Specialist Breeder and Judge of Poultry, Pigeons, and Cage Birds; Judge at the Grand International Show, Crystal Palace; Membre Societe des Aviculteurs Francais; Vice-president Poultry Club; Hon. Sec. Yokohama Club; on the Committee of Middlesex Columbarian Society,
Keep - Guinea-pigs as Lawn-mowers - Prices
There are three different breeds of cavies in this country - viz., the smooth cavy, or sometimes called the Bolivian cavy; the rough-coated, or "Abyssinian" cavy; and the long-haired cavy, known as the Peruvian (see article on page 1535, Vol. 2).
The smooth-coated are by far the most popular and easiest to keep and breed.
There are many varieties as regards colour, but the most common and greatest favourites are the self-coloured blacks, reds, whites, fawns, and a kind of golden brown, generally spoken of as agoutis. Then there are the Dutch marked - that is, the coloured fur is on the same parts of the body and of a similar shape to the markings on a Dutch rabbit. There are also the tortoiseshell and the tortoiseshell-and-white.
In breeding self-coloured cavies, it is the aim of the breeder to produce animals with coats of a very intense colour; thus a black should have a deep black and glossy coat, quite free from any white, brown, or rusty-coloured hair. The same applies to the reds, which should be of a rich colour and not washy or uneven. Whites breed very true, and do not often have coloured hair in their coats. They have red eyes, and are greatly admired by some fanciers.
Tortoiseshell is a mixture of red, yellow, and black, but the tortoiseshell-and-white are the greatest favourites, some of these being of a very beautiful colour and prettily marked, the contrast of the pure white fur showing up the tortoiseshell markings to a nicety. When the young ones are being weaned, they should have a little bread-and-milk given to them each day. If the young cavies are kept in a separate house until they are about six months old, it will be found that they will be far healthier and stronger than if left with the old ones, and will produce stronger and finer stock.
As regards the number of guinea-pigs to keep on a tennis court, if they have the whole run of it fenced round, then between two and three dozen would be a good number, but if kept in a covered run - which will require moving each day - a dozen cavies would do well.
Guinea-pigs, on being put on to a fresh piece of lawn, will start to eat the dandelions and plantains first, and then follow on with the daisies, and when they have cleared these, will go on eating the grass. The cavies not only eat the leaves off the dandelion, but will cut off with their chisel-like teeth the very heart of the root close to the ground, which a lawn-mower cannot do.
Guinea-pigs kept on these lines will not need any green food, but should have a feed of oats and bran every evening, and a mixture of barley meal and middlings, slightly moistened with boiling water, and thoroughly mixed, for their breakfast. This must not be sloppy or sticky, but mixed so that it crumbles in the hand.
Guinea-pigs kept in hutches will require some green food in the way of dandelion leaves, plaintain, cabbage leaves, carrots, etc., every day. Those animals that are kept on the lawn or tennis court will need more oats than those in hutches, and they will then eat more weeds and grasses if so fed.
Now, as to the prices of guinea-pigs. I have seen young ones offered for sale at sixpence each, but the usual price varies from 1S. 6d. to about 2s. each - these are generally the mismarked and badly coloured ones from various cavy breeders; but I should suggest that two or three good ones of a particular variety be bought from some reliable breeder, as then you will have the chance of breeding one fit for exhibition, and also get a better price for their offspring.
By Cyril Cowell