Are you looking for that perfect bedding?One that is cheap, healthy for you and your guinea pigs, super absorbent, neutralizes urine, only needs to be changed once a week with minor refreshes, is light-weight, smells good to you and your piggies, or doesn't smell at all, is non-allergenic, doesn't make a mess when cleaning, available online for direct shipment, and environmentally friendly? Too good to be true? Perhaps, but, we have found one of the best combinations possible today.
As the inventor of the DIY C&C Cage solution in 1998, creator of the top-quality CAGETOPIA cage brand sold at the Guinea Pig Cages Store, guinea pig rescuer for decades, and someone who still has guinea pigs, I think I qualify as someone who is super tired of cleaning cages! Since my passion has become my business, I've tested many major guinea pig beddings on the market -- scientifically -- to find the best one -- regardless of marketing hype and sometimes outright lies. The combination of hemp and wood pellets is the clear winner. It's been my personal choice now for years. While I'd still prefer a Mary Poppins solution to cleaning cages, this is pretty darn good!
Magic = HEMP + Wood Pellets + Fleece + Big Cage + Covered Kitchen AreaLong story short, the answer for your kitchen area (roomy tray for holding disposable bedding) is a light layer of wood pellets covered by a generous layer of hemp hurd (or hemp shavings). That disposable bedding should be in a covered kitchen area with a generous hay rack and ideally some loose hay as well, a pellet bowl, and a water bottle. Fleece liners (fleece quilted with an absorbent layer in the middle) are used in the remainder of the cage.
Hemp has some great characteristics, but by itself, it's not quite as ideal as it's not absorbent enough. But with a nice layer of hemp on top of a layer of wood pellets (plain wood pellets, no additives), it's a superior combination that will give you a longer time between cleanings and provides a super nice-smelling and healthy topping for cavy comfort and happiness.
Where and How Much?Trouble is, hemp still isn't readily available in many places locally yet. But, those days are right around the corner as more and more farmers and distributors get into the hemp business. I recommend the big (33#) bags on Amazon (search "hemp bedding") as well. It goes a long way. I buy a bale (that big 33-pound size) about once every 3-6 months. And wood pellets maybe once every 4 months for two very well-fed guinea pigs.
At the moment, the Old Dominion Brand on Amazon is around $67. Let's call it $70. Shipping is the issue. The product price is really around $20. So, finding it locally would be a good score! Try any feed or agriculture store, or bigger, non-chain pet stores or stores that cater to small or large farm animals. Hemp is very popular for chicken coops and horse stalls.
A big bag of hemp and a bag of wood pellets should last at least 3 months for a Cavy Cafe (1x2 grid litter tray area) with 2 guinea pigs. So, that's roughly $80 for 3 months ($70 for the hemp, $10 for the wood pellets). Let's call a big bag of Carefresh (paper-based bedding) $18 that hopefully gets you through two weeks. That's $9 a week x 13 weeks (3 months) = $117. So, $117 versus $80. You save $37 you can put towards their food. But honestly, what ends up being more important that the pure dollars is the ease of cleaning and providing a MUCH HEALTHIER bedding for your guinea pigs.
Hemp + Wood PelletsWood pellets you can pick up at local home improvement or such stores for around $5 for a 40 pound bag. They also go a long way. I do not recommend doing this in an entire cage. The wood pellets are very heavy to deal with. They are manageable in a kitchen area but can be overwhelming when used in an entire cage. Best when used with our Hybrid solution with part disposable, part fleece.
Oh, and of course, when we are talking about hemp hurd, it is absolutely non-psycho-active with no detectable THC. It is highly regulated. The odor of hemp shavings, unlike every other bedding product out there, contains no astringent phenols, no chemical or paper-processed odors, nothing like that. Just a gentle, grassy, farm-fresh smell. It's soft on the piggies feet and belly and doesn't excessively track around. Hemp is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-microbial. Hemp on top does a great job of masking the phenols of the wood pellets below. And while straight wood pellets have multiple downsides, they are extremely absorbent and naturally suppress ammonia development, as does hemp. This combination uses both to their advantage while mitigating their disadvantages to a top score for a great disposable bedding solution!