Over the Rainbow over Hemp!

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The disposable bedding you see featured in our Emerald City  theme is HEMP

Long story very short, we've been researching beddings for over a year now. We'll be publishing a comprehensive, scientific study with some incredibly interesting findings later this year. But we wanted to let you know ahead of time about a great disposable bedding combination you can use in your kitchen areas (Cavy Cafes, Cavy Bistros, Cavy Grazers, Midwest Diners). 

Hemp has some great characteristics, but by itself, it's not 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 isn't readily available at decent prices locally nor online yet. But, those days are right around the corner as more and more farmers and distributors get into the hemp hurd business. But for now, we've identified just one good retail source of affordable hemp available online (New Country Organics Hemp). Forget Amazon. There you will get small bags at big prices. As most of you are aware, affordably shipping big boxes, let alone big and heavy boxes is an expensive challenge. And that's the problem with trying to buy bedding online. Local suppliers are more economical. At my referenced source, it's about $20 a bag and about $25 to ship to me in CA (from Virginia); my cost is about $45 for a HUGE compressed bale of hemp hurd. It goes a long way. I buy a bale (big bag) about once every 6 months. And wood pellets maybe once every 4 months for two very well-fed guinea pigs. So, the cost works out to be about $9/month. 

Hemp + Wood Pellets

Wood 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 in 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!

Instructions

Put down about a two wood-pellet thick layer of wood pellets (light layer). Then cover with a good layer of Hemp Shavings (also referred to as Hemp Hurd). Time to refresh? Use gloves and with your fingers, loosen up the wood pellets below looking for wet clumps. Grab them and remove them. Stir it up a bit. Add some pellets to the bottom if needed. Top with some fresh Hemp Hurd as needed. You'll find your groove with it. 

Happy noses to you!

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1 comment(s)
Tiffany L July 3, 2019 7:16 PM (reply)
What kind of wood pellets do you use for this? I have only been able to find kiln dried pine wood pellets as well as apple, cherry, and hickory for the price and size you mention above. I heard pine is bad for piggies, so I'm iffy on trying that one.

53 comment(s)
TeresaM (Store Admin) July 3, 2019 8:03 PM (reply)
Kiln-dried pine is fine for guinea pigs. But, the whole point of this combination is that you cover the pellets. The guinea pigs are smelling the hemp -- which is great -- not the wood pellets. ALL wood pellets have a wood smell to them. Kiln-dried pine is better. The perpetually repeated pine scare info is exaggerated and misleading. You need to worry 10 times more about suppressing ammonia production in bedding which is a real health issue for guinea pigs. Ammonia levels in cages can quickly become toxic to them. I hope to be publishing a study later this year. I have personally tested -- with a scientific meter -- the typical ammonia levels generated by various types of bedding in a short amount of time. Mitigating ammonia production is very important. This combo wins that battle hands down. :) And the hemp does a demonstrably and measurably great job in keeping the odors and gasses of what's below from percolating up. The wood pellets are superior at suppressing ammonia production in the first place -- a winning combination! :)

1 comment(s)
Sara E. December 12, 2019 1:51 PM (reply)
Hello TeresaM! We've purchased all the materials to make a kitchen using the wood pellets and hemp. We'll be setting it up tonight. What do we do about the poops in between changing out the wood pellets and hemp? Scoop them with a kitty litter scoop? Or do they sink to the bottom?

53 comment(s)
TeresaM (Store Admin) December 12, 2019 2:07 PM (reply)
Oh, they'll mix in. That's the primary reason to use disposable bedding in the kitchen. The poops have somewhere to go! :) They don't stay sitting on top of fleece. As they walk around on the bedding, they naturally get mixed in and dried out pretty much by the bedding. You'll figure out your refresh process soon enough. Stirring it up a bit with a light top off of hemp as needed is good for a while. Then you may need to scoop out some wet clumps and re-stir. Then finally a bigger cleaning as needed. Let me know how it goes after a while. :)

1 comment(s)
January 21, 2020 12:25 PM (reply)
we are currently using this hemp/pellets setup and it works great. However, my piggies are eating the hemp, is that anything to worry about?

53 comment(s)
TeresaM (Store Admin) January 21, 2020 12:56 PM (reply)
Well, if they are eating the hemp, then I think there are potentially other issues going on. Why are they eating the hemp is the bigger question? Guinea pigs are grazers and need access to food pretty much all the time. There should be an abundance of hay in the kitchen, as in always a TON of hay. Guinea pigs want to eat hay. If you aren't providing that, I can see how they might turn to the only other similar item in the cage. They should be fed greens and veggies twice a day and always have access to pellets. Can you provide a picture of your setup so we can advise further? But, I would say if they have easy access to unlimited hay in the Cafe and they are still eating the hemp out of choice, I would switch to something else. It's not created nor intended to be food. I doubt it's overtly harmful, but it's not tested for that.

