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Thread: Important Information on Chinchillas

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    Cavy Star Susan9608's Avatar
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    Important Information on Chinchillas

    Since several members on here either have chinchillas or are contemplating getting some chinchillas, we thought it would be benefical to have some basic information on chinchillas, particularly in regards to housing.

    While chinchillas are rodents from South America, like guinea pigs, it's important to remember that chinchillas are very different from guinea pigs and thus have very different needs. Their diet is different, their illnesses are different, and their habitats are also different.

    With guinea pigs, ground space is important to allow guinea pigs to run laps and popcorn. With chinchillas, ground space is nice, but what's more important is height to allow a chinchilla to jump and leap. Whereas guinea pigs generally need ramps to go from one level to another, chinchillas will usually just jump.

    When you decide that you want a pet chinchilla, the chinchilla's cage is probably one of the most important things you will need to obtain. Pet store cages, as with guinea pigs, are woefully inadequate. Not only are they usually too small, but they also generally consist of plastic clamps and plastic shelving.

    If you are considering a chinchilla for a pet, or if you already have one housed in a pet store cage, I would urge you to consider making a cage yourself. It's really not difficult. I will post some examples and some links to cages that I personally find suitable.

    I know there are some people on this forum who have C&C cages for their chinchillas; I know these people will fight to the death defending these cages. After keeping chinchillas of all ages and sizes for over 6 years now, I have to say that as C&C cages are described and typically made for guinea pigs they are not entirely suitable for chinchillas.

    My issues with C&C cages for chinchillas are:

    • The Coroplast. Chinchillas are notorious chewers. A coroplast box inside of the cage grids just invites a chin to chew it. Not only will that leave your box in shreds, but if your chin swallows the coroplast, it can cause major intestinal blockage and kill your chinchilla. A lot of people will swear up and down that their chinchilla doesn't/won't chew on the coroplast. I urge you to consider safety above all else and simply don't give your chinchilla the opportunity to find out if he will or will not chew the coroplast. And to those that swear their chinchilla won't chew the coroplast, just because your chin hasn't yet chewed it doesn't mean that he can't or won't. That's something to consider. (A possible solution to this problem is to put the coroplast box on the outside of the grids.)
    • The Zip Ties. A lot of people use zip ties to hold their C&C cages together. A chinchilla can break a zip tie with one half-hearted snap of his teeth. This can cause your whole cage to collapse or, at the very least, allow your chinchilla to escape. Plus, it again gives your chinchilla the opportunity to chew and possibly ingest plastic. (A possible solution to this is to use wire rather than zip ties. You must be absolutely sure, though, that there are no sharp wire ends a chinchilla could cut his hands on.)
    • The Grids. I see the grids as a problem for a couple of reasons.
      • The spacing of the grids. I see the spacing of the grids as a big problem. Baby and very young chinchillas can squeeze their whole bodies through those grid spacings (and yes, I know this from personal experience.) Whereas an adult guinea pig could probably not fit their head into a grid opening, a full-grown chinchilla can. (I also know this because today I got my chins out and placed them in a playpen made of grids. They immediately tried to escape and my chin, Buster, tried to do so by wedging his head into one of the grid spacings. Luckily, I was there to help extract him from the grid.) If your chinchilla gets his head wedged in there, he might not be able to extract it. He could break his neck trying to get loose or he could suffocate. I know many people think a chinchilla wouldn't try to put his head through one of the grid openings, but chinchillas are not like guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are generally pretty content to stay in their cage; chinchillas, on the other hand, are almost always trying to find a way to explore outside their cage. They are too curious to allow any escape opportunity pass unexamined. I think the grid spacings can be very dangerous to chinchillas. (A possible solution to this problem would be to "baby-proof" a chin cage just as you would for baby guinea pigs. You could also use mesh grids, but you'd need to watch out for the corner openings of the mesh grids.)
      • The sturdy factor. My other issue with the grids is the sturdiness of them. With chinchillas, height is the issue, so you would need to build up, rather than out. Zip tying or wiring the grids together (which you'd have to, because using the connectors alone would leave a big enough space for a chinchilla to escape) doesn't seem very sturdy in my opinion, especially when you consider that you have to attach many different levels onto the grids. Chinchillas need different levels and perches, and you'd have to attach them to the upper grids. Also, a chin wheel that is the correct size is quite heavy. My fear is that if you did not painstakingly balance out where the ledges go along with the weight of you chinchilla on them, your entire cage might topple over, which could kill your chinchilla. (The only solution I have for this would be to attach your cage to a sturdy wall some how.)
    I think the best thing to do is to make a cage out of melamine (which is water proof) and wire mesh. The spacing of wire mesh should be no larger than 1/2". Chinchillas also should not have a wire bottom to their cage (they can catch their toes in it and break a leg.) There are many examples on the internet of wood, melamine, and wire mesh cages, and they can be designed to look like furniture. You can make them as small or as large as you like, and they give your chin the room he needs along with a safe environment.

