It seems like we get asked almost every day “How do I breed my chins?”. As you might expect, there is no simple answer to that question. We’ve decided to answer it as best we can with the creation of this page. You’ll find the information presented in the order topics arise during the breeding process. Some information will pertain to your chins whether you are breeding or not. Also, keep in mind, this is simply our opinion on how to go about breeding. Not all breeders will agree with everything presented here. You’ll have to make your own decision about how you want to go about it.
- Step 1 – Deciding if you really want to breed
- Step 2 – Acquiring decent breeding stock
- Step 3 – Sexing Chinchillas
- Step 4 – Pairs and Polygamous Breeding
- Step 5 – Quarantining
- Step 6 – Housing the breeders
- Step 7 – Introducing the pair
- Step 8 – Sexual Maturity
- Step 9 – Mating
- Step 10 – Signs of Pregnancy
- Step 11 – Separation
- Step 12 – Labor & Delivery
- Step 13 – Difficult Births
- Step 14 – Babies & beyond
- Step 15 – Hand Rearing and Baby Saving
- Step 16 – Weaning
Sure, we know that those fuzzy little babies hoping everywhere are irresistible, but it’s not always as easy as it seems. There are lots of things that can go wrong. Some of those are:
- the loss of one of the breeders due to fighting
- the loss of your female as a result of mating injuries and/or pregnancy problems, before, during, and after birth
- the loss of kits at birth or even weeks after
You’ll also have to consider whether you will be capable, and willing, to hand feed babies if necessary. The situation does occur with some frequency so you’ll need to be prepared to hand feed babies with an eye dropper every two to three hours around the clock for at least three to four weeks. Then, you also need to consider what you’ll do with these babies. Can you find good homes for them all? Do you have the space to keep them yourself if you don’t find them good homes? You’ll also need to be able to take care of any chins that come back to you because their new owners cant take care of them anymore. What will you do if the pair of breeders you choose doesn’t get along? Will you buy them, new mates, sell one or the other, or something else? Do you have the money to buy good, healthy breeding stock? What about funds set aside for medical emergencies due to breeding? Lastly, are you thinking that you’ll make money at this? You won’t. Unless you have hundreds of animals, you’ll spend far more than you can ever make back.
Let me say, first off, you CANNOT breed pet store chins. Knowing where your breeding chins came from is essential to having a good herd. Their breeders will be able to tell you about any recessive color genes they might have, what colors the parents were, if they were healthy, or if there were any genetic issues in their ancestry. These are things you really have to know to breed well. If you don’t know where your chins came from, you can’t look at their health history. Down the road, if one of the babies you sold has a potential genetic problem, you’re going to want to try tracing its history to find out if it really is genetic. If you do find that one of your babies has a genetic problem, remove that pair from breeding and make sure that the babies are not bred. Most genetic problems in chinchillas could be eliminated if people were more careful with the pairs that they breed.
First, you have a decision to make. Are you going to purchase babies or adults? There are benefits to each. With kits, you can raise them the way you like, and they may be much friendlier than any adults that you might purchase. The downside is that you cannot put them in with mates until the female is at least 8-10 months old otherwise she may not be big enough to give birth safely. The other downside is that you won’t be able to tell how they will look when they reach maturity. When choosing your stock, look for dense fur, clear white bellies (on the colors that should have white bellies), and a rounded face. You’ll want your females to be of decent size; all my breeders are well over 600 grams, most fall between 700-800 grams. The males don’t need to be as large, since they don’t have to give birth, but make sure they aren’t a great deal bigger than the female you intend to put them with or the babies could be too big for the mothers to have without major complications.
You’ll also need to decide whether you want to show or pet quality chins. Show quality breeders are costly – expect to spend anywhere from $300-$1000 PER PAIR, depending on the colors you choose. Ah yes, colors…. that’s another issue in itself; please look at the mutations page for a brief explanation of the lethal factor before you think about breeding anything but standards. We’ll keep it simple here and say just this: standards are best for beginners, please don’t attempt the more exotic colors such as violet and sapphire until you have more experience. There are inherent risks associated with breeding some colors (discussed on the mutations page), such as the loss of size, fur density, color clarity, and general health. The risk of having unhealthy or deformed kits is much greater with sapphires than with the other colors. Learn on the simpler stuff first. If you must breed a color, its best to breed it to a great standard. Most importantly, before you take your new chins home, double check that you do actually have a male and a female.
