It is best to get a cage that is stainless steel in design, such that acidic urine from chinchillas will not get it rusty. The bottom of a cage usually comes in two varieties: A grilled wire mesh bottom or a solid bottom. A wire mesh bottom is supposed to be easier to clean (if litter pan slides out and doesn’t lift out) than a solid bottom cage. However, there are cases where chinchilla feet has been caught! For this reason, I prefer the solid bottom cages! Yes, it may take a little more time to clean, but my chins safety is worth that extra 2-3 minutes! DO NOT buy a cage with a lot of plastic on the inside (some ferret cages) NO plastic shelves and running tubes, or NO cages with PVC coating. They will just gnaw and chew it off. Solid bottom cages are a tad messier because of shavings. But this can be resolved by getting urine guards which can easily be homemade. I also prefer these as chins if kept on all wire floor without having any access to bedding can get sores on their feet. Keep in mind size limits: 2′ X 2’X 2’ is the smallest recommended size for 2-3 Chins need plenty of jumping and running room. I highly recommend the Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation.
Often Pet shops and other such suppliers will sell an overpriced plastic or wooden cage that is not right for your chin. On many occasions, I have seen long tall birdcages being sold as suitable cages for chins, which they are not. Generally speaking, these pet shops never know where the chin is going, so don’t care about the type of cage it lives in, whereas a reputable breeder will usually offer advice and further contact after a purchase has been made with them.
A clear airflow is needed but not drafts, these can kill a chinchilla, as can heat exhaustion if the temperature exceeds 78 degrees f. The cage should not be positioned in direct sunlight as it can become too hot for them. The room in which the cage lives should by light airy and dry, NOT damp, as this can cause fur fungus.
When transporting the chinchilla you should think carefully as to what you will carry it in, as if it is a long distance trip it will chew a plastic carry box, which could make it ill. Also, a cardboard box will pose no obstacle to a chinchilla, not to mention ventilation is poor. I prefer the 32.5-inch crate made by Prevue Pet Products.
A good container for drinking water is important for chinchillas. They come in the form of plastic bottles, and glass bottles. When you are having a plastic water bottle, be sure to have a proper water guard for it because a chewed plastic bottle will leak until it is empty. I use the Choco Nose H220 Patented No Drip Top-fill and highly recommend it to all of my friends. The top-fill design is easier to clean. I DO NOT use the plastic screw holder that comes with it, instead, I use the top cage clip. The plastic screw holder is a choking hazard if your chinchilla chews it, and he will! DO NOT USE WATER TRAYS OR BOWLS. Be sure to clean the bottle and change the water DAILY. In failing to do so, bacteria will grow and will cause illness to your chinchilla. For your chins food, I have tried several things. I finally found something that works best. First off, DO NOT USE BIN FEEDERS. These are dangerous due to chins climbing into them and suffocating. There have been reports of this. Bowls are recommended, I myself do not recommend any that do not attach to the cage because a lot of the food gets wasted from your chins running and jumping and playing. Kicks food out, tips bowl over, etc. I use the Living World Lock and Crock Dish. The dish mounts onto the side of the cage. Elevate the feeder some too, to keep chins from perching on it as much (although some still might) and so it doesn’t hurt their back.
Shavings are a must to absorb urine when the chinchillas’ pee. Other than using a litter pan filled with shavings, the bottom of the cage should also be lined with ‘safe shavings’. There are many forms of shavings available, but the one that I most suggest is the Kiln Dried Pine Shavings. DO NOT Use Cedar Shavings! OR any shavings with scents/perfumes, or oils to reduce odor!! It can cause respiratory distress. Kiln Dried Pine Shavings is the best for most chins Just make sure that it is 100% kiln dried all natural pine. Do not ever use newspaper to line the cage.
Just like everyone else, Chinchillas need to be kept clean. Because their fur is so fine they can’t be given a normal bath with soap and water. When it comes to their bathing, they have an extraordinary way of doing so. They bathe in ‘dust baths’. Most chinchillas love their baths. Chinchillas taking baths can be a real messy affair. Dust powder will start spewing from the moment they enter the ‘bathtub’. Also, watch your chinchillas while they are taking baths because they can quickly pee in it and will dirty themselves again.
It is highly recommended also that you always keep some anti-fungal powder (this isn’t absolutely necessary with just one or two chins as pets though) in the dust bath for a preventative against fur fungus/ringworm. I ONLY recommend Tinactin, which can be found at most grocery and drug stores. Put a teaspoon per cup of dust bath. Only a cup of dust bath is recommended. Refresh with all new dust and powder WEEKLY. Sooner if soiled. They should get into their dust bath 2-3x a week, and don’t let them stay in there for too long, or they will do their ‘business’ in there, therefore not exactly making it a clean haven anymore. Do not give your chinchillas dust baths every day because it will dry out their skin. I recommend about 2 – 3 times per week.
