Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ginger's Bitter-sweet Birth

I was holding Ginger at about 11am this morning. She was huge, but her pelvic bone wasn't anywhere near full dilation yet. So I left her hanging out with Ripley, and took the kids out to the shops for an hour.

When we got home I just happened to glance over and see something brown and fluffy lying down next to Ginger. At first I thought it was Ripley - then it occurred to me that it must be babies. Babies that weren't moving.

I left all the shopping on the floor and quickly checked what had happened. It looked like the scene of a massacre: dead guinea pigs and blood and placentas everywhere. And a very bewildered looking Ginger sitting in the middle of it all. I quickly checked some of the still babies - they had the sacks over their faces and back, broken away around their tummy/paws, probably from struggling for air.

Two babies were moving. One was still partially in her sack, but her face was clear - probably a stroke of luck that saved her life. The other was already sitting up, and mostly clean. And was probably the first born. Two of the three dead babies were still warm. I had JUST missed it.

*** If you'd rather not see dead guinea pig babies, it's probably best to stop scrolling now ***

These three were perfect. The first was a little boy, looked like he was a gold and gold agouti Abyssinian (85g). The middle one was a little girl, ginger and white smooth coat (70g). And the third one was a big tri-colour girl (100g). All really good sized babies, and a beautiful mix of colours too.

There really is nothing more devastating than watching a mumma pig's tummy grow, and feeling the babies alive and well, kicking away over the long 9-10 weeks of a guinea pig gestation. Then loosing perfectly healthy babies simply due to bad timing!

If nothing else, this litter has just reiterated that even though I've been doing this for a LONG time, it doesn't mean I can prevent unnecessary deaths - even when they are preventable!

The two surviving girls have been named Gypsy and Grace. They're still not out of the woods yet, and Grace in particular is still looking quite fragile.


This is little Grace, she's a white Abyssinian coat with cream/cream agouti eye patches. She weighed in at 90g. She was also the only baby cleaned properly, so I think she was firstborn.


This is Gypsy. She's a mix of ginger, golden agouti and white. She has a stunning Abyssinian coat as well. She weighed in at 100g. All babies were really good sizes, and were almost half a kg in total.

And when I was taking photos of the girls this afternoon, I noticed that they both have a little patch of colour on the backsides as well! Too cute!


  1. This was such a sad post :( I can't believe baby piggies die so easily! It seems like that would be quite a bad thing out in nature!

    I'm glad two little cuties made it though... but... how sad!!!

  2. This is so sad. Is this the way it is in nature do you think? Often only a few make it out of the whole litter? Or is this what an inexperienced mother goes through, and it better the next time?

  3. It is really common to loose 1 baby in a litter, especially if there are 3 or more. The mumma guinea pigs tend to get tunnel vision, only focussing on the first baby. If subsequent babies are born quickly, often she will ignore them, choosing to keep cleaning the perfectly fine first born while the newest arrival quickly suffocated inside of it's birthing sack. Usually the mum will then come back to clean up the subsequent babies later, but by then it's too late. It's a common first-time mum thing, but does happen to experienced mums too. It's one of the most preventable complications in guinea pig birthing - all you have to do is be present! A lot of the other problems (genetic abnormalities, breech presentation, pregnancy toxaemia etc) are not so easy to deal with. I don't know if it's so much a 'natures way' thing, but it does give the surviving two girls a better chance as they get full access to milk now. Still, I'd rather have them all here, and have to supplement feed or foster them out to the other new mums then have them die. Hopefully her next litter sometime later next year will have a happier outcome.

  4. Such is life, as sad as it is. I used to breed rats... let us not even speak of what they did with dead babies. :X

  5. Well - I'm glad two survived, they are so gorgeous when I saw the title I was frozen to the spot - not able to bring myself to read the information or scroll down - my first thought was that Ginger had died, I didn't think about the bubs at first but my mind was on Ginger... I thought the birth went wrong and you lost Ginger but you didn't (thank-fully) but you DID loose two bubs! I didn't really intend to see the dead babies picture but I decided it would be best if I saw them dead since I will be breeding early next year! ;)

  6. I don't understand how you can put guinea pigs through this sort of thing. Why do you want to breed guinea pigs when there are hundreds of guinea pigs that are homeless in shelters. Guinea pigs deserve better than to be treated as mere objects to make money from, it's so undignified and no animal should be forced in to living a life as a breeding machine.

    1. The question you ask about guinea pigs is the same question I have asked myself a zillion times about human babies. Why anyone would want to produce one when there are so many already in dire need of help is beyond me!

      Returning to the subject, I agree that piggy breeding should be handled with a lot of caution but sometimes things do happen through no fault of the owner. We got Florence in September 2014 from the local store. It became clear within a few weeks that she was pregnant. The pet store's retarded supplier had left her too long with her brothers before separating out the litter. She had a boy and a girl and luckily, an easy birth. The girl is perfect, but the boy was born with malformed and paralysed back legs. He is an amazing, beautiful little boy who gets about remarkably well and (thank God) all his systems work fine. His favourite food is parsley and he has the highest, loudest squeak of all our piggies.

