top of page

Food & Water


 Care & Feeding of Chinchillas

Timothy Hay

  • Always have fresh timothy hay available

  • Do not feed hay with treats mixed in. Remove any weeds.

  • The most economical hay can be found by the bale from a local farmer or feed store. Ask for horse feed hay. Store hay in a dark, cool, & dry area, a large covered plastic container works great.

  • Feed the loose hay from the top of the cage, ceramic pot, box, or a hay rack outside the cage. Wire hay racks or balls inside the cage are often traps that result in broken or dislocated legs.

  • Hay cubes may be used instead of loose hay, chins will eat about one a day.


  • Always have pellets available, chins should be free fed. 

  • Never feed pellets with treats or extras mixed in

Recommended foods:

  • Blue Seal Bunny 16 /Furry Friends

  • Oxbow Essentials (Red Bag)

  • MannaPro Pro Rabbit (TSC)

  • Mazuri chinchilla

Large 25 or 50 lb bags:

  • Blue Seal Hutch Deluxe 17 

  • Nutrena Rabbit Feed 16%

  • MannaPro Sho Rabbit

Safe Foods


  • Feed no more than 1/2 teaspoon per day

  • Never mix treats with pellets

  • Only feed treats to chinchillas over eight months old.

  • Only one safe treat from this list daily:


  • 1 mini Shredded Wheat (MSW)

  • 3 cheerios

  • 1 dried rose hip

  • ½ teaspoon rolled oats or supplement

  • 6” blade of fresh timothy grass

  • Fresh dandelion leaf 1”

  • 6” dried apple stick


  • If your chin has soft or sticky droppings, give them a MSW twice daily and feed only hay until normal.

Never feed dried or fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, or seeds.



  • Always have fresh clean water available in a water bottle.

  • Glass bottles are recommended to avoid chew damage

  • Clean bottle with hot soapy water monthly

Bottled or filtered water is recommended, chins don’t like chlorine taste or scent

Supplies for Your Cage

Bedding - fine pine shavings


  • Fill your pan about 2” deep

  • Change all bedding weekly

  • NO CEDAR, Carefresh, or shredded paper products

  • Your chinchilla will most likely choose one spot for pee but will poop everywhere. Many chins will use a shallow glass dish in their favorite corner as a litter pan, allowing for spot cleaning of the cage.

  • Wire floors and a litter pan (2 Qt glass lasagna dish) are a safe and popular alternative to a full pan of shavings. Prevue Rat and Chinchilla cage is the cage we recommend most often.

Chew Items & Cage Decor



Wood shelves & houses:

  • Multi use: chew items, shelf, and shelter

  • Place at 6” vertical increments to keep chins from jumping very far.

  • may be made from kiln dried (KD) pine or spruce

  • more shelves are always better

  • Look for houses constructed with no nails or staples

  • Thicker wood will last longer 

  • Wood items:

  • small pieces of pine wood are fun for chins to chew and carry

  • No hard woods like oak, mahogany, and no cedar or evergreens

  • No paint, stain, polyurethane, oil, varnish, pressure treated, chip board, plywood, luan, fresh evergreen branches, cedar, molded wood composite products, nails, or staples

  • You can harvest your own apple wood by clipping clean thin branches and baking them until dried through 

  • Pumice chew blocks:

  • Look for toys with no glue or rope

  • Pedicure pumice stones with no paint, scent, or added chemicals

  • Pieces of grill bricks 

  • Fleece items:

  • Only anti-pill fleece fabric is safe for use with chinchillas

  • Hammocks should be fleece fabric with no plastic clips or nylon straps

  • Plastic shelves and PVC tubes should be covered in fleece to prevent chewing.  

  • Do not use these items in your cage:

  • Plastic igloo houses

  • Plastic “tree trunk” huts

  • Edible houses, logs, tubes, houses, etc.

  • Any edible toys with food or treats

  • Toys or treats made with corn, rice, or wheat products


Hygiene & Activity


  • Chinchillas need to have a dust bath a minimum of twice weekly.

