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Welcome to Sybil's Den.  This site is meant for information purposes  on raising  pet exotics animals based on my experience.  There are care sheets for black bears, foxes, raccoons, emus, farm animals and domestic animals.   Also please find a very informative message board with a lot of great members.

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      CHINCHILLA  CARE  SHEET          

written by: Adrianne  (member of Sybil's Message Board)
 
 

Housing and Cage Requirements

While chins are relatively small animals, they like to have a lot of room to play.  So when purcchinchilashasing a cage, bigger is always better.  The smallest cage normally recommended for chins is 10 cubic feet for one chin and 5 cubic feet per additional chin in the same cage.  Chins also like to jump and hop on things. 

I recommend buying a cage with shelves or ledges in it.  My cage has seven shelves that they can jump from one to
another. 

The cage should have at least one side made entirely from wire for ventilation.  Chins need to be kept somewhat cool or they can suffer from heat stroke.  The ideal temperature for chinchillas is around 65 degrees, not greater than 75 degrees.  They should be kept in a well-ventilated area, preferably with air conditioning.  Otherwise, they may get too warm.

The most common type of bedding used for chinchillas is kiln dried pine shavings or pellets.  Another type of bedding that is safe to use is Carefresh.  There are a few types of litters that are not safe to use-regular pine shavings, clay pellets, clumping or scented litters, and cedar bedding.  These types can be toxic if ingested by your chinchilla. 

 

Toys FOR Chinchillas

Toys are a good idea for chinchillas, especially if you have only one chinchilla.  A “free” toy I give mine all the time are empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls.  They don’t last very long (they chew through them very quickly) but its something you were just going to throw out anyway.  They love them and even fight over them. 

Another good toy is wooden chew blocks.  Chins love to chew and will chew on anything (so watch what you put their cage next to).  Mine don’t care for blocks that just lay on the bottom of their cage (I always had to throw them out because they got dirty) and then I tried bird toys.  They love bird toys that hang from the top of their cages.  I hang mine from the top of their cage in a place that isn’t too easily accessible.  That way it makes it more of a challenge.  Make sure the toy doesn’t have any plastic or rope on it though.

 Plastic bits can get caught in their throats if they swallow it and rope can become trapped in their bodies.  I make sure mine are all wood and they hang from a metal chain, usually with a little bell.  The bell will also let you know when they are playing so you can watch them.
 

Feeding and Treats

chinchillas

Pellets are an important part of a chinchillas diet.  Most pet stores sell chinchilla food, however the pellets that they sell are often not of the best quality.   You will often see that pet stores sell pellets that contain things besides pellets, most often treats.  While giving your chin treats is not a bad thing, too many treats can make them sick so it is best to avoid pet store pellets.  Unless of course, the pet store sells high quality pellets. 
 
Some quality brands of chinchilla food include Mazuri, Kline and Oxbow.  I feed Mazuri and my chins love it.  To find a Mazuri dealer near you, you can check out
http://Mazuri.com. 

I order my food from
http://lonestarchinchilla.com because I cannot find a store that sells Mazuri chinchilla food near me.  Even though I order the food online, it is still cheaper than buying the low quality pet store food if you figure out how much you pay a pound. 

When ordering online, I recommend buying in “bulk”.  I usually buy 6 or 7 pounds each time, because the shipping is the same as if I had only bought 1 pound.  It works out better buying larger quantities and freezing whatever is not needed in sealed containers, and thawing more as needed. 

 Most pellets are made primarily of alfalfa hay.  It is important to know what kind the pellets are made of when selecting a type of hay.  When you order online, it usually comes in a bag with no ingredients on it because the seller buys in large bulk bags and ships small bags out to those that order.  You can research to find out what ingredients are in your hay online.  I imagine http://Mazuri.com has an  “Ingredients & Analysis” section for their pellets (they are made of alfalfa). 