Sexing a chinchilla can be very simple once learned. Often a pet shop or inexperienced breeder will sell you the wrong sex they have told you it is, as they have not checked properly or do not actually know. Always double-check what sex you are getting don’t be foolish enough to believe their word.
To help you check for yourself, the pictures below show the difference in each sex.
*The male chinchillas’ genitalia, please notice there is a distinctive gap between its rectum and sheath (penis foreskin)
*Whereas in this picture of a female chinchilla, there is clearly no gap.
Breeding in pairs is obviously a lovely way to have chinchillas. Also, Trios is a good breeding system, one male per two females. I try to trio as many of my chins as possible. The polygamous system (also called breeding runs) is where there is a row of cages with a wire tunnel running along the back joining each cage together. It is the male chinchilla who runs along the back of this tunnel; he has full access to the females who are in each cage, via a ‘pop hole,’ a hole in the tunnel in each cage. The female doesn’t have access to this tunnel as she wears a small plastic collar on her neck to keep her from entering the tunnel. I personally do not choose to use this system. Step 6 will go into further detail.
No matter where you get new chins from… whether it be the most respectable breeder, to your best friend. Quarantine chins from any existing chins you own for 2-3 weeks. This is hard to do I know because you are so excited to have them and they may look perfectly fine, and you got them from someone you trust. STILL, DO IT! I have had one bad case of ringworm/fur fungus break out in my herd due to me not quarantining. My whole herd got it, and it took me six months to get rid of. I recently had another bring it in from a respected breeder, but fortunately, at this time I had the preventative powder in their dust, and one chin got one small sign of ringworm/fur fungus, and it cleared up and went away.
You have a few options here. Some people like to use breeding runs which allow one male to service several females. They consist of a line of cages sharing walls with the cage space on either side. The male accesses each cage through a tunnel that runs along the back of the line. The downside to these cages? The females need to wear special collars around their necks to keep them from using the tunnel to get in another female’s cage. The babies can climb up into the tunnels and go into another females cage where the female may kill or seriously injure the uninvited guest. Chins can stick their little toes through the wire and get them bitten off by their neighbors. Last but not least, females have been known to grab babies and kill them when they venture too close to the sides of the cage wall.
Another option is the trio. This consists of one male with two females in the same cage. This is also getting as much use as possible from a single male. However, three adult chinchillas can be difficult to introduce. Someone almost always gets at least a minor injury. We’ve found that the best way to get our trios together is to acquire all three adults at the same time and introduce them into a new cage together. This way, no one has territory to claim, and they are still a little confused from the transition to the new home. However, should you do this, be warned, you cannot leave those chins alone for even a minute. You’ve got to watch them like hawks for several hours to make sure no fighting occurs. I f there is fighting, separate them immediately. You’ll need to try a more traditional introduction method.
Lastly, there is the pair where one male and one female share a cage. This is the least stressful for new breeders. After careful introductions, there should be few problems. Don’t forget, if babies are born or living in these cages, the wire spacing can’t be more than 1/2″ x 1/2″ and not taller than 2 feet. The babies will start climbing the sides of the cage within a few hours after birth. If you keep careful track of pregnancies, you can use separate cages for females close to term or with babies. Just move the female into the baby-safe cage a few weeks before delivery to be safe otherwise the babies could be born, escaped, and dead before you even knew they had arrived. If you use pairs or trios, you’ll also need to have a suitable cage to place your male in if you choose to leave mom and babies in the main cage. If you use the breeding run, you can simply close off the entry hole to that individual cage when necessary. NOTE: No matter which style you choose, you should always include a wooden house, PVC pipe, or something for the chins to get away from each other, in case of a squabble.
Once you have purchased your chins and your cages, you’re ready to try to put the pair together. If they are both brand new to you, and you are bringing them home at the same time, then you can try the method I mentioned in the housing part. If that doesn’t work or you aren’t in that situation, there are several other ways to attempt introductions.
