Today I tried to switch cages, as part of our chinchilla introductions, but Jasper was not liking it! He was really agitated and I ended up not leaving him in the other cage very long. I returned them to their own cages and gave them a dandelion treat for behaving so well.
I remember when I rescued my chinchilla, Jasper. Jasper showed up at my doorstep in nothing but a tiny dog carrier. Yes, I said dog carrier! The woman who owned him lived in a van and had this poor little guy living in a tiny space not even big enough for a mouse! Anyway, before bringing this guy home I did some quick research and quickly made a shopping list of everything my new chinchilla was going to need. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find just one site that had all of the information that I needed! Luckily for me, I had a few hours before I was supposed to pick him up, so I did my shopping list research and away I went to purchase what I needed. I had to read five or six different articles to make a complete shopping list. I have typed up the results of that research into one resource for you. Below is my chinchilla shopping list.
The absolute bare minimum items that you will need include:
(1) Cage: Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation is the cage I use and recommend.
(2) Basic Accessories you will need include:
- a hay rack (unless one is built into the cage),
- a water bottle,
- a food dish which cannot be knocked over,
- a dust bath,
- food – Oxbow essentials, APD-Alffy Pellets (American Pet Diner) and Mazuri pellets. and alfalfa cubes
- chinchilla dust or chinchilla sand. Do not use ordinary sand as this is too coarse. Read my post “Why Do Chinchillas Need Dust Baths” to decide which one you want to use.
- 100% kiln dried all natural pine – wood based cat litter is ok. Alternatively, you may line the litter tray with newspaper or dog pee pads provided the chins cannot reach the paper. Do not use sawdust as this is too fine, and do not use cedar wood shavings (cedar is harmful to chins).
- pine box for hiding and chewing
- lava rocks,
- LOOSE Timothy Hay
In the rest of this article, I’ll give more info on toys your chinchilla will enjoy, supplements to keep him/her healthy, acceptable treats, and types of wooden chews you can provide.
Toys Your Chinchilla Will Enjoy
Please take a moment and read my full post about Best Toys And Exercise Wheel For Your Chinchilla. It will really help you to make sure you get the right size wheel and don’t just buy according to the cute pictures on the front of the packages. Although some wheels show a chinchilla on the front of their packaging, doesn’t mean its safe for your chinchilla! Here are the items which are suitable to leave in your chinchillas’ cage I generally recommend:
- hanging parrot toys (Don’t forget to check that they are made from safe trees.)
- sisal ropes (again designed for parrots, but chins love them)
- pieces of pumice stone
- some rabbit or large hamster toys
- wood or branches, e.g. Safe woods are Apple Arbutus Ash, Aspen, Beech, Birch, Cottonwood, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elm, Fir, Hawthorn, Hazelnut, Larch, Magnolia, Manzanita, Mulberry, Kiln-Pine (not fresh pine), Pear, Poplar, and Sequoia.
- stuffed Booda buddy
DIY Toys For Your Chinchilla
Make your own toys: It is not very hard to make hanging toys with wooden blocks and it is much cheaper to make them at home than buying them. You just need some wooden blocks, wires (or chains), wire cutters, and a drill. If you don’t have a drill, you can drive a nail through the blocks.
- Branches: i.e. apple branches. Chinchillas love to chew apple and pear branches so I would highly recommend using these trees. Of course, you need to make sure that no chemicals and such have been used on the trees.
- Empty toilet paper rolls: Chinchillas’ all time favorite! These are great to hide treats in.
- Popsicle sticks
- Plain cardboard boxes
- Rocks: Rocks of different sizes that have been cleaned and boiled.
Tip! ~ I know I have listed many things above but take a look around your house. You will find things that would be great new toys for your chinchilla. Just watch for glue, tape, staples, etc. Common sense stuff.
Optional, But will help keep your Chinchilla healthy and happy!
Other items you may wish to purchase right away or could need in the future are listed below.
- Ledges and levels
- Exercise Wheel: Exotic Nutrition 15″ Chin-Sprint or 15″ Chin Spin Chinchilla Wheel – Handmade in the USA
- Chewable Vitamin C
- Calf Manna Supplement
Treats which can be given are:
- fruit, try fruits with seeds, not stones or pits, e.g. raisins, dried cranberries, dried strawberries, dried blueberries, dried rose hips, a banana chip, or a piece of apple, pear, a half of a fresh or frozen grape, or kiwi.
- veg, e.g. piece of carrot, flaked peas, parsley, chard, romaine, a dandelion leaf (small and washed). Avoid anything gas forming, e.g. broccoli, cabbage.
- dried herbs, if available you can pick herbs, then after washing them, hang them upside down (in bunches) in a warm area until they have completely dried out. Herbs suitable for chinchillas include oregano, comfrey, mint, nettle, dandelion, and raspberry leaves.
- grain, e.g. rolled oats, oat grouts, healthy cereals low in sugar like Shredded Wheat, plain Cheerios or Cornflakes.
- nuts and seeds, very sparingly – e.g. almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds
- commercially prepared, e.g. chinchilla crackers (produced for chinchillas and available in the US & UK), a small piece of dry toast, or an alfalfa-based animal treat.
