Monday, November 9, 2015

Free Range Ramp Experiment

Cannoli and Boadicea don't get out for floor time as often as I'd like.  It takes time to set up grids, hiding places, water and food.  I make plans to let them out, and then before I know it, it's the end of the day.  I suspect Boadicea is bored, and I'm sure that getting out more often would help.

I'm envious when I see photos and videos of free range (or semi free range) setups.  Some of them have the cage on the floor to allow the guinea pigs to come and go as they please.  My cage isn't on the floor and I need it where it is.  Where else would I hide store their hay, bedding and cleaning supplies?  Plus I like having Noli and Boadi at my level so I'm not looming over them.  It's easier to interact with them as I pass by the cage.

If moving their cage to the floor wasn't an option, maybe I could move the floor up to them?  After a bit of brainstorming, fourteen dollars of hardware cloth and an afternoon of puttering, I had a prototype ramp.  I didn't want to invest too much time or effort, in case my idea was a total flop.  I cut apart the front corner of the cage, attached the ramp and stood back to see Noli and Boadi's reaction.

Dinner with a view (the best hay is at the top of the hay rack)
Both pigs were interested in the landing at the top of the ramp.  Cannoli was the first to jump up to try it out.  They were intrigued at being level with the hay rack.  Noli and Boadi spent some time pulling hay from the top of the rack.

But the ramp itself?  Scary.  I tried a few ways to entice them down, including a trail of lettuce.  Nope.  Noli would stretch out to eat what lettuce she could reach  from the landing, but would go no further.  When put on the floor, though, they ran up with no problems.  Zoom!  I deemed my initial test run a success, detached the ramp, closed the cage and called it a day.

What truly amazed me, though, was the next morning.  I hooked up the ramp, then went to get breakfast lettuce.  Oh, excitement!  But then I put it on the floor instead of handing it to them.  Where's breakfast?  I tapped the floor like I usually do when I offer them treats during floor time.  I wasn't sure if they'd make the connection, but figured I'd give them ten minutes before handing them their greens.  I turned away to pour my tea and when I looked back, presto!  There was a Noli rodent munching away on the lettuce.  It took them two attempts and less than 24 hours to get the hang of this thing.

I let them loose a few times during the week and they've taken to the ramp like it's always been there.  My idea works!  But it needs some modifications.  The ramp is bulky and blocks access to the hay box under the cage.  It also has a lot of bounce and needs a brace to keep it steady.  It needs to be removed to close up the cage and there's no place to store it when it's detached.  I can't tell you how many times I've tripped over it.  Next step is to fix these issues and integrate it into the cage permanently.  This should be fun!


  1. Ramps are great fun for piggies. I've got a few extra, brand new, plastic ramps that our girls never used. I'd be happy to send you a couple to see if they work for you. Let me know if you're interested.

  2. Fabulous free range setup! Pinned for cage inspiration.

  3. Great set up! Piggies are really intelligent and more intrepid than we think. Love to see a video of them enjoying their new playground!

    1. i have not been able to shoot a single video yet. It's killing me, because they are ridiculously cute. Cannoli has been far more outgoing than I ever would have thought!

  4. Aww, bless her... Persevere Sally! I know it'll be worth it!


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