    As far as the size goes, with chinchillas, you need to consider cubic feet, rather than square feet, as you have to factor in the height, as well as the width and lenght. Current breeder standards are, I believe, 2 feet high by 2 feet long by 1.5 feet deep. This is very small, only 6 cubic feet. I think, at a bare minimum for 1, possibly 2, chinchilla(s), you'd need at least 12 square feet (3 feet high by 2 feet long, by 2 feet deep), and of course, larger is always better. If you have a small cage, then you need to let your chin out for free time frequently. (No exercise balls. Chins can over heat in them and die.)

    I'm trying to find some good photos of cages to post. I know Plummie, who's a member here, has some excellent chinchilla cages. Perhaps she'd be willing to post some photos of them. Until I find some good ones, I'll post a photo of mine.

    If anyone needs information on chinchilla care, please let me know.

    (sidenote: I'm not trying to criticize anyone who keeps their chinchillas in C&C cages. These are the problems that, from my experience with chins, I see and feel need to be brought to everyone's attention. So if you keep your chin in a C&C cage, I hope you'll think about these safety issues, but if it works for you, then great.)
    Dopetastic moderator S.

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    Cavy Slave
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    Question Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    OMG - I absolutely love your chinchilla cage. Where did you get that? Also I have two chinchillas and do need to find more suitable cages for them. They are kept in separate cages: 1 unaltered male and 1 unaltered female & we do not want babies. What brand do you suggest for chinchilla cages?

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    Cavy Star Susan9608's Avatar
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    Thank you! I love my chin cage. My dad actually built it for me. I wish we still had the plans, but we don't.

    Quality Cages Company makes some decent cages. Their website is Quality Cage Co. - Bird cage manufacturer.

    A lot of people recommend Martin's cages, which are generally of a decent size, but I don't like the fact that the shelves are wire, as are the ramps. I suppose you could get the cage and replace the shelves, but what a pain that would be.

    My usual recommendation to people is that they build their own cage out of melamine and wire mesh. Melamine is water proof and if you get small wire mesh, you don't have to worry about a chinchilla escaping. If you do a search for homemade chinchilla cages, you'll see lots of examples and a lot of sites have the plans and directions.

    We have a member here, Plummie, who does chinchilla rescue. She has a lot of melamine and wire mesh cages that are excellent. You might look at her gallery, and then private message her to see if she's got plans for her cages.
    Dopetastic moderator S.

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    Cavy Slave
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    Thank you so much for the recommendation. As I am not very good with measurements, let me ask you a question. Looking at the cages, I would like to get each of my chins their own "chinchilla condo". Although it is the smallest of the cages, it still looks fairly big (bigger than what I've got right now). My question is do you think a flying saucer exercise wheel or a chin spin fit in one those cages and there would still be enough room for the chins to frolick?

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    Cavy Star Susan9608's Avatar
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    I think you'd be able to put a chin spin in there. I'm not sure about the flying saucer; they take up a lot of room. You're probably better off with the Chin Spin, though, because they are cheaper than the saucers and some chins (like mine) can't figure out how to use the saucers.
    Dopetastic moderator S.

