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Suggestions for outdoor playspace wanted (Australia)


Well-known Member
Cavy Slave
Apr 18, 2010
We're moving to a new house in January and I'm planning a big permanent garden for the pigs during the day, so I'm after ideas for both building and plants. They are inside at night/lousy weather/when we're not home, but outside a lot when we are or weather is good.

Our last place was suburban and closed in with fences and all so they had free run of about 50 sq meters and I want to recreate that sort of space.

I'm looking at about the same size here but it's a huge open space (rural area, paddocks, rabbits and foxes presumably) so I'm wanting it very secure, think chicken run, for about 1/2 and escape proof for the rest. Planning to divide it into a couple of areas so I can close off parts and replant as things get eaten.

I'll be out in the adjacent gardens a lot, but for the days I'm in and out I want a secure spot or two that I can shut. Right now we use the grids in the backyard, 3x3 with grids on top, which is fine for here and we just move it every day but it's still really small.

We're in eastern Victoria, 20kms from the coast and on a hill, so very windy and cool but no salt. Most of the cold wind is from the south west, so I'd thought solid walls on the 'house' on those sides with doors on the north and east. Access for cleaning through the roof lifting via hinges and one opening end.

So, some ideas/materials/plans, any suggestions welcome:

I was thinking low brick walls and timber roof, for their permanent shelter, anyone have experience with insulating stuff like this for cold weather? Reverse brick veneer is an option, also have a couple of large (40cmx120cm) thick pieces of glass to add light and warmth. Maybe 2 rectangles to form an L shape, door in between, use one while the other airs out. Dirt floor with hay.

5 dwarf apples trees to plant, inside the fence, thus safe from rabbits, what kind of trunk protection do I need for guinea pigs?

Windbreaks - dense plants to 1 - 1.5m that they like to eat? I have blueberries, currants, gooseberries and lillypillies, rugosa roses, grapes, was thinking lemongrass for the bottom level. Any known issues with the leaves of those? Haven't come across anything yet. Some inside the fence, most outside (or on!).

The rest of it was going to be a mix of vegies and perennials, like strawberry/raspberry etc and grass.

The fence - small gauge wire, about 1m for the open areas, covered to 2.5m for the secure spaces, with flyscreen over the top for the open sections of the house. Think birdproof fruit trees cages, with bonus guinea pig house.

Advice I've seen so far for foxes says to dig foundations down 30-40cm and lay wire underground to stop them digging in - we'll be building a chook house too, so any advice on foxproofing for either is appreciated.

At this point it's simply an open lawn area near the house, bounded by one 5 strand wire fence, full sun. Possibilities are (nearly!) endless, but it will be staying put once it's done, so I'd like to get all the best ideas before I start!
I wouldn't leave them unattended outdoors. If you're out there with them, I would still make sure the enclosure has a cover. If they're unattended, they are at risk from predators.
Half of it will be covered and enclosed, I was looking more for suggestions for the best way to do it.
Half of it will be covered and enclosed, I was looking more for suggestions for the best way to do it.

A few years back, our rescue took in a guinea pig that was kept in an outdoor enclosure that was built to be predator proof. Something got into it and killed one of them and its cagemate was so traumatized, it never stopped wheeking and pacing. They had no idea what got in there. I had the survivor at my house for awhile and it was really pathetic to see how the attack affected it.
Yeah, that I want to avoid.
It isn't all the time though, they are in at night and the secure part is for the days I'm in and out of the yard, like hanging washing out the other end or planting somewhere else. They'll be next to the new vegie garden and orchard so I'll be in the immediate vicinity a lot. The mesh will be small enough to keep out snakes - I don't want to encounter them any more than they do.
I would think if there was the slightest chance at all something could get at my babies I would not leave them outside.

I live where there is snakes, coyotes, loose dogs and very hot weather. No amount of a secure cage would protect my guinea pigs, rabbit or turtle if they were outside. It just isn't safe.

Please reconsider keeping yours inside if they will not be 100% safe at all times.
I don't want to be rude, seriously, but I asked for ideas about their outdoor time, not doom and gloom. The whole point is to make it safe. They LOVE being outside, just like my dog LOVES his walks. We don't confine the dog to the house so he's safe because he'd go insane.

My pigs have been outside supervised most of their lives (all of 18 months but lots for them), to keep them inside now would be cruel. They have space to run, to sleep, unlimited grass to eat. I put the elevator box down in their cage and they walk straight in. It's harder to get them back into it to go inside!

I give them floortime inside but honestly, they just go looking for the nearest hiding space. Outside has a roof so they make use of the whole space. We end up with a square of short grass - you can follow their progress around the lawn by the mown bits.

I have the opportunity to really let loose with an outdoor space for them, to make a space they can explore and eat to their hearts content. If you could set up a whole massive room wouldn't you do it? We've squished both white tailed and redback spiders in the house so inside isn't totally safe either.

