Monday, October 21, 2019

Good Things to Know Before Getting a Guinea Pig

So, we had someone reach out to us a bit ago asking about things that we felt she should know before she jumped in head first and got a guinea pig.  I wrote up a reply, and then thought, this would be beneficial for more than just her, so here we go:

First thing I would suggest is to take a look at our guinea pigs care packet, here -- https://www.nwichinchillas.com/guinea-pig-documents -- and I will elaborate on some additional things as well:

They do tend to be (and tend to remain) flighty animals, as far as when you reach in the cage... and this seems to be the case, no matter how much you handle them.  They can be LESS flighty / terrified over time, but it's rare to just be able tor reach in the cage and pet one (to be fair... this is true of most small animals).  Once you pick them up and hold them, most just melt and you can pretty much hold them forever.  That's what makes them so loveable!

They drink a LOT of water.  16 ounces, for a guinea pig or two, is probably a couple days.  We use 32 oz. water bottles on our guinea pig cages, and I feel like I spend half my life filling them (course, I also have a bunch here at the rescue).  Definitely would advise to go bigger on water bottles, as small ones will be a pain to keep filled, right from the get go, and definitely have a spare or two, so you can take one off and wash, and still have another one on there for them to drink (or swap them out, or however you'd like).

They also eat a lot of veggies... about a cup per pig per day.  That adds up quickly, so stock up!  If your family eats a lot of veggies, this may not be a big deal, as you'll already have them in the home, but if not, you will be stocking up weekly at the store, as the stuff they eat isn't all that long lasting, especially the leafy type stuff.  

Because of the water intake, and the veggie intake (which contain a lot of water), they pee and poo, a lot.  The poo is relatively dry, but obviously, pee is pee, and we change our guinea pig cages about 2x per week.  You can definitely tell when they need to be cleaned, as they can get icky quick!  Obviously, the bigger the cage, the less frequent you will have to clean it... if you go with a 30 x 18 cage (which would be similarly sized to what we keep our piggies in), it's going to need the weekly cleaning (if not 2x... depends on your preference as well), but if you move up to a larger cage, you might be able to go 1.5-2 weeks between cleanings, and potentially even longer if you spot clean and just remove the soiled areas.  I think the cleaning, for the guinea pigs, is what takes awhile.... probably no longer than say cleaning a rabbit, but I'm used to chinchillas, and they can go a week... so to me, it seems the guinea pigs get dirty quick!

They make all sorts of cute noises!  Unless those noises are irritating to you, and then... they're less cute.  Haha.  They can easily learn what the sound of the veggie bag is, or scooping pellets, or whatnot.  For us, we use metal coffee cans to haul around the food and scoop from those to feed the animals.  The guinea pigs here know EXACTLY what the sound is when we scoop from our feed bins into those coffee cans and start wheeking away!  Basically, it's one of those "I want something!!" noises.  It's usually cute.  Usually.

They do like to hide, so some sort of hide or igloo is good to have for them... if they get spooked, the first place they run is in their hide, so for security purposes and their wellbeing, there should be a hide.

They need their nails trimmed.  I can't tell you how many guinea pigs I get in with horrible nails, simply because people didn't know it had to be done.  Just periodically, like trimming a dog's nails.

I think that's the main stuff... definitely take a look at the care packet and let me know if you have any additional questions.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Yelp and Other Online Paid Marketing Sites

So, I've had people who've wanted to be helpful, and a lot of people suggest, oh get a paid listing on yelp, get a paid listing on the local paper website, that sort of thing. 

I believe I did post about this way back when (I know I did for yelp, but more specifically for the local paper), we did have ads running on their website... it never generated any real traffic, but it did zap the cash in our wallet.  That was a couple years ago, so that's ended.  Yelp, on the other hand, does have a free version, and periodically, they call me and try to talk me into the paid version, saying that my page will be more visible to more people who would be interested, and yadda yadda.  I know I've talked about this before, because this happens every so often.  Anyway, the thing is, I already get 400000 phone calls asking if (1) we found their lost dog, (2) we can take in their dog / cat, (3) we provide shot / veterinary services to animals, (4) we can help them when there's a loose dog in their yard.  Actually, about 80% of phone calls we receive are that type of phone call.... and I don't think Yelp is helping that.

Oh but it gets better.  When people are on Yelp, and they find your page, they can request a quote for services.  I don't get these often, but maybe 1-2 a month, and they always seem to be completely off the wall things, that of course, we do not do.  I think the last one was that someone was looking for a kitten.  Now, I can reply to these and say, we do not take in (and therefore, do not adopt out) kittens... and I do... but it does say, right on the Yelp page these people are looking at, what we are, what we do, and so on.