- unsalted peanut in the shell, uncooked pasta…
Meds & First Aid
- Acidophilus for balanced gut bacteria
- Albon – Diarrhea Treatment
- Antibiotic cream – For minor cuts
- Baby Oat Cereal
- Baby wipes
- Charcoal – balances gut ph
- Cheek retractor to check molars
- Eye Wash
- Grooming Combs
- High-calorie supplement for weak or sick Chins
- Lavender oil for small abrasions or cuts
- Life Line helps with appetite
- Medical tape
- Ophthalmic Ointment
- Pedialyte for Electrolyte dehydration
- Powdered Goat Milk – kit formula
- Shredded Wheat Biscuits – Diarrhea Treatment
- Simethicone – For Bloat
Once you have confirmed that your chinchilla is pregnant, provide that chinchilla with plenty of extra hay, food, and water. Expectant mothers will drink and eat quite a bit more, so it is imperative that more food and water are at the chinchilla’s disposal. Some people will stop giving calf mana to there chinchillas once they know they are pregnant. People have reported that calf mana can cause larger babies and therefore causes the mother to have a more difficult birth. This could result in the baby getting stuck in the birth canal.
A chinchilla’s vagina opens before the chinchilla gives birth. Each chinchilla is different, so this can occur a week before she delivers, a few days before she delivers, or on the day of delivery. If you do not know your chinchilla’s due date, it is best to remove the chinchilla from her partner once you see she has opened. This will prevent breedback from occurring.
Breedback is when the female chinchilla has delivered her litter, and the male will breed her again. This causes a lot of stress on the chinchilla’s body because she is feeding and looking after kits on the outside, and nurturing kits on the inside. Breedback takes a lot out of a chinchilla mother. If breedback does occur, make sure the chinchilla gets a long break before she is put back into breeding.
After the female chinchilla has given birth her vagina remains opens for approximately ten days. Once her vagina has closed the male chinchilla can be put back in with her to help raise the kits. Monitor the female and male closely to ensure nothing negative happens. Also, monitor the female’s genitalia after she has given birth. Sometimes females can get infections, so watch for any discolored discharge or bad odor. If you see any signs of infection, the chinchilla will have to be taken to the vet for antibiotics.
If you’re lucky enough you will get to witness the birth of your chinchilla’s kits. People often miss the birthing because it usually occurs in the early morning. However, chinchillas can give birth at any time during the day or night. If you have a cage with multiple levels, the chinchilla will go to the very bottom level to give birth; this usually happens about a week before the birthing. When the time to deliver comes, your chinchilla will begin to start stretching. She will walk around the cage stretching her back legs.
Once the contractions start your chinchilla may be sitting on all four legs or standing on her back legs. If the chinchilla is having contractions while on her back two legs she will stand straight up when having the contraction. She will then go back to sitting on her back two legs. If the chinchilla is on all four legs having contractions, she will lean forward during the contractions. You may even be able to see the sides of your chinchilla become really indented during each contraction. It is not uncommon for chinchillas to grind their teeth while in labor, some will even let out squeaks of pain.
Once the water breaks your chinchilla’s stomach may become soaked with water, however, this doesn’t always occur. Sometimes when the water breaks the water will just go into the shavings, and there will be no visible signs of the water had broken.
You may notice your chinchilla monitoring her vagina during the process of her labor. Once the chinchilla is ready to deliver a kit, she will bend down and pull the kit out with her teeth. She will then proceed to clean the kit off. Sometimes with first-time mothers, they become a little eager to clean their baby. This can sometimes result in the kit getting injured. If you notice your chinchilla becoming a little too eager with her kits, you can remove the kit and start to dry it off yourself.
In the case of multiple litters, the mother chinchilla may start to have contractions right after delivering her first kit. She may then ignore the kit that was just born and move on to begin delivering the second kit. If you see this happening, remove the kit and start to dry it off until the mother chinchilla can focus her attention on it.
The mother chinchilla will deliver an afterbirth, and in most cases, this signifies the end of the birthing. However, there have been cases where the chinchilla is not finished. Chinchilla’s have two uterine horns and can hold kits in both horns. The afterbirth may just be the ending of one of the uterine horns.
Once your chinchilla has finished giving birth, it is best to pick her up and check her stomach to make sure there are no other chinchillas inside her. By gentle pushing her stomach, she should feel squishy, but if her stomach still feels hard and you can still feel lumps, she still has kits inside her. Give the chinchilla some time to see if she has the kits on her own. If her labor has stopped completely, she should be taken to a vet. Some chinchillas can go hours between kits, and some will have one right after the other.
If a kit becomes stuck in the birth canal, you can gently try to ease the kit out with the chinchilla’s contractions, *most kits often die when they become stuck, and you have to work them out*. This should only be done if you are confident in handling your chinchilla under stress. If you are unable to get the kit out, the chinchilla needs to be taken to a vet. The faster you get the kit out, the better chance you have of saving the mother chinchilla. Kits that becomes stuck are fatal to the mother chinchilla. Chinchillas will bleed during delivery, but not a whole lot of blood will be noticeable. If you notice your chinchilla is bleeding quite a bit and continues to bleed after she has finished delivering all the kits, she needs to be taken to a vet.
Chinchilla Mother’s Milk
It is always best to find out if the mother’s milk is coming in before you decide to hand feed any kit. Finding out if the mother chinchilla’s milk has come in can be tricky if your chinchilla does not like to be held. Make sure to hold the chinchilla firmly so it cannot get loose. You then gently spread the fur covering the teat, you should be able to visibly see an elongated red/pink teat. Gently squeeze the teat at the base of the chinchilla’s skin in a downward motion, this should cause milk to come out of the end of the teat.
