If you are housing your guinea pig in an outdoor hutch, you will need to buy a good, large solid and sturdy wooden hutch where your guinea pigs feel safe and happy. The hutch will also need to stand up to bad weather and potential predators.
In many countries, keeping guinea pigs in an outdoor hutch is not an option because of the weather. In fact, we recommend keeping your guinea pigs indoors, as it is much safer. As well as being safer, it is much easier to find suitable indoor cages than outdoor hutches.
We are not going to recommend any particular hutches here but give you a buying guide that tells you what to look for when shopping for a hutch. We haven’t been able to find any that are for sale in the US or Canada that we would recommend, because none offered the space we feel is enough for these small pets.
Most hutches sold for rabbits are actually not big enough for rabbits or guinea pigs and it is inhumane to keep these small pets in enclosures that don’t offer the space they need.
If you live in the UK, we have some hutch recommendations on our Guinea Piggles UK website.
A guinea pig hutch should have an internal space of AT LEAST 4ft x 2ft (120cm x 60cm) for two guinea pigs. If you have just one guinea pig, you still need a hutch of this size. If you have more guinea pigs, you’ll need a much bigger hutch.
Because guinea pigs are very active pets, we strongly advise, if you have the space in your backyard, or on your patio, and can afford a larger hutch, that you but a much bigger one that gives your small pets as much space as possible.
It is important to know that the dimensions given for a hutch usually refer to the outer dimensions and not the actual space available inside the hutch. There can be quite a big difference when you take into account the thickness of the wood, so always try to find out the interior hutch measurements.
A 4ft hutch won’t give your guinea pigs 4ft of floor space inside, so we no longer recommend these hutches. We recommend 5ft as the minimum length for a guinea pig hutch.
Never assume when you’re buying a “guinea pig hutch” or even a “rabbit hutch”, that it is suitable for guinea pigs. Check the size yourself to assess whether it really is big enough before you make the purchase.
If your guinea pigs’ hutch is too small, it can make your guinea pig’s feel depressed and sad. Guinea pigs love to run around and this is natural behavior for them. If they can’t exercise properly, it can affect how they feel and they can become very unhappy.
A hutch that is too small can create aggression and depression amongst guinea pigs. If they are in a cramped space, they are likely to become agitated and may even end up harming each other.
If you end up in this situation, you may end up having to re-home your guinea pigs or upgrade to a larger hutch. Although a larger hutch is more expensive, it is better to buy one that is good for your guinea pigs from the outset or it will cost you more later. If you can’t afford to buy one of these hutches or the space in which to put it, you would be better to consider another pet that requires a smaller space.
There are a couple of things to bear in mind when deciding on a single or double story hutch:
A double hutch is not necessarily a bad idea, but you must take these points into consideration when deciding which housing to buy.
If you have older guinea pigs, or if they have arthritis or something else that impedes their movement, a single hutch will be required.
Most guinea pigs will get used to using a ramp, but this is not always the case. In some circumstances, a guinea pig may not physically be able to use a ramp.
If you have new guinea pigs, check they can use the ramp before leaving them in the hutch as it can sometimes take a bit of coaxing at first. Try putting a bit of food at the top of the ramp or make a food trail with pea flakes, pieces of lettuce, or their favorite food, to encourage them to go up or down to the next level.
Make sure you guinea pigs are confident with using the ramp both ways. It might be they’re ok with going down the ramp but need a little persuasion to go up.
A ramp is safe if it is not too steep and is securely locked in place with no risk of falling.
After constructing your hutch, and each time after you’ve cleaned the hutch, it’s important to make sure the ramp is always locked securely in place.
If the ramp isn’t secured correctly, the ramp may fall and hurt one of your guinea pigs. Or, if the ramp falls when your guinea pigs are in the upper level, they will be unable to get to the lower level and may even fall and hurt themselves.
Guinea pigs don’t like steep ramps so avoid buying a hutch that has a steep ramp. Your guinea pig will be a lot more confident if the ramp has a more gentle slope.
Providing each level in your hutch meets the minimum interior space requirements, a second level can count as twice the space.
For 4 guinea pigs, a double decker hutch with two floors, each with an interior measurement of 120cm x 60cm, would be acceptable, providing they are all females or 3 females with 1 neutered male. This is the very minimum and we recommend going up a size. Many rescue centers will want you to have a larger hutch so it’s worth buying a hutch that offers the guinea pigs more room.
If you had a small hutch with 60cm x 60cm on each level, this would NOT be at all suitable, as 1 or 2 guinea pigs need AT LEAST 120cm x 60cm on ONE level.
A hutch and run combination is a really good idea as this makes it much easier for you and your guinea pigs when it comes to exercise time. It can also be cheaper to buy a hutch run combo rather than buying these items separately.
Many of the hutch and run combinations that are available for sale are also too small. They don’t meet the minimum size requirements and are not big enough to house guinea pigs or give them enough space to exercise.
It’s important to bear in mind that the size we recommend for your guinea pig’s hutch is for the enclosed part and not for the run. A run would need to be a lot bigger so you might be better buying a separate run rather than a hutch/run combo. We have some recommendations on good guinea pig runs here…
We’ve already gone into a lot of detail relating to the size of a guinea pig’s hutch but there are several other factors you should also consider when looking for the best hutch:
Most hutches come as flatpack items with instructions on how to put them together. You will need to follow the instructions carefully and make sure your hutch is built so that it is strong and robust. If you’re not particularly keen on putting it together yourself, you can usually find someone who puts together flatpack furniture for a living and will charge you just a small fee to do this.
It is important to protect the hutch from all types of weather as guinea pigs can become ill very quickly in the following conditions:
When it rains, the guinea pig hutch will become wet inside if it is not protected. Even if the hutch is positioned so it is sheltered from the rain, it is still likely to become damp.
It is essential you have some kind of rain cover (also known as a hutch hugger) which you can use for these bad weather days. You can alternatively use tarpaulin. Once put over the hutch, the front can be rolled up or down according to the weather.
A hutch will always be warmer than the outside temperature and heat stroke can easily occur if they overheat. In hot weather, there are also likely to be flies which can be a real danger and potentially result in a potentially fatal condition called fly strike.
Cold weather is equally dangerous as it can cause pneumonia guinea pigs. Even when it is mildly cold, your guinea pigs will need some protection, as they like the same temperatures as we do.
One way to protect your guinea pigs from both heat and cold is by insulating the hutch. You can insulate the hutch by lining it with insulating wrap but you’ll need to cover this with additional safe boarding so it can’t be nibbled. To protect your guinea pigs from the cold, you could put a blanket over the hutch, but make sure there is enough airflow for them.
There are other ways you can help keep your guinea pigs cool during hot weather and warmer during the cold weather. Check out our articles on “how to keep guinea pigs cool in a heatwave” and “how to keep guinea pigs warm in winter“.
If you can’t find a suitable outdoor hutch or you decide that you’d rather keep your guinea pigs indoors, check out our best indoor cage recommendations.