Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Day 15: Farm shop

A couple of times a month I drive for 35 minutes to the country to get goodies for the animals from a fab farm shop. I remember when I first had small animals that I would religiously go to the local pet shop and get a tiny bag of pre-packed hay, a massive bag of museli style dried food (which was the main bit of their diet), sawdust and a few honey coated treats and proudly bring them back home thinking I was a wonderful pet owner. Fast forward 10 years and I now cringe thinking about the things I used to buy for my piggies.
The pre-packed hay was old and dusty, the museli food encouraged selective feeding and bad dental health, sawdust irritated feet and caused sneezing and the honey coated 'treats' well - just not part of a proper guinea pig diet. But because it was being sold in a pet shop I presumed it was suitable. These days I buy all my supplies either at the farm shop or online. I don't agree with selling animals in pet shops for obvious reasons (although I used to love going in and looking at the animals when I was younger so I see the appeal...) so online shopping is ideal. It's quite sad that no local pet shops don't sell animals or I'd use them!  

Farm shops are a god send for piggy people and especially if you have quite a few of the furry sods to feed! I get a bale of hay (imagine filling a large boot of a car) which costs £5 and that lasts me about a month. That's with daily refilling and litter tray changing of 10 small critters. Hay being such a crucial part of guinea pigs and rabbits' diet they should have an unlimited supply so small, vaccum packed hay from a shop isn't economically viable for me. It's also not as fresh and 'stalky' as bales of hay. You can great lovely quality hay online and in some pet shops but it's usually very pricey. It's funny, if I run out and can't get to the farm shop and buy the vaccum packed stuff they refuse to eat it. The quality clearly speaks for itself!

Farm shops often also sell local produce so you can get all your greens and veggies too. A large sack of fresh kale costs about £2 as opposed to supermarket prices of around £1.50 for a little bag pre-cut. You can also get bedding from some places. The one I use is quite 'horsey' so you can get a bag of Megazorb (horse bedding but great for small animals, non-dusty) for £6. If I buy online it costs £5 just to post it (far enough it's a massive sack!). Either way, it still works out cheaper (and works better) than wood shavings. Sawdust is not a good idea for pigs as they have sensitive respiratory systems (the dust gets up their nose and in their eyes, shavings are larger pieces so better for them but can still irritate some piggies feet). So if you have a car or live close to a farm shop get down there and bag yourself a bargain!
If I could go back and tell myself one thing about caring for piggies it would be to be savvy, go to a farm shop and don't presume because a pet shop sell something that it's suitable. Or if something isn't specifically marketed for small animals it's not suitable. Shop around. Plastic cat litter trays, certain cat/dog toys, horse bedding, puppy pens etc can all be turned into perfect things for them.

Oh and they are herbivores (I think of them as vegan!) not omnivores - step away from the honey-coated/dairy-filled treats!

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