Do not worry if on the first day no milk appears to have come in. Chinchilla mother’s milk usually does not come in on the first day. To help the mother’s milk to come in you can put a water bottle, consisting of half water and half unsweetened cranberry juice, into the cage. Make sure you provide the chinchilla with a water bottle with just water in it as well. During the first week of life, make sure you weigh the kit often to make sure the mother is providing them with enough milk. Kits should gain 2-5 grams per day.
Hand Feeding Kits
Only start hand feeding if it is absolutely necessary. Hand feeding should take place every 2 hours for the first week the kit is born. You can get away with 3 hours at night. Then increase the time between hand feedings by an hour of each additional week. Week 2 feed every 3 hours, week three every 4 hours, etc.. At night you can increase the time by an hour as well. You may have to go back to hand feeding every two hours if the kit is not gaining.
This is what I used while hand feeding, but it may have to be modified to each specific kit.
When starting to get a kit to hand feed gently hold the kit in one hand in an upright position. Place your fingers over the legs to prevent the kit from getting loose. Try not to hold the kit too tightly, just enough so it cannot get away from you. Then, place the syringe on the lips in the kit, and allow one drop to sit on the kits lips. The kit will then lick the drop off its lips. Continue to do this until the kit gets the hang of hand feeding.
You do not want to rush the kit into hand feeding because you then run the risk of aspiration. You will know the kit has aspirated if it starts to make a coughing noise and milk starts to come out of the kit’s nose. Don’t be alarmed if this happens, because chances are it will occur when your kit is starting out at hand feeding. If this happens put the kit’s body into your hand (make sure you support the neck) and bring the kit up to your body, then swing the kit down towards your legs. This will force out any fluid remaining in the lungs. If not a lot of milk has entered the lungs of your kit then the kit should be able to cough it out by itself, just make sure you wipe off the milk coming out of the nose to prevent it from going back into the nose.
Hand fed kits should be weighed at every feeding during the first week. It’s much slower for weight gains in hand-fed babies. This is because it takes them a while to figure out the whole hand-feeding process. If your hand feeding a kit and the kit is not gaining any weight and has started to lose weight, you need to start hand feeding more often. If the kit is not gaining and not losing you can try to feed them more often. During the first week of life, kits should be taking anywhere from 1 – 3 full syringes. One syringe equals one cc.
Recipe for Hand Feeding
- One can of goat’s milk (if goat’s milk cannot be found you can use evaporated milk)
- One can of water
- One tablespoon of live active bacteria culture yogurt
- One tablespoon of dried baby rice cereal
- Two drops of light corn syrup (I didn’t use this in my mixture because it gave the kit diarrhea)
This mixture only stays good for two days. You can freeze the rest in ice cube trays
Owning a chinchilla is not difficult! Here is my personal shopping list, created from the things I use daily! (Chinchilla Shopping List) Here are a few brief instructions that will make owning a chinchilla easier:
- Keep your chinchilla cool, below 70 degrees and away from a draft.
- Give your chinchilla a large size cage.
- Supply your chinchilla with superior food.
- Be kind and gentle with your chinchilla!
- Play with him every day
- Let him out of his cage every day for at least 30 minutes, preferably 2 hours.
- Give them good chew toys
- Provide good water – no fluoride or chlorine!
The privilege of owning a chinchilla
Chinchillas are from South America found mainly in Peru and Argentina. These little fur balls love to leap and climb. As a pet, you will be amazed at the heights they jump during playtime. Chinchillas require a lot of exercise and lots of playful interaction with their owners. Since these animals are from mountainous regions, they are adapted to cool, non-humid air conditions. When having a chinchilla as a pet, it is mandatory that they have proper air-conditioning during the warmer seasons. We here at ChinchillaStuff.com have high humidity during summer months this is deadly to a chinchilla. A fan will not cool chinchillas. They do not sweat or pant like other animals so if you use a fan to try to cool them you will only be blowing hot air on them and creating more stress. Temps most comfortable for our pet chins are 64-72 leaning on the cooler side. Temps above 75 in combination with humidity will kill your loving pet. Wintertime most people keep their home at 68-72, and the air is drier; this is fine for the chinchilla.
Chinchillas are inexpensive.
Chinchillas are inexpensive to own the main investment of the chinchilla his cage (see my chin cage) and some accessories can range from a total of $200 to $350 on an average depending on the cost of the cage and of the chin. Chinchillas do not require shots, but please be sure there is a vet near you that can care for your chin if it should get sick or injured. Chinchillas live 15 to 20 yrs, and many are capable of reproducing up into their teens. The key to long life is to get your chinchilla from a reputable breeder who will assist you on your questions as needed, has pedigree information on your pet, and explains a proper diet for your chinchilla. There are a variety of foods on the market, and it is important that you know what to look for and avoid in chinchilla feeds. Breeders that have worked with chins for many years are best suited to explain a healthy diet. It is wise to follow exactly the diet that the breeder recommends since their herd has done well on this routine. Some breeders differ in the diet; this does not mean one is wrong over the other, it means this is what has worked best for them and their chins.
Chinchillas are very smart.
