Care and Feeding

Basic information on caring for your chinchillas. A document can be viewed and saved by clicking the button. 

Food & Water

Hay

  • Buy the greenest freshest dried hay available

  • Always have fresh hay available

  • Do not feed hay with treats mixed in. Remove any weeds.

  • The most economical hay can be found by the bale from a local farmer or feed store. Ask for horse hay. Store hay in a dark, cool, & dry area. A large covered plastic container works great. Look for the greenest bale, avoid hay with any moisture, mildew, excessive dust, or mud.

  • Feed the loose hay from the top of the cage, inside a cardboard tube, ceramic pot, box, or a hay rack outside the cage. Wire hay racks or balls inside the cage are often traps that result in broken or dislocated legs.

  • Hay cubes may be used instead of loose hay, chins will eat about 1 daily

Alfalfa Pellets

  • Always have pellets available

  • Look for the freshest bag

  • Never feed pellets with treats or junk mixed in

SAFE PELLET FOOD LIST:

Blue Seal Bunny 16 /Furry Friends

Brytin professional

MannaPro Pro Rabbit 

Mazuri chinchilla (call first to ask )

Oxbow Essentials Deluxe Chinchilla

                  

 

Large bags only (50 lbs)

Purina Rabbit Chow Show Formula

Nutrena Rabbit Feed 16%

MannaPro Sho Rabbit

Tradition Chinchilla

Hubbard Life Chinchilla

Treats

  • Feed no more than 1/2 teaspoon per day

  • Never mix treats with pellets

  • Only feed treats to chinchillas over a year old.

  • Acceptable treats only once daily include:

 

  • 3 cheerios

  • 1 dried rose hip

  • 1 mini Shredded Wheat

  • 6” blade of timothy grass

  • Fresh dandelion leaf 2”

  • 6” dried apple stick

  • Weekly treats can include a small raisin or dried cranberry, or 1” dried apple sliver

 

  • If your chin has soft droppings, feed only hay until better. Give your chin an unsweetened mini shredded wheat biscuit daily and feed only hay until normal.

  • Never feed dried or fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, or seeds, except as specified above.

Water

  • Always have fresh clean water available in a water bottle.

  • Glass bottles are recommended to avoid chew damage

  • Clean bottle with hot soapy water each time it is refilled

  • Bottled or filtered water is recommended, chins don’t like chlorine taste or scent

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supplies for your cage 

Bedding

 

  • Fill your pan about 2” deep

  • Change all bedding weekly

  • NO CEDAR

  • No Newspaper or Carefresh

 

  • Recommended bedding can be purchased at farm supply stores:

 

  • Pine wood shavings - bales  < $7

  • Wood chips – Tractor Supply <$7

  • Aspen shavings

  • Flax fiber

 

  • Your chinchilla will most likely choose one spot for pee, but will poo everywhere. Many chins will use a shallow metal or glass dish in their favorite corner, allowing for spot cleaning of the cage. Plastic rabbit litter pans should not be used, they will be chewed.

  • Fleece and a litter pan (3 Qt lasagna pan) are a popular alternative to bedding. Poo can be vacuumed or swept off and the litter pan can be changed. You will want two fleece liners, one to use and one to wash. Fleece is soft for a chin's feet and isn't usually chewed like other fabrics. 

Chew Items:

  • Wood items

 

  • Dried pine is the most economical

  • No varnish, polyurethane, paint, oil, or pressure treated wood

  • No hard wood: oak, mahogany, etc. These can splinter.

  • Dry, clean apple sticks are a favorite

 

  • NO CEDAR or FRESH EVERGREENS!

  • Chew blocks/ Pumice

 

  • Great for their teeth, chins love them

  • Can be purchased at most pet stores

  • Attach them to a dangling toy to keep clean

  • May be made from pumice, chalk, or plaster

  • Pieces of pumice scouring bricks

  • Pedicure pumice blocks with no added paint, oils, or scents

  • Clean grill rocks

 

  • Cardboard

    • Food grade boxes, or clean cardboard, with none of these:

 

  • Oil, grease, food, or wax

  • Dirt, soil, mold, moisture

  • plastic or foil coatings

  • Glue, tape, staples

 

  • Paper towel tubes, oatmeal, cornmeal, or square tissue boxes stuffed with hay are favorites!

