I've posted lots of guinea pix on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tripecac/sets/72057594095168211/
I try to weigh the guinea pigs every day. This takes about 3 minutes. I herd each guinea pig into a carrier and then place the carrier on a kitchen scale.
Here's a spreadsheet showing their weights and a chart (updated 2009-02-14):
NOTE: The weight chart has a lot of data and might take a while to load, depending on the speed of your computer and connection. If you have OpenOffice, I recommend you try the OpenOffice version (which loads a lot faster).
I've created a terse checklist which we let our pet-sitters use.
In additional, here are some more descriptive notes, which should will give you an idea of how much time guinea pigs consume, and the type of activities you can expect.
Every morning, I make the pigs a fresh veggie "salad" in a small bowl. We feed them baby green mixes, plus red pepper (for vitamin C). They love it.
They used to hate veggies, and would only eat apple and carrots for a couple months. But then I found that the carrots and/or apple gave Donovan diarrhea. So we kept trying to get them to eat spinache and lettuce, and eventually it worked. I guess green veggies are an acquired taste.
We've also tried cucumbers, tomato, and banana, none of which they'll touch. So baby greens and red pepper it is.
I like to give them the veggies first so they are distracted while I perform the next steps.
So far the guinea pigs are good about keeping the pellets in the bowls; they only knock over the bowls once or twice a week. They do, however, occasionally poop in the food bowls. Yum.
Anyway, we're supposed to throw away all uneaten food, so I dump out the pellets every morning. Since they don't always eat all the pellets, we end up wasting a lot. Oh well. Better to waste a few pennies on pellets than a few hundred dollars on vet bills.
They love to climb under and in the hay and then run around the cage. Brats. So, hay gets strewn around the cage. I used to use a plastic cookie sheet as a hay tray, in an attempt to keep the hay in one area. Unfortunately, both pigs are now in the habit of crawling under the hay tray, like a turtle. We've even seen then sleep there. Weird. So I now use a triangular litter box (in the corner) as a hay tray. It's heavier, and so far they haven't been able to lift it. Anyway, I dump it out and refill it every morning.
I use a rubber glove to remove all the poops and little bits of hay that I can see within, say, 10 minutes. It's not as gross as it sounds, since their poops are firm and non-smelly. Still, I like having that glove there.
We currently only use Timothy hay, although for the first couple months we used Alfalfa since the guinea pigs were still young.
Anyway, we put a large handful in a corner of the cage. They drag it all over the place, though. So there's no point in using a bowl.
They have 3 water bottles. Each morning we dump out the old water, rinse the caps and bottles, and then fill each bottle about 1/2 way with cool tap water. We don't add anything to the water, and don't filter it. So far no complaints.
NOTE: We do not add any vitamin supplements to the water because it might make the water taste bad. If the water tastes bad, the guinea pigs are less likely to drink. Dehydration is bad. So we keep it simple.
I toss any uneaten veggies, so they don't rot. Usually, there aren't many pieces left.
I give 'em another bowl of veggies, this time just greens, no red pepper. I read that too much red pepper can give them kidneys stones or something like that.
Before I go to bed, I remove any uneaten veggies. I also give them more hay if they need it, and tell them goodnight.
Every Saturday morning, I clean out their cage. This takes about 45 minutes. I clean the right side of the cage first (while the guinea pigs are on the left) and then switch. This way, I don't need to move the pigs out of their cage.
I have two pairs of bowls, and rotate them each week. I wash the old pair with vinegar and hot water.
This is the main reason you're supposed to pick up the animals. Cuddling, bonding, asserting your dominance... all that is more for you than the animals. Not that it's bad to make yourself happy. Just don't forget that these critters are living beings that you need to protect first, enjoy second.
For the health check, you're supposed to examine their toenails, eyes, notes, teeth, and private parts. I'm not sure what we should expect to find, though. What's normal? What's not? Hmmm..
We're not good at this yet (especially the private parts), so I can't give good details.
While they're in your hand for the health-check, it makes sense to try to hand-feed them veggies.
Note: Don't force yourself to this if you're pressed for time. If you rush through the feeding process with stuff on your mind, the animals might sense your impatience. Or you might jab food in their face in a way they don't like. Plus, you won't enjoy it and will be less likely to pick them up for health checks in the future.
Assuming you have time, hand-feeding has these benefits:
We feed them the following:
We've tried the following beddings:
We started off with one cage (17" x 27" = 3.2 square feet). It seemed small, more like a travel cage than a permanent home.
About a week later, we bought another, larger cage (20" x 38" = 5.3 square feet). I removed one side of the crating from each cage and put them back to back. This lets them go back and forth between both cages.
I need to figure out a way to make them a nice ramp to make it easier for them to go back and forth.
Right now they have 2 wood houses plus one or two carboard boxes. When they were younger, they could fit inside of 2 cardboard tubes and 2 cloth tunnels, bought from a pet store. I make sure that the bottom of their hide is always Carefresh, because poops and pee quickly soil cardboard.
They probably had had a nasty fight shortly after we got them. We found one absess on Donovan and two on Coffee. The vet surgically removed them. This was expensive, but allowed the wounds to heal cleanly without us having to lance and drain the pus. Yuck.
We had to give the pigs oral antibiotics for about a month. That was not fun. We got better at it, though. It used to take us an hour or two; we got so that we could give both of them their meds in 5 minutes.