Keeping Chinchillas

Cages

Because chinchillas are very active they should be housed in an enclosure or a room in the house, rather than a cage. If housed in a cage, it should be as large as possible (at least 2m wide x 1m deep x 2m high) so the chinchillas can get plenty of exercise. It should have different levels and platforms so they have opportunities to jump and climb. It should also be indestructible and ideally made of non-toxic wire, because they will chew wood. Supervised time outside the cage in a safe and secure room should be provided daily to give them exercise. Make sure there is nothing they can chew on, especially electrical wires.

chinchilla cage

 
tall chinchilla cageThe enclosure should be indoors, out of draughts and direct sunlight. Because of their thick coat, chinchillas are very prone to overheating and the enclosure should be kept at a steady temperature between 10 – 15°C. Chinchillas often start to become distressed at around 21°C and can die if the temperature goes above 30°C .

 
The enclosure should be away from busy or noisy areas, such as near a TV or music system, as noises and vibrations are stressful for the animals. Take care to protect chinchillas from young children and predators, such as the family cat.

 
The enclosure should be well secured so that the chinchillas can’t escape.

 
Material for the floor of the enclosure or cage

The cage floor needs to be made of a material that the chinchillas can’t chew through. If wire mesh flooring is used, make sure there are plenty of solid floored platforms and branches that the chinchillas can spend time on, otherwise they may develop health problems with their feet. Wire mesh should be no more than 15mm x 15mm so that legs or feet don’t become injured. Wood shavings are suitable to use on the cage floor or beneath the wire mesh. Don’t use sawdust because it is too dusty for their eyes and lungs.

 
Nest boxes

chinchilla nesting boxChinchillas need a quiet and secluded nest box (25cm x 25cm x 25cm) where they can hide. They should be provided with clean, dry hay, straw or shredded paper (e.g. clean white kitchen role) to use as bedding. Ideally, any material used should be dust-free. Avoid newspaper because the ink can be toxic.

 
Cleaning them out

The enclosure or cage should be cleaned at least once a day, by removing any shavings or bedding that are wet and dirty, removing any uneaten fresh food and cleaning the food and water containers before refilling them. You also need to clean the enclosure more thoroughly to keep it clean and hygienic – once a week is usually adequate.

 
From time-to-time strip it out completely and scrub it with pet-safe cleaning agents (available from pet shops). Let the chinchillas back in only when it’s completely dry.

 
Give your chinchilla a friend

2 chinchillasChinchillas are social animals so need the company of other chinchillas. Social animals that live on their own get stressed and lonely.

 
Littermates of the same sex should live together, as this minimises the chance of them fighting. Males and females shouldn’t be kept together (unless neutered), as they will breed and it can be difficult to find homes for the young. Even if neutered, it is best if they have grown up together as littermates, or they may fight.

 
Breeding

baby chinchillasChinchillas become sexually mature at eight months of age, and produce an average litter size of two babies. So it is important to separate chinchillas of different sexes well before they are eight months old, to avoid unwanted litters.

 
 


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