One of the most common, and successful is to introduce your pair slowly over a period of time. You’ll need a cage for each chin. Place the cages near each other so that the chins can see, smell and hear each other, but make sure they cannot touch. Allow them to take a few days to get used to each other than move the cages closer together. This is when you’ll need to keep a sharp eye out to make sure no one loses a toe. If there is biting, move the cages away from each other immediately. If it seems like they are very upset after a few hours of being beside each other, move them back and try again in a few days. After they are living happily beside each other for several days, you can attempt to let them run around together under close supervision. You should do this in an area that is neutral to both of them, preferably space where neither one has been allowed in before. There will probably be some chasing, some fur released, and some squeaks or squeals, that’s normal. Relentless chasing and biting are cause for separation, and you should wait a few more days then try again. When they seem to play well together, you can try introducing them to a new cage or one that has been thoroughly cleaned and re-arranged (to lessen any territorialism).
Generally, you should place the female in the males cage and not the other way around. Females can get very protective and could injure or kill the male. Get ready to separate them immediately if necessary. There will probably be some squabbling and chasing, but once again, actual biting is a sign to try this again in a few days.
If this doesn’t go well, you can try letting the chins live in each other’s cages, switching them every day, so they get more accustomed to each other’s scent and pick up some of it themselves. Sometimes this makes it a lot easier for introductions.
I do not agree with people who suggest putting one chinchilla in a smaller cage inside the larger cage where the other chinchilla lives. Chinchillas do not like being overshadowed, and one shouldn’t be made to feel dominated by the other. And a smaller cage to fit into a doorway of a larger cage must be very small and inadequate for a chin to live in. Although I do not approve of this method, I am mentioning it just so you are aware of the option. The idea is to put the female in a small cage inside the males cage, so they can get used to living together without actually being able to attack each other. Rotate who is in the small cage 3-4 times then try them both in the same cage again. Again, I do not like this method AT ALL!
One other thing to try is to place both animals in “the box” a small box, cage, etc. that is not tall enough for the chins to stand on their hind legs in. Since most chins rear up to attack, and this prevents them from doing that, the chins are sort of forced to be together without being able to do much damage. I personally haven’t tried this method, nor am I very fond of it, but if you have a pair you really want to go together, I guess its worth a shot. Keep in mind that some chins just don’t get along, and never will. Also, no matter which method you use, be prepared to separate the chins immediately if necessary. If you find a method that you like better than these, use it. Each chin has a distinct personality, and methods that work with some chins will not work with others. You’re the one who can best judge how your chinnies will respond to something.
The best way, in my opinion, to introduce the prospective mates is to put them in separate cages, side by side for a few days. Make sure that they can not reach each other to take a little nibble! So far I have had fairly good luck with introductions. The younger the same-sexed pair is, the better *Note: Never introduce two young chinchillas of the opposite sex! Do not introduce until decent breeding age. Or do not introduce a very young female that is not ready to breed to an adult sexually mature male.
I have had luck putting chins together immediately with extreme supervision. I put the new chin in the cage his future roommate already resides in. I put the new chin on a complete opposite level of where the current roommate may be. Then you watch… There will be some serious chasing, some fur flying, and some small attacks. Don’t panic until one of the chins is crying for help and up at the cage wanting out. All the listed above is normal intro behavior. Also, try putting the dust bath in the cage with them. If it gets brutal, you will have to remove a chin.
Tip: The current roommate already has his/her scent all over the cage. This serves as making them more territorial. Try completely cleaning the cage from top to bottom and disinfecting it. Then try putting both chins in the new clean cage at the same time. If this doesn’t work, then back to caging them side by side until they can learn to live together.
Note – Even after the introduction period is over, you still need to pay close attention to how your pair interacts with each other. We’ve seen pairs that have lived happily together for years suddenly attack and kill each other.
Female chinchillas can become sexually mature by the age of 5 months. However, they should not be bred with until they are at least six months and over 600 grams, do NOT attempt to breed a six-month-old chinchilla is under 600 grams. If a 6-month-old is not 600+ grams, then you need to wait for when and if she does get that large before attempting to breed her. Some chinchillas don’t become fully grown until 1-1 ½ years old. If a chinchilla is left longer then a year to 18 months before being bred from, then the process can take longer, in some cases up to 2 years before having their first kits. If there are still no kits after this time, one or more of the mates may be infertile or incompatible. If this occurs, you should try a different paring to get results.
