When buying a drop tray cage style, try to buy a cage with openings no larger than 1" x 2" (inches). You'd be amazed at the small spaces a chin can squeeze through. If you plan to breed them, wire openings no larger than 1/2" x 1" will be needed.
Cages with pull out trays are another option. Although these cages are more difficult to clean than the drop tray models, they are recommended by many breeders for their safety features. They claim that fewer leg injuries occur when using these types of cages and baby chins remain warmer due to the lack of drafts. I feel safer with this type of a cage when breeding chins. If you have a shelf in it, make sure the grating is 1/2" x 1/2" or smaller. There have been several reports of leg injuries with larger shelves.
If you have one chinchilla, you should only have to change the droppings tray once a week (depends on the size of the cage - use your best judgment). A cage without a droppings tray may need to be cleaned more often to prevent illnesses and bacterial infections. Their litter does not stink if you keep the cage clean, but as an added deodorizer you can sprinkle baking soda in the drop tray. Chinchilla cages have very little odor if they are kept clean. Once you have found your chin's favorite "pee" corner, you can line that area more heavily and add baking soda as a deodorizer.
If you do not have a wire bottom cage (drop tray), you can use pine shavings as a litter absorber. Some owners have mentioned that their chins had allergic reactions when cedar shavings were used as a cage liner.
You should remove your chin from the cage every few months and disinfect it. (It is recommended that you disinfect the cage of a sick chin.)
Once you have chosen a cage, you should find a location in the house where your animal will be comfortable. Keep your chins out of drafts during colder months and in a well vented area in the warmer months. Keep them out of direct hot sunlight. Heat prostration is a common problem seen when chins get too hot. (Check the room temperature section.)
Make sure that there are no electrical wires near the cage. Your pet will chew through them.
Cage size is also important. And bigger is better. Chins like a lot of room to live in. Rene & Bernice from the Netherlands explain: They need to be able to climb, run around, and play. Chins have a lot of energy (at least ours have), and need 'exercise'. If your chin is housed in a cage which is too small to play in and is not allowed to run outside the cage; you will end up with a frustrated and unhappy chin.
Take a peek at the chinchilla cage page at ChinNet to see some examples of how people house their chinchillas.
The following section was written by Kristen :
Other things to keep in mind :
That depends. If your room temperature is over 25 Celsius or 77 fahrenheit, you should take precautions to protect your animals. If it is even hotter, over 30 Celsius or 86 fahrenheit, you are in trouble.
There are a number of things you can do. Obviously, turn up the air conditioner if you are lucky enough to have one. If you get the temperature down to the 25 Celsius / 77 fahrenheit mark, they will be fine. There is no need to lower the temperature more.
If there is a cooler room in the house, move the cage there. Since a move of this type is sure to awaken the chin, be sure to do it during the cool time of the day to avoid their activity during peak heat
Alternatively, you can also give them a large cooking pan filled with ice cubes. More than likely, they will snuggle up to it to cool down. Make sure they cannot fall in though.
If you have tried everything to cool them but notice that they are not behaving normally, do not awaken them. If they are awake and active, they may run the risk of having heat stroke and this is often fatal.
There is not much point in setting up fans to blow air towards them,
because a chinchilla does not sweat. Drew
Carter explains : Fans *feel* cooler to humans because cooling is
evaporative process for us. Perspiration evaporates, and we cool off.
don't perspire so a fan just blows room temperature air at them. Chins
cool off by a radiant process, causing the ears turn pink when they
overheated. Many animals that have large ears in relation to their body
size, (elephants, or guinea pigs, for example) cool off this way. I
think a fan would do your chin any harm, but I don't think it does any
According to Chinster: A suitable temperature range for Chins will
be 10-27°C [50-80°F]. However, the acceptable upper temperature
range will vary according to the relative humidity [ie., the higher the
humidity, the lower the maximum temperature]. For Chin kits, a
temperature range of 15-25°C [60-77°F] may be more suitable. At
the low end, ensure there is plenty of bedding.
A useful rule-of-thumb for determining the maximum temperature-humidity combination for Chins is the 100 Factor: the sum of 100 for the temperature in Celsius (with 30°C being the maximum absolute temperature) plus the relative humidity equals the maximum safe level [ie., 30°C + 70%]. [Nevertheless, one should be quite concerned with relative humidity levels higher than 70%.]
For non-metric systems, this rule would translate to the "150 Factor" with 86°F being the maximum absolute temperature, regardless of humidity. For example, a combination of 70°F plus 80% relative humidity would be the maximum safe level.
At the low end, adult Chins can tolerate temperatures as low as 5°C [40°F], provided a gradual acclimatization period is implemented (sudden changes may be too stressful), dampness is minimal, and they have adequate nutrition, water and bedding, and a nesting box, etc. It is strongly recommended that a wooden nest box be provided for these conditions. If nothing else, it will at least act as a good chew toy!
