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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-15-2004, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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The Basics of Chinchillas as Pets

All content is taken from my site, www.chinnitude.com, and is not to be copied, reposted or otherwise reproduced without permission. Copyright 2003.



Chinchilla Facts


Adult weight: Males = 400-600 grams; Females = 400-700 grams

Life span: Usual = 10 years;
maximum = 20 years

Body temperature: 96.8 -100.4F

Heart rate: 100 beats/minute

Puberty: as early as 3 months, usually 6 -10 months

Estrous cycle: usual 40 days; range 16 - 69 days

Litter size: average 2; range 1-6

Litters per year: 2

Birth weight: 35 grams or more

Eyes open: yes

Wean: 6-8 weeks, at least 200 grams in weight


Chinchillas come from the Andes Mountains of South America.

They come in many different colors, including white, ebony, beige, standard grey, sapphire, violet and many combinations of these.

Their gestation period is an average of 111 days.

The name 'Chinchilla' comes from a South American Indian tribe and means Little Chinta.

They have between 80-100 hairs per follicle, making their coat generally too thick for fleas.

They do not bathe in water, but dust instead. They will flip, roll, dig and play merrily in their quest to be clean.

Chinchilla babies are called kits and are born with their eyes open, fully furred, and ready to go!

Chinchillas will do what's called a fur slip and release a patch of fur if they are frightened. It is designed to help them escape the grasp of a predator. It will grow back and does not harm the chinchilla.

They live an average somewhere between 10-20 years.

They prefer temperatures under 75F and will easily overheat in warmer climates.

The most common type of chinchilla found in the domestic and pelt scenes are the Lanigera species.

Chinchillas are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and come out to play at night.

Their teeth grow continuously throughout their lifetime so it's important that they have wood and other materials to wear them down on.
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-15-2004, 03:22 PM Thread Starter
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Supply List for a New Chinchilla

• Food (I feed Mazuri, you will need to have whatever food your breeder feeds. If you plan to switch your chin to another diet, you must do so slowly over a period of several weeks.)

• Hay – If you feed an alfalfa based diet, feed Timothy hay. If a timothy based diet, feed alfalfa hay.

• Water Bottle – I prefer glass as it's easy to sterilize and chew proof, even for my most determined chewers.

• Food bowl – Ceramic (any bowl that cannot be easily knocked over) or a gravity feeder will work. If using a gravity or j-feeder, make sure it hangs outside the cage and has a lid to prevent chins getting stuck and babies getting out.

• Treats – Chinchillas LOVE shredded wheat. All treats must be given in moderation (one daily) and I prefer to stick to low sugar, high fiber treats such as oats, wheat germ and alfalfa rings.

• Sleeping Box – I recommend that everyone get one of these for their chinchillas, they need somewhere to hide and sleep. I have a wooden box that is on the top level of the cage, I also have a large PVC pipe in the bottom of the cage that they love to hide in. You can make your own or purchase one.

• Wheel – This is not 'necessary' but is wonderful for your chins. See our exercise page for more detailed information.

• Bedding – Kiln Dried Pine, Aspen or a recycled paper product such as CareFresh.

• Water - I use filtered water, others use boiled, bottled, or tap. I prefer filtered as the filters I use catch 99.9% of Giardia and Cryptosporidia, helping to prevent parasitic infections and eliminate unnecessary chemicals.

• Toys – hanging chew toys, pumice stones, wooden blocks, etc. Chins get bored easily and multiple toys help alleviate boredom and encourage chewing.

• Dust Bath – You'll need a container and the actual dust. Pet stores sell different types but I've not been impressed. I prefer to use dust called Blue Cloud or Blue Sparkle, available through local breeders or ordered online.
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-15-2004, 03:24 PM Thread Starter
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Preparing for a New Chinchilla

There are several things that your new chinchilla will require once you bring it home. You should ensure that all items are ready and set up before your furball comes home.