They learn their name in a short period of time; they recognize different people within the house. They will bond to the whole family but may still have a favorite. Chinchillas look at everything as fun and adventure. Always make a new experience positive, so your chin learns that it is always safe. Chinchillas are the “Boss.” They feel the need to always be in charge, respect this and your pet will love you all the more. Always expect more from your chin and you’ll get more! They can learn continually and have a long memory. Some chins are very trainable while others train you 🙂 .
Chinchillas need to chew; their teeth grow throughout their life and hays, chew toys, good feed and filtered water all benefit the teeth.
Water is a big concern because tap/city water contains chlorine and fluoride this blocks calcium absorption and can be poisonous to your chin. Well, water has softeners in which contain high amounts of sodium or potassium, these can kill your chinchilla. Purified bottled water, filtered water: filtered refrigerator water, reverse osmosis, carbon filtration systems or distilled are recommended. Some bottled water has sodium added so read your labels; nothing should be added.
Chinchillas eat a specially formulated green pellet designed to fit their nutritional needs. Rabbit pellets should not be used one reason is the vitamin A content is higher, and the calcium is lower than what is needed to meet the needs of a chinchilla which can cause liver damage. Some countries can’t get chinchilla pellets and have substituted with rabbit pellets. This is true with guinea pig pellets also; they are designed to meet the needs of the guinea pig. Be sure to use a top quality chinchilla pellet only.
When shopping for good chinchilla food, you need to be aware of several things;
- First, the pellets should contain no corn. Corn, due to the way it is stored it can contain aflatoxins (fungus) that can kill your chinchilla. To research aflatoxins, you can check with the Dept. of Agriculture.
- Many feeds found in pet stores are medicated; your chinchilla doesn’t need this daily medication, and it can affect their health over time.
- Third, there should be an expiration date on the product. Most feeds have a 3 to 6-month shelf life after this time the nutritional value breaks down, and the food is no longer good.
- In our home, we use Oxbow pellets because we feel it is the best on the market for chinchillas. We get this feed shipped in fresh on a regular schedule. A chinchilla eats about two tablespoons of pellets daily; this is about 1.5 pounds per month. The average pet owner purchases 2lb every 4 to 5 weeks.
The diet is not complete without hay. Alfalfa and timothy hays are among the favorites used. Alfalfa is high in nutrition and highly valued for its protein and calcium content. Alfalfa hay is needed for nutrition and for fiber. The other benefit is for good chewing to help keep the teeth warn properly. Timothy hay is especially good for fiber and dental purposes. The Timothy hay and the alfalfa hay both have different textures this creates the chin to chew in different directions keeping the teeth worn more even. Both hays are found in loose bundles or in pressed cubes. The hays should be free of glue binders and pesticides.
We use a whole grain and seed blend that is fortified with vitamins and minerals, Seward’s Vitagrain Supplement. Our chinchillas each get one teaspoon of this product daily and find it to be their favorite part of feeding time. This makes a great bonding tool if you feed it to your new chin out of your hand. Never give more than the recommended amount even though they beg you for more!
If Liquid pet chinchilla vitamins are used instead of our Vitagrain Supplement, this should be added to the water, but it is mandatory that the water bottle gets scrubbed out daily to prevent bacterial growth in the water. A dirty water bottle can lead to bacterial growth that can cause illness and tooth loss in your pet. Always follow dose directions on the bottle.
Use good judgment on this. Read your labels. I only use natural products for my chins. Spoon size shredded wheat is loved by chins and safe for a daily treat. Other cereals contain BHA, BHT, Trisodium phosphate, sugar, salt, and colors, YECK! Read labels!!! The shredded wheat should not be the frosted or fruit filled type. An occasional unsalted, non-roasted, non-oiled sunflower seeds in the shell are great, or pumpkin seed is healthy and loved by chins. Unsweetened banana chip, ½ raisin, rose hips, unsweetened/unsulphered papaya are safe treats too. Peanuts are not a safe treat. Peanuts can be affected by aflatoxins like corn and should never be given to your pet. Too many treats will make your pet too full to eat the pellets needed in the diet to maintain good health so only one or two little treats daily.
There is one product that I consider safe and superior above all others! Blue Cloud Dust is what I personally use and is real volcanic ash. This is a soft absorbent natural product. Chinchillas in the wild roll in volcanic ash to keep their fur in top condition. A bath should be offered 2 to 3 times weekly for a 10 to 20 minute period. This same dust can be used through the week but should be thrown away at the end of the week. Thoroughly wash the container with a mild soap, such as dish soap rinse completely, dry and place the fresh dust for the week. Do not sift the dust and use for longer than one week. Bacteria will grow in the dust and can cause health problems for your pet. If the dustbin is left in the cage it will get used as a litter box and you will need to discard the dust. Ordinary sand is not suitable for bathing since it will not properly clean your chin and it will damage the beautiful fur there is also the risk of getting into your pet’s eyes or yours.
Chinchillas are such a wonderful pet. Most people have no idea how lovable, clever and smart these little animals are. This is not a pet to purchase if you are not a long-term commitment person because a chinchilla has been known to live as long as 35 years. Most chinchilla house pets have a life expectancy of 15-20 years. You want to be sure that this pet will be loved and tended to for all these years. This is a new family member, and it will need regular care and attention.