  • Baskets

 

  • Clean and unpainted/unfinished

  • Remove all staples, metal fasteners, plastic, bows, glue, or ribbon

  • Willow, palm, grape vine, wicker, bamboo, and rattan are all fine for chewing

 

  • Avoid these:

 

  • Plastic igloo houses

  • Plastic “tree trunk” huts

  • Edible houses, logs, tubes etc.

  • Any chew toys with food or treats

  • Toys or treats made with corn or wheat products

 

  • Wood houses

 

  • Multi use: chew items, shelf, and shelter

  • Look for houses with no nails or staples

  • Thicker wood will last longer

  • Clean with sandpaper. Annually clean with hot soapy water, mild bleach solution, vinegar, or boiling.  Allow to air dry completely.

 

  • Wood shelves

    • Double as shelf and chew item

    • may be made from kiln dried pine or spruce

    • No paint, stain, polyurethane, pressure treated, chip board, plywood, luan, fresh evergreen branches, molded wood composite products, nails, or staples.

    • Clean with sandpaper. Annually clean with hot soapy water, mild bleach solution, vinegar, or boiling.  Allow to air dry completely.

 

 

 

Hygiene & Exercise

Dusting:

  • Chinchillas need to have a dust bath a minimum of twice weekly.

  • Never bathe a chin in water.

  • Bathing dust is made from crushed pumice. Do not use kitty litter, sand, corn meal, flour, etc.

  • Good brands include ChillDust, Blue Cloud, Blue Sparkle, and Blue Tails

  • Add a sprinkle of Desenex or Tinactin powder to your dust to help prevent fungus, or use Blue Tails.

  • Offer your chin dusting outside the cage if you want to encourage outside play time

  • Dust containers:

    • Plastic Dust Houses are stable and safe, but will be chewed if left in the cage unsupervised.

 

  • Remove from cage after dusting, sitting in dust will chap their feet and can cause bumblefoot.

  • High sides or enclosed containers are best for controlling dust

 

  • Glass 1 gallon jars

  • Cat litter pans, dish pans

  • Ventilated plastic storage boxes

  • Kitchen pots/pans/bowls

 

  • Corn starch or talc baby powder can be added to the dust for a whiter coat.

  • If your chinchilla is very dirty, or to prepare for show, offer it dust daily.

 

Cleaning the cage

  • Clean the cage once weekly and replace all bedding

  • Urine stains in pans and on wire can be most easily removed by soaking with vinegar and scrubbing with dish soap added to the vinegar.

  • Pans and shelves should be sanitized with bleach solution periodically and rinsed well

  • Fleece liners can be shaken out, replaced and washed weekly.

  • Remove any fabric that chins chew, hammocks have straps that can be chewed, inspect carefully

  • Food dishes should be emptied of all fines often, and washed as necessary.

  • Water bottles and their tubes should be washed with hot soapy water. A baby bottle brush is perfect.

  • An extra small cage is very helpful on cleaning day.

 

Activity

  • Chinchillas DO NOT need exercise! 

  • Time outside their cage is stressful

  • Stress and subsequent weight loss contribute to illness

  • Wheels are not necessary

  • Young chins need their calories for growth

 

  • Chinchillas are crevice and burrow dwellers. They enjoy a hiding spot like a wood house or low shelf. Happy, secure chins will seek the highest shelf or beg at the front of the cage.

  • Limit outside-the-cage time to 30 minutes daily for adults, 15 minutes for young growing chins.

  • Holding and carrying are great ways to interact. Start building a bond by offering oats or small pieces of shredded wheat EACH time they are held or taken out of the cage.

  • Teach them to ride on your shoulder by first feeding oats with your elbow on the open cage door, then luring them to your shoulder. With time and patience you can teach them to sit on your shoulder. Caution: chins can break or dislocate bones in a fall.

