chairs and shoes and other obstacles to hide behind. If I place a slipper on the carpet, Buffy and Broccoli will immediately start chasing each other in circles around it. Lola usually does her own thing elsewhere.

    I think if I were to put Broccoli in the girl's cage, I would need to expand the cage significantly because they're going to need a lot of room.

  6. put lola on the carpet first then
    slowly put broccoli in then buffy. then put a small treat like carrots
    and omly one then get ready some
    towels just in case. then if lola
    starts ataccing then trow the towel
    on top then put two of them in you
    lap and mix their smell then put
    the other one with the new one on
    your lap and mix their smell.put
    them back in th place and just

  7. Thanks, anonymous. Luckily, after a few months of shared floor time, they learned to get along. Now they're living happily together in one extra big cage.

  8. I know:) I just did it anyway:)

  9. I fed my pig dandelion greens today thanks to your article. He likes the a lot.