  • Never bathe a chin in water.

  • Bathing dust is made from crushed pumice. Do not use kitty litter, sand, corn meal, flour, etc.

  • Good brands include ChillDust, Poof, and Blue Sparkle

  • Add a sprinkle of Desenex or Tinactin powder to your dust to help prevent fungus.

  • Offer your chin dusting outside the cage during your quiet time with them.


Dust containers:

  • Plastic dust houses are stable and safe, take them out of the cage after use.

  • Glass 1 gallon jars

  • Cat litter pans, dish pans

  • Ventilated plastic storage boxes

  • Kitchen pots, pans, or bowls

  • Fish bowls or cookie jars

  • High sides or enclosed containers are best for controlling dust scatter

  • Corn starch or talcum baby powder can be added to the dust for a whiter coat.

  • If your chinchilla is very dirty, handled often, or to prepare for show, offer it dust daily.

  • Remove from cage after dusting, sitting in dust will chap their feet and can contribute to bumblefoot.



Cleaning the cage

  • Clean the cage once weekly and replace all bedding

  • Urine stains in pans and on wire can be most easily removed by soaking with vinegar and scrubbing with dish soap added to the vinegar. If your cage has a wire floor, consider a glass litter pan.

  • Remove any fabric that chins chew, inspect hammocks and covers carefully

  • Food dishes should be emptied of all fines often and washed as necessary.

  • Water bottles and their tubes should be washed with hot soapy water. A baby bottle brush is perfect.

  • An extra cage or hard sided cat carrier is very helpful on cleaning day.




   DO NOT exercise your chinchillas! 


  • Time outside their cage is stressful

  • Stress and subsequent weight loss contribute to illness

  • Do not put a wheel in the cage.

  • Babies need all their calories for growth


  • Wild chinchillas are crevice and burrow dwellers, domestic chins enjoy a hiding spot like a wood house or low shelf. In the wild they spend 90% of their time in their small burrows, and after coming out to forage return to be safe from predators and conserve their energy.

  • Limit outside-the-cage time to 30 minutes daily for adults, 15 minutes for young growing chins.

  • Holding during quiet time together is a better way to interact with your chin. Start building a bond by offering oats or small pieces of mini shredded wheat or oats  EACH time they are held or taken out of the cage.

  • Teach them to sit on you by first feeding oats with your elbow on the open cage door, then luring them to your shoulder. With time and patience, you can teach them to sit on your shoulder. Caution: chins can break or dislocate bones in a fall, always hold their tail to keep them safe.

A chinchilla loose in your home will chew everything it encounters, including your furniture, books, wires, fabric, woodwork, doors, and anything else it can reach! Prevent damage to your home, illness and stress to your chinchilla by simply enjoying quiet time together on a sofa or bed

Chinchilla Lovers

@Chinchilla.Lovers  · Facebook Community






We (breeders the world round) will tell you that Out of Cage Playtime is not necessary for the health and emotional well being of your chinchilla. Interacting with them in their cage is just as acceptable.


Remember, most accidents and injuries happen out of the cage.


While we advise that it’s not necessary, we do recognize that people want to engage in the activity.


When enjoying Out of Cage Playtime you should remember a few guidelines.


1. Playtime must be in a chin safe space. Chinchillas are quick- they can bite into a live cord and electrocute themselves, they can peel the paint from your walls and thy can fit into some pretty ridiculously small spaces. Use the bathroom, a hallway or get a playpen.


2. No other animals should be in the room- chinchillas do not speak any language other than chinchilla. You can swear up one side and down the other that your doggo is the gentlest of giants but chinchillas are prey animals - they believe that everything wants to eat them.. including you.


3. Chinchillas should not be out of the cage longer than 20-30 minutes. Chinchillas overheat and over exert easily. They’re den dwellers- being out of their den (cage) kicks their stress responses into overdrive.. stress releases cortisol which lowers their immune systems..


