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In the wild, the chinchilla's food diet consists of grasses, shrubs, roots, and berries. Special chinchilla nutrition food pellets designed for chinchillas are commercially available, and make feeding a balanced diet quite easy. It should be noted that chinchillas like to grasp food pellets with their forepaws and eat from their hands. As a result the pellet size is important and should be large enough to allow the chinchilla to easily eat the food pellets.
Chinchilla food should be about 1/2 ounce of pellets in the morning, and again in the evening.
Chinchillas also require a good amount of fibre in their food and nutrition. Hay provides the best source of this nutrient. Hay racks should be hung from the side of the chinchilla's cage as the average chinchilla will consume up to one cup of hay per day. Chinchillas that are not provided adequate dietary fibre in their chinchilla food will develop potentially life-threatening enteritis.
The key to good nutrition is balance. Everything should be balanced with something else. For example, calcium won't work without phosphorous and vice versa. Timothy hay should be balanced with alfalfa at 80% timothy to 20% alfalfa level.
When an animal needs extra energy (cold weather, not eating), give a few pellets that have been dipped in oil. Soy oil is best, animal oils can go bad too fast, and canola oil should not be used.
High quality feeds are more likely to have digestible nutrients. Cheaper feeds will show good percentages for their contents, but they may use feather meal to boost the protein, which isn't digestible for them and therefore the feed isn’t balanced.
A couple of neat facts: baby's milk is mostly water. The digestive tract of a horse can go around the horse 12 times, a pig's can go around the pig 14 times, a cow is 20 times, and a chinchilla is 23 times.
Chins are not designed to eat large meals. They are grazers. Too much digested too fast can result in health problems such as bloating, enteritis, malocclusion, constipation. They have a small stomach compared to the body size.
The Cecum: food goes in and moves along one side, and comes back on the other side. Its a very long process, during which many more nutrients are absorbed.
Feed by weight, not by volume. Weigh the food for 2% of the animal’s body weight per day (i.e. a 600g chinchilla will eat 12g of food). Remember that different foods have different weights.
If too little nutrients are being digested, the animals will be tired, weaker, and have pot bellies. They will eat a lot more indigestible food to make up the difference, and will lead to breeding and growing problems.
Bacteria in the Cecum takes 4 to 7 weeks to change when given new food, so when switching feeds, it should be slowly, over this amount of time.
Follow the following chinchilla’s food/nutrition tips to keep a pet that is healthy and happy for the long term!
© Pet care plus
© Ontario chinchilla association
Some schools are against giving them any fresh vegetables or herbs, and they consider this food as treats. It is of course necessary to distinguish between green vegetables and fruits.
“The suggestion of avoid fresh vegetables’ provision is completely wrong and devoid of foundation, since rodent are mainly herbivorous. The erroneous indications are based traditions, generic ignorance and on the fact that a dry feeding is much practical.
Fruits might be restricted at best because they are not part of the original/wild diet. A high sugary (fructose) caloric contribution could predispose to intestinal fermentation and to the microbic flora alteration. This could potentially cause diarrhoea.” © Dr. vet. Vittorio Capello.
My chinchillas mostly enjoy carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, salad, cauliflowers, French beans, cherry leaves, broccoli, celery ... I also give them small quantities of apples, pears and bananas.
Chinchillas need fresh vegetables every day to get the vitamins and the minerals they require for good health.
"Give healthy food and you'll get healthy chinchillas" - A healthy chinchilla is one that obtains enough roughage by consuming pellets and hay.
Chinchilla's diet can be very simple, most common feed is chinchilla pellets. You can easily get chinchilla pellets at most pet stores or from a breeder you know. Everyday, you need to give about 1-2 tablespoons of pellets. The best time to feed the chinchillas is in the evening when they are active. You can either use a heavy bottom dish made of porcelain, glass or metal, or you may choose to use a pellet dispenser to hold the food. Bear in mind that chinchilla likes to eat high up to eat their food and it can easily topple over the food dish. Always remove soiled or wet pellets. Feed fresh pellets everyday.
It is important to make sure that the pellets are fresh. Rule of thumb: "Change it if it has more than 3 months or 90 days old'. This is because the pellets start to lose their nutritional value after that period. You can keep the freshness of the food by keeping them in airtight containers and freezing portions meant to be used later. Be sure to check the freshness of the pellet, you can do so by tasting it or smelling it. If it does not taste fresh or smell fresh, it is time to get ride of it.
Some consider rabbit pellets to be unsuitable for chinchillas. The main concern is that the pellets might contain a hormone which is dangerous to chinchillas.
When it comes to introducing new food to the chinchillas, be sure to do so gradually over a period of time. Slowly increase the quantity of the new food while reducing that of the old food over a grace or 2-3 weeks. A sudden and total change to new food can cause constipation or diarrhoea as chinchillas have very sensitive GI tract. Remember to allow some time for the chinchilla to get use to the new food.
Regardless of what type of hay you intend to get, it is important that hay should be properly sweated. In another words, well-seasoned and dry, meaning it contains approximately 14% moisture. Fresh hay has an aromatic fragrant described by some as tobacco-like. If it smells mildew or mouldy, it is time throw it away. Remember to feed fresh hay which is free from any moulds or insects or poisonous weed, etc.
You can perform a test to see if your hay is correctly sweated. Take a handful of hay and twist it into a rope, it should hold its shape and stays slightly open. If it does not open when twisted together, it is too wet. What you can do here is to sun or air the hay. If it breaks and falls apart, it is too dry. You will have to throw away the dry hay as it is useless.