Proper Chinchilla Bonding Involves:
- Healthy, Regular Habits for eating, sleeping and playtime.
- Vet Care when needed.
- Being Gentle And Calm
- Let him out to run in a safe room
- Never Chase your chinchilla!
- Love Him!
Chinchillas really are a special little pet. They have a cheerful disposition and are ready to play upon seeing you. To maintain good health, a chinchilla should be on a regular schedule for eating, sleeping, time out of the cage for playtime, etc. You’ll need to spend at least 2 or more hours daily with your chinchilla. The more time you spend with your pet, the better the pet and your bond.
Chinchillas are low maintenance and have no foul odors if maintained properly. Chins don’t require shots from your vet. It is a good idea to know of a vet that can treat your chin if it should get ill or have an injury.
Chinchilla Bonding 101
When you get your new chinchilla home set the cage up right away with food and water. Then take the chinchilla and place it in the cage. Let the chin explore its new home and take a nap until the evening. Baby chinchillas need reassurance. They need to know you love them and will care for them. They are a baby so treat them like a baby. Do not leave a baby chin alone the first evening when you bring it home. You need to be there when it wakes up, around 6-7pm. Take it out of the cage even if it squawks at you. Pick it up cuddle it and talk softly to let it know everything is ok. If you put on a large overshirt and place the chin inside between your shirts, it will feel secure. When a chin can’t see you, he thinks you don’t know where he is so when hiding in the shirt this provides security but the chinchilla can hear your voice, your breathing, and your heartbeat and can smell you. This creates the chin to get used to you and bond with you. Sit in your favorite chair, watch TV, read, work on the computer. Let your chin run up and down your sleeves, peek out at you from the neckline, run down your back or nap. Do this for one hour daily for three days, and your chin will think you are the greatest thing in the world!! During this time do not let your chin have free run time. When the chin comes out of the cage, you want it to be excited to come out to be with you. If you let your chin run loose before it is bonded to you, it will look forward to coming out of the cage to be free not to be with you. I like to see people wait for 2 to 3 weeks before giving floor runtime. Allow the chin to run on your lap and the sofa but avoid the floor for a couple of weeks.
Ready To Run
When you are ready to let your chin run lose, you need to be sure the area is chin proofed! Be aware of electrical cord and low lying furniture. You can roll up a towel or stuff a pillow in front of dressers etc. so the chin can’t go under where you can’t reach to retrieve him. Beware of lazy boy chairs and the springs underneath. Most people like to let them run in the bathroom it’s small and easy to chin proof or a hallway that you can close doors and block off. SPECIAL NOTES: Be sure to remain seated while letting your chin run around. It is very easy to step on or kneel down on a chin at play. Close the toilet seats, chins look up and only see something to jump up on not knowing the lid is up. Wet chinchillas are susceptible to pneumonia which is life-threatening.
Chinchillas are chewers their teeth grow throughout their life and must be worn down so be sure to provide safe, non-toxic branches, pine blocks or pumice stones for your pet. Also, remember when your chin is out playing watch that those electric cords are not accessible because they will chew them! Tape up wires or local hardware stores care plastic tubing with a cut up the side to place your wires in to prevent damage.
Chinchillas can be trained to use a litter box and can be trained to go back in their cage upon demand. When you get your new chinchilla to spend a lot of time carrying him around with you. Don’t let him (her) run free until your sure your pet trusts you (about two weeks). During this time when you put your chin back in its cage after the door is closed make a crinkling sound from the treat package then give the chin a treat. When you are ready to let your chin out for free play be sure to give it enough time to really play (at least an hour). Never trick or tease your chin they are smart and have a long-term memory, and they won’t trust you. Never chase your pet to put it in the cage. Chin psychology is needed! Slowly approach your pet then luring it into a corner, casually talk to it, wave your left hand around slowly to get its attention and gently with your other hand scoop up your pet. If you fail, try again but don’t get upset with your pet and frighten it. Dropping a towel or small blanket over your chin puts the chin in darkness, causing him to stop and calm down. Then gently while talking to him pick up the covered chin and gently return him to his cage.
Is that True?
Yes, it is true chinchillas will lick your face or lips as a sign of affection. Yes, they learn their name and come when called if you are always patient and gentle with them. And be sure to rub behind their ears, under their chin, and on their chest because they adore this!
Most people will not have the time or skills to build their own DIY Chinchilla cages but if you do then this page will give you a good guide on how to begin. If however you just want to get your Chinchilla cage and get going with owning a pet Chinchilla then see our Best Chinchilla cage recommendations page.
HOMEMADE CHINCHILLA CAGE
Do be very careful if you are constructing and building a DIY Chinchilla cage because if you don’t get it right you might find your Chinchilla gets his feet and legs trapped in a corner of the cage. Also be careful with the materials you use for the cage because many types of wood are treated with toxic chemicals which can poison and kill your pet. Make sure the wood is untreated.
Do not build your Chinchilla cage with wire mesh that a Chinchilla can get caught up in if the gaps are too large. Unfortunately, many well-meaning people try to save money by building their own Chinchilla cages and they don’t realize the dangerous environment they have created. Do not use any plastic – your rodent Chinchilla will chew on it and ingest the plastic.
Be careful with shelving inside your Chinchilla cages because they must be solid, your Chinchilla will jump and leap about from shelf from to shelf. Be careful not to have a situation where falling or slipping from the top shelf means your Chinchilla falls all the way down to the bottom, stagger the shelves.
