Planning on getting a chinchilla? Or have one already? Then you better start learning what chinchillas eat so you can keep him energetic and healthy. One of the most important parts of chinchilla care is feeding them the right foods and treats. Chins are quite healthy creatures and don't have to go to the vet much (as a general rule). However, they do have a very sensitive digestive system so you have to be careful with what you feed them.
Like all of God's creatures, chinchillas need food and water to survive and stay healthy. So let's start with water because it's easy. It's best to connect a water bottle with the dripless spout to your chin's cage. Bowls can be a pain since they can get soiled easily and your chinchilla might tip it over and get himself wet, and you should never allow your chin to get water on him. Make sure you keep his drinking water clean and available at all times. It can be a good idea to give him distilled water, since some tap water contains many contaminants.
What Do Chinchillas Eat? Food Choices
Let's move on to food. In their native habitat down in South America, wild chinchillas will eat fruits, seeds, plants and even small insects as their diet. However, domestic chinchillas would not be able to survive such a varied diet. Since chins have such a sensitive digestive system, it's best to keep them on a very strict diet that is very bland (poor guys!).
Their main source of food should come from the special chinchilla pellets that you can get at your local pet store. It's important that you only feed them these pellets and don't give them rabbit pellets or anything else that looks similar. Just a small change in the nutrients of their food could disrupt their digestion. Most chinchillas will eat 1-2 tablespoons of pellets a day and this will give them their essential nutrients.
The one problem with pellets is that they don't provide much fiber for your little chin. To fix this problem, you should supplement his pellet diet with hay. You can get high quality hay for your chin from most pet stores, the most common being timothy grass. Stay away from most other hays (some chins may eat alfalfa) and any hay that is dusty can hurt his little respiratory system. Also be aware that hay can get stale and if there's any moisture it can grow mold, which is very bad for your little friend. To get enough fiber, your chin will need about a handful of hay per day. This isn't an exact amount so don't get too caught up trying to be perfect. If he gets full then he will stop eating.
If you ever have to change your chinchillas diet, it's best to do it gradually over time. Mix a little of the new food in the first week, then slowly feed him more of the new stuff combined with less of the old food. This will help his digestive system adapt to the new diet with no adverse reactions.
Since chinchillas eat such a bland diet most of the time, they will greatly appreciate any and all treats you are willing to give them. In fact, they will eat so many treats it will make them sick if you give them the chance. So it's very important to be your chinchilla's 'conscience' and only feed him treats once in awhile so he doesn't get sick.
What Do Chinchillas Eat? Best Treats For Your Chin
Since they originally ate fruits, plants, and seeds, in their native habitat, any of these usually work great as treats for your chinchilla. If you want to feed your chin vegetables stay away from the leafy ones like lettuce, cabbage and brussel sprouts. Try and stick to organic veggies or the home-grown variety to keep your chin from ingesting any pesticides that might upset his little system. Remember that veggies are not daily food for your chin, but more of a treat, so don't feed him too much too often.
Another treat you can give Chilli are a variety of herbs. They seem to love mint plants, which you can grow yourself just about anywhere. Another good one is basil, which is fairly easy to grow if you have an inside garden or even little potters. Thyme and oregano are also pretty well accepted among chinchillas. If you're into cooking, you can start a little herb garden so you have fresh herbs to cook with and also some home-grown treats for your little buddy.
There's another herb that you probably wouldn't think of giving to your chin, and that's dandelion leaves. Be sure to only feed your chin these lives if you know for sure they are pesticide free. If you just fertilized your lawn, then it's best to just throw them away since they will hurt your chinchilla. Not surprisingly, they are extremely easy to grow inside as well. Just by plucking a few and sticking them in a pot you can have fresh dandelion leaves for your chin all winter long.
Other good treat ideas are black sunflower seeds, pieces of apple, raisins, or even the store bought variety. Just be sure not to give him too many.
One of the best use for treats is to help him learn that you are his friend and how to be a social critter (and even do tricks!). But it's important to teach him these things slowly over time instead of trying to cram it all in one day. First of all, it probably won't stick in his brain but you'll also need to bribe him with treats and you'll make him sick if you feed him treats all day. A good general rule is to never give him more than 1 teaspoon of 'treat' per day.