A male can become sexually mature from around six months. But have also heard cases of very young males impregnating females at 14 weeks! Any babies your chins have must be sexed, and no longer housed together after 12 weeks old if they are opposite sexes just for extra precaution. You do NOT want your chins to inbreed! ESPECIALLY inbred that young!
A female will ovulate (come into season) every 28 days, however during the summer, March to September this process usually slows down. The peak breeding time being in the cooler months of October to February. Some females may mate for a couple of years and then all of a sudden stop producing any offspring, this is usually a result of a congested uterus from either a long-term infection or unborn fetus in the uterine horns, these are kits conceived but not gone the full gestation period when this happens the female re-absorbs them back into her system, unfortunately the skeleton can remain, leaving her infertile.
Ok, the chins are finally living happily together. Now it’s just a waiting game. Conception time varies greatly among pairs, some mate almost immediately upon introduction, some take a few months, some take a year or more, and a few will never mate. So, don’t panic if your chins are together for a few months with no evident pregnancy, sometimes it just takes a while. I usually give my pairs a year to produce, before I give them different mates, if I don’t get anything after that, I will consider them non-breeders.
You’ll probably notice your chins mating at night. Males usually attempt the process several times throughout a few days if the female is in heat. And how do you know if your female is in heat? If you look at her privates, you’ll notice that the slit that runs horizontally between the anus and urethra is open, whereas it is usually tightly sealed. If it isn’t open, she isn’t in heat. You may or may not find a heat plug (hardened mucus released by the female, sort of waxy looking) I’ve never seen one myself. If your chins are on pine bedding, you probably won’t notice one either.
After the male has finished, he sometimes makes a hiccuping noise. In the next few hours, you will need to check your male closely for a hair ring. This is when hair gets wrapped around the male’s penis. It can tighten, eventually cutting off circulation and causing massive damage to it. All males should be checked regularly, especially breeding males. If you see a male continually “grooming” himself around the area of his penis, this is a good indication that he has a hair ring. You’ll need to hold the male carefully on his back, and gently push down on the foreskin of the penis until it retracts and the actual penis is visible. Inspect it carefully for hairs; if the chin or his mate is white, the hair can be difficult to see. If there is a hair or hairs, you will need to remove them. Removing the hair can be a bit difficult. If you aren’t comfortable with such delicate work, by all means, take him to the vet. To remove the hair, use an antibiotic gel, such as Neosporin, on your fingers, and gently rub at the hair until it loosens. Hair that is very tightly wrapped may need to be cut off. This is VERY delicate work. Use nail scissors, or better yet, let your vet do it. Once the hair is off, check for damage. Swelling should subside within a day or so. The penis should retract smoothly back into the sheath.
After your chins mate, you may find a mating plug, its similar to the heat plug, and I haven’t ever seen one of these either. Most of the time you won’t even know there was a mating, so do check your females regularly until you know when they should be in heat. You should also weigh your female, as weight gain is one of the more reliable indications of pregnancy, and you’ll need a base weight to go by.
Usually, mating will not be seen as it is done late at night or early hours of the morning. If you do see mating occurring you should be thorough in checking for a ‘plug,’ if you find one you should make a note on a calendar, of 111 days from the date of finding the plug. The kits should be born plus or minus five days from this date. If you examine the females’ genitals, you will notice that the slit between the anus and the urethra cone will be open and moist. If the female is not in heat, this will be tightly closed. Sometimes the only indication that mating has occurred will be small tufts of fur on the bottom of the pairs cage.
Also, a lot of successful matings are followed by the male making a “hiccup” sound. This is like he is telling other chins “yes, I have succeeded.” Finding a ‘stopper’ or ‘plug’ is the best indication of mating NOT pregnancy. Often more than one will be found; the last to be found should be the date you count the 111 days from. A ‘stopper’ or ‘plug’ is the male’s ejaculation of a waxy substance that sets in the female’s vagina to seal the opening and keep his sperm within. After a couple of hours when the sperm is safely high up the female’s uterus, and conception begins the ‘stopper,’ or ‘plug’ drops out of the female’s vagina. It is usually found in the debris below the cage the following morning, when fresh, it is white, waxy mucus in a cone-like shape, it is quite bendy and flexible, about an inch to an inch and a half long. If it’s older when you find it, it will have dried into an off-white hazy, opaque color and will be solid. Often only parts of the ‘stopper’ or ‘plug’ are found, as the female will eat it. (Yuk!) I have yet to see a plug!