BUILDING CHINCHILLA CAGES
Why build Chinchilla cages? You will save money. Animal cages, if you can find them locally, are still quite expensive. A large cage could easily cost you $300 or more. If you are shopping on the Internet or mail-order (which you might have to do with limited local options) and now you’ll have to add in high shipping costs. Building a cage for your Chinchilla, even a large one, should cost well under $200.
Even more importantly, though, is the opportunity to build the Chinchilla cage you want. If you buy one in a pet store you are settling for someone else’s design. The cage you find might not fit your space, or be particularly attractive. If you build your own cage you can create the size and shape you want – in addition to a few, convenient upgrades you won’t find in a pet store cage. I’ve noticed the average Chinchilla owner will want to upgrade about two years from their initial purchase: so why not build the cage you really want in the first place?
CHINCHILLA CAGE PLANS AND DESIGN
For the frame, I recommend 1×2 lumber (ash or pine, whatever is inexpensive). Get enough to create a complete 3d box for the frame of your cage. You’ll some 2-inch wood screws to build the frame. The melamine panels (get them cut where you buy them, or cut them with a circular or table saw) fit inside the frame, attached with Liquid Nails or another adhesive. You can caulk the edges to make them watertight.
Build a door or doors the same way (a frame of wood) but staple wire to the door so you can see inside the cage. Other considerations include covering the outside with a plywood (for a nice furniture look), staining the exterior pine, building shelves, and attaching wheels to the base if you want to move the cage around easily.
Although the process may sound daunting, all of these steps could easily be completed by a beginner. Just carefully plan your Chinchilla cage before you buy anything, and ask for help at the big box store or lumberyard you buy at (have them make the cuts for you). Eventually, you will have the Chinchilla cage you’ve always dreamed of.
For more help and ideas, be sure to read some of the DIY Chinchilla cage post in our Chinchilla Cage category. I’ll have pictures and many more details there, and I’ll be happy to help you through the process.
VIDEO ON BUILDING A CHINCHILLA CAGE
This video below is a very clever use of shelving units. This gives you a good idea of whether you can do it yourself or whether you are better off just buying a Chinchilla cage right now with no hassles and no time wasted! Watch the video on how to build a Chinchilla cage:
Treasures of many have an Etsy shop where she crafts fleece Chinchilla cage covers. I’m going to try out some of her items as well as items from a few other places. I’ll let you know what I think of the products once I’ve had a chance to test them out.
Basic Wound Management.
Every chinny owner will, at some point, come across a wound on their pet – these can range in severity from superficial wounds such as a scratch, or a cut lip/nose, to the more serious nipped toe (some chins have had their toes nipped clean off by another chinny) to Bumblefoot, or surgical wounds, tumors, and abscesses.
The correct care of such wounds is essential to minimize/prevent the risk of infection and to provide the optimum environment for healing.
Research into wound healing has taken place for many years – the following is based on such research and my personal experience as a chinny owner. However, please bear in mind that wound care is a very complex process and it is not possible to go into all the connotations of wound management/healing in this article.
A wound can be defined as – a cut or break in the continuity of any tissue caused by injury or operation.
There are many different types of wounds. The most common found in chinchilla keeping will be:
- Surgical Wounds
- Traumatic – amputations (e.g., toes), bites, abrasions, bruising
- Chronic Ulcers (such as bumblefoot)
It is important to assess the wound first and foremost to try to establish the underlying cause (so further occurrences may be prevented where possible) and to formulate a treatment plan.
Assessment of the wound should include:
General condition of the animal, clinical signs of infection which include the surrounding skin condition (red, hot, fluctuant [squishy]), pus, lost fur, the wound itself (including colour of the wound, depth, size), any bleeding or fluid loss, position of the wound, and underlying cause.
Once the assessment has been made it should be possible to formulate a treatment plan.
Please note that referral to a qualified veterinarian is essential if the infection is suspected or the owner does not have the experience and confidence to deal with the wound.
Signs of Infection.
It is imperative that wounds are inspected daily for signs of infection which are:
- Localized (around the wound site) redness, swelling.
- Localized heat, pain. (difficult to gauge in a chinchilla because they are good at hiding pain).
- Increased exudate (fluid coming from the wound).
- Friable wound (delicate wound tissue – bleeds easily).
- Odor – wound smells bad.
- A general increase in body temperature (difficult to judge with a chinchilla).
Wound management works on the same principles for animals as humans – research has found that the optimum environment for wound healing is one which is moist and warm. However, this is also the optimum environment for bacterial reproduction – so always check for signs of infection when treating any wound.
Never use cotton wool to clean wounds – the fibers which get left behind in the wound can slow down the wound healing and lead to increased risk of infection (fur should also be clipped away from the edges of wounds and the wound cleaned with saline for the same reason). It is also very painful to remove cotton wool fibers from a wound – Use a lint-free gauze swab.
All wounds should be monitored for changes in appearance, unusual bleeding, or infection – Veterinary advice must be sought if this is noticed.
It is not possible to go into all the variations of wounds and the care which can be given, but some suggestions of wounds and treatment regimes are as follows:
Superficial, small wounds: (e.g., Scrapes, minor cuts, minor bites)
- Cleanse with normal saline (salt water one tablespoon in a cup of boiled, cooled water).
