I have trained and worked in animal care as well as in career advising. I live in Lancashire, UK.
There is quite a lot to think about if you want to breed guinea pigs, but the process itself is usually trouble-free as females make exemplary mothers and rarely hurt or abandon their young. Another good thing is that they generally don't turn up in big quantities in rescue centres, so if you breed responsibly, you can do so without worrying that you are likely to be adding to the numbers of unwanted pets.
Like all babies, newborn guinea pigs are very endearing, and it is rewarding to watch them grow up under the gentle care of their mother.
Why Do You Want to Breed Guinea Pigs?
You need to know what your goal is before you make a start breeding guinea pigs. These are some possible goals:
- To introduce the children to the reproductive cycle.
- My pet guinea pig has such a lovely temperament that I'd like to keep some babies from her.
- To show my home-bred guinea pigs in pedigree classes.
- To sell to local pet shops and other pet owners.
- I'm interested in guinea pig genetics and want to try to breed a certain colour/coat combination.
There are different things to consider depending on what your aim is.
Reproductive Fact File
|Breeding Age||Ideal Age for 1st Litter||Heat Cycle||Gestation Length||Average Litter Size|
Guinea pigs can breed as early as 8 weeks. So you must separate the male and female babies by this age.
Ideally, the female should be 6 months to 1 year old. The male should be at least 6 months old.
Female guinea pigs come into heat for up to12 hours every 16 days throughout the year.
Guinea pigs are pregnant for 9–10 weeks.
If you decide to breed from your guinea pigs, you must be prepared to keep and care for the young in the event that you are unable to sell the babies. They are your responsibility. As a responsible breeder, you should also offer to take back any you sell if the new owners are no longer able to keep them.
1. Select a healthy, well-built boar (male) and sow (female). The ideal age is 6–12 months for the sow's first litter. You can use a boar for breeding from 6 months. The boars and sows can breed when they are younger, but it is advisable to let them mature and fill out before pairing them up. If your guinea pigs live outside don't breed from them in winter when it will be hard for the babies to stay warm.
2. Introduce the boar to the sow—there are rarely any problems, but it is worth keeping an eye on them to begin with to make sure they are getting on together. When the boar is interested in the sow he will often start making an excited chuntering sound and walk round her in a funny stiff-legged way.
3. The pair can stay together for 17–48 days. The sow will come on heat approximately every 16 days, so leaving them together for longer means that if she doesn't get pregnant in her first heat cycle, she might in the second or third one.
4. The boar should be taken away by day 48, although he probably won't hurt the babies if he stays with them, he will want to mate the mother straight away, and you don't want her having two litters in close succession.
5. Usually, it will be obvious whether the sow is pregnant—she will look ungainly and as though she's carrying a grapefruit inside her. However, if it is a small litter, it can be hard to tell. If she usually lives with another female guinea pig, you could put her back in with her friend. Other females are usually happy to be 'aunty' to the babies.
Although the sow won't make any sort of a nest for her babies, it is worth making sure there is plenty of comfortable bedding for the pregnant sow. Hay is often recommended as bedding rather than straw for guinea pigs for being less likely to cause corneal ulcers (from bedding scratching the eye).
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6. After 9–10 weeks gestation (pregnancy), the baby guinea pigs will be born, usually at night. In all my time of breeding guinea pigs, I only saw the babies being born once, which was a rare occasion when the sow gave birth during the day. They usually have 3–5 babies, and they rarely have any problems giving birth.
They don't make nests to have the babies in, so they will give birth anywhere in their hutch or pen. The babies are born covered in the birth sack which the sow will quickly clean off them. They are born with fur and their eyes open and will start to follow their mother around straight away.
It is fine to pick up the babies to check them over and make sure they are okay, but then leave them in peace with their mum so they can bond and suckle.
7. The baby guinea pigs will start to sample solid food from about 2 weeks old, but they will continue to suckle from the sow for another 2 or 3 weeks. At this age, you should be handling the babies regularly so that they are used to human contact.
They should be kept with their mother until they are 6 weeks old.