Begin weighing your female now if you haven’t already done so. A pregnant female will begin gaining a steady amount of weight soon after conception, we’ve found it to be about 100-200 grams depending on how many babies there are. You’ll also notice that the female’s belly gets fuller, more rounder looking, and begins feeling firm to the touch. Make sure you are very gentle when feeling the stomach, and don’t press hard.
In the last few weeks of pregnancy, you can sometimes see the babies moving; the female will appear larger then usually, her belly will be firm/tight feeling at this point she should only be handled when necessary and never by the tail. During the last few weeks she may appear a little withdrawn, quiet and even aggressive towards her mate, if she has a nest box, she will spend more and more time inside it. It is also in the last stages where you would find her lying on her side more frequently. We’ve also noticed that the females usually will open the night before delivery and have a slightly sticky mucus discharge.
Sometimes this can occur weeks before actual birth. If this happens, keep in mind that you’ll need to stop her dust baths, or she could get an infection.
Constipation may occur, and they urinate more than usual, this is due to the pressure of the babies on her bowels and bladder. Usually, after 60 days of pregnancy, a females teats will become pink and enlarged.
If you suspect or know when kit(s) are due it is a good idea to lay the paper on the bottom of the cage, so the kit(s) do not get their legs stuck through the wire, if you have a wire bottomed cage and they have no bedding to birth in. Also, the female shouldn’t be given a bath ten days before and ten days after the birth. In the first instance this is to avoid the babies being killed by the mother rolling about in the dust and in case she decides to litter in the bath, which can kill the kit(s) if their airways are blocked from the sand and; in the second instance it is to avoid sand collecting around the teats causing difficulty for the babies to suckle and also because the female becomes open and in season again, the sand can cause infection.
Pregnant females need a slight adjustment to their diets usually. We prefer to give them added calcium in the form of calf manna pellets, as well as an extra ration of rolled oats. Pay close attention to her teeth during pregnancy and after, to make sure she isn’t becoming calcium deficient. Make sure that she has all the pellets that she cares to eat, after all; she is eating for two, three…. maybe more!
The only time you should need to separate two breeding chinchillas is when a female gives birth, when this occurs the male should be removed for a period of 10 days into a separate cage, again side-by-side. This is done to avoid a ‘breed back.’ When a female gives birth, she comes back into heat and risks getting pregnant again. If this happens, she can become worn out, and it is not good for her health. The male should pose no problems when putting back in with the female and her kits. However, it can happen and if it does, don’t panic! Just remove the male until the kits have been weaned at 8-10 weeks and try re-introducing him again.
Most people aren’t lucky enough to actually see the labor and delivery. I think this is generally because chins tend to have their babies in the early evening, or midmorning when most of us are busy with other things. If you think your chin is getting close to delivery, check on her frequently between 7 and 11 am. This is when we notice most of our babies born. We’ve also caught a few births around 6-8 pm.
At the onset of labor, you may notice that your female seems restless, she may refuse favorite treats, and generally seem on edge. She may start stretching out frequently, and she’ll look like she is grooming her vaginal area. She may also be making chirping noises, or occasional grunts of pain. Both of these are normal. If there is shrieking, or other loud, frequent noises, you can assume something is wrong. To be safe, you should get her to a vet immediately.
Soon you should see her start to tug at her vagina, and with a few tugs, she’ll pull the baby out. She might ignore the baby at first, especially if she has more than one. If she does ignore it, she probably has more babies waiting to be born. You can check this by feeling her stomach. If you feel nothing but a soft tummy, she is finished. If you feel large, possibly moving, lump, she still has kits in there. Either way, if mom doesn’t take care of her baby right away, it’s your job to get the baby warm and dried off. You can do this by rubbing it gently with a towel. Otherwise, mom will clean it up a bit, and then the baby should attempt to nurse. Mom should eat the afterbirth, this is perfectly normal, and a necessary part of the process.
