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I'm building a food forest, and was wondering what type of guinea pigs would work best to keep a food forest floor clean while not harming my plants so I can have plenty of food as well as getting pelts to sell to a tannery, and possibly sell some to the pet store if I get too many for the yard.

I'm going to have some berries/grapes/kiwi berries (when the trees get big enough)/fruit (polyculture), and things falling into the yard, but will also have pine needles, and compost scraps for them.

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    Are you talking about guinea pigs as sold in pet stores? – Stephie Jun 29 '16 at 6:20
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    a) "Wild / semi-feral" guinea pigs don't make good pets, they aren't used to human interaction. b) The fur is rather coarse, nothing a tannery would be too interested in. c) They would make excellent snacks for many predators unless you can get the yard fenced in securely, including from above. d) They need to gnaw to keep their incisors short, endangering your trees. They'd gnaw on plastic, too, which would be harmful. e) I personally have difficulties to reconcile this idea with responsible animal husbandry, especially as I don't see any prior research from your side. But above all: – Stephie Jun 29 '16 at 6:41
  • @Stephie i did research, and it's hard to find out there if there is any. people primarily talk about how to keep them to feed on the grass outside of the garden. – a coder Jun 29 '16 at 6:53
  • @Stephie sustainable gardening is my goal: abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s3727551.htm – a coder Jun 29 '16 at 7:07
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Until recently we had three guinea pigs that we would bring outside in the summer and let graze on a patch of grass. From the point of view of animal husbandry the issues were:

  • they are delicate creatures. If it gets too hot they die ( > ~28 deg C). If it gets too cold they die ( < 10 deg C). Their natural habitat is the Andes Mountains in South America where it is cool and sunny.
  • Cats, dogs, birds of prey are all quite interested in guinea pigs and not in a good way
  • they don't actually eat that much grass in a day. Three Guinea pigs failed to clear an area six feet by two feet in less than a week of hard work.
  • they are vulnerable to toxins in other plants. One bite of a tomato leaf and it's all over
  • they are escape artists in miniature. They will dig under or go under nets and chicken wire

Our guinea pigs died of old age but they are just not rugged domestic animals like goats and sheep.

  • Are all of then the same way? Won't goats attack my food forest? – a coder Jun 29 '16 at 16:43
  • Guinea pigs are the domesticated version of cavies. All the domesticated types are good pets but not tough animals. Goats are tough but will eat anything. Using animals to cut grass requires supervision and a tolerance for them not doing what you want. – kevinsky Jun 29 '16 at 16:46
  • You're providing snack food, they will eat it. Any unsupervised herbivore in a garden makes quick work of plants. Cows in the corn, goats in the parsnips, it was why we had stout fences between the pasture and the garden. And deer, bleh! If it's food for you or tops for root crops, it's up for grabs, especially if it's tastier than grass. – Fiasco Labs Jun 30 '16 at 5:50
  • It doesn't have to be tastier than grass, just different. Goats will eat washing off the line just to find out whether all the pretty coloured things taste different (I assume. I don't speak goat, but I've seen them nibble on every item they can reach, while standing on nice tasty grass). – Móż Jul 8 '16 at 0:21
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We kept 70 - 80 wild guinea pigs in the back of our lot for perhaps four months. They free-ranged the pasture during the daytime and slept in sturdy cages at night. Every few weeks we would move the cages, till the manure into the ground, and plant a garden. Here are some insights:

1) The guinea pigs did a fantastic job of eating down about half an acre of pasture. They ate everything. That corner of the pasture was a mixture of hay and Spanish needles, which are both great for most small animals.

2) The guinea pigs tried to eat/gnaw anything and everything we grew, and a lot of extra work went in to protecting the gardens from the pigs. Meaning the pigs were useless at weeding the gardens.

3) No amount of eating down of the pasture provided ample nutrition for the pigs. Without a continuous supply of alfalfa pellets, the pigs became malnourished. We would have had to plant a large, continuously producing garden of cabbage in order to make the pigs sustainable.

4) The reality of how the alpha male pigs treated females was horrible. A lot of effort was necessary to protect pregnant or very recently pregnant females from the males.

5) Unless you can handle the guinea pigs from birth, they will make terrible pets.

6) If you want meat animals or pelts, you probably need to raise one of the larger breeds.

Despite the manure being a fantastic product for our gardens, we moved the pigs on to another group that would maintain them in a wild habitat and dropped that project.

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