Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Pine Cone Experiment

 Lets talk chew toys, made from sea-grass or wooden painted shapes, non-toxic of course or if your cavies are like mine, the inside of the hutch archways. What is cute and a small cost when you have three or four cavies is substantially less cute and more expensive when you have a whole caviary full of piggies. 

Why do guinea pigs chew?  The main reason, is to keep their teeth short. Guinea pigs incisors grow constantly. They are actually practicing good dental hygiene by chewing! I have also noticed boars will chew more if they are housed alone and can smell sows, which leads me to think it makes them feel better and relieves frustration. Rescuers have noticed that distressed or mistreated guinea pigs often chew excessively, perhaps another example of chewing as a stress relief and method of comforting themselves. I also suspect that sometimes guinea pig's will do it to relieve boredom or simply because it is fun.

So when I came across an article citing the use of pine cones as a safe chewable option, I got a little bit excited. I sent the children outside with a washing basket and before long they were back with it filled to the brim. My little Miss helped me fill some foil lined trays and pop them in the oven.

The smell of pine cones cooking is absolutely delightful. It was like Christmas, in July. I found that 20 minutes at 180C was enough in my oven to do the trick. They actually start to change colour, darkening slightly and appearing more dried out. The reason it is best to roast the pine-cones before serving them, is to dry out any sap and kill any germs, bugs or bacteria. The process effectively sterilizes them.

The next step was to present these new goodies to my piggies. I was a little nervous after all the effort we had gone to that they may turn their little noses up at them. However my fears could not have been more unfounded. It appeared that they could smell the pine-cones straight away. In less than a minute the caviary was filled with the sound of chewing.

Cayenne was so happy that he started pop-corning all around the cage. I couldn't help but laugh at him. Next I took some up to the lawn hutches, where they were equally as well received.

In spite of the fact that he is sometimes shy and I was sitting by the open door of the hutch, Zorrow immediately came out to investigate. At first he had a nibble of his chaff before heading over to check the pine-cones out. After a quick sniff, he too was munching away. 

So if you have pine trees in your garden, or know where to acquire some for free, this will definitely be good news for you. My piggies give pine-cones a 10 out of 10!

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