2 comment(s)
z October 14, 2020 11:18 AM (reply)
*QUESTION * Have been using hemp from New Country Organics, over wood pellets as recommended, for 10 months and am really a fan of this method! I just noticed the NCO site for the hemp suggests: “To optimize absorptive qualities, hemp should be misted with water prior to use.” I haven’t been doing this and am hesitant to introduce the moisture in the kitchen portion of the cage. What do you recommend?

53 comment(s)
TeresaM (Store Admin) October 14, 2020 12:15 PM (reply)
I am SO glad to hear that feedback. I never noticed that, but I don't think it's necessary at all. Keep in mind, 99% of the usage of hemp hurd is for farm use, chicken coops and such. So, it might be more practical to mist a large quantity for them. That might reduce dust and provide a better walking surface for them? I'm not sure, just guessing. But, I personally do not do that and don't see the need at all. The thing is, hemp isn't terribly absorbent and I would guess the misting encourages it. But in our use case, we are not wanting it to absorb because we have the wood pellets at the bottom that we want to absorb the urine, not the hemp as we want the hemp to stay as dry on top as long as possible. So, as I'm talking it through myself, I think the misting would help the hemp absorb more, which is not what we want. Our goal is to have the urine dribble down through the dry hemp to the waiting wood pellets below. I'm pretty sure the farm use for hemp is just 100% hemp and therein lies the difference. Glad to hear that you've given it a long-term try. I am of the very strong position that any guinea pig bedding has to be tried for at least 6 months before you know the real results. Personally, I decided to try to use up an old big bag of wood shavings I had on hand as we had moved recently and I hadn't reordered my hemp that I ran out of. Finally got my hemp back in last night and the piggies seem happier. They were not using the kitchen as much as they had been when I was using the hemp. Watch out! Your piggies are spoiled now! :)

2 comment(s)
z October 14, 2020 12:57 PM (reply)
Teresa, thank you for a quick and thorough reply. I definitely followed your logic as you talked through your answer. It makes sense. I recommended the hemp to a friend that has beautiful chickens and she loves it, too. I let her know what you said and she’s going to try the misting but it makes sense in her setting. For the guinea pigs, what you said is spot-on. As the friend with the chickens noted, my gp girls’ home isn’t outdoors like her coop is - she’s looking to keep the hemp from blowing away in the Kansas gusts until little chicken feet and moisture can tamp it down. So, yep, I agree, the g-pigs hemp bedding is a different application, especially in combination with the bedding pellets. As someone that got my first guinea pig 52 years ago, I can share I’ve used it all where bedding is concerned. From old newspapers to cedar bedding, WAY back in the day (yikes) to pine and aspen bedding and all the modern paper bedding, I will never use anything else until or unless a new discovery is made. At first, I couldn’t imagine having a fleece lined cage (sans kitchen where I’m using the pellet bedding and hemp). The fleece was new for me and I highly recommend the very clear advice you provide on the store site about the commitment required for fleece upkeep. I appreciated the fact that the store puts the welfare of the animals first, recommending disposable bedding in certain situations and encouraging people to be realistic and supporting them either way. The best part of the set-up in our cage is the fact that the guinea pigs exclusively use the kitchen area with the pellets and top layer of hemp for urinating. This makes cleaning a breeze, using methods you and others have previously suggested here. Fleece maintenance is reduced to sweeping up a few poops here and there and flipping (have the coroplast inserts and use the Uhaul padding and slip-on fleece cases from the store) and laundering . Okay, I’m sure it’s very clear I’m sold so I’ll wrap this

53 comment(s)
TeresaM (Store Admin) October 14, 2020 3:24 PM (reply)
Wow, 52 years of guinea pig joy and cage cleaning. You've got my 22 years beat by a long shot!! I hear you on trying every bedding available on the market. I really need to get back to getting my study done and officially published. I invested in an official ammonia meter and scientific blotter paper along with some other 'sciency' things. I came up with a very objective and scientific way of approaching the analysis of all bedding types and combinations. I'm very excited about sharing it. There isn't really a one-size-fits-all for every circumstance, but the Hemp/Wood Pellet combo is the best for a kitchen for most folks. Additionally, two layers of uHaul really is the best inner material to use with fleece. Tested fact, not opinion (tested the popular solutions out there). My study takes into account a long list of characteristics and scores each one without bias, yielding a 'consumer reports' type assessment. When I'm done, I intend to provide an interactive ability to weigh the characteristics most important to you to come up with the best solution for your circumstances. Allergies being one of the factors that some people have to take into account, among others. Making a guinea pig cage as easy to clean and as healthy for them and their humans as possible is really Job One when it comes to keeping guinea pigs. And promoting a lifelong joy of guinea pig stewardship is our overriding mission while keeping them out of the rehoming cycle. :) Thanks again for your feedback as it very much helps educate us and our readers. :)

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