Chinchillas are enjoying increasing popularity, which is mainly due to their soft fur, many great characteristics, and their cute appearance. But the small rodents of South American origin have high housing requirements, so the work that a chinchilla owner has to do should not be underestimated.
The diet of chinchillas in nature
Free-living chinchillas mainly live in areas with little vegetation, in which there are mainly herbaceous plants as well as grasses or small bushes. The cute rodents feed on herbs, grasses, cacti, and twigs with leaves. The animals also like to eat berries, but unfortunately, they are very rarely on the diet, as these are very rare at the high altitudes where the chinchillas live.
Important components of the chinchilla diet:
- Dried herbs;
- dried leaves;
- dried flowers;
- seed mixes;
- Vegetables with the observance of small restrictions;
- green plant parts;
- Meadow Green – Blossoms, herbs, and grasses.
Unfortunately, grass and herbs are not available all year round, because they are not suitable for feeding rodents in both winter and spring and can cause diarrhea and stomach ache. The hay is now an optimal substitute and should be available to the animals at all times due to its healthy properties. The hay has the task of keeping the intestines going thanks to the large proportion of raw fibres. In addition, it is also often referred to as activity food and also benefits the tooth abrasion of the molars. Even when dried, the hay is rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are important for animal health. Due to the many positive properties, it is important that the hay is available at all times. However, since it does not only consist of high-quality components, it must be given anew every day, whereby you should dispose of the old hay. This gives your chinchillas the opportunity to select individual components from the fresh and new hay. If you leave the old hay in the cage and thus force the animals to eat it, the inferior and in some cases even the bad parts will also be eaten, which could have a negative effect on the animals’ health.
It is not uncommon for the animals to leave 50 percent of the hay behind. She instinctively takes the hay that the body needs. Even when feeding fresh grass and other green fodder, hay should always be given.
Experts advise buying hay that comes from the first cut and was harvested from June. This cut is coarser than the second and also contains more nutrients and vitamins. A mixture of both cuts is also possible. Make sure that the hay is thoroughly dried, which usually takes at least 3 months. If you want to make hay yourself, you have to make sure that it is well aerated so that it doesn’t get moldy and dries evenly. Storage should therefore be dry, sufficiently ventilated, and dark. As soon as the hay is dusty, has black spots, is still green, or smells funny, the animals must not eat it under any circumstances, as it can cause serious illnesses, which in the worst case can lead to death.
Due to its origin, the meadow green is the healthiest chinchilla food. Everything that a wild meadow has to offer with its various grasses and herbs can be fed. These contain all the nutrients that chinchillas need for daily living. The contained raw fibers keep the intestine on its toes. The raw fibers and silicic acid are also very important for the rodents’ teeth when they are ground up, where they ensure ideal wear so that they do not become too long.
It is important to gradually get the chinchillas used to meadow herbs and grasses, as otherwise intestinal problems in the form of diarrhea can occur. Although it is usually the animals’ staple food, most breeders do not feed it. For this reason, very slow acclimatization for small rodents is vital and can then be increased very slowly. In addition to the green fodder collected from the herb meadow, it is also possible to feed the green fodder from the supermarkets, although it is particularly important not to choose the soggy leftovers from the garbage can. So you always have to make sure that carrot greens, fennel greens, and co. are nice and fresh and crisp. After getting used to it, you should make the meadow green available indefinitely.
Vegetables and fruit
Since most chinchillas react to vegetables, fruit, and other fresh food with diarrhea, most breeders advise against feeding them vegetables at all. However, this is not because the animals generally do not tolerate the vegetables, but above all, because the breeders, as already mentioned, do not give fresh food. Rather, breeders use hay, pellets, and water. Since the intestines of the animals are not used to the food, they react with diarrhea. However, as soon as the animals are used to the green fodder, you can slowly start to get used to the vegetables.
However, since chinchillas do not tolerate large amounts of sugar, you should primarily use leafy vegetables, such as various salads. Tuberous vegetables, on the other hand, should only be served rarely and then only in small portions. Since vegetables are very healthy and contain many vitamins, a small portion a day, for example, a leaf of lettuce with a small piece of tuber and another type of vegetable, can complement the menu. Fruit, on the other hand, contains even more sugar than vegetables and should therefore not be fed daily, but only very rarely served as a small treat in between. When it comes to fruits, you should primarily use berries, as citrus fruits are too acidic and can therefore make the animals’ urine very acidic.
Dry herbs with flowers or leaves
If possible, dried herbs, flowers, and leaves should not be missing from the chinchilla’s daily diet. But here, too, the animals should slowly get used to the unfamiliar food. For this it is best if alternating herbs, as well as leaves and flowers, are fed. As soon as the animals have become accustomed to the dried greens, they should be made freely available.
The dried herbs are best stored in tin cans, such as biscuit tins so that any residual moisture can escape and the feed does not start to go moldy. Bags, no matter what material they are made of, are not suitable for storage because they do not have sufficient resistance to parasites.