The water bottle should be the kind with a metal drinking spout. Your pet will chew a hole through a plastic bottle so protect it if you hang it inside the cage. The local pet stores should have total metal encasing for water bottles. This is only a suggestion. If you attach the bottle on the outside of the cage, placing some wire mesh between it and the bottle will also help stop them from chewing through it. If you can find a glass bottle, this may save money in the long run. Water bottles should be washed with soap and water every time you refill them to avoid bacteria problems. Be sure to rinse out all the soap.
Chin blocks (or pumice blocks) will help keep their teeth short and straight, as well as different types of wood. They love apple tree branches. For more information on this, see the wood discussion further down on this page.
Also, they make wheels big enough for chinchillas, and if you have room in the cage, they will enjoy it. I avoid these with babies to avoid trampling. I have never had a problem, but I did hear of one that got it's foot caught, so it is possible.
There is a list of chinchilla supply mail order companies on the WWW. Most of them will happily ship chinchilla wheels to you. The wheels sold by ChinsToGo have a solid running surface, thus eliminating the risk of foot damage. Kristen says : Wheels should be removed when there are newborns in the cage.
Another item that many pet stores carry is 'hiding places'. These are basically just half of a hollowed out log. They will chew these, sit on them, and hide under them. These are made of cedar however, so they may not be good for them, although I've had one with a chin for 5 years without a problem. An alternative to to take a large coffee can, remove the end, and use a hammer to pound out sharp edges. Flatten the can a bit to stop it from rolling. They seem to enjoy it.
|Good, safe to use||
|OK, or not completely sure||
|Bad, do not use||
Do not wash a chinchilla with water. The dust will help keep then clean and their fur soft. If you do happen to get your pet wet roll him up in a towel immediately set a or set a hairdryer on "low" and dry your pet. Make sure the air is not too hot ! Only in dire circumstances should you give a water bath.
If you have more have one cage of chinchillas, each should have their own container. Using the same dust for multiple cages is a good way to pass on a disease.
Your pet will eat as much of its chow as he/she needs so you may refill the feeder when it is empty, but if the chin starts to get fat and lethargic, he should be put on a diet. 1 kilogram of pellets should feed your chin for a month. This comes down to 35 grams per day. Or, alternatively : 1 lb of pellets will last about 20-30 days when feeding a single chinchilla.
Your pet should have unlimited access to hay or alfalfa. The blocks (cubes) of alfalfa can be used, but many are very hard and not fresh. By no means replace the pellets as your chin's main diet.
Chinchilla's enjoy a wide variety of treats (these should only be given in strict moderation). Give your pet only one type of treat a day. An adult chin may have 1-2 raisins a day, but no more. You do not want to give your pet too many treats because the fat he collects on his body will shorten his life.
Make sure that your pet does eat his pellets. If it seems like he/she is only eating the supplement and treats, remove both for a day or two so he has to eat the pellets.
To chinchilla proof a room, make sure that there are no wires within easy access. Cover any holes in which your pet may escape. Pick up anything that may be harmful if they eat it (for example: don't leave household cleaners on surfaces).
It is not suggested to bring your pet outside, because if he/she gets away from you he will be very difficult to catch. Also, there is the danger of cats deciding to make a meal out of your pet.
Yes, as long as you follow some simple guidelines:
If traveling by plane, make sure that you have an airline approved pet carrier. You may want to line the cage with wire mesh to keep your chin from destroying it and to prevent airline handlers from deviling your pet.
USAir will allow you to bring your pet in the cabin if the carrier is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. Delta makes your pet ride in the baggage compartment; so if you are flying during the winter you might want to put something in with your chin to snuggle up in for warmth.
I am not sure of the policy for traveling by bus or by train.
I have heard of some cases where chins lived happily with dogs and cats, but extreme caution should always be used. Do not house them with other animals, as the food is different and there is no way to make sure they eat the right food.
Chinmom wrote: No, if you are their or its, social support you only need one, but then you become the other chinchilla.
Elena Forsythe wrote: You don't need to have two. I know 3 people who have had only one and those three have been with their owners for over 10 years. It also depends on the chinchilla. The first one I bought seems to be a loner. He didn't mind being alone, and actually seemed annoyed at the mate we bought him a few months later. Yet that chinchilla loved to be around him, and clung to him even though he didn't want her around all the time. Our second female chinchilla is another loner though, we keep her and our male chinchilla separated, and only let them play together during their hour exercise, and they don't seem to mind. The reason we got two was because we loved them so much that we wanted another, but not because we thought they needed to pair off (as the male proved, he's happier alone).
I (Rene) know of two ways to do this :
If you decide your chin has to go back in the cage, try to avoid chasing the animal. This is a very stressful experience for your pet, if it is a chinchilla or any other rodent. If possible, get the animal to walk onto you and walk it to the cage. If that does not work, a raisin or two may help.
If you need to grab the animal, either try to 'scoop it up' with your hands or lift it by holding it by the tail, close to the body. This will not hurt the chinchilla, but I agree it feels unnatural to pick it up this way at first.
If you just can't get close enough to the chinchilla to pick it up, try the 'dust bath' method : don't give them a dust bath before you release them. Then, when it's time to go back in, put the dust bath on the floor. Most chinchillas will jump in as soon as they see it. Pick up the bowl, chinchilla and all, and put it in the cage.
