Gone are the days when people believed guineas pigs only needed to munch on grass all day to survive. Now, conscientious owners take great care in selecting a healthy, balanced diet for them.
Crunchy green vegetables provide much-needed vitamins for many herbivorous animals but are they all as safe as each other? For example, is it OK for guinea pigs to eat green beans?
Guinea pigs can eat green beans, but they shouldn’t have them every day. Legumes are an excellent source of nutrients such as vitamin C and fiber, but if a guinea pig eats too many green beans it may develop kidney stones. We explain why this is and the quantity you can safely feed your furry friend.
Why too many green beans can be bad for guinea pigs
There are various things you should know about guinea pigs before you become an owner. One important aspect is there dietary requirements.
Many vegetables are good for guinea pigs but there are some they should only eat in moderation, and some they shouldn’t have at all. The same is true of certain fruits.
So, yes, you can give a guinea pig green beans to munch on, just don’t give it too many at once and avoid offering them every day.
The problem with green beans is the amount of phosphorus they contain compared to their calcium content. The levels of each are about the same, which enables the phosphorus to bind to the calcium to form kidney stones.
Kidney stones are painful and can lead to other health complications. They travel to the bladder and cause extreme pain during urination. There’s a chance of these stones causing a complete blockage in the guinea pig’s urinary tract necessitating risky surgery.
The different types of green beans
There are several types of green beans, all of which should be fed to guinea pigs in moderation. Some grow on bushes and some on vines. Popular varieties include:
- Runner beans
- French beans
- Broad beans
- String beans
- Snap beans
- Green beans
- Lima beans
- Kidney beans
- Mung beans
- Black beans
Some of these are one and the same thing – they just get given different labels, depending on where you buy them. They all grow in pods, not all are bright green, but they are all still beans nevertheless.
How many green beans are OK?
Green beans should not form a whole meal. Offer 1 or 2 beans with other food a couple of times a week. Make sure any other vegetables offered at the same time don’t have high phosphorus to calcium content.
Cooked, raw or frozen green beans?
Only give your guinea pig fresh raw green beans to nibble on. Ideally choose an organic variety to ensure their are no nasty pesticide residues present.
It’s very easy to grow your own – that way you know they are really safe. You can find out how to do this later in this article.
As guinea pigs don’t digest cooked food very well, don’t give them beans left over from your dinner. These are far less healthy for them as some of the vitamins will have been destroyed by the cooking process.
Avoid defrosted frozen beans to. These have often been blanched – plunged in hot water – before freezing, and when they have thawed they are no longer crunchy.
There’s also a strong possibility of bacteria being present on defrosted green beans which would normally be destroyed when we cook them but obviously won’t be if offered to your guinea pig raw.
Greens that are OK for guinea pigs a few times a week
- Cauliflower leaves
- Cos lettuce
- Green peppers (and red or yellow)
- Pak Choi
- Rocket salad
Greens that are OK a couple of times a week
- Any green beans
- Butterhead lettuce
- Collards (greens)
- Courgette (zucchini)
Greens that are OK a maximum once a week
- Dandelion leaves
How to grow green beans for your guinea pigs
If you grow your own green beans you can be sure they are organic and safe for your guinea pig to eat. Runner beans are very easy and fun to grow.
Here’s what you need:
- Bean seeds
- Seed compost
- Small pots (about 3 inches wide, 4 inches deep)
- A fertile, well-drained area of your garden or a large planter and potting compost
- 8-foot tall bamboo canes (allow 1 per each seedling you intend to grow)
- Twine or cable ties
- Fill the small pots with compost
- Make a hole in the center of each – about 2 inches deep
- Drop a bean seed in each
- Cover over with compost
- Water each pot
Keep the pots moist and your beans seeds should start to sprout after about a week. They’ll grow quite rapidly from that point.
During this time prepare an area of your garden or large pots to hold you bean plants.
If you are planting in the garden you will need 1 cane per plant arranged as follows:
- Place one row of canes in a row, 6 inches apart
- Place a second row opposite the first row, 18 inches apart
- Tie the tops of each pair that are 18 inches apart together with twine or a cable tie so that the two rows form a tunnel
- Place 1 long cane across the top to join ans support each pair, and tie it on to each pair
If you are planting in large pots:
- Choose pots of at least 18-inch diameter
- Fill them with potting mix and compost
- Place 3 canes in each and tie them at the top to form a teepee shape
Step 2 – approximately 14 to 18 days after planting
- Plant each seedling at the base of a cane in your prepared area
- Keep them well-watered as they grow, especially when they start to flower
- Once the bean plant has reached the top of its cane, pinch out the very top growing shoots to prevent it overgrowing. This will help thicken up the lower areas of the plant
- The flowers will produce bean pods which should be picked when they are approximately 8 inches long – any longer and they may become stringy
- Pick beans every 2 to 3 days as this enables even more to grow
- Feed fresh beans to your guineas pigs and enjoy some yourself too
Can guinea pigs eat green beans? – Conclusion
Most guinea pigs will eat green beans and they are perfectly OK for them to nibble on a couple of times a week. Make sure you balance your guinea pig’s diet with grass, hay and other recommended guinea pig foods.
Avoid feeding too many high-phosphorus foods to your guinea pig on the same day to ensure they don’t develop kidney stones.
With a well-planned, balanced diet, your guinea pig should live a long and healthy life.