4. Playtime must be 100% supervised. See above- it only takes a moment for a chinchilla to kill themselves or hide from your view. This means eyes on- 100%. We suggest 20-30 minutes because frankly most humans don’t have the attention span beyond that.. We get distracted by our phones, the tv and conversations with our partners.


5. Chinchillas under 6 months should have no Out of Cage Playtime. Their systems are still developing and they need all their calories for healthy growth and development.


To conclude- you don’t have to do Out of Cage Playtime but if you do, follow the guidelines above.


Out of Cage Playtime is for your entertainment- not your chin's.

Don’t anthropomorphize your chinchilla. They are not human- they are a fluffy rodent that you’ve taken stewardship of. Make responsible decisions with their care and they’ll reward you with a long life.

1st two

The First Two Weeks

chin prints.jpg
  • Leave them in the cage for the first two weeks, do not take them out to play or hold.

  • Chinchillas need to have pellets, hay, and water always available. The first week, feed only the pellets I provided, then mix half & half with the new food until gone.

  • Establish a routine and build their trust! Chins love to know what to expect throughout the day. Try to interact with them at the same times each day. You will see that they will wait at the front of the cage when they expect something good to happen, like treats, food, dusting, or your attention. 

  • Your chins might hide and be antisocial with you and/or their cagemates for the first two weeks, this is normal behavior while they are adjusting to their new home. Be consistent with behavior and schedule so that they will learn to trust you.

  • Offer your chins 1/2 unsweetened mini shredded wheat (MSW) twice daily, in the same location through the bars. Speak gently and hold tight to the MSW while they eat it from your fingers. You’ll be teaching them that it’s safe to take treats from you and begin to establish a bond with them. Training your chinchillas that they will receive their MSW in a specific location will be helpful later if you need to train them to return to the cage after playtime.

  • Do not give your chins any treats other than the mini shredded wheat.

  • After a week, open the door and put one hand inside and offer the treat with the other. Only let them eat the treat if they touch or sit on your hand. Do not take them out of the cage, even if they want to come out.

  • Check that the temperature in their area does not go above 70 degrees, and that they are not exposed to sunlight or drafts.

  • Mounting and chasing are normal dominance and play behaviors, but separate chins if they are pulling fur or injuring each other. if you find tufts of fur or blood in the cage, see bite marks, or see violent behavior.

  • Your chins may make warning calls when they sense that something is different or frightening and warn the others with a loud “eeeep eeep eeep eeep eeep” sound. Sometimes chins will even do this in their sleep! After the chins are used to your home, they will only make warning calls when they see, smell, or hear something strange. Some chins will make a warning call when a new person visits the home.

  • Chinchillas need a dust bath a minimum of twice weekly. After they have each dusted remove the dust bath from the cage.


Introducing Chinchillas

Stress Bonding

Chinchillas are happier, healthier, more outgoing, overall better pets for their owners if they have a same-sex chinny companion. They are herd animals and a companion will bring them security and a lower stress level.

Chinchillas are very territorial. They will not bond if opposite sex chins are in the same household because they will scent the opposite sex chin and become aggressive and territorial with their cagemate. 

Some chins won’t ever bond with another because of past experiences, and others that have been in breeding may always need to be singles. All chins have different personalities, so be prepared with an extra cage if your chins don’t get along.

This is the stress bonding method, chins bond through anxiety and adjusting to a “new” neutral environment:

  • Trim each chin’s whiskers. Dominant chins will chew off the other chin’s whiskers. If they all have short whiskers, they will think they are submissive and be less likely to claim territory or be aggressive.

  • Remove your chin from it’s cage and put it into a travel carrier, put the carrier in another room.

  • Completely empty the cage the pair will be using, wash each item to remove all scent of the other chin, and rearrange the location of items as you put them back into the cage. If you have a Critter Nation or similar cage, close one level. Your goal is to make the cage seem completely different to the chins, they should think it’s a new and foreign place.