If all this does not work, you only have 'the chase' method left.
Elena Forsythe wrote: Avoid putting them in drafty areas; they are susceptible to pneumonia. However, if you live in a warm area, they will need to be kept in a cool area. Where I live, it gets very warm for them (Elena is from Hawaii), and they lie on their sides gasping for breaths at times. They also love ice chips during these times too.
Be careful with painted wood. It is quite common for paint to
lead. If your chinchilla chews this wood (for example the baseboards in
your house), he or she may develop lead poisoning. It is good to know
testing the paint in your home is very easy, lead testing kits are
in most hardware stores and cost about $6.00 US
If you are serious about breeding, I recommend you contact me (Jim Jensen) for some additional advice. I have been doing some research on genetics (not easy to get info on chins), and have learned about different mutations and their breeding. I don't think I'll ever understand it all, but I can try to help.
There are two genetics documents on ChinNet now, that will give you some background information and a idea what colors to expect when you start breeding your chins. The first one was written by Jim Jensen, while the second one was written by Mike Thurston.
After delivery, giving the mother some cranberry juice will help replenish some of vitamins. Check the babies to make sure their stomachs are full. If you need to hand feed, a combination of Vitamin D milk and Gerbers mixed dry baby cereal works well. Heat to lukewarm, and feed via a dropper. Do not force the milk down, let the baby drink it. Forcing it can kill them by putting the liquid in their lungs. If you ever hear a clicking sound, it means there is fluid in the lungs. In this case you need to hold the baby firmly in the palm of your hand. With a downward sling, shake the water out of the lungs. You may have to repeat this, wiping any fluid off the nose so it does not go back in.
Be careful with some vets because not all know much about these critters. There is a list of vets that are knowledgeable about chinchillas on ChinNet. Also, be careful what some pet stores tell you, as some do not know much about them either.
One strong sign is when you find the so-called estrus plug. This is a small, white, wax-like plug, about one inch long. It is formed by the female shortly after mating. Once you see it, you can start counting. In 111 days from now, be ready to become a chinchilla grand-parent.
Keep in mind the estrus plug is almost never found in a cage when the floor is covered with wood shavings.
The alternative is when you actually witnessed the mating. Look closely for the estrus plug the next morning. Perhaps now, because you know, you are able to find it. If you find one, it confirms what you saw the day before. If not, start counting the 111 days anyway. You have a big chance she is pregnant.
If you did not notice she got pregnant, it is very hard to tell afterwards. An experienced breeder can 'squeeze' the animal, feeling inside her. This is a procedure that should absolutely not be performed by amateurs. If it is done incorrectly, you can cause the abortion of the unborn babies.
Another sign is when she suddenly start sleeping in unusual positions. If this happens, and the other reasons for doing this do not apply, she may be pregnant. This however is by far not as certain a method as finding the estrus plug.
The last alternative is weighing her on a regular basis. If you see a small decrease in weight, followed by a steady increase, she again may be pregnant.
You will have noticed chinchilla pregnancy is not as easy to see as it is with humans or other animals. Don't worry, there is no need to take exceptional precautions. If she does suddenly deliver, there is no immediate need to help her. Chinchilla mothers are pretty self supporting.
Chinmom wrote: When they learn to trust you they are willing to be
petted, and they will sit on your arm, in a pocket, and in individual
interact. For instance, a friend has a chin who will sit and watch TV
her and if she [the chin] doesn't like the program she will chatter
Rox changes channels to what BEBop likes. I have a beggar who loves to
eat and asks for everything going, and then rejects it if it isn't what
he likes. He likes to hide under the entertainment center and run out
sit on my back if I lie down on the floor. There he will settle down
rest. If they are afraid of you they will hide from you, and even nip
rear up and aim a stream of urine at you. This last trait is limited to
female chins only.
I also know of someone whose chinchilla stays on his shoulder wherever he goes; he goes to the supermarket with the chinchilla riding on his shoulder, cuddled up against his neck. My female, though, hates to be touched by humans. She will bite, attack, and even shoot urine at any hand that comes near her (unless she smells a raisin in the hand). Then, she will allow the hand to come close, and even scratch her (some love to be scratched! around their ears, down their cheeks.. mine will even tilt her head to show you where she wants to be scratched, and then close her eyes in complete bliss if you scratch her the right way). So again, it depends on the chinchilla. Some will love to be held, some will love to play with you, and some rather not be bothered.
And continued: Chinchillas are rodents, which means they are related to rats, mice, guinea pigs, squirrels, beavers, and even porcupines. Because they are rodents, they love to gnaw at things to keep their ever growing teeth trimmed.
(FAQ authors' note: There is a body of opinion that holds that
Pigs are not actually rodents at all, just a piece of coincidental
Whether Chins fall into this non-rodent category or not, we don't know.
They sure as hell look like rodents.)
It hasn't been updated in several years, but this is one of the original chin sites: ChinNet.