8. At 6 weeks old, separate any male baby guinea pigs from their sisters and mother. They can become sexually mature as early as 2 months old, and you don't want to risk them breeding at that age.
9. If you plan to sell the babies, it is worth separating the females from their mother too at 6 weeks old and keep them for a further 2 weeks so that you know they are properly weaned from their mother and doing well before they go to their new homes at 8 weeks old.
Breeding Pedigree Guinea Pigs
If you plan to show your guinea pigs in pedigree classes or just like the idea of breeding pedigree animals you will need to start off with stock which conforms to the breed standards of the 'Guinea Pig Council' in your country for example 'The British Cavy Council'. (Cavy is just another word for guinea pig.)
There are lots of breeds and colours to choose from. There are 4 main coat types: short coat, long coat, such as the sheltie and the Peruvian, rex and a similar gene known as teddy, which both give a hedgehog looking effect to the coat and Abyssinian which is also known as 'rosetted' because the hair grows in distinct rosettes over the guinea pigs' body. To make matters more complicated there is a long-coated rex breed known as the texel and whilst Peruvians aren't long-coated Abyssinian they do have two 'rosettes' over their haunches.
When you select your boar and sow for breeding, your aim is for them to produce babies which are as close to the breed standard as possible. So if your sow has good coat type and markings but a weak head shape you might look for a boar with an especially strong headshape to pair her with.
If you are breeding pedigree guinea pigs you might become interested in the genetics of different coat types and patterns, or you might just have an interest in it already and be curious as to how to breed a certain colour or coat in a guinea pig.
You might decide just to experiment with pairing different guinea pigs together and recording the results and then trying different combinations of boar and sow for your next litter.
Alternatively, you might be interested in reading this article on genetics from the British Cavy Council. It is astonishing how complicated even a single colour such as black is genetically. For example, the black gene can be diluted by the pink eye dilution gene to produce a pale colour known as lilac. However, if black is diluted by the partial pink eye dilution gene, it produces a colour between lilac and black known as slate.
The genetics of guinea pig coat length and type is slightly easier to get to grips with. The Abyssinian (rough coat gene, denoted by R) is the dominant gene over r - normal coat. The coat length gene (denoted by L) produces LL - short coat Ll medium coat and ll long coat guinea pigs. Each guinea pig will carry two RR (or Rr or rr) genes and two LL (or Li or ii) genes. And the mix of those determines whether you have a sheltie, Peruvian, short-coated or Abyssinian guinea pig.
There is currently a bit of craze for 'skinny pigs'. These are guinea pigs with a genetic mutation which are born with no hair and never grow it. These are expensive to buy and have some additional care requirements, so you should read up about them carefully if interested.
Breeding Guinea Pigs to Sell
If you have decided that you want to breed guinea pigs to sell you should get to know what your market wants first. If you plan to sell to pet shops you can ask them if they would be interested in buying baby guinea pigs from you and whether they have preferences for certain coat types or colours?
A lot of the guinea pigs that I have seen sold in pet shops are short-coated or Abyssinian crossbreed guinea pigs.
If you plan to sell privately to other pet owners you could just ask around people you know as to what sort of guinea pig they are looking for. You might find that guinea pigs with coats of one colour—known as 'selfs' e.g. self black—are less popular in the pet market than guinea pigs with coats with 2 or more colours.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Rebecca on April 05, 2020:
My boar tries to breed with my sow but she wont let him she would rather chase after him and hump him wat can i can do to make sure she gets preg
jrose on February 22, 2020:
How long should I rest a female Guineapig between litters?
Lav C on May 27, 2019:
Can both silkie parents give birth to a peruvian?
Rupa Bunn on July 18, 2018:
If the boar is around 2-3 Years, but the female is younger, is that fine? Can they successfully produce offspring? Guinea pigs are so adorable :)
Chloe on April 23, 2018:
We are thinking about breeding out guinea pigs. But we have 2 well bonded boars. We dont want to break the bond would it be okay to have 2 boars and one sow?
Jack Cox on February 16, 2018:
My female guinea pig is 11 weeks old and weighs just over 400grams. She has met her future mate and they got along great together. Would you say she’s ready to breed?
