Hello, I am hoping that you may be able to help me shed some light on some behavior that my 2 male (I was told) chinchilla’s have begun exhibiting lately.
Some back story, I received my 2 chinchillas from an acquaintance 5 years ago who was moving out of the country. At the time they were believed to be about 3-4 years old, he didn’t have an exact age, and I am not sure that they came from the most stimulating home. They have always been a pleasure, easy to work with, very social with all of our animals, including the cats, which they take pleasure in tormenting daily. They have always had their bedding changed out, and I have taken very good care of them. They have eaten, slept, played and been normal chinchillas. I have put several chinchilla friendly toys in their cage for them to play with, and watching their intelligence has always astounded me. I bought them a hut made from a pressed wood material with a straw roof, which they systematically dismantled and moved. But I digress to what is changing.
Recently they started rearranging their cage on their own, moving their shavings around in large quantity, moving larger objects around. They have taken a dust house, turned it up on end and made a tunnel into it. They have buried their wood house completely in shavings and alfalfa that I have given them leaving one entrance in and out in the top, and when I give them more hay, they throw it down, and use it to engineer something new. They turned the dust house into a store silo, where they appear to be storing the food that I am feeding them each evening, along with layers of alfalfa between the seeds and pellets. Their food right now it on their 3rd tier, so moving it down and storing it is a pretty big task for two small critters. They also used to make a huge mess, throwing out seed hulls, and any other unwanted food onto the floor around their cage. When this behavior started about 2-3 months ago, and has progressed. They get exercise time, and get plenty of attention. They also get to listen to music or watch TV, which they love to do. They are healthy weight, although one did drop some weight for about 2 weeks. They have a healthy coat, bright eyes and are very aware of what is around them. They have access to pellets, alfalfa, fresh veggies, seeds and few other dried fruits that I mix in to their food.
Having been an animal person all my life, this behavior began to look like nesting behavior, moving soft grasses and shavings around, and storing food. I have actually taken to just cleaning what needs to be out of their cage, rather than a totally new start each week, just to see where they will take this in the long run. I am sure that they have other small tunnels in there, specifically into their second house that I have provided them but they are below the surface of the shaving/hay mixture they have made.
As a non-chinchilla professional I am reaching out to someone that has more experience in chinchilla behavior, and may be able to shed some light on what I am looking at as strange. Any info would be greatly appreciated.