There's some risk in them being outside, I know that, but I'm aiming to minimise it as much as possible so they can really enjoy it.
I think the answer is to have an enclosed area outside that you will only use when you are out there to supervise them like you said you've been doing so far. That way, they won't be at risk. An indoor, controlled temperature is more comfortable for them to spend their time in when it's hot or the weather is bad anyway. I have a huge yard but we have coyotes, dogs and insects that could harm mine. They are not the least bit deprived by living indoors but if I had a nice space where there would be safe while I was out there with them, I'd let them be out there while I pulled up a chair and sat with them.
I find the indoor controlled temperature thing a bit weird - winter temps in the house sit around 14C during the day and 10C overnight and 25 - 30C in summer during the day. We don't have ducted heating, no air con, the wood fire was only lit at night unless it was a really miserable day (8 - 10C max day temp). Outside is a lot more comfortable under the tree in summer than in the house. There's a reason we have a big back verandah and spend so much time out on the lawn.

The new place has an aircon in the loungeroom, which will be handy, because I don't think they'd be safe outside till we get something built but they're pretty adaptable to a wide temperature range inside and out.
I too live in Victoria, but in Melbourne.

I would not keep them outside here. Sorry. But just last week another Australian Guinea Pig owner was devastated to discover that a snake had got into her 'snake proofed' cage, eaten one of the pigs, killed another and has left one more severely traumatised.
I'm in Aus and I know what you mean. My pair love being outside and unless it's raining or extremely hot, I try to keep them outside. Yes, inside is safer, but the benefits of being outside are so great. If I keep mine inside for more than a couple of days, even with floor time, picked grass and a large cage, they get visibly anxious and restless. Where abouts in Aus are you?
I'm no expert on fox-proofing but definitely do not leave them out at night. Make sure that nothing can dig in, so do the foundations and wire down into the ground. Choose a wire with the smallest sized holes as possible. Birds of prey like crows are able to get small animals/birds through chicken wire in seconds. Watch out for that.
Have a look at the yard you're using. Be watchful for snakes and spiders. Check them often to make sure they're okay, have fresh cool water, etc. Don't put them out if the weather is wet/hot. Good luck and let me know how the end result turns out!
I've been looking into fox proofing and was thinking corrogated iron sheets down the sides underground and 6 brick height walls(2 underground), then the thick wire mesh for walls, The roof would be mesh too, maybe not as small gauge since it's 2m above the ground.
I read that foxes can chew through chicken wire and climb a bit like cats - scary.

The door would be up on the wall so any snakes would have to go up a foot to get to the mesh before they could try to get through. Kind of piggy Fort Knox. But pretty big - I want to fit at least 4 dwarf apple trees in.

I guess part of what I want to know is what didn't work? If something has been built to be snakeproof etc and failed, what do I need to do to improve it?
Basically, if a fox wants to get in, it will. You can fox-proof as much as you like but if they want to get in, they will find a way. With snakes it is pretty similar.
I know this is unfortunate news, so predator proofing as best you can and supervising as much as you can is essential. Where I live, there aren't any foxes and during the cooler months no snakes about and active. Know what you need to be aware of and prepared for.
I bring my piggies inside in the evenings (or leave them inside in inappropriate weather), and I strongly recommend this. The night is most definitely too dangerous as you won't be outside to watch over them.
Hi this is an old thread I know.. but I dog proofed my chook run ( from our own pesky dog) a couple years ago..after losing half my flock.:weepy:
I put rocks around edge and plastic coated mesh underground out to about a metre..flat..and put earth and rocks on top. Would have put concrete round edge but too expensive.
If you have normal chicken wire a dog can chew/paw through it, we use the steel square mesh used as reinforcing for concrete.
Dog didnt get in ..and did try, she was a digger that one.
Our new dog lies on the grass next to cage and can be nose to nose with the rabbit and guinea..luck of the draw.
Hope your cage worked out. :)
I'm still planning things out - the steel reinforcing mesh would probably be better than corrogated iron underground, the tree roots can grow through but with small enough squares nothing could dig in. Thanks!
We still have almost 6 weeks to settlement :grumpy: so I have plenty of time to wait and work out the kinks and other peoples experience is very useful.

