feeding program consists of three things: 1) hay, 2) pellets, 3) supplement.
Hay – Just plain old mixed grass hay that I pick up at the feed store for about $6 for a bale that lasts over a month.
Hay is always available for my chinchillas, and what they don’t eat becomes their favorite bedding until I clean their
cages again. You might be surprised to see what parts they love best –
the twigs and roughage are often the first bits picked up and gnawed on; the clover and seed heads are delectable; and some
grasses are preferred over others, but surprisingly they don't always prefer the grass that looks the nicest to me!
2) Pellets – My chins are currently fed Mazuri Chinchilla pellets, mixed 3:1 with
Purina Rabbit Chow Fibre3.
3) Supplement – I’ve never been much of a cook, so I let the Ryersons do
it! I get this mix of wheat bran, rolled oats, steamed crimped whole oats, raw wheat germ, and Clovite (clovite is a conditioner and vitamin supplement that is high in vitamins A, D and
www.ryersonchinchilla.com. This supplement is not only a nutritious treat for them that provides environmental
enrichment, it is a good way for me to check everyone and make sure they are feeling OK.
Any chin that doesn’t show interest in their supplement deserves a second look.
We line the cage trays with Woody Pet Bedding. (It
looks a lot like crushed wood stove pellets.) I find it to be extremely absorbent and odor-reducing (not that chinchillas
have much odor anyway), and I prefer it very much to pine shavings. A few days after the cages have been cleaned, there is
usually a decent layer of discarded hay that the chins will sleep on, nibble on, and paw through, as well.
My chinchilla room is the enclosed three-season porch at the front of our home. In the wintertime
a space heater helps keep them warm, and in the summertime a window a/c unit cools them down.
Most of my chinchilla pairs reside in “Chinchilla Condos” made by Quality Cage: www.qualitycage.com. Honestly, these are my favorite of all of my cages. I also have one larger unit, the "Chinchilla Townhome." The Condo is the cage I recommend
to pet owners.
I have a few pairs in two- and three- level chinchilla towers made by The
Maine Cage Factory: http://www.mainecagefactory.com/. These are very roomy and give the chinchillas plenty
of multi-level exercise. However, I've mostly replaced these with cages from Quality Cage because I prefer the solid floors
to the wire floors (except for one particularly messy breeding pair that I have).
I used to raise guinea pigs, and I still have two stacked guinea pig breeding units made by Pointer
Hill Pet Products: http://www.pointerhill.com/.
Although each cage is a single floor, I put a house and a sleeping ledge in them
to provide good perching spots for the chins. The 24x24” cages are great
for single chins that are out of breeding, and the 24x36” ones are fine for pairs waiting for a tower to open up.
I had Pointer Hill custom made a 24x36” stack that is divided down the middle into 24x18”
side-by-side cages. These are my “intro” cages. Whenever I want to put a pair together – whether male and
female or same sex – I put them in these side-by-side apartments for at least a week before I attempt putting them together.
I honestly have very few problems with fighting pairs using this stress-free method.
is our breeding set-up?
As a small hobby breeder, I have found what works
best for me and my chins is to have pairs (or rarely, a trio of one male and two females) that stay together throughout the
pregnancy and birth. I allow my pairs to back-breed once, then I rest the females for a few months. I have found chinchilla
fathers to be excellent parents, providing warmth and care for their kits when the moms want a break from nursing. I actually
really hate breaking up a family when the female needs to be rested.
When do we wean our chinchillas?
At about 8 weeks old we separate the moms and youngsters. By then they are long past nursing and have the confidence and skills to live on their own. I always put same-sex juveniles together whenever possible, so they have someone to snuggle with.
When do we let our baby chinchillas go to new homes?
At 10 weeks. That gives them two
weeks on their own after leaving Mom.
What do we feed for treats?
Mostly, just the Ryerson supplement (see above). Occasionally,
maybe once a month, my kids or friends will give them a raisin or Cheerio. Like
many breeders, I am anti-sweet-treats! I definitely FROWN on sugar-filled treats
like Yogies. As a veterinarian I have seen dental caries (cavities) in chinchillas,
and in my opinion feeding raisins every day is a possible culprit.
What Do We Do For Environmental Enrichment?
Our cages have wooden hide boxes and wooden ledges – both are great for perching, hiding,
and chewing. Some cages have running wheels.
Others have hanging chew toys, cardboard boxes, or cardboard tubes. When
there are babies in the cage, I often give them a PVC tube when they start bouncing around and playing. And of course my chinchillas always have HAY, which is important foraging entertainment for them.
Chickadee Chinchillas - Katherine Carter, DVM