- If the wound is very superficial and is small, then it can be left to heal without any treatment.
- The wound should be monitored daily for signs of infection (as above).
Superficial, large wounds: (e.g., extensive scrapes, bites, unexplained skin lesions).
- Cleanse with sterile water (cooled, boiled water)
- Clip the fur away from the edge of the wound (to prevent it from getting stuck to the wound bed).
- Apply cream to keep the surface of the wound moist (reduces pain and allows the wound to heal faster). An example of a suitable cream is green cream (bunnymail).
- Monitor for infection and refer to vet if concerned.
- Apply ointment/creams as prescribed by your vet.
Simple amputations (e.g., Bitten through toes)
- Check wound for signs of bone protruding from the wound (will be creamy colored and hard). If a bone is present in the wound bed, then a veterinary opinion is essential.
- Cleanse wound with saline
- Monitor daily for signs of infection
- Allow to self-heal or use ointments/creams as prescribed by your vet.
Surgical Wounds: (e.g., After abdominal surgery, castration, removal of a tumor)
- Monitor wounds for signs of infection.
- Monitor for signs of the chinny removing the stitches.
- Monitor for signs of wound edges opening.
- Veterinary opinion if required.
- Provide soft areas in the cage for pressure relief.
- Check for signs of infection.
- Spray areas with Purple Spray if required.
- Veterinary intervention is necessary if the wounds continue to break open, bleed, or become infected.
- Use creams as prescribed by your vet.
Cavity wounds/abscess: (cavity wound is a deep hole).
Always require veterinary intervention however the basic principles are as follows:
- Fur should be clipped away from the wound edges (to prevent the fur from becoming stuck to the wound )
- Flush wound with saline/irrigation fluid supplied by the vet, ensuring that all the fluid comes back out of the cavity. This may require a syringe technique which your vet should teach you.
- If the wound is open, use a suitable gel such as IntraSite (or veterinary prescribed treatment) to keep the wound bed moist.
- Keep the wound entrance open – this will prevent fluid from building up in the wound, causing pain, infection and further abscess.
- Monitor the wound for signs of infection.
Abscesses are caused by infection and often are predisposed by injury. Such injuries occur when the young bite the mother while nursing. Sharp projections in the cage (especially newly constructed ones) and fighting are other causes. Filthy pens or pens that not disinfected routinely often harbor pus-producing organisms.
Antibiotic therapy for 3 – 5 days will often eliminate the infections. If lancing is necessary, it should be done by a veterinarian, or at least you should be coached by a veterinarian. If the animal becomes ill (off feed), seek professional help. The front teeth of the young should be examined for irregularities and if present, corrective measures instituted. Sharp projections in the cage should be sought and removed if present. The cage and utensils should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Prevention consists of removing the predisposing factors mentioned previously.
- Collar to prevent chewing
- Seek medical attention immediately
The majority of broken bones occur in the legs, most often in the hind legs. A broken bone may be the result of a fall on a hard surface, being struck by a falling object when an animal escapes from its pen or a limb may be caught in a narrow opening and twisted. Wire bottom pens, one inch by one-half inch mesh, often allow the hock of chinchilla to go through and be caught, and a broken leg results in the struggle to get free. Improper or rough handling, such as catching or holding by the legs, can result in broken bones.
Place the animal in an isolation pen in quiet surroundings and seek professional help. The animal should be collared to prevent chewing the broken bone. The collar should be fashioned from stiff cardboard made in two halves taped together. The difference between the inner and outer radius should be about one and one-half inches.
Examining the door catches routinely to avoid escapes. It is suggested that 1″ x ½” mesh be avoided for the booms of pens. Learn how to retrain chinchillas properly.
Broken or Frozen Tails
A broken tail is usually caused by rough handling or closing the door on it, and a frozen tail is caused by housing during very cold weather in unheated quarters. Neither injury is considered serious.
Treatment – Breaks
House the animal alone. If no displacement has occurred, put a collar on the animal and do nothing else. Avoid handling by the tail for at least four weeks. If displacement has occurred contact your local veterinarian.
Treatment – Freezing
Usually, the tail falls off with no unfavorable results. If the chinchilla tends to chew its tail, apply a collar. It is very seldom necessary to isolate these animals. Antibiotics may be used to prevent secondary infection.
Torn Ears and Head Injuries
Place the animals in separate cages and watch them closely. The torn areas should be clipped of fur, washed with soap and water and rinsed with a mild disinfectant. In some cases, it may be necessary to give penicillin. Sever injuries should be attended to by a veterinarian. Uneventful healing usually occurs if the above measures are carefully carried out. The pens and utensils must be kept clean. If infection occurs, bathing two or three times daily with warm salty water will cleanse and hence assist healing of the wound.
When introducing strange animals to the breeding herd, patience and caution must be exercised. The new animal should be allowed to get used to his new quarters before coming in contact with other animals.
Some mechanical means of closing the male out of the female pen should be available and used at the first sign of fighting. If fighting again occurs separate them. Usually, two or three instances of this teaches the lesson. However, a vicious male may be put in a separate pen for several months and then tried again.
Vicious fighting is not necessary and should not be tolerated.
This is usually caused by jumping to the floor from a high cage during an escape attempt where the animal us alone or when you are attempting to catch it. As a rule, only the front teeth (incisors) are broken. Sometimes the teeth become caught in the wire mesh and are broken in the struggle to be free.
