Our Current Cavy Set Up (2014 to now)
We moved house, and suddenly acquired much, much more grass! So to make the most of the yumminess for the pigs, we had a massive (and crazy heavy) lawn 'tractor' style hutch custom built. The whole top level is available for sleeping, while the whole bottom level gives the pigs 24/7 access for fresh grass.
One thing we have noticed is the improved health we have seen since changing their diet to so much more green grass. The mumma pigs are having much better/easier pregnancies (probably also helped by being able to stay so active), and the babies are being born large and strong. We supplement their diet with vegetable scraps and a bit of dry mix (chaff/grains) a few times a week - but grass probably makes up 90% of what they eat. These are some happy, healthy pigs!
Our Current Chicken Set Up (2014 to now)
The 'Mansion' Cage (2011-2013):
I've always thoroughly enjoyed watching a group of guinea pigs interact and run around in a large space. You really get a chance to see each of the individual personalities shine through. I think the guinea pigs love it as well. They would usually live in family groups in the wild, so the big space allows them to act out all of their natural behaviours left over from their non-domesticated heritage.
All of my girls used to live in 'The Mansion' cage - a huge 3m x 2m chicken coop we had set up in the corner of our yard. It was completely perimeter fenced to keep the kids and the dog from getting access which also meant that when the coupe door was open, the pigs had approx 4m x 3m to explore.
We had to pull this cage down after just over 2 years due to deterioration from Australian weather. In less extreme climates, this would really be ideal!
Setting up the mansion
My daughter checking the quality. (And poor little Custard, our oldest piggy is sitting in the newly levelled dirt waiting for some suitable bedding! She was the first to inspect the cage!)
The girls making the most of grass-time
I've experimented with a number of different bedding materials. In days gone by I used to use newspaper topped with wood shavings topped with hay. This worked at the time, but was pretty messy and time consuming to clean. For the HUGE floor area in the mansion cage, I've found fleecy blankets the most time and cost effective bedding. It is also the safest as I've had way too many trips to the vet due to hay/straw poke eye injuries. You could also use vet bed (a carpet-like fabric) with something absorbent under it.
In the past I would lay out some cotton towels for absorbency, then a layer of fleecy blankets or vet bed on the very top. The fleece/bedding works by allowing the urine to wick through to the towel layer, while staying dry for the girls to run around on. The whole set up gets completely changed once a week with the bedding and houses added/changed around to provide some environmental enrichment. Plus, guinea pigs just love to hide in things!
This was quite literally the best cavy set up I've ever had. It was predator proof and so spacious. If I ever get the opportunity to do this again I will - but maybe with a slightly better quality cage!
The 'Tower' Cage:
I then succumbed to the temptation of the 'tower cage'! I've always had a bit of concern for the piggies housed like this - thinking that they'd be bored, and not have much space, and not get to run around at all... but it doesn't have to be that way at all! lol
This particular cage was custom built for me by Peter of Funky Cavy Stud here in Brisbane. It's HUGE (think six foot tall!) and so spacious that my pigs haven't even noticed the difference going from their 2-story lawn hutches.
This shows one of my adult boys to give you an idea of how roomy it is. I kept 2 pigs to each section, but could easily flip up Peter's clever dividers to make 4 extra large runs for them if I decide to. I'm so very happy with this set up and love how much more interaction our whole family has with the pigs now that they're right outside our kitchen window too! (plus, it's so easy to pop out with a bowl full of veggy treats, that I can see these guys getting very porky very fast!).
The 'Long' Cage:
Before we ordered the 'tower cage', we had most of our pigs out on the lawn. The boys were in individual lawn hutches, and our girls lived in a giant mansion cage (see the bottom of this page for images). The mansion cage was an epic set up, but alas it didn't hold up to Australian weather very well, and after 2 years of loyal use, it came to an end after an ex-cyclone storm rolled through early in 2013. We had to do an emergency evacuation of all the resident pigs, and it wasn't quite structurally sound after that. So the decision was made to pull it down and order the pigs a better house.
This was the drawing I sent to Peter - our amazing cage builder. We ended up changing to a 3-level to give the pigs more space to spread out, and this was the resulting cage Peter delivered to us not even two weeks later!
So we then had two side-by side, safely sheltered cages for the pigs to live in. With dividers UP, we had seven very spacious runs. With all dividers DOWN we could have up to 14 individual sections if we needed. But we prefered to leave them open.