Coexistence may have its limitations… 3 problems and a solution
Guinea pigs are so charming. It’s tempting to think they could win over the heart of any animal. You may also assume that because guinea pigs and chickens are both docile, these animals could be roommates. These “can X animal live with Y animal” questions are pretty common.
Guinea pigs have been known to share space with other animals, but can guinea pigs live with chickens? Turns out, no, they typically aren’t the best of friends. Guinea pigs are social and thrive in the company of others. But bonding them with other animals, even other guinea pigs, can be tricky. Housing them with chickens holds numerous risks and little benefit. Let’s explore.
Problem #1: Pecking Order Problems
Chickens will actually peck and even act aggressively toward each other to establish social rank. While it may be distressing to humans to watch this, chickens in healthy situations have all they need to understand and sort out rank.
Guinea pigs are similarly tied to a social order of dominance among the group. Once male guinea pigs start to sexually mature, at about 6 months of age, they will show aggressive gestures to establish rank. Even previously peaceful piggies will seem to turn on each other until they have figured out who gets to be the alpha pig.
Problem #2: Housing Dangers
As you can imagine, putting two different animals together when each requires structure and have different ways of establishing dominance, can be a recipe for disaster. Injury may be avoided within species because chickens understand chicken behavior and are equipped with equal defenses.
Guinea pigs are prey animals who will likely be stressed by a chicken. Guinea pigs can also easily be injured, even if the chicken was not intending to be aggressive. It would likely stress both animals to try to figure out the seemingly bizarre intruder they have been housed with.
Problem #3: Mo chickens, mo (health) problems
Then there are also health considerations. Chicken feces can be toxic to guinea pigs who will eat just about anything they come across. It’s gross but true.
Their habitat needs may also be different. Depending on
Guinea pigs are susceptible to
Alternatives to keeping cavy company
If your objective is to care for both guinea pigs and chickens, best to give each their own space.
If your goal was to find a companion for your guinea pig, there are better potential pairings. All animals have their own personalities and there is never a guarantee that they will get along. Still, there is a higher likelihood of companionship among specific animals.
Female guinea pigs, also called sows, can typically cohabitate well with other female piggies. Be sure to correctly identify your piggy’s gender or you will end up with more than you bargained for.
Introducing males, or boars, is much trickier. Again, start with neutral territory.
Consider matching by personality. If your boar is older and more laid back, a slightly younger boar may have a better chance of bonding.
Personalities can change as your guinea pig ages, so males who get along great at four months of age may need to be separated at six months of age. Dominant boars will compete with each other and make better neighbors than cagemates.
If your guinea pigs don’t have the temperament to be cage mates they still may be able to play together supervised on neutral territory. I have kept many piggies as ‘neighbors’ setting up their cage with a barrier down the middle. This way they can still talk, run and play together without fighting.
Rabbits can sometimes cohabitate with guinea pigs. Generally this would be successful if the rabbits are small and laid back. Rabbits are not guinea pigs with long ears. Their personalities and needs are very different. They also can, in some cases, bully guinea pigs.
Never put smaller rodents such as mice, rats, hamsters or gerbils with guinea pigs. Rodents in general are territorial and they do not appreciate each others’ company.
It’s unwise to house guinea pigs with chickens. Instead consider keeping them in separate enclosures if you plan to care for both animals.
If seeking companions for your piggies, start with other piggies first but be sure to match personalities and take the bonding process slow.
A boundary that allows guinea pigs to see each other, even if they can’t live together directly, can help you find a good neighbor for your piggy without risking injury.
Animal Humane Society – Guinea Pig bonding basics
Cavy Madness – Life with your cavy