There are many types of hay but those commonly given to chinchillas are Timothy and Alfalfa hay. Alfalfa is a lot leafier than Timothy hay and seems to be more palatable by the chinchillas. It is not recommended to feed Alfalfa hay in large quantity as it reduces calcium absorbency of chinchillas. If you are using both Timothy and Alfalfa, use a larger portion of Timothy, in the ratio of 4:1. Alternatively, you can also give Alfalfa cube instead of the hay. Other hays you might want to try: barley hay, oat hay, Sudan grass or other grass hay, etc. Don't forget to introduce the new hay slowly.
It is advisable to have a hay rack or a big bowl to contain the hay. Change the hay if it has been soiled or wet, to prevent your chinchilla from getting diarrhoea.
If you are using water dish, you need to change the water daily. Also, you need to sterilise the water bottle or water dish regularly by washing it with mild detergent and running it under hot water. Check that there is no sign of algae or other particles. Chinchilla has very sensitive GI tract, it can get diarrhoea easily with contaminated water. Don't take any risk.
Preferably give boiled or distilled water to reduce the chances of the chinchilla getting gardia. Bacteria in water may not be harmful to you, but it can be extremely dangerous to the chinchillas. Boiling or distilling will reduce the amount of bacteria and chlorine in tap water. Even if you are presently using a water purifier, I would still suggest boiling first. In some countries, the tap water contains a lot of chlorine; it would better to soften the water by boiling it before giving it to your pet.
In giving treats, such as dried fruit, do not give more than 2 small pieces per day. Choose to give either dried fruits or nuts, not both. In other words, choose ONLY one type of treat to give a day. Treats are to be given in SMALL quantity. The digestive system of chinchilla is in such a way that it can extract the most out of the food it consumes, giving too much treat can cause diarrhoea or even liver problem when it cannot handle the large amount of food. An obese chinchilla (like for humans) is an unhealthy chinchilla. Do not feed it too much food rich in fat, starch, sugar, etc. You need a well balanced diet, so does your chinchilla. Healthy chinchillas follow high roughage and low fats & sugar diet.
Dried fruit such as raisin and cranberries are the favourite treats for chinchilla. There are many different suggestions to how much such treat to give to the animal. Some suggested 2 per week, some others 2 per day.
Sunflower seeds, pecan, peanuts, almond, cashew, etc. Nuts, have a lot of fats in it. Try to keep it to the minimum. You can either give the sunflower seeds as treat or mix some with the chinchilla pellets. Sunflower seeds have the essential fatty oil which gives the chinchilla fur a shiny and smooth texture. Dull looking fur might be due to the lack of the needed fat in its diet.
This will depend very much on what your chinchilla likes. It is through some trial and error that you discover what your chinchilla likes and dislikes. Some examples: carrot, corn on the cob, grape, apple, rose hip, bread, etc. etc. There are some chinchillas that love vegetables like carrot and corn on the cob. Be very careful when giving corn to your chinchilla, corns can create air in its tummy causing it to bloat. Fruits too should be giving in SMALL quantity.
NOTE: There are some food you should avoid giving your chinchilla, such as lettuce or other green vegetables, pop soda, chips (potato chip, tapioca chip, yam chip, etc), ice cream, other type of animal feed (like parrot food, hamster food, guinea pig food, etc.), and others. Frequently, chinchilla fall sick because the owner feed nonsense to their pet. Such food can kill the animal, you might not realise what damage it can do till it is too late.
It has been claimed that chinchillas with Vitamin C supplement have fewer teeth and gum problems. You can either provide Vitamin C supplement by giving fruits rich in Vitamin C or you can provide children's chewable Vitamin C tablets. When buying Vitamin C tablets, read the label to make sure that it does not contain Vitamin A or Iron. You may have to shop around for a few brands before your chinchilla will accept it. It is advisable not to get any tablet containing higher than 500 mg of Vitamin C.
Calcium supplement is especially important to pregnant and young chinchillas. You can check your chinchilla to see if it is lacking in calcium - the incisors will be white in this case. Healthy chinchillas with sufficient calcium in their diets will have yellow incisors. You can provide calcium supplement by giving calf manna or others substitutes.
When you change from packaged old hay bought from a store, to a new fresher hay such as an alfalfa bought from Oxbow, [or some other good grower/supplier] then you must remember to slowly introduce the new hay to the chinchilla over about a six week period. The reason for this is that the flora/fauna of the GI tract, the bacteria that break down the masticated hay, need to change over to handle the fresher cleaner hay. The chins will love the new stuff, and will want to "pig out" on it. The problems that ensue can be everything from bloat, to colic to fermentation of the hind gut even to death. So, when you switch hays, start with 1/5 of new and 4/5 of old, and slowly allow the animal to go to 1/5 more each week.
The same thing holds true when you switch all other types of foods. The pellets that you use the animal's body is used to, so if you board your animal with a friend, or get a new brand of pellets, or try a new mix or something similar, remember that you have to give the GI tract bacteria time to get used to breaking down the new formula. This may only take 1 week to 6 weeks depending upon the differences, the richness, the milling etc. Again start with mostly old formula and slowly introduce the new stuff.
Remember too, if you get a chinchilla from someone you need to get a weeks worth or more of the food that the chinchilla is used to, so that you can wean them onto the new food. Chinchillas that have been shipped also tend to have a poor appetite and diarrhoea from the stress of being shipped, so switching to a new food without weaning onto foods is harder on their system. You could loose a chin that way.
© California chins
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