This was from a couple days ago:



So, John from San Francisco, CA, is looking for a c-section in zip code 60609 (Chicago, IL).... and they choose to reach out to...  a chinchilla rescue? 

...and they want me to pay, to share my details with MORE people.  Because, um... I wouldn't just end up with more like this?

I once (well, probably multiple times) have expressed my concern about how I'm getting more calls about unrelated issues, things we don't handle, to the Yelp people who incessantly call me, and their response is, "oh well it'd be targeted, you'd be under the "rescue" category" -- I ALREADY AM!  That's why people are calling about cats / dogs / strays / etc.  Um... no.  I'm good.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Picking and Choosing Animals

Now, let me start this by saying, there is nothing wrong with having preferences. 

Say someone wants to adopt a chinchilla -- great!  Let's say they want a grey -- great!  Let's say they want a white -- great!  May take more time for that white to show up at the rescue, but it's possible!  Let's say they want an angora -- eh, getting too picky.

I've noticed this trend lately... and of course, people will want what they want, but the trend has been for wanting things that don't end up in rescue.  "Oh, I want an angora chinchilla... as a rescue."  Well.... they're still like $750+ for those, so... chances are they are not ending up at a rescue.  None have ever ended up here, nor have any ended up at any rescue I've ever been in contact with.  Why?  Because they are sellable.

The one that has really been prevalent lately has been regarding rabbits.  As you may have seen, we have Ellie up for adoption.  So, people have been calling, not wanting to adopt her, mind you, but to ask if we have other rabbits up for adoption.  Specifically, mini lop-eared rabbits, preferably super super young.  Uh, no.  In the 16 years of running this rescue, for about 14 of those, we did take in rabbits (and even now, we still occasionally have them at foster homes)... we have rehomed over 1000 animals.  Only ONE of those was a lop-eared rabbit, and if I remember correctly, he was at least an adult, if not an ancient senior.

The thing is, I appreciate people wanting to adopt.  I do.  But to some extent... I feel like you can't be overly picky.  Rescues and shelters will get in what they get in.  I can't go somewhere and post, "hey, if anyone wants to re-home a baby lop-eared rabbit, I'm happy to take it cause we have a home lined up!"... that's unfortunately not how that works.  Again, a rabbit like that would be highly sellable, cause almost everyone loves lops and those floppy ears.  And that's fine, but that tends to mean that not a lot of little lops, that are also young, tend to end up in rescue.  When we would take in rabbits, a good chunk of the ones we would take in would be cage aggressive, large-breed rabbits that would not do well in the average home.  That's what rescues get!  And that's fine... but it's not the rabbit that homes tend to think of, when they say, "oh I'd like a rabbit."

Adopting is great... the selection, not always so much :/ 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What Does It Cost to Care for a Chinchilla? & Costs of Running the Rescue

I think I once priced this out before, but let's do it again, to sort of piggyback on the previous post. 

The cost to care for one chinchilla per month:

Pellets -- 3 pounds -- $3.75
Hay -- 2 pounds -- $2.00
Dust -- 2 pounds -- $2.50
Chew toy -- $5.00
Bedding -- $8.00
---------------------------------
$21.25

(obviously, this is not including the necessities like water, food bowl, water bottle, that sort of stuff, this is assuming you have all that... this is just monthly cost)

Now, these are the prices if you were to buy the stuff from us... so it is slightly cheaper for us to do it, since we are buying in bulk (and it would be a bit more expensive, if you were to go get these supplies at the pet store).  However, you may or may not know... we do not make a lot of money on stuff!  For example, the last batch of bedding that I bought, I paid I think $7 per bag... and sold at $8... so not making loads of profit here (we are still low on bedding and do not have any to sell, in case you are wondering).  Since we do get stuff at a slightly lower cost, though, let's say it costs $20 to care for one chin per month, just in actual costs (as in, not including cleaning, watering, caring for, etc).

At the time I am writing this, we have...

57 Chinchillas
13 Guinea Pigs
14 Rats
2 Prairie Dogs
11 Birds (4 doves, 7 quail)
1 Hamster

Just to make it easy, let's say they all cost about $20 / month per animal to pay for their food / hay / etc.... and to be fair, most will cost at least that, though some of the animals (like the guinea pigs, which also require fresh food daily) cost considerably more than $20 / month per animal.

This equals out to a total of 98 animals.  At $20 / month / animal, that's $1,960 per month just in actual costs to care for them.  Does that seem high to you?  Not to me, actually... because we tend to average $2,000-$3,000 per month in expenses!  And this isn't counting the electricity, air conditioning, gas for vehicles, event fees, paying paid help, or even vet costs (among other things, of course).