A good quality cage should be the first investment made. There are several acceptable types of cages, both on the retail market and home made. The most important feature of a cage should be safety. Avoid cages that are plastic coated or have any sort of plastic shelving. Chins will chew on this and, if ingested, the plastic could cause serious harm and even death. Plywood should also be avoided if it will be accessible to the chin for chewing. The glue used to keep the wood together is also toxic if ingested.

Other features to look for in a cage include wire width apart, safety of construction, and a solid or a wire bottom. Wire width should ideally be baby safe -- 1" x 1 1/2" or smaller. When checking for safe construction, you should look for any spots a leg or toe could get caught as well as any loose fittings. It's better to avoid an accident than end up with a broken leg.

Solid versus wire bottoms is a common argument among chin owners. I've used both and feel as long as the wire is 1/2" x 1/2" or smaller, either is fine. However, you may want to provide solid untreated pine shelving or lay some cardboard down for the chin to sit on, as wire may get uncomfortable.

You will also have to choose a food for your chinchilla, as well as a container to put it in. When it comes to choosing a food, I prefer Mazuri due to ease of access and freshness. Research is the best way to make an educated decision about your chinchilla's food, in my opinion.

The food container itself should be unable to tip over, either by being secured to the cage or being a heavy ceramic bowl. Again, you will want to avoid plastic containers, as they will be chewed on and can cause harm.

A water bottle is the next item your little furball will need before you bring it home. A glass bottle may be best if the chin will have access to anything other than the sipper. If the bottle itself will be inaccessible, plastic with a metal sipper works quite well. Just remember that your chin needs fresh water daily, the same as you or I do.

Whether you choose a solid or wire bottomed cage, your chin will need to have some sort of bedding to catch droppings and absorb urine. Avoid cedar shavings at all costs. The wood contains certain oils that are harmful to many small animals, including chins. Aspen is the best type of wood bedding to use, with kiln dried pine being the second best. Ideally, a recycled paper product should be used because it will contain no harmful oils and is dust free. I prefer the recycled paper variety but it is costly compared to the other two safe wood products. Currently I'm using aspen but kiln dried pine is widely used and causes little problems. Just keep an eye out for any allergies or eye problems and make sure the pine is kiln dried.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-15-2004, 03:25 PM Thread Starter
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Handling Your Chinchilla

While chinchillas need to be handled with care, you should not be afraid to hold your chinchilla, as this is a big part of them bonding with you.

Some say that the proper way to handle a chinchilla when first picking one up is to hold on to the base of their tail, and slide a hand under their belly. I do not use nor advocate this method. I use both hands to grab their middle then cradle them against my body. True, most of them do not like to be held around their ribcage, but if your chinchilla has been handled from birth he should be used to it, and you will soon discover the best way of handling your chinchilla.

If you choose to pick them up by the base of their tail, never, under any circumstances hold them upside down by grabbing their tail anywhere other than the base. Chins tails are very delicate, and if they were to begin struggling, it could break their tail. Before you attempt to pick up your chin, let him get to know you. Start by letting them get to know your scent and go from there.
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-15-2004, 03:26 PM Thread Starter
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Bathing Your Chinchilla

Unlike other animals, chinchillas take baths in dust. These dust baths are very important to a chinchilla’s health as they ensure that their coats stay healthy and free of debris. The frequency with which you give dust baths will depend on your climate. If you live in a humid climate you will want to give your chin his bath anywhere from 3 times a week to every day. If your climate is dry, once a week to no more than 3 times a week is sufficient. Too much bathing can cause your chin's skin to dry out, which can lead to other problems.


Praline models the bathing process.

You can use nearly anything as a dust bath container. Commonly used containers include: cat litter boxes, fish bowls, cardboard boxes, plastic bins, cookie jars, and there are even bath houses manufactured solely for this purpose.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-15-2004, 03:31 PM Thread Starter
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Exercise

Exercise is essential to your chin’s health. If possible, get your chinchilla a wheel. They can be pricey but it’s worth it to ensure that your chin can exercise safely in it. I prefer the 'Flying Saucer' wheel. I think they give a more natural running surface to the chins, and don't strain their backs as much. If mounted correctly, I feel they are safe. There's room enough for a chin to be under or behind the wheel while one is running on it.