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    Cavy Star Susan9608's Avatar
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    Forgot to add - you need the 15" chin spin. 11" is too small and will cause the chin to arch is back in an unnatural way.
    Dopetastic moderator S.

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    Cavy Slave Plummie's Avatar
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    Here are the chin cages I built using melamine, pine, and hardware cloth. There are 8 cages total for eleven chins. Each cage cost about $50 in materials.

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    Cavy Slave
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    love love love qualitycage.com
    i have 2 mansions from them and they actually cost less than pet store cages!
    I'm so glad you put up this thread about chinchillas.
    A lot of people just see how cute they are, but like guinea pigs, some like to be handled, some don't. My 4 girls love to be petted, but hate to be held!

    Anyways, if you look in my photo gallery, you will see that one of my girls is best friend with my guinea pig Minty, but as you said , as much as they get along, they should not be housed together.
    Mainly because of their diet being so different, but also their housing is different.
    Pigs love a lot of floor, and chins love a lot of height for hopping!

    Anyways, I'm rambling! I just wanted to say hi to another chin owner and say great job on this thread!

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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    Are there any good chinchilla care websites out there? I think of getting a chinchilla in the far away future and I figured it's never to early to start learning about them. I'm doing the same with cat care as I want a cat in the future as well. So any good quality info would be highly appreciated!

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    Cavy Slave Biscuit's Avatar
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    Quote Originally Posted by Fay View Post
    Are there any good chinchilla care websites out there? I think of getting a chinchilla in the far away future and I figured it's never to early to start learning about them. I'm doing the same with cat care as I want a cat in the future as well. So any good quality info would be highly appreciated!
    This is old, but all the forums I know of for chins are breeder friendly. Some of the best ones are even pelting neutral. Fortunately, no known pelters post there, mostly pet owners. Some of them don't exactly agree with breeding, but they keep quiet because of the rules of the forum.

    Please PM me if you would like URLs to good chin info forums. I don't want to post pro-breeding sites here.

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    Cavy Slave CavyLover94's Avatar
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    I know that you ca't keep chinchillas in temperatures above 75 degrees, but does anyone know the coldest tempeature that they can be kept at? It gets to be about 25 degrees here and the house gets about 30 degrees.

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    Cavy Star Percy's Mom's Avatar
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    Your house goes below freezing?

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    Cavy Slave Biscuit's Avatar
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    Quote Originally Posted by CavyLover94 View Post
    I know that you ca't keep chinchillas in temperatures above 75 degrees, but does anyone know the coldest tempeature that they can be kept at? It gets to be about 25 degrees here and the house gets about 30 degrees.
    Aren't you cold?! I'm thinking typo!

    The general consenus is to keep chinchillas between 55 and 72. They seem most comfortable between 65 and 71.

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    Cavy Star Susan9608's Avatar
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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    They seem most comfortable between 65 and 71.
    I use this as my excuse to keep my ac at 69 during the summer.
    Dopetastic moderator S.

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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    Sorry! That was a typo! I meant to say that it gets about 25 degrees or 30 degrees outside and 60 to 70 degrees inside.

    Thank you for the information though!

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    Re: Important Information on Chinchillas

    Martin's Cages makes wonderful cages for affordable prices. We have an amazing, spacious cage for our two chins (which they absolutely love!) It's about 5 ft tall, with multiple levels. We got galvanized wire (which was a mistake). So, if you DO look into a cage from Martin's, make sure it's powder coated!
    Martin's Cages Inc. - The source for all your pet cage needs.

    Oh, and yeah, they do all have wire bottoms..however that's not a problem if you have plenty of wooden ledges, grass mats, hammocks, etc. to give their feet a rest.

    Only problem that I have with the cage that we bough from Martin's is the we got the galvanized wire, and it just absorbs all of the urine...the cage is really stained and really hard to clean! It's also a pain to clean.

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