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Guinea Pigs - the alternative lawn mower!

Here's a helpful piece of advice if you don't enjoy mowing the lawn. Lawnmowing isn't for everyone, and unless you've got one of those snazzy ride-on mowers that makes mowing the lawn more of a grand prix sport than a chore, mowing the grass can be hard work. So, how about an organic alternative that requires no work, no mechanical moving parts, and no ritual tinkering with the engine every Saturday? Here's the perfect solution: GUINEA PIGS. These are small furry critters, available in white, black, ginger, chocolate-coloured, and a variety of mixtures thereof. Guinea pigs are cute and intelligent, and they make appealing squeaking noises. But one of the notable things about guinea pigs is that if you keep them on the lawn they keep the grass trimmed.

Guinea pigs are randy little things and have a distinctive mating call, and they breed like rabbits. So, if you start off with a few guinea pigs you'll soon have a herd of them, a very short lawn, and a sign up advertising "guinea pigs for sale". Unlike rabbits, however, guinea pigs keep the lawn trimmed evenly like a snooker table and don't leave clumps of grass in patches here and there.

You'll need to keep the guinea pigs off your garden as they will eat the plants. Chicken wire will do, and need only be about 2ft tall, as guinea pigs can't jump or climb. Also, they have no sense when choosing what to eat, and some garden plants are poisonous. Foxglove, for example. Vets' bills are more expensive than gardeners', and most pet insurance will only insure cats and dogs, not guinea pigs.

Fully grown guinea pigs are safe from most domestic cats, but the baby guinea pigs are easy prey for even apparently tame looking well-fed domesticated felines, whose killer instinct comes to the fore when they encounter something much easier to catch than mice. If you want to keep guinea pigs and avoid cats killing the babies, one method that works is to construct a large chicken-wire run, enclosing an area of grass but with a roof made of wire that cats can't get into. This whole arrangement can be lifted up and moved every few days as the guinea pigs mow another section of grass before it is made bald through over-grazing.

As well as eating grass and keeping the lawn cut, guinea pigs can eat kitchen leftovers. Fruit, vegetables, peelings, (but not potato peelings!). All this waste recycling ultimately ends up as manure which helps to keep the lawn fertile. Also see compost

It's best to provide some shelter so the guinea pigs can escape from the worst of the weather. A guinea pig refuge need not be anything elaborate, but just needs to be some form of box providing some indoor nesting space. Television cabinets were always quite good for this and made a good talking-point too.

The bigger your lawn, the more guinea pigs you need to keep it cut. Essentially it's supposed to be a balanced eco-system where the animals cut the grass at the same rate it grows. But this does not happen naturally, and you'll need to sell guinea pigs to keep the numbers down to a reasonable level. This is profitable, even if the people are buying them purely as pets rather than for any lawnmowing capabilities they might have. Experience shows the balance point is somewhere in the region of a few hundred square feet of lawn per guinea pig.

If you want to play rugby, football, or golf on the lawn, it's best to round up all the guinea pigs for safety reasons before commencing the game.

Also see: Gardening , Advice , Animals , Site Index , how to set up and run your own business , gerbils replacing an office shredder , and lawnmower suppliers under the category DIY and Home

As an alternative to keeping ground trimmed by having the right number of guinea pigs on it, it's worth considering having free range chickens. These are more suitable for jungle type terrain rather than lawn, but also they produce free range eggs, whereas guinea pigs produce... guinea pigs.

In Jan 2011, RSPCA Lincoln were looking for good homes for guinea pigs.