You can also let your chin out to run at night in an enclosed room where they can't get hurt. Make sure you always “chin-proof” this room, getting down on your hands and knees and making sure there is nothing that they can eat, chew or get hurt on. Wires and cords are very dangerous for your chinchilla, because they love to chew so much. Anything you do not wish for them to get hold of needs to be removed from their area of play. Also note that you MUST be in the room supervising at all times that your chin is loose! Free run is not recommended unless you have a room that can be totally safe for your chinchilla.

Remember, if you choose to allow free run, never chase them. This causes your chin a lot of stress, and will teach him not to trust you. Be careful not to startle them by grabbing them too quickly or they will release a handful of fur. This does not hurt them, it is merely an escape mechanism, but it will let you know that you have scared them.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-15-2004, 03:32 PM Thread Starter
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Bonding With Your Chinchilla

Chins are actually very social creatures and live in colonies called herds in the wild. As long as you own the chin, you will be part of its herd. Initially this may take time, but with patience and a willingness to devote time to him or her, you can wind up with a very sweet little bundle of fur.

I have been very lucky in the temperaments of my chins; I have three of the sweetest furballs I've met, and the fourth is slowly coming around. I'll go ahead and describe the methods that I use, in the hopes that you can find the same results with your chins.

Initially, I let the chinchilla set the bonding pace. After bringing it home, I leave it alone for a couple days. This is important, as it needs to acclimate to the new surroundings you've placed it in. Each location has different sounds and paces of life. You don't want to overwhelm and eventually stress the chin by introducing a bunch of new things at once. Give it at least two days, if not four.

Once I feel the chin has had sufficient adjustment time, I move very slowly and simply sit in the same room. This way the chin gets used to my smell as well as my presence. If he or she is not fidgety with my presence at all, I'll talk softly and approach the cage. Keep in mind, you need to watch for any indications of stress such as the chin hiding from you or jumping around frantically. If you see any of these, you may want to back off for a while and revert to the previous step.

If the chin calms down and allows me to be in the room while speaking softly to it, I'll open the cage door and stand there, allowing it to come and investigate me. I may or may not place my hand inside the cage, depending on the chin's reaction to the open door. Again, I'm moving at the chinchilla's pace, and only taking the next step when it feels comfortable on both sides.

Once the chin is comfortable with me in close proximity to its cage with the door open, I'll place my hand inside and leave it lay on a shelf or the floor. This allows the chin to smell me and get used to my hand, which eventually leads to comfortability in being handled. You can use a treat in this instance as well by placing it farther and farther up your hand and arm, encouraging the chin to climb on you, but remember that all treats should be given in moderation. When I did this, I chopped a single raisin into multiple pieces, that way she was only getting one treat rather than the four she thought she was getting!

Where the chin will go from this step varies greatly. One of my chins will cautiously step out onto my hands, then jump back onto a shelf, just testing the waters. Another will jump onto my hands and catapult onto my shoulder, ready to go. Yet another will sit perfectly still on my hand, allowing herself to be pet. Keep your eyes open and watch what the chin is comfortable with, then go from there. Whatever the chin chooses is where you need to start. Take its cue and then expand upon that. Above all, you're earning the chin's trust and showing it you are not an enemy but a friend.

Lastly, a tip given to me by a breeder has worked wonders. If you want an extremely friendly and social chin, until the chinchilla is totally comfortable with you, don't let it have time to run free. Carry it with you, rather than allowing it to explore whatever area you've chinproofed for that purpose. Wait until you've bonded, or else the bond won't be as strong as you may have hoped. I made this mistake with my first chin. While he readily comes out of the cage to me, he immediately wants down to play.