  • A chinchilla loose in your home will chew anything it encounters, including your furniture, books, wires, fabric, flooring, woodwork, doors, and anything else it can reach!

 
 

​The First Two Weeks 

  • Leave them in the cage for the first two weeks, do not take them out to play or hold.

  • Chinchillas need to have pellets, hay, and water always available.

  • Establish a routine and build their trust! Chins love to know what to expect throughout the day. Try to interact with them at the same times each day. You will see that they will wait at the front of the cage when they expect something good to happen, like treats, food, dusting, or your attention. J

  • Your chins might hide and be antisocial with you and/or their cagemates for the first two weeks, this is normal behavior while they are adjusting to their new home. Be consistent with behavior and schedule so that they will learn to trust you.

  • Give your chins 1 mini shredded wheat each day. If your chins have soft droppings, give them one every 12 hours, and only feed hay. Babies get ½ a biscuit.

  • Do not give your chins any treats other than the mini shredded wheat. 

  • Train your chinchillas that they will receive their shredded wheat in a specific location. This will be helpful later if you need to train them to return to the cage after playtime.

  • Check that the temperature in their area does not go above 70 degrees, and that they are not exposed to sunlight or drafts.

  • Mounting and chasing are normal dominance and play behaviors, but separate chins if they are pulling fur or injuring each other. if you find tufts of fur or blood in the cage, see bite marks, or see violent behavior.

  • Your chins may make warning calls when they sense that something is different or frightening, and warn the others with a loud “eeeep eeep eeep eeep eeep” sound. Sometimes chins will even do this in their sleep! After the chins are used to your home they will only make warning calls when they see, smell, or hear something strange. Some chins will make a warning call when a new person visits the home.

  • Chinchillas need a dust bath a minimum of twice weekly. After they have each dusted remove the dust bath from the cage.

  • Call, text, facebook, or email Marianne with any questions!(207) 626-0130

 
Introducing Chinchillas

Chinchillas are happier, healthier, more outgoing, overall better pets for their owners if they have a same-sex chinny companion. They are herd animals and a companion will bring them security and a lower stress level.

Chinchillas are very territorial. They will not bond if opposite sex chins are in the same household because they will scent the opposite sex chin and become aggressive and territorial with their cagemate. 

Some chins won’t ever bond with another because of past experiences, and others that have been in breeding may always need to be singles. All chins have different personalities, so be prepared with an extra cage if your chins don’t get along.

This is the stress bonding method, chins bond through anxiety and a “new” neutral environment:

  • Trim each chin’s whiskers. Dominant chins will chew off the other chin’s whiskers. If they all have short whiskers, they will think they are submissive and be less likely to claim territory or be aggressive.

  • Remove them from their cage and put them into a temporary or travel cage

  • Completely empty the cage you will put the chins into, wash each item to remove all scent of the other chins, and rearrange the location as you put items back into the cage. If you have a Critter Nation or similar cage, close one level. Your goal is to make the cage seem completely different to the chins, they should think it’s a new and foreign place.

  • Take the chins on a ride in your air-conditioned vehicle to get the new chin. Bring a separate carrier for the new chin. If you’re trying to bond two existing pets, take them out for an hour while you’re doing errands, maybe while you buy new shelves or accessories. Use separate carriers.

  • When you return home, place a large pan of fresh dust in the cage, and place all chins into the cage at once. They will explore the cage together and enjoy the dust, so they will smell alike.

  • Watch them closely. The chins will chase and mount each other; this is normal behavior while they work out their “pecking order” and get to know each other.If you see any fur pulled out, biting, a cornered chin defending himself, or very aggressive behavior, separate the chins. You can repeat the process in a few weeks.

  • Some chins will stay separate and hide for up to two weeks, this is normal for older chins. Be patient and let them bond when they are ready.

  • Leave them in their cages, with no outside play time or holding, for two weeks.  The chins need this time to bond, settle in, and feel safe in their new environment without distractions.