There's nothing cuter than a baby guinea pig, but guinea pigs are harder to successfully breed and raise than other small animals.
If you are considering breeding your pet cavy, think again. About 20% of all pregnancies end in the death of mother and/or babies. Because guinea pig babies are so ready-to-go and large in size compared to the mother, there are many more problems than with other small animals.
Also, if you are just breeding so you can own more pets, please consider adopting some new pets or buying more from a breeder first. There are already enough pet cavies out there. If you are breeding your cavies, ideally it will be because you are trying to raise cavies closer to the breed standard set by the ARBA and ACBA. If I didn't show cavies, I probably wouldn't breed them. Raising purebred cavies costs just as much as raising mutts, plus, if you raise purebreds, there is more of a market for the babies. If you are raising cavies the right way, you will not be making money - you will be losing it. Many breeders raise cavies to improve the breed, and put a lot of money and work into their cavies. If you are considering raising cavies, most breeders are more than happy to set you up with a pair that will be compatible - plus you will get background info and befriend a knowledgeable person who can help you along.
Here are some helpful facts about cavy breeding
When breeding, the sow should be at least 2-3 months old, or 22 ounces. Most breeders prefer to breed their sows for the first time when they are between 4 and 6 months of age. If you breed a sow younger than 2 months, or older than 10, the possibility of problems increases. Some of the problems are -
Pregnancy toxemia - can be caused by old or young age, improper diet, obesity, fasting, not getting enough exercise and can also be hereditarily. Most sows at risk for this are in their first or second pregnancy. Most cases occur in the last days of gestation, though it can happen at any point during pregnancy and nursing. A big thing that you usually notice if they have toxemia is a smell from their mouth or rear end that smells like nail polish remover. In almost all cases treatment is unrewarding. Some things to make sure of is that your cavy has room to exercise, and that you watch their food intake.
Pelvic bone fusing - this is possible at any age. If the pelvic bones fuse before birth, the sow will not be able to pass any babies. If the sow's bones are fused, this does not prevent them from breeding, just from giving birth. This is not real common (though almost all birth complications are incorrectly blamed on it), but breeding sows under one year of age (for the first time) will prevent the bones from fusing.
Muscles Untoned - Another reason to make sure your sows have enough room to exercise. This is a more common problem than the bones fusing, and also causes the sow to not be able to pass babies. If you're going to breed your sow, make sure you breed it more often than once a year, since this also increases the chances of problems. You can also make a 'tea' out of washed raspberry leaves, and syringe some to the sow. Just make sure it's cold before giving it to your sow!
The above are the most common problems. If you make sure your sow has a good quality food, free access to good-quality fresh hay, adequate vitamin C and calcium, lots of water, veggies, and good exercise, it will reduce the chances of complications. Their diet should consist of 70% hay, 20% pellets, and 10% treats. Feed only a little fruit, for it is very high in sugars and can cause the babies to get too big. A small piece every once in a while is fine, and in moderation can help the sow through her pregnancy.
About two weeks before birth, you can feel the babies kicking inside the momma pig. You should handle your sow as little as possible throughout pregnancy, or you may injure the sow and babies. Once you feel the babies kicking, in two weeks or less they should be born.
Here are some pictures of some of my sows the day before they gave birth, and how many babies they had. Each sow will differ in size depending on their body type and weight. Chubbs looked like she had at least two or three in the second to last picture, but she ended up only having one, while her daughter, Chiquita, doesn't even look pregnant at all. It is very hard to tell by a photo how many babies a cavy will have, though two to four is the most common.
When you feel the pelvic bones separating, parturition is usually within a week to a few hours. To check for pelvic bone separation, put your finger and press gently above the sow's privates. If the bones are separated, it will feel like pressing your finger in between two of your knuckles. If you get used to what a non-pregnant sows' pelvic bones feel like normally, you should be able to tell the difference easily.
The sow will probably give birth while you are away, or at night. I keep my expecting sows in my room, and that way I usually get to see them give birth. Most of the time you'll be waiting and waiting and waiting, then just when you've given up you'll look in and there are little miniatures of mom! They are so cute because they are born with their eyes open, a full coat, and they are running around and testing mommy's food within minutes of birth. The father should be removed before birth, as the sow goes into heat immediately after birth, unless you want her to be bred again right away. Some breeders do back-to-back breedings, but the father may trample the babies when he's chasing the momma pig, and it is an extra stress for the momma pig to be pregnant again while she's also weaning her litter.
Make sure if you're there that the sow passes all the placenta (one for each baby). If she retains any she will go toxic. The mother will eat the placentas and the hormones in the placenta aid in the milk let-down. This is the only point in any cavy's life that they eat meat. It is an inborn instinct to clean up any and all blood, as in the wild the smell of blood quickly draws predators. Below are a photo of two attached placenta and a photo of the sow eating it (yuck!!! :).
Below is a close-up photo of a newborn Teddy boar. I think it is so amazing that when they're born they have a covering over their toenails that protects momma's inside from their nails! Of course, that would make great sense, what with all the kicking they do while they're in there! The covering dries up and comes off shortly after birth, and many people don't even realize that the coverings were there in the first place (that's why I put this photo here!).
Baby pigs need to nurse for about three weeks. At this age, boars should be separated from mother and sisters, as it is possible for them to breed at this age. It is possible to sex the babies at birth, below are photos. Think of it this way - baby boar's 'parts' look like an 'i', baby sow's like a 'Y'.
At three weeks old they are ready to go out on their own, and can be sold or given away (of course, unless you want to keep them), though the baby sows may stay and nurse for another week. Daughters and mothers usually make great cage mates, as they have lived with each other 'from the start'.
Clairabelle and her four daughters
Click on a name below to follow a piggy's pregnancy/birth