I know last time when we moved there were a couple of weeks before we set up an outside space for them and they got pretty cranky about it, so I'm hoping to speed up the process this time. Plan it before we move and get it done faster.
Hey I think it's a great idea :) piggy heaven when your home and the safety of the house when your not :) I have chickens too and even thou we are residential here in Sydney I have still made my chickens run fox, mouse and snake proof. I also have a safe free range area for my chickens that I put outdoor runs made from panels coverered in mouse and snake proof mesh for my rabbits and guinea pigs. We actually used wooden sleepers dug down in to the ground about 30cm around the perimeter then layed mesh down, soil on top then grass. The area is safe from anything digging in no matter how hard they try, or if my rabbit try's to dig he will only get down 30cm before hitting mesh and won't be able to go any further. Grass is shallow rooted so the mesh doesn't affect how it grows. I then have the area fenced off with panels. The panels I have used are from pet barn and are black coated so they look transparent from a distance. I brought the snake and mouse proff mesh from bunnings. I have made it so that nothing csn dig in or out, and preditors would have to get over 6ft fences, past my dogs then use bolt cutters to get through the mesh or balance on top and chew through the cat netting roof! I have not had a problem with the safety of my enclosure and I have even had the RSPCA inspect it as I rescued the chickens so thèy needed to make sure I had a safe area :) good luck with yours!
. I have made it so that nothing csn dig in or out, and preditors would have to get over 6ft fences, past my dogs then use bolt cutters to get through the mesh or balance on top and chew through the cat netting roof! I have not had a problem with the safety of my enclosure and I have even had the RSPCA inspect it as I rescued the chickens so thèy needed to make sure I had a safe area :) good luck with yours!

love it..laughing and cheeringat the same time..:D
You can't stop your piggies from going outside, so you'll just have to work around the problems. As some other members said, I would keep them in a spot that is visited often and would work best in sight of a window where you are a lot. For our rabbit, we have a bunny pen and cover that we put under our kitchen window where someone is always at. We leave him out for no more than a half hour, or I walk him on a leash. He loves being outdoors and there is endless benefits to it. :)

As per the cage, if money is not the issue, I have found on eBay some chicken coops with a enclosed home area, then a huge outdoor enclosed pen. The wire looks quite sturdy and durable.They cost anywhere from $150-400. If you're one of those people who would rather save money, as I am, you could get away with using C&C cage grids and putting ground stakes into the ground and cover the C&C cage with you're mesh wire, to give it more ability to stand on it's own and more strength. You could do the same for a cover, or make your own lid. I hope I helped and you decide on a good idea. :)
@ Mari11 have you thought about making the entire area enclosed - like one of those permaculture permanent fruit and berry orchards?

As Be Be Bounce said it can be done to be safe for chickens, and I think her idea is absolutely what you need to emulate for your own peace of mind, totally covered.

If it was me doing what you are doing I would work on it bit by bit and totally cover underground bottom and all over the top. My husband loves Maximus von Lichtenwalder's behaviour in his outside play pen and he will at some stage make a set up where the wee man can choose where he wishes to be via a tunnel out of the house into his outside area. We love having Maximus von Lichtenwalder in the house, but some days are honestly too hot in and far nicer outside in the dappled shade, cooler and with a breeze. We would definitely have the roof human standing height because I'd likely work out there while he is out and beside he always comes and snuggles as close as the wire will allow when I lie in the grass next to his little playpen. I don't have your snake issues in NZ, so I can't speak about all that.

Have you seen the pig style triangles in the permaculture set up? Each section is wedge shaped and leads out from a human height (highly suggest that by the way) "home" and into a grassed and planted fenced quadrant, until plants need a break then they get to come out into a fresh food "paddock"... there is a huge permaculture movement in Aus so you'd be able to go view places.

In NZ the only rescue near me, has always had all their guinea pigs outdoors permanently - which I found Very Odd. What that lady told me was to double fence with different kinds of mesh so that dogs could not break the first layer and ferrets could not breach the second layer.

You can espalier your fruit trees for ease of moving around them and they tend to fruit better... you can also plant climbing beans as fast shade, edible leaves and wind break the vines will run up over and down the other side, they take 3 weeks before they are a 1.5 m high and their shade is almost instant. Maximus von Lichtenwalder refuses beans but loves the leaves.
hope this helps.
My plans have been shifting towards what you've said. I'd always planned the guinea pig section human height - like an aviary or chook enclosure, but now we're here (Yay!) I'm thinking a mandala garden with chicken wire around the whole outer perimeter(beyond the fruit tree section on the outer edge of the circle, lots of chicken wire), permanent housing for chickens and guinea pigs (separate) within the fence and domes on the circular gardens for the pigs for some variety. That way they can go out to their big space or into the garden if there's something yummy there.

There's a pic here (broken link removed) second post down, di's chook tractor garden, that gives you a basic idea of the mandala set up. Better fencing, covered dome, with citrus and fruit trees around the edge. Not so neat probably.

The double mesh and climbing bean ideas are good and I was thinking of espaliering the three apple trees on the hot sides for shade. The actual GP cage will be about a 2x3m rectangle, low brick edging, 3 bricks high, so the door will be off the ground that high. I can make them a ramp to let them out, will need more thought. They will have a roofed shelter or two and I was thinking concrete reinforcing mesh or similar flat under the soil, like be be bounce used, concreted into place somehow with the bricks. Nothing can dig up through it.

It makes a lot more sense in my head or with the pictures! I'll try and scan some drawings.
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