Hay is one thing that Chins eat daily. Edible hay comes in all sorts of varieties. Among all, the most common hay fodder being fed to chinchillas would be Timothy and alfalfa. I only recommend LOOSE Timothy hay and it can be free fed, they must have this forage in their diet. All chinchilla pellets primarily are Alfalfa based so they do not require an excessive amount of more alfalfa for it is too high in calcium. This is why Timothy hay is recommended. Alfalfa cubes, however, should be given in moderation, a small cube per week. Its good for their teeth and kinda like a snack. 2nd Cut Timothy hay is the best.
The hay that I recommend and use are either found at Amazon. Pet store hay is NOT RECOMMENDED unless it’s a fresh bale from a feed store. Pet store hay (ie: Petsmart/Petco etc.) is typically stale, brittle, and too old by the time it gets on the shelf. It is typically brownish in color. HAY IS NOT GOOD IF IT HAS A BROWN TINT TO IT. Hay should be a bright green color and fairly pliable. I give loose timothy hay daily.
Pellets should be given as part of a chinchilla’s daily diet. I give mine Oxbow Essentials and I prefer all babies of mine to be on this diet. It is all natural, and the chins poo looked most healthy, and the pregnant chins lactated much better. I have been on Mazuri and Kline also, and this by far is my favorite feed. Here is it’s analysis:
Timothy Grass Meal, Soybean Hulls, Wheat Middlings, Soybean Meal, Cane Molasses, Sodium Bentonite, Soybean Oil, Salt, Lignin Sulfonate, Limestone, Yeast Culture (dehydrated), Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Copper Sulfate, Selenium Yeast, Vitamin A Supplement, Folic Acid, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Proteinate, Riboflavin Supplement, Manganese Proteinate, Biotin, Manganous Oxide, Thiamine Mononitrate, Magnesium Sulfate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Cobalt Carbonate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate
The most common chinchilla diet and most readily available is Mazuri which is now also carried at Amazon. This would be the ONLY food I’d ever recommend from a pet store. Mazuri is a DECENT and suitable feed. However not my TOP choice due to the corn it has in it. Any other Pet Store pellets tend to not be very fresh and they have little to NO nutritional value. Some are also full of colored treats. PLEASE DO NOT feed your chin pet store pellets!! If you want your chin to live many years you will get them on a decent feed. Do note that proper air-tight containers must be used to hold pellets after the seal is opened. If the pellets have a strong stench or smell oily, it is best to discard them.
Chinchillas having long and sharp teeth is not a joking matter. First of all, a chinchilla’s sharp frontal teeth can draw blood if it were to bite the owner unintentionally. Secondly, long unground teeth can be fatal to a chinchilla because it can be so overgrown that it can end up puncturing a chinchilla skull. Therefore, it is also the duty of a chinchilla owner to become a good ‘dentist’. There are hundreds of chew toys available for chinchillas, ranging from chew blocks, wood, pumice stones, etc. The best ruling guide is to use materials as natural as possible to avoid any complexities. Getting some non-treated pine 2×4’s or dowels is always a plus.
I give my chins hanging bird wood chews. They love to chew on them and not only do they like to chew them, but they like to play with them! These can be found at Amazon or any pet store. Do not use any with plastic, rope, nuts, or anything that the chin could digest wrong, other than wood. Certain edible branches are great to have in their cage also, you can find these at your pet store in the bird section, or from Amazon which I find to be MUCH CHEAPER. They also make all kinds of other wood chews for chinchillas. NO PLASTIC TOYS! they can bite off a piece of plastic and choke, not to mention it’s bad for their digestive tract.
Chinchillas want to have fun too! Peek-a-boo items, tissue boxes, and perches are excellent considerations for a chinchilla’s home.
And NEVER ever put your chinchilla in one of the large running balls that look like hamster balls. The ventilation is very poor in them, and they get overheated very easily, also due to overexerting themselves to make it “go”. Chinchillas can and HAVE died of heat strokes in these. They are a HUGE NO NO!
Just as human have themselves a favorite treat, Chinchillas do too. They should be rewarded when having good behavior (for ex: coming straight to their cage after play time). Chinchillas are notorious little beggars when it comes to raisins. Treats have always been given to chinchillas as controlled food. It is unwise to give a huge amount of goodies to them on a daily basis because it is inadequate for their digestive system. Just as a five-year-old child eating a whole bag of candy is bad, it’s bad to give a chin too many treats. The only difference is that the chin won’t be able to tell you his/her tummy hurts, and a child will scream about it. Raisins and Peeled Apple Chunks are nice treats, but you can also go to Chin World, or LoneStar Chinchilla to find even more chin approved treats. Keep in mind ‘moderation’! I give each of my chins three raisins every morning.
