Chinchillas: your day-to-day guide

Chinchillas can become very tame if they are socialised well. However, remember they are more active at dusk and dawn – this may not suit all families. Find out how to care for your chinchillas day-to-day below.

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What to feed your chinchillas

Chinchillas are herbivores – so they only eat plant-based food, not meat. Feed your chinchillas a good quality diet to avoid health conditions like dental disease and obesity.

  • Your chinchilla’s diet should be made up of around 80% good quality hay varieties – such as meadow hay, alfalfa, orchard grass – and small amounts of timothy hay
  • 5% should be pellet feed like Burgess chinchilla nuggets. One to two tablespoons of nuggets a day is ample for one to two chinchillas
  • 15% natural, healthy forage treats should top up the last of your chinchillas’ diet. Take care to choose healthy treats as it can be very easy to over feed sugary treats, which will lead to health problems.

Healthy treats for chinchillas include:

  • Apple, pear or willow tree twigs and branch cuttings
  • Wild rose, ideally remove any large thorns
  • Dried herbs and seed pods purchased from a pet store such as the mountain mix or mallow root

How to handle your chinchillas

Chinchillas are naturally fast and wriggly animals, and many don’t enjoy being handled. Spend time slowly socialising your chinchillas to help them feel safe and confident around you, and they may learn to enjoy being handled in their own time.

Spend 10-20 minutes each evening talking to your chinchillas and offering them a treat to encourage them to feed from your hands. Once they feel confident with this, offer them your arm to sniff and hop onto. Never try to grab your chinchilla suddenly as this can cause them a lot of stress.

If you need to catch your chinchillas for health checking or during free-range time, place a tunnel out for them to get into. This way, you can safely lift them without causing them stress.

When you need to handle your chinchillas for a health check or to give treatment, hold them against your chest with all four of their feet on you. Hold up the very base of their tail across their shoulders with your other hand. Never pick your chinchilla up by the tail.

How to avoid biting

It’s relatively rare that your chinchillas will bite you. However, not all enjoy human contact and will give you plenty of warnings before biting. These warnings include barking, spitting and urinating at you.

If you notice these warnings, leave your chinchillas to relax and settle in their home and take your time to socialise with them.

Free-range time

Once your chinchillas are settled with your daily routine and happy to feed from your hands, you can allow them some free-range time in a secure room.

Ideally, this is the room that the cage is housed in. Make sure all wires are protected and any house plants are removed. Your chinchillas will run fast and spring all over the place exploring, so make sure the room is completely safe and secure.