  • Take your chin on a ride in your air-conditioned vehicle to pick up the new chin. When you visit Maine Chinchilla Ranch your chin will get a health check-up and we’ll do our best to match your chin with a compatible friend.

  • When you return home with your chins, place a large pan of fresh dust in the cage, and place all chins into the cage at once. They will explore the cage together and enjoy the dust, so they will smell alike.

  • Watch them closely. The chins will chase and mount each other; this is normal behavior while they work out their “pecking order” and get to know each other. If you see any fur pulled out, biting, a cornered chin defending themselves, or very aggressive or violent behavior, separate the chins. You can repeat this process in a few weeks.

  • Some chins will stay separate and hide for up to two weeks, this is normal for older chins. Be patient and let them interact when they are ready.

  • Leave them in their cage, with no outside play time or holding, for two weeks.  The chins need this time to bond, settle in, and feel safe in their new environment without human interaction.

Introducing Two or More Chinchillas

By RDZC chinchillas, Tabitha Lindsay


There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about how introductions should be done between chinchillas. The key to developing a strong bond between chinchillas is to cause an immediate bond and avoid stressors that could break the bond.

​The very first point that is incredibly important to understand is that long, drawn out introductions are incredibly dangerous! A long bonding process where you slowly introduce the chinchillas through playtime or in a neutral area infrequently is the number one cause for repeated dominance fighting and a lack of bond formation. When chinchillas are brought together and taken apart repeatedly, this does not act like it does for you meeting a new person and forming a friendship. Each time the chinchillas are separated, any work that has been done between them to establish or determine dominance is essentially reset. This means that each time you let the chinchillas play together, they are going to do chasing, dominance humping, and even attacking in order to attempt to establish dominance. If slow introductions are not the way to get two chinchillas to live in harmony, then how do you go about introducing two chinchillas? If getting two or more chinchillas to live together in harmony were as difficult as some facebook groups and websites purport on the internet, breeders would never be able to introduce the pairings we want. Breeders are the chinchilla owners with the most experience in pairing chinchillas and these are the people whose advice you should be seeking in order to properly introduce two chinchillas.

The number one method for introduction is going to be to take the chinchillas you wish to bond and put them into a small carrier together that they cannot fight in. Put the carrier in your car and go for a 30 minute drive. Leave the chinchillas together in the carrier for an additional 4 hours. Once this is done, you can allow them into a cage together with no need to pull them apart and no fear of fighting. This works 99.9999% of the time for introducing two or more chinchillas. The only time I have not seen this work is when it is done improperly or if a chinchilla has been alone for more than 4 years and is too spoiled to accept a cagemate. This is the safest and surest way to introduce chinchillas.

Another method is the cage within a cage method. You take a smaller cage that fits inside of a second cage. Put one chinchilla in the small cage with access to their own food and water and put the second chinchilla in the larger cage around the small cage with their own source of food and water. Allow them to live in these two cages for at least 1 week, 2 weeks is preferable, and when 1-2 weeks has passed, you can remove the small cage and allow both chinchillas to roam freely together. 

The last method is called the smoosh method. This method has mild success, but when paired with a car ride as described in the number one method, this can work exceptionally well. The smoosh method does not work on highly aggressive or dominant chinchillas as they have to be highly stressed in order to form a bond and not be hyper focused on asserting dominance. The smoosh method is one where you take two chinchillas and place them into a small carrier or cage together. This cage or carrier must not be tall enough for either chinchilla to stand or move away from each other. It should prevent them from being able to fight with each other or avoid each other. 

You have to choose a method that you are comfortable with and that shows high success. Again, slow, long, drawn-out introductions have very low success rates of about 50% and they are more likely to result in the chinchillas fighting and breaking their bond after only a few years. Using either of the first two methods described is going to afford the highest success rates. Chinchillas introduced with these methods have lived together harmoniously for their entire lifetimes which averages 10-15 years. 

bottom of page