Most importantly, take your time. Don't expect the chin to be your best friend immediately -- it's something that takes time. Once you've bonded, you'll have a friend for life.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-15-2004, 03:34 PM Thread Starter
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Quarantine and Introducing a
New Chinchilla to a Cagemate


When you bring a new chinchilla home to an environment which already has chins, a few initial precautions need to be taken. Any new animal can harbor unknown communicable diseases or parasites which can be passed to your own animals. The new chin should be quarantined for 30-60 days to protect against this and allow any problems to present themselves before your other chins are exposed.

The quarantine area needs to be in a totally separate room and as far away from your other animals as possible. Keep all food dishes, water bottles, toys, and dust baths completely separate during this time. After handling the new chinchilla, be sure to wash your hands and even change your shirt to protect your other animals. Even though it may be tempting, don't bring the chins or any other animal near the new animal until the end of the quarantine period. An extra step that can be taken is a well check at your veterinarian. This includes a dental exam, overall physical exam, feces sample tests, and any other tests your vet feels necessary to test for hidden factors.

After the quarantine period comes the fun part! You get to introduce the new chinchilla to your other chins if you plan to house two or more together. (More on the responsibilities of breeding later. For now, I'll simply caution you to think carefully about it and realize what a huge responsibility it is.) This can be tricky as chins tend to have their own personalities and their own little quirks. Be prepared -- there are some chinchillas who simply can NOT get along. You need to watch carefully when introducing two new chins to prevent injury or even death.

Initially, the best step is to just place the two cages side by side, allowing the chins to smell each other, talk to each other, but not touch each other. Be sure that there is enough room to prevent one from hurting the other by biting paws or noses through the bars. Leave them this way for a few days and let them adjust to the idea of each other.

If a few days have passed with minimal aggravation, then you can probably proceed to the next step of allowing them to spend time together. Neutral territory is a good idea at first, as chins can be territorial. Let them out in a small area and watch them closely. Watch how they interact and be prepared to separate them if a fight breaks out. However, don't expect them to get along perfectly at first, even though some will. There may be minor squabbles, one mounting the other and barking but as long as neither chin is getting hurt or overly stressed, let them be. They have to establish dominance and work out their own social structure. At the first hint of injury however, your chin's safety needs to come first.

You may have to do this multiple times before the chins get used to one another, but don't give up on the first try if they're not immmediately bonded. It took one of my pairs two full weeks to get used to each other but now they are irreversably bonded.

Another technique used is using 'tight quarters.' This worked very well for my other pair of chins. The idea is to put the two of them in a small cage or enclosure with very little room to move and let them work out their problems. Putting a fragrant substance such as Vicks or vanilla on their noses can help to distract them from the smell of a foreign animal as well. Again, there may be mounting, barking, etc. but as long as they aren't being injured, this is acceptable. Keep a close watch on the furballs so that you can intervene if necessary.

One last popular method is to put the dominant chin in a small cage inside a large cage with the passive chin in the large cage only. This can humble the dominant one and bring their tendencies to a more sociable level.

Different methods work for different chinchillas and I hope that you can find one that works for you. Above all, remember that you are responsible for their well being and need to protect them from injury at all times. Never put them together for an introduction and walk away. Chins are very capable of hurting or even killing one another.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-15-2004, 04:00 PM
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Lots of great info Stephanie!

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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-20-2004, 04:04 PM
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Thank you for the valuable information I't helps to make sure silkie is taken care of
chadler
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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-23-2004, 12:52 AM
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I am printing this entire page out and posting it next to my chinchilla cage. Thanks so much.

Carmen

P.S. Can you offer me any links to your favorite breeders, please?
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-17-2005, 03:48 PM
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Thanks for the useful info, Im getting my new chinny this weekend!
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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-24-2006, 12:54 PM
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this is GREAT help

Tara
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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-19-2008, 10:38 PM
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I didn't want to make a new thread to ask, so what if your chinchilla is eating their bedding (both pee-stained and clean)?
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 07-22-2009, 05:57 PM
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This is good detailed information for all chinchilla owners. Thanks for sharing!
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