      It could have been so much worse, though, and if ever I got my hands on the irresponsible idiot who didn't take Flo out of the way in time, I'd choke them to death.

  7. Hi Benny82. I totally understand your point of view. There are hundreds of piggies in shelters. And breeding is risky. And bad things do happen. But I don't know if you've had a good look around my blog, but I'm not breeding for money. There is NO money to be made in breeding piggies. I would estimate that I spend at least $150-200 a month in keeping the piggies properly fed, clean, replacing water bottles, visiting vets, buying bedding, and all the extra expenses that occur. There is no way I could even cover the costs by breeding. And that's not even taking into account all the unpaid man hours it takes just to distribute food/water/health check them each day. I breed to develop new lines, with the hope of eventually establishing a new variety of piggy with the best aspects of a few breeds. This is how all new varieties of animal get established. I do not breed for pets. The majority of piggies on the 'available' page are actually animals I've taken in as foster/rescue pigs myself and treated for illness etc. On the occasional chance I have a baby specifically born here that is not needed for our program, I always have a long wait list of Awesome homes willing to take them in. Such is the shortage of well-bred, healthy, unusual piggies. My girls will never have more than 2 litters in a 12month period. Some will have only one litter in their life. Some will not be bred at all, staying on as pets to live in luxury.

    I understand the anger behind your words, as there are some truly awful situations guinea pigs have been found in. But your energy may be better spent educating people who haven't got the information behind them rather than attacking those who are being transparent and honest in their husbandry. At the end of the day, if all guinea pig breeding ceased, the only animals left would be the occasional accidentally inbred/poorly bred backyard pigs, and that would leave the future of the species in jeopardy.

  8. What is the benefit of developing a new line of guinea pig? Is it so they look nice or have a certain colour hair? Trust me, the future of the species would not be in jeopardy if you and other breeders ceased to practice. It is such a baseless argument that you have presented, and I would like to see you support your claims of the importance of your so-called "program" for the guinea pig specie. Please don't presume that I am that stupid to think you are doing this out of the kindness of your own heart, you cannot justify breeding any animal (unless on the endangered species list and under strict zoological supervision).

  9. I have not presumed ignorance on your behalf, merely that you have a very strong point of view and will not be able to be flexible in that. And that is ok. That is your right. But don't presume that I am an evil person because I choose to develop new coat-types/breed for temperament in my animals. I am actually quite a nice person if you get to know me! A mum of two small kids who has has a life time love-affair with guinea pigs.

    Breeders don't breed because they hate the animals - which seems to be the general consensus. I breed because I think they are amazing little creatures and don't want to see some of the special coat types/personalities lost. A lot of the older varieties of guinea pig from the 70s and 80s have in fact disappeared over the years as the lines were forgotten about. There will always be classic piggies in pet shops, I have no illusions that that will ever change, but I do not wish for the more specialised breeds to disappear.

    Birth is a risky business no matter what species you are. Your mum took a risk in carrying and birthing you, as did ever mum in human history. I took a risk in carrying and delivering my two children. The argument that an mammal should not reproduce because it is too risky is unrealistic. The risk is part of life. It gets managed in Humans, and can be managed in other species as well.

    I know I can not alter your thinking. And I have not entered into this lightly myself. I think we will simply have to agree to disagree.

  10. I agree with Benny...too many domesticated animals and not enough homes. Every time you breed your piggies and a person takes that piggy home you are losing a place for a piggy that really needs a home that has been discarded by someone else. If you truly loved g pigs you would not breed them you are breeding them for YOUR benefit only.

  11. I agree with EmmasBears. Breeding is a part of life. It's risky for all animals but happens to all animals. I ink there are many homeless guinea pigs out there, that need good homes but I have a whole room I keep 15 guinea pigs in, all shelters, as I have massive c&c cages. I have even bred ( responsively) a couple that I loved there coats and complexions and I made 3 beautiful show guinea pigs out of it. I breed sometimes but rescue as a hobby. I guess I am just an evil person for letting a few pigs go through nature -_-

    I am sorry, I agree with both of you, but I think it is up to that persons business what they do with there animals. As long as they are not abusing them under the restrictions of animal cruelty or under feeding them, etc, and as long as teh guinea pigs are happy they should do what ever they want with them, keep 20 or just one, breed or show.

    I feel bad for shelter and store pigs that may never find homes, but same goes for dogs, cats, horses, goats, and any other pet animal. We can't find home for them all and we all try to help, and house them, but people are still going to breed for better species and lines so the guinea pigs are better taken care of, because there easier to take care of etc.

    So please don't fight, educate teh unexpired exceed want to be breeders not to breed, but just let the breeders do their thing. You can't stop the, and they are't evil. Just because they are not helping individual shelter pigs, doesn't mean they are not doing good for the whole species...