Rochelle Sturtevant on October 30, 2017:
Correction - males can breed at 3 weeks, females hit their first heat cycle at 5 weeks. Waiting until 8 weeks to separate is asking for problems!
Rochelle Ann De Zoysa from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka on November 06, 2015:
They are adorable :) Enjoyed reading :)
Sadie on March 19, 2013:
You are so cool
mudpiemagnet on March 03, 2013:
Cute piggies! We have an adorable boar- my kids are so fond of him, but he's lonely. We've been thinking about -in their words- "finding a wife for him." He's dominant though, and we were scared he would hurt mama or babies. We'll definitely be returning to your article should we decide to proceed!
Nicole Thompson from Barrington, Rhode Island on February 24, 2013:
I would also add that guinea pigs shouldn't be bred after 8 months, because at that age their pelvises harden, and they can actually die giving birth
Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on February 24, 2013:
I think they are cute, I have seen some people using them as pets. However, I know nothing about them.
Congrats for HOTD.
Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on February 22, 2013:
Guinea Pigs have always had the same connotation as the phrase 'scape goat' where I'm from. Don't know why, just something I've heard as a kid growing up in my neck of West Africa.
But I have to say that your hub gave me a new perspective on these creatures. For one, I don't think I've ever seen one, at least, none that I remember. I've always thought them to be big, with some resemblance to pigs. I guess that's totally not the case.
They are such beautiful creatures, more like rabbits. Hmmm. Still don't get why they call them Guinea Pigs. They don't look like pigs, and I don't think they originate from Guinea. Or do they?
Nice hub. Learned something from it. And congrats on the HOTD award! :)
Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on February 22, 2013:
Loksmi - than you for the congratulations and for commenting.
Dreamermeg - I can certainly recommend guinea pigs if you do get the chance to keep some. I think they're great pets for adults as well as children.
Missin Behavin - it's so exciting getting a new pet - I hope you get some lovely guinea pigs soon.
emoticons - I'm so sorry to hear about your guinea pigs getting eaten, They are a bit vulnerable to it however careful you are. Thank you for reading and commenting.
CZCZCZ - I share your sentiment - they are awesome! Thank you for visiting.
CZCZCZ from Oregon on February 22, 2013:
Guinea pigs are awesome. Thanks for compiling this great resource for how to breed them. They are really fun pets.
emoticons on February 22, 2013:
I've been maintaining some guinea pigs, but they were all eaten by wild cat, when I was outside my house... :(
By the way, this is great hub and useful !
Melissa from Canada on February 22, 2013:
Excellent hub I enjoyed reading it, very imformative. I'm hoping to get a couple guinea pigs of my own soon.
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on February 22, 2013:
Lovely hub. I like small animals but never kept guinea pigs.
Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on February 02, 2013:
Aviannovice thank you for commenting, although I don't have any now, I bred g. pigs for about 15 years, all sorts of varieties, but my favourites were dalmatians, which as you can guess are sort of spotty. The female giving birth is a poorly marked dalmatian.
Eddy, I'm delighted you enjoyed it and thank you for sharing the story of your g. pigs , I think they think they are comical and great pets too. I love their vocalisations and the way the babies are so earnest about trying to be just like mum.
Eiddwen from Wales on February 02, 2013:
A wonderfully interesting and useful hub.
Many years ago when my children were small we decided to keep a pair of Guinea Pigs;didn't know too much about them so i read up and found a lady in the next village who had some for sale. They were a little older and I especially chose two females because I didn't want to breed from them we called the Gertie and Rosie.We soon fell in love with them!!!
However what I didn't know was that these two females were already pregnant and I think that very soon they both gave birth to their litters.Oh how beautiful they were; at this moment in time we do not have any but will never forget those ones from years gone by. So comical and sweet;I would recommend them to anyone looking for a small pet.
Thanks again for sharing this gem which I vote up,across and share all around.
Have a great weekend.
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on February 01, 2013:
You are so knowledgeable. How long have you been breeding these little cuties? They certainly are adorable.