It is more than likely that a chin will get sick from time to time. The best way to get a sick chinchilla on its feet is to see a vet immediately. However, there is some precautionary that can be taken by the owner beforehand. Also, you can help cure some problems by yourself.
For the example, general diarrhea might be cured with the reduction of moistened edibles such as raisins and alfalfa hay. The staple diet for the ill chinchilla should then consist of water, pellets, and timothy hay. I also give mine Pedialyte when diarrhea occurs so that the chin does not become dehydrated as easily. And a small piece of burnt bread can be given, the charcoal eases the stomach. If the symptoms still persist after two to three days, the chinchilla must then be seen by a vet for an appropriate examination. As a rule of thumb, an illness left unchecked for a few days is usually fatal for any chinchilla.
Two other common illnesses are skin fungus, and hair rings. Both of these need to be quickly treated. The best treatment and prevention is putting a teaspoon of Tinactin foot powder in your chinchillas’ dust bath, OR an oral antibiotic such as Griseofluvin if it is a really strong strain of fungus. *No chin should be given Griseofluvin if under 6 months old, or is pregnant or lactating. Also, the dosage should be carefully prescribed by a vet based on each individual chins weight. Skin fungus can sometimes be hard to detect if a chins skin on feet, nose, ears etc. becomes scaly, red or inflamed, this is a sign. Another visible sign is hair loss. Small patches of lost hair can become huge in a matter of days. They need immediate attention! The skin fungus is highly contagious to humans and other chins. If your chin comes down with this it must be removed from any other chins. And whatever chins the sick one was caged with must be treated also. DO NOT touch anything after you have touched a chin with skin fungus until you wash your hands well with anti-bacterial soap. Once the condition it cleared up with the chin, cage and EVERYTHING your chin has had contact within the cage needs to be sterilized. The Fungus bacteria live for a very long time.
The other common illness is “hair rings”. Hair rings are pieces of hair that get stuck on a male chins penis. Either from not cleaning properly or trying to mate. If hair rings are not detected, the penis shaft will get swollen, red and irritated looking and could possibly lead to urination problems and impotency. Honestly, if a hair ring becomes highly visible from an outside glance, you have let it go too far and not keeping close enough check on your males. YOU SHOULD CHECK YOUR CHINCHILLA MALES MONTHLY!
To look for a hair ring the penis shaft must be gently pushed back toward the chins body until the penis emerges. Once the tip of penis comes out continue holding shaft back and gently take your other hand to pull penis completely out (This normally takes two people. Look for any signs of hair on the penis. Hair rings on the penis can be easily removed using tweezers (be careful with them). A lot of time the patch or ring of hair comes off in one piece and is fairly easy to remove.
If a hair ring gets VERY bad to where it is extremely irritating and the penis will not go back in the shaft. Then your last option is to hold the chinchillas’ genitals under lukewarm running water and thoroughly rinse penis and use anti-bacterial soap. Do this twice a day, and if you do not notice a difference within the second day. You must see the vet ASAP!
Gestation is 111 days from proof of copulation. If you know that your chin is pregnant then it is recommended that 2 weeks before the due date you should provide a bottle of cranberry juice mixed 50/50 with water. This helps with the lactation of the mother, and good for babies too. Keep the juice in with the mother and babies 2 weeks after the birth also. DO NOT USE ANY JUICE WITH PRESERVATIVES OR SACCHARIN. Also, do not let chins give birth in ANY cages with a wire floor, ramps (Babies are small and delicate and could easily get injured.), or cage wire openings more than 1-inch x 1/2 an inch big. Babies could escape an opening any larger than this. Father must be removed from cage 2 weeks prior to birth to prevent breedbacks unless you know the exact due date and believe you can catch a birth. If this happens, immediately remove for 10 days. A female Chinchilla goes into heat directly after birth. Baby chins need to be removed from parents after 8 weeks (when they are fully weaned) So that there isn’t any interbreeding. Preferable same-sex kits should go to each their own cage. Females in one, Males in the other to prevent interbreeding. Males can become sexually mature as young as 12 weeks! There are nightmare cases where VERY young chins become pregnant and either have babies with deformities (due to close relation with father) or chins that are TOO small to have successful births resulting in either the death of the mom, babies or severe mutilation of babies.
Love your Chinchilla and keep it happy and healthy!!