If labor seems to be dragging on past an hour or so, you may need medical intervention. If you see a tail coming out, but no baby, the baby is breech and mom may need assistance to get it out. It’s probably best for you to get her to a vet ASAP. If left to her own devices to remove the baby, she may pull it to pieces.
It’s also possible that the baby will be stillborn. If this happens, remove it from the cage as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it a somewhat common occurrence, so be prepared. There are many things that can go wrong.
You’ll need to keep an eye on mom for several hours after delivery to make sure she isn’t bleeding too heavily. There isn’t a lot of blood in a normal delivery. If you see a lot of blood, or if there is bright red bleeding or gushing, she needs to see a vet immediately. Its unfortunate, but almost every breeder has lost a female during labor, or shortly after.
If you haven’t already separated the male chin, do so now. Female chins are in heat immediately after birth, and the male will try to mate her as soon as he can. This is called a breedback, and it’s very stressful on the mother’s health. You can replace the male after about a week. Mom is also not to have a dust bath for ten days after birth, because the dust can enter the uterus and cause infection. Infections after birth seem to be a fairly common occurrence, and they can be potentially fatal. Keep on the lookout for any discharge after the first day or so, if there is one, take her to a vet immediately. It’s better to be safe than sorry, always.
If the female is experiencing difficulties during birth, there are unfortunately very few things you can do to help. If you feel a cesarean is needed, then she should be taken immediately to a vet. It is very rare you will see a birth, although so far I have seen most of mine. Mine tend to have babies around 7 to 11 AM early morning, but some chins tend to have their kit(s) late hours of the evening 6-8 PM. If a breach birth occurs (tail and back feet out first) and the female is having difficulty pushing, you can help her by using a small pipette full off warm water for lubrication and very gently pulling the babies base of the tail towards the mothers nose in an upwards movement, ONLY do this when the mother pushes.
It is very important for the female to eat her afterbirth once she has finished delivering, I know it seems yucky, but it contains lots of vitamins and minerals and is good for helping her strength back up. When a female is in labor, if she looks to be having no difficulties; she should be left alone quietly for a few hours. After she has eaten her after birth and cleaned herself and her babies, she should be gently inspected, checking her nipples and genitals for tears, sores, and discomfort. If all appears well, you should give mother and kit(s) a little time to settle.
Babies are born with their eyes open, and they’re up and running around within minutes after birth. If mom isn’t too agitated, you can check them over within the first few minutes. Unlike some animals, chinchilla moms will not kill their babies if you handle them early. I begin handling my babies as soon as they’re born. If you haven’t done so already, move mom and babies into a baby safe cage. A baby safe cage will have wire spacing of not more than 1/2x 1/2 inch spacing and will have only low shelving so that if a baby falls off, it won’t get hurt. Baby chinchillas are precocious, and they will begin climbing just hours after birth. I’ve checked the chin room more than once, only to find a new baby clinging to the wire cage wall about a foot up. You’ll need to give the babies a small space to get into, so they can be protected if the mom gets to jumping around. We use a quart canning jar, laying on its side in the bottom of the cage. Don’t forget to remove the running wheel if there is one in the cage. More than once we’ve heard of babies that were killed or lost a leg in a wheel mishap.
One of the first things to do after the baby is dry is getting its weight. We recommend using a digital scale that weighs in grams(like what you would use for weighing food) Weighing in grams makes it possible to have a more accurate picture of how well the baby is growing, how much it’s eating, etc. Normal bay weight ranges between 40-60 grams. You can also use this time to sex the baby. Male and female kits have the same parts as adults, just smaller. If you cant tell for sure, try again when they’re a few days older.
For normal, healthy kits, nursing kits, you won’t really need to do much with them but sit back and enjoy watching them grow. Weigh the baby daily for the first few weeks, expect an initial weight loss of a few grams during the first day or so, then there should be a weight gain of 1-3 grams per day. You may notice babies nibbling on hay or their parent’s food. This is fine, DO NOT remove or stop feeding mom because of this. At about two weeks of age, they will start eating what they nibble, before that it was just play. You don’t need to do anything special for them; they’ll eat exactly what mom and dad do, minus the treats. Babies shouldn’t get treats until they are about eight weeks old, then in very small amounts (half a small raisin). During this time, mom might need some extra nutrition to keep her weight up and make sure she is producing enough milk for her babies. Its beneficial for her to have a bottle of non-sweetened all-natural cranberry juice in addition to her water, this will help her milk come in, and its also good for urinary tract health. She could use some Nutrical once or twice a day too, if you notice her weight dropping after the first few days, or if you notice she is becoming too thin.