 The reason it is important to know what your pellets are made of is because too much alfalfa can cause problems.  Alfalfa is high in protein, calcium and calories.  Too much protein can cause liver problems and too much calcium can lead to bladder stones.  So if you are feeding a pellet that is made of alfalfa, it is best to get your chin a grass hay.  Grass hay includes Timothy, Brome, Orchard grass and Oat. 

 Good quality hay is green and smells fresh. It shouldn’t be in an airtight container as that will trap the moisture and cause mold to grow.  When my chins eat loose hay, they most often eat only the leaves off of the hay and leave the stems behind. 

You can choose to feed either loose hay (out of a bale) or hay cubes (which can also be purchased at http://Lonestarchinchilla.com).  Because I have large animals that require hay (the deer) it has always been easier for me to feed loose hay, but if you only own small animals, loose hay may not be the best option.  Hay cubes can be a very convenient way of feeding hay to small animals, but you will pay more than if you were to buy a bale of loose hay. 

Chinchillas love treats, but you should not give your chinchilla too many treats because they can get sick.  Too many treats often causes diarrhea.  A favorite treat of chinchillas is raisins.  When you shake the box, they know what it coming.  Other good treats for chins include dried fruit, rose hips, cheerios (without honey or sweeteners) and sunflower seeds.  Another thing that can be used as a good treat and supplement is oats.  When you give them oats, they think you are giving them a treat.  I kept a dish of oats near their cage and gave them one every time I walked by when I first bought them.  This showed them that I meant no harm and they expected a treat every time I was near, so they were always glad to see me.  Now I give them oats as part of their meal once a day.  http://Lonestarchinchilla.com also sells oats in small quantities so you can get a pound or two and it will last a long time. 

 If you buy a chinchilla and wish to change its diet, you must do so slowly so that you don’t upset their stomachs.  Changing their diets all at once (cold turkey) can cause diarrhea.  So start slowly adding whatever type of food you would like to change them to into their current diet.  Keep adding more and more until you are completely changed over to the new food.  This is much easier on the chins.

Sexing Chins

It can be difficult to sex chins, especially at a young age.  Females have less space between the cone and the anus that males do, but it is generally better to look at pictures because it is hard to describe how much space there is between the two sexes.  
male chinchilla sex  
MALE
 
chinchilla female sex picture
FEMALE

Breeding and Babies

I will only go briefly into breeding.  Most people will not breed a female chinchillas until she is 8 month old because a female younger that 8 months really isn’t mature enough to be breed.  However, female chins can breed from about 8 weeks of age so it is important to separate her from any males present (including her father and brother) until she is old enough. 

A female's cycle occurs every 28 to 35 days and usually lasts 4 to 7 days.  This is when a female can get pregnant.  A chins gestation period is usually 111 days, so it actually will take quite awhile for her to have babies.  And they usually only have 1-3 babies, but there is a possibility of more.  They will usually only have babies once or twice a year.

Once she does have babies, you should remove the male so they she goes not get bred again immediately.  She will come into heat again almost immediately after giving birth.  If you allow this to happen, it is very hard on the female because her body has not had time to heal.  Death and miscarriage could also result. 

Unlike other small baby animals, chinchillas are up and walking around within minutes.  They are born with their eyes open and with fur.  They are about the size of a hamster when born.  So if you know your chinchilla is pregnant, you must have a cage with very small wire (mine is one centimeter width and height) to ensure that they stay in their cage.  I accomplished this by covering my existing cage in very small wire.  The only other option is to buy another cage. 

The male will not hurt the babies like most other species of animals, so it is okay to put the father back after a few days to a week.  He can then keep mom company and relieve some of her stress.

   The mother will not really need your help in raising the babies, but you can touch them and handle them.  This gets them used to being handled very young.  You may want to get a good scale and weigh the babies’ everyday to make sure that they are gaining weight and getting the proper amount of milk from mom.
   

written by: Adrianne (Member of Sybils Message Board) 



 



 

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