Make homemade guinea pig treats with barley mats! With just seed, potting soil, and a bin, you can give your guinea pigs a tasty treat.
I LOVE giving our guinea pigs and rabbit fresh treats. We grow dandelions, strawberries, thyme, oregano, bell peppers, and many other treats that are safe for them to eat, and it’s fun to feed them treats that we ‘make’ for them! It’s a way to nurture them a bit and it’s a good lesson for the kids in caring for others.
While foraging in the garden or grass isn’t exactly ‘making’ treats for them, intentionally spreading dandelion seeds and not spraying your yard with toxic chemicals for them IS a lot like MAKING them treats. Growing barley mats is a bit more hands on though- you’ll need to put a little effort in but it’s worth it. The guinea pigs LOVE the results!
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Our rabbit appreciated the barley mat to a degree, but the rabbit grazed… the guinea pigs gorged themselves. We made large mats, but I think it’s worth cutting the mat into smaller sections to slow them down a bit.
I also really like laying the smaller squares over the top of our outdoor guinea pig igloos because it helps insulate and keep the igloo a bit cooler in the summer. It’s similar to a green roof and the plastic top of the Omlet guinea pig hut means there’s no rotting wood underneath. Since putting the squares on top of the huts, I’ve seen the guinea pigs climbing atop the hut where they normally couldn’t walk on the slippery plastic.
DIY Barley Mats for Guinea Pig Treats
These barley mats take a couple of weeks to grow with consistent watering. I feel like they appreciate being in partial sun… I think they’ve slowed down their growth a bit as the weather has been a lot warmer and they’ve gotten a lot of direct sunlight. But maybe that’s just the lack of rain. While I water them, I certainly don’t over water them either.
- Large, shallow rectangular plastic bin
- Barley seed
- Scoop for seed
- Potting soil
- Watering can
Step 1: Add a few drainage holes to the bottom of your plastic bin. You do NOT want too many or too few… essentially, you want the bin to hold onto some moisture, but you don’t want the bin to be a swamp of sitting water. You can always add more holes- you can’t remove them. So go light on adding drainage holes.
Step 2: Take a few scoops of potting soil and cover the bottom of your plastic bin. You want to lightly cover the bottom. It doesn’t need to be deep.
Step 3: Sprinkle barley seed generously over the potting soil.
Step 4: Add more potting soil on top of the seed so it’s lightly covered. Again, you don’t want your soil too thick because it will waste soil and leave a lot of dirt behind once transferred to your guinea pig cage.
Step 5: Water daily. You’ll notice the seed comes up pretty fast and you should have a good mat within 2 weeks. If you keep multiple bins going, you can easily keep a steady supply of barley mats available throughout the growing season.
When you can lift the mat out easily and feel a solid bottom built from the roots of the barley seeds, it’s ready to go to the guinea pigs (or rabbit). You can cut these mats into smaller sections if you want.
My seven guinea pigs can eat one of these mats down in 24 hours if given the opportunity. I’ve found that I can often rejuvenate the mat if they do… as long as I remove it within 24-48 hours so they don’t eat it ALL the way down. I may start to grow these in smaller containers that can be moved in and out of the cage. This will allow them to eat them, then I can remove and water until it grows back, and then give it to them again. I think this would produce the least amount of waste.
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