So what do the adoption fees and supply sales pay for?  Paying for all of this!  Basically, keeping the rescue open!  So please, keep this in mind... both when you go to adopt an animal (there will be costs involved in keeping it!  the adoption fee is not the only cost) AND when you think about complaining about prices... there is a reason they are what they are! 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Cost of Chins

So, a lot of people at expos have been asking lately about the cost of chins, why is this one more than this one, and so on.  I know I've talked about this before, but wanted to touch on it again.

Rescues tend to be $75 for greys and $100 for colors.  Almost always.  The exception would be when these are on sale, and then the rescues tend to drop to $65 for greys, $75 for colors.

Babies (which are almost never rescues) start at $135 and go up.  Most are $200 or under, though there are some that go up higher than that, if they're a curly or unusual color, or something of that nature.  Again, these will drop some when there's a sale going on... the $135 ones drop to $110, and ones that are $250 tend to drop to $200 or so.  So they do go down a bit, but not excessively.

The thing lately that people have been saying / commenting on, is they want the babies at the adult prices.  I'll have an adult for $100 and a same-color baby for $250, and they ask if I'll lower the baby to the adult price.  Now, come on... do you go to a shelter and ask them for a cheaper price on the puppies?  Or a breeder?  No?  Well, why not?  Because even the shelters tend to charge more for younger animals / puppies / kittens.... it's nothing new.

Had someone mention a couple days ago that they wanted a baby chinchilla, and asked how much they were... it was actually kind of funny because they told me they'd seen all my ads -- all of which have prices on them -- and so I specified, they start at $135 and go up from there.  Oh, well she'd seen some by her for $70.  Now, that's fine... but I'm not going to drop my price to that.  Long story short, she ended up saying she'd call back if they decided to get one.  I didn't hear back, but that night, I did notice that I also had an email from this person (looked like it was sent prior to the phone call), so I sent a quick response saying that if they ever needed anything, whether the chinchilla or advice, or whatnot, feel free to reach out.  That morning, I got a text that said that the chinchilla was out of their price range, they were looking for a $50 rescue.

Well... as you should know from reading this post... our chins, even the least expensive ones, are over $50.  We occasionally have grey seniors at $50, but mind you, this person wanted a grey baby.  Freshly weaned.  Nothing wrong with that... but it just won't be $50. 

I replied that none of our chins are that cheap, and that ours start at $75 (but again, for an adult... not a baby) and she basically said that that wouldn't work for her family, at the moment.  Again, that's fine... but let's not forget, these chins will live as long as the average dog / cat... so why do we try to pay for them like they're an oversized hamster?  There is definitely cost in caring for them.  Even if you want to say that the food and that sort of thing is cheap-ish (and it's not insanely expensive... until you have a ton of animals), the air conditioning for them IS expensive, as is the electricity bill, as is paying someone to help... it all adds up!  That's why our adoption fees are what they are -- to keep the lights on, keep the animals fed and cared for, and whatnot. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Odd Responses / Clear Communication

So, I've gotten a couple of these lately, and I'm curious what these mean... for example...

Me:  When are you wanting to come see the chin? (or cage, or whatever?)
Them:  I'm in Chicago.

...and? 

I suppose, to the person saying it, they know exactly what it means.  But word to the wise, not everyone does.

Does this mean, "I'm in Chicago, so I'm closeby and can come any time" OR "I'm in Chicago, so that is WAY TOO FAR, I won't come at all," OR "I'm in Chicago, so I'm letting you know how long it will take me to get there"?  The thing is, I don't know, and there's almost never any context to tell me which one it is. 

So often, I just repeat the question... so, when are you wanting to come by? 

In no way am I saying this to make fun of people or anything of the sort... just sometimes I think that we think we're communicating clearly... and sometimes we're not, and need to think about how others may read what we write.  That is all.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Custom Wood Items

Did you know we can do custom wood items?  We can!

We actually have a page on our website that shows some of the items we've made in the past.  See this page, here --> https://www.nwichinchillas.com/custom-creations

The latest custom request was that someone wanted us to make a house that looked like this...




...but out of real wood (instead of plywood), so it would be both safe, and last much longer.  We talked about dimensions, hole size, and all sorts of things needed for me to figure out how to make it, and here's the final house!




We can make houses, toys, bridges, all sort of custom fun stuff.  Custom houses / larger items start at $15 and go up from there, depending on size and complexity.  For bridges / toys, contact with info on what you're looking for, for a price quote!