Babies should spend around eight weeks with mom and dad. At this point, male babies must be removed from mom, because it’s been known for babies of 10 weeks to impregnate her. Female babies must be separated from dad for basically the same reason. However, if you did not put mom and dad back together yet, the male babies can live happily with him until you choose to remove them. Female babies can also live with mom indefinitely. The longer babies live with their parents, the better off they are. During the early weeks, babies learn how to be a chinchilla from imitating and being guided by their parents – it’s important to give them as much time to learn these skills as possible. If the babies will be going to a new home, separate at 7-8 weeks of age and allow them a week or so alone so you can be sure they are eating ok and not having any separation issues. Send them to their new owners with a supply of the food they have been eating for you, so that they can gradually be switched to what the new owners want to feed. Congratulations, you are a successful chinchilla breeder!
However, we still need to discuss what happens when there is a problem with the babies.
The biggest problem newborn babies face when they are born is more than two per litter because the mother has a hard time keeping the other babies warm while trying to deliver the others. If you know what the due date of your female is; it is a good idea to have a heating pad ready. These are placed under the cage on a low temperature and help dry mum and the babies but more importantly, keep them all nice and warm. If babies are found to be strong and healthy but still very wet, a quick brisk rubbing with a soft towel will save time in drying and cut the chances of the baby’s chilling.
If babies are found wet and chilled, or even if they appear dead or stiff, you can do wonders by quickly immersing them in hot water and massaging them briskly with only the tips of their noses being out of the water. Take the baby in one hand, lay it on its back, with your thumb on its abdomen and immerse it until only its nose is above the hot water. Massage by pressing the thumb into the abdomen and arch the back by bringing your index and little finger to a closing position toward the thumb. This action of pressing on the chest and flexing the body will pump a heavy mucous out of the baby’s lungs. As soon as you have done this a few times, blow quickly and hard into the baby’s mouth to expand the lungs. (Or use oxygen). Or you can cup the kit in your hands and VERY briskly thrust your hands down and up again a couple of times; this encourages the baby to gasp for air. It is done by many vets. Using either technique, the baby will usually start to gasp; in a few minutes you can have it going, and as soon as it seems warmed up it can be dried with a hot towel or hair dryer and placed in a warm box that has a heating pad or light bulb in it. If you can revive it, great. If not, don’t beat yourself up, we’ve all faced this. Some kits, especially those under 35 grams, just have a hard time.
If for some reason mom isn’t nursing the kit(s), you will have to hand feed them. Have an eye dropper or syringe (minus the needle, please!!) to use for feeding. The formula we use is whole cows or, preferably, goats milk mixed with a pinch of Gerber infant mixed grain or rice cereal. Heat this until just warm, like you would for a human baby bottle. The last thing you want to do is scald the baby’s mouth. Allow the baby to lick drops from the end of the dropper. Don’t force liquid in or you could drown the baby. You’ll need to feed the kit every 2 hours for the first few days, round the clock. After that, you can feed every three hours, still round the clock. Yes, you have to get up at night and feed them. If you don’t, they will not survive. Babies won’t take much at first, maybe only a few drops at a time, it takes them a while to get the hang of eating this way. Within a day or so they should be taking 1-3 droppers full(depending on dropper size, of course) per feeding,(or somewhere around two cc’s) and more as they go(6-7cc’s at five weeks). You’ll need to feed them like this for 4-5 weeks, though the babies will gradually take less as they begin eating solid food.