If only one tooth is broken, file down the sharp points. If two or more are broken, clip them off evenly and file smooth. Put the animal on a soft diet until normal mastication can be resumed. It may be necessary to isolate the animal.
Excessively high temperatures, poor ventilation, insufficient water and often direct exposure to the sunlight.
If the animal is unconscious and has a high temperature, place it in a cool place and lower the chinchilla’s temperature to normal but not below (99-101°F). When it revives, give it a few drops of cool, slightly salted water. If the temperature becomes sub-normal, the treatment should be reversed, and attempts made to conserve body heat and restore the temperature to normal.
Proper housing and air-conditioning.
A ring of hair behind the glans of the penis following mating.
Isolate and put a collar on the animal. Remove the fur, apply vaseline and massage the penis very gently in an attempt to reduce the swelling. Apply an antibiotic ointment three or four times daily.
Males that are in polygamous breeding set-up should be examined at any sign of irritation.
Usually projection of wire or splinters of wood in the eye. This is seen most frequently when new cages and nest boxes have been built recently.
Isolate, and if the injury is severe or the foreign body is still present, seek veterinary assistance. If the injury is moderate and there is no foreign body present, an antibiotic ointment should be put in the eye twice daily until recovery occurs.
Check for and remove any harmful projections in the pen.
I hope that this proves of interest and is helpful.
Please note ALL bite wounds should be referred for veterinary intervention. Bite wounds may look superficial at the surface but may be fatal if left untreated – there is a serious risk of abscessation, deep tissue trauma, infection, and rapid deterioration and death due to severe shock. ALL chins with bite injuries must be treated for shock and taken for immediate veterinary advice.
T. J. Pridham, D.V.M., circa 1969
Chinchillas are naturally playful and cheeky little pets, but this wonderful friendly nature will only come out if you set up your Chinchilla’s living environment so that it is as happy as it can be. A depressed Chinchilla does not make a good pet! Part of making your Chinchilla happy is setting up their cage with some basic chinchilla cage accessories.
The bare minimum that your Chinchillas needs are a durable and safe exercise wheel, a water bottle that’s easy to clean, a food dish and hay rack that they can not be knocked over, cage toys and an adequately sized cage that is properly placed within your home. Here is a list of items I use:
- Chinchilla Shopping List
- Chinchilla Cages
- Chinchilla Food
- Chinchilla Food Dish
- Chinchilla Accessories
Size of Chinchilla Cage
Without a doubt, this is the most important tip for Chinchilla cages. Just like human beings we all want our house to be as large and as big as possible, money permitting of course! Well, Chinchillas are absolutely no different, so depending on the money you are able and willing to spend on your Chinchilla cage, it is always advisable to buy the biggest, largest size of Chinchilla cage your money will buy you. Chinchillas don’t necessarily need a mansion but they are very active pets who love to jump from branch to branch.
Choosing the Best Chinchilla Wheel
No matter what the size of Chinchilla cage you have buying a Chinchilla wheel, also known as Chinchilla exercise wheel enables your Chinchilla to run and run until it’s little legs are absolutely exhausted. A Chinchilla wheel in effect makes even a small Chinchilla cage bigger by enabling the Chinchilla to exercise itself and remain fit and healthy. What happens with the Chinchilla wheel is that it spins and the Chinchilla runs on top of it or inside it. The wheel is ideal if you are unable to allow your Chinchilla outside its cage very often. (note: Chins need out of their cage every day for a minimum of 30 minutes!)
Bottles and Feeders
Make sure you have a bottle which allows your Chinchilla to drink as often as it cares to. Keeping your Chinchilla hydrated is absolutely essential for its health and well-being. Remember that Chinchillas will chew anything in sight so glass bottles are best or metal tipped bottles that hang on the outside of the cage. For feeding your Chinchilla, make sure that the food bowl is ceramic or glass as once again a plastic one will soon be eaten by your Chinchilla which actually could kill it if it ingests the plastics. Ideally attach hopper-style feeders to the outside of the cage for ease filling, changing and cleaning.
Placement of the Chinchilla Cage
Many people mistakenly put their Chinchilla cage where they can see it on a regular basis. Many people end up putting their cage in the lounge or living room where they spend much of their time. This environment is actually bad for your Chinchilla because there is lots of noise either from your family or from the television. In all honesty, the best place for your Chinchilla cage is in a quiet area where they may have peace and quiet and not suffer from stress and shocks. Don’t forget to not put the cage in a cold, overly hot or draughty area. Chinchillas appreciate a regular temperature which is not susceptible to regular changes.
Once again Chinchillas can certainly be like human beings. As human beings, we love to play and be entertained. Your Chinchilla is the same. So once again when it comes to your Chinchilla cage make sure the contains a number of toys and activities to keep your Chinchilla stimulated and busy. There are a whole host of accessories which you can buy for your Chinchilla cage. Chew toys are especially good because your Chinchilla does need to grind its teeth down, so these are practical as well as for pleasure. Look for safe-wood chew toys, hanging parrot toys with bells, tubes, boxes, and swings. There are many more, but that should get you started. If you are unsure what is or is not safe-wood for your Chinchilla, please read “What Are Some Chinchilla Safe Wood for Chews, Shelves, And Toys”