Chinchilla nutrition is actually a
simple process. So simple in fact that many will often
inadvertently do more harm than good because they want to add things
to the diet that is not needed and can actually cause a nutrition
imbalance. Dietary staples of fresh, high quality pellets, hay
and distilled or filtered water is all that is required. These
should ALWAYS be available for consumption. Chinchillas will not
overeat of their dietary staples but will do so with treats.
Pellets can be found at most feed and
seed stores. Many chinchilla owners use pellets intended for
Rabbits or other rodents and this can be fine so long as proper
ingredients are included and, of course, your chinchilla eats it.
Many large breeders have their pellets specially made and can be a
great source for your herd. Always check with a professional breeder or your association for details on
proper pellet content analysis.
Hay used to feed chinchillas should be
either timothy or alfalfa. A chin's primary hay, for daily use,
should be HIGH in fiber and LOW in protein content.
A good guideline
to observe is when a chin is fed a timothy-based pellet, feed more
alfalfa hay (high-fiber, higher protein content) and when a chin is
fed an alfalfa-based pellet (most pellets are alfalfa-based, but
check the guaranteed analysis), feed more timothy hay.
Hay is absolutely vital to
chinchillas, it is the domestic chin's substitute for the roughage
they had in the wild. As an essential part of maintaining good
health, it is very important that a chin never goes without hay.
Grinding and chewing course hay also keeps their constantly growing
teeth filed down. This prevents molar spurs and other dental
problems. Although most chins aren't particular about the source of
their hay, if your chinchillas aren't eating, switch to another
source or brand until you find one that they prefer.
Treats for chinchillas, while not
totally restricted, must be supervised and given ONLY as a
treat. An occasional raisin or other dried fruit is fine but
nuts should be avoided due to their high fat content. Do NOT allow our chinchilla to have free access to
treats! Over time this may cause health problems that can lead to
premature death. The chinchilla GI tract is not equipped for
foods rich in fat, sugar or very high in protein. Unless treat
intake is strictly monitored it can cause: diarrhea, severe
digestive distress, seizures, bloat, malnutrition, liver damage, pancreatitis, dental disease, malocclusion, and more.
A chinchilla should receive, at the
most, just ONE
treat per day. And no treats for those that are ill or have
mushy or loose droppings. They need all the dietary staples they are
able to consume and treats can aggravate their condition.
Chinchillas are notorious beggars. After quickly consuming a
single treat they will beg for more. Just remember that giving
excess treats can deter them from eating their normal food. No
matter how much they beg always keep in mind that it is BEST for
them that you not to give in.