Check the babies every few hours to see if their stomachs are full and warm. If a baby’s stomach is not filled and warm, it needs milk. Note to see if babies are fighting. Hungry babies fight over the mother’s nipples and injure them, making them so sore that when the babies attempt to nurse the mother bites them by the head or nose to pull them away. A bite to the head can be fatal, and a bite to the nose can cause swelling, aspiration of milk into the lungs when babies try to nurse and then death by pneumonia. I recommend rotation if this happens. Say you have three kits born to a mother… Take two out of the cage and put into another with a heating pad under it. You may hand feed them during this time. Do this every two hours. When the two hours is up, take the two you removed and fed, and place them in with mother and take the baby that has been nursing mom for two hours out, and repeat procedure. It is very important that babies take the first lot of milk from their mother as it contains colostrums (vital antibodies to fight off infection or disease).
If the kits tummies don’t feel full, you may have to help mom by hand feeding them, if she is aggressive or oblivious to her kit(s), if she is not producing any milk, or if she dies during birth, then you may have to hand rear them fully. Before doing this you should look for a foster/surrogate mother, they usually take well and may look at bit odd with one large baby and one small, but the chinchilla can look after it’s own far better than us!
For hand rearing, you will need A pipette or small syringe Good hand-feeding recipe! As a good rule of thumb, it is always best to have these things in if you own chinchillas and have them breeding as sometimes it can be totally unexpected; it’s always better to be prepared.
- Cows Milk – If you are caught off guard with any births you can use ordinary milk you have in the fridge.
- 2 tbsp Milk to 1tbsp Boiled Water Pinch of Glucose Goats Milk. This is the formula I use… It is a really good belly filler! Depending on how much you make depends on how much ingredients to use. Always use about 75% milk to 25% cereal.
- Canned Goat’s Milk Baby Rice Cereal Mix – Whichever you decide to use it should be warmed up, before being put in the pipette or syringe and as you would with our babies milk, you should first check this is not too hot by putting a little on your wrist before feeding the kit(s).
To feed the kit(s) you should hold it in one hand around the legs and arms of the kit, it will wriggle like mad, and if you are like me, you will think you are hurting it, but believe me, you’re not. When it stops moving, place a tiny drop on its lip, take it away and let it lick it off, never keep squeezing the pipette or pushing the syringe as it will fill the chins lungs with fluid and lead to death. Once they’ve licked it off you can add another drop, don’t be alarmed if it only takes 4-5 drops at first, this will gradually increase the more it feeds. It will start to fight and push you away when it is full. It is best to try to feed through the sides of their mouths to avoid them biting the pipette or syringe, and you can get more in without teeth in the way.
For the first two weeks, this should be done every 2 hours, the next week every 4 hours. At the beginning of the 4th week, the kit(s) can be placed in a regular cage, given a little hay and water and hand fed three times a day and in the 5th and 6th week, just twice a day. The youngster(s) should be able to maintain itself after this time but be careful when the milk stops to watch and see it doesn’t gorge itself on pellets.
If the mother has rejected the baby entirely, you will also be responsible for keeping it warm and clean. I keep orphaned babies in a small aquarium or one of those plastic habitat things like you’d use for hermit crabs or small lizards. Put a heating pad under about 1/3 of the bottom. There should always be space that isn’t warmed just in case baby overheats. This way, he can move to a cooler spot if he needs to. I use soft pine shavings in the bottom with a piece of fleece for the baby to cuddle with. As for cleaning, the formula usually gets everywhere. Simply wipe the baby off with a warm wet face cloth after each feeding. You will also need to help the baby with his eliminations. To do this, take a cotton ball soaked in warm water, and rub in gentle circular motion over the genital area until the baby urinates and or poos. You have to do this as the babies aren’t capable of doing it themselves for the first week or so. Hand raising babies can be very hard to do, but its definitely worth the effort.
If a mother has been fine and brought up her chins, they will need to be weaned off. This is done at the age of 8 weeks. If this is not done and the mother has more then one kit she can become quite drained and worn out by them. This can lead to her fur chewing herself or her babies. Also if you are planning on showing the youngsters, you need to have each one separate to ensure their fur is immaculate.
Always know that breeding is a huge responsibility. Sometimes you may lose a baby, and it can be as heartbreaking as losing a chin you’ve had forever, but seeing a healthy baby born makes it all worth while. Also, know there is always the slim chance that you can lose the mom too. Please take in each of the things mentioned above and use them to your best advantage. Good luck and love your babies.