Dried animal food
Due to the fact that numerous plants that chinchillas eat in nature do not grow in Germany, single-pellet feed is an integral part of the animal’s diet. However, this is more of an emergency solution to provide the animals with the nutrients they need, which are not contained in the herbs and leaves growing here. Emergency solution because the feed also contains sugar, grain, and various green waste and therefore cannot be optimally converted by the rodents’ intestines. In addition, the molars of the animals do not wear out sufficiently and yeast can form in the intestine. However, some manufacturer brands now also offer healthier pellets, which are more precisely declared and are produced without additives. In addition, these are usually cold-pressed, which means that they still contain vitamins and nutrients that would be destroyed during production using heat.
When feeding with pellets, however, only certain amounts should be fed. Animals that do not get leaves or other green fodder need about a level tablespoonful a day. Animals that do not eat this amount in a day should be fed less. For chinchillas, which are under frequent stress, the amount must be increased. Chinchillas that lose weight despite being fed a small amount of this dry food will need more pellets.
Dry food should not be stored for longer than four months, otherwise, too many vitamins will be lost. Tin loose or thick-walled cardboard boxes lined with paper are most suitable so that residual moisture can escape.
When choosing the right pellet feed, you need to differentiate between the hot-pressed and cold-pressed varieties. With the hot-pressed pellets, the vitamins and other nutrients are quickly lost and are then artificially added again. The cold-pressed pellets, on the other hand, are only slightly moistened and then provided with a binding agent in order to then press them into the pellet shape. The vitamins and nutrients are therefore retained, making the cold-pressed pellets the right choice.
Twigs have the main task of wearing down the teeth of the chinchillas sufficiently. It is therefore important to always provide the animals with well-dried branches. It is important that the selected branches are washed thoroughly before drying. The leaves must also be removed. Animals that are already used to fresh green fodder usually tolerate the still green and fresh branches.
Water is very important and should always be fresh and available in sufficient quantities. If possible, make sure that the water is soft. The water must also be changed every day.
Of course, small treats for in between should not be missing. They can be used as a reward or to create a bond between humans and animals. Many owners use small treats to get the animals used to people and to relieve their fear. Dried vegetables in very small quantities, such as carrots, fennel, or celery, are particularly suitable. Beetroot and rice flakes are also readily accepted by animals.
However, there are also some foods for the animals that have special properties and are therefore very good for the animals.
|Lining type||Special properties|
lowers the blood pressure of the animals
may only be offered dried
|Dill||stimulates the milk production of mother animals
stimulates the appetite
relieves flatulence in animals
|Daisy||slightly laxative effect (good for constipation)
good for lung diseases
|Shepherd’s purse||not for pregnant animals
|Lovage||good for stomach ailments
good for kidney problems
abortifacient effect in digestive problems
not suitable for pregnant animals
|Luzerne||contains a lot of protein
forms calcium in the body of animals
good for calcium fishing
|Milk thistle herb||good for stomach problems
good for liver problems
good for intestinal problems
|Oregano||good for intestinal problems|
|Peppermint leaves||anticonvulsant effect
good for stomach problems
good for intestinal problems
promotes blood circulation
stimulates bile secretion
do not feed to mother animals, otherwise, the mother’s milk can decrease
|Marigold flowers||have a calming effect|
|Buckhorn||helps with colds
good for kidney problems
good for bladder problems
|Leaf spinach||rich in iron
high oxalic acid content
feed only very rarely
|Iceberg lettuce||high water content
contains many vitamins
|Guess||contains many minerals
contains many vitamins
has a diuretic effect
has a cholagogue effect
stimulates the appetite of the animals
|You must not feed them these herbs||Aloe Vera
tree of life
lily of the valley
and generally poisonous herbs
if you are unsure, do not feed
|Cucumbers (all types of cucumbers are suitable for feeding)||contain a lot of water
only feed a few slices
can cause muddy stools
|You should not give these vegetables to your animals||Onions (onions, chives, leeks)
Legumes can cause bloating and abdominal pain (peas, lentils, or beans)
raw potatoes contain too much starch (even the green of the potato is poisonous)
Radish is too spicy
Radishes are too spicy
Avocados are highly toxic and can even kill the animals
|Apples||rich in sugar
Remove seeds as they contain hydrocyanic acid
|Strawberries||can be given with leaves
strawberry plants can also be fed
rich in vitamins
don’t give too many strawberries
|Rosehips||very rich in vitamin C
give without seeds
fresh or dried
|You should not give this fruit to your chinchillas||all stone fruit (cherries, nectarines, mirabelle plums, etc.)
Exotic fruits can cause indigestion
|Apple tree branches||can be given in large quantities|
|Linden branches||has a strong diuretic effect
only feed in small amounts
|Alder branches||only feed in small amounts|
|You should not feed these branches||Sprigs of stone fruit (cherry, peach, plum, etc.
Thuja branches are poisonous
Yew branches are poisonous
Branches of resinous trees contain oils that are poisonous to animals (fir)
Give chestnut branches only in case of illness
Give oak branches only in case of illness
What else is there to consider?
When it comes to chinchilla food, the motto “sometimes less is more” applies. Getting used to the new food must always be done very slowly and the pellet food should not be changed. However, if you want to change the food, the new food should first be mixed with the old.
It is therefore important for you as the owner to ensure that you do not give too much, but always ensure that your animals are always supplied with all the important nutrients and vitamins because healthy chinchillas are happy chinchillas and live longer.