Basic information on healthy chinchilla nutrition

Main feed, complementary feed, treats, water

Preface

No matter which diet you choose for your chinchillas – wether you feed complete feed like pellets or opt for a near-nature alimentation – you should always comply with the following rules to provide your chinchillas a species-appropriate and healthy diet

A chinchilla‘s menu consists of 4 elements:

  • main feed
  • complementary feed
  • treats
  • water

Our food pyramid gives an overview of the importance these feeding elements have:

Futher information about the 4 particular elements follows now:

Main feed

Folivorous small mammals like chinchillas, degus, guinea pigs, rabbits etc. should be mainly fed with green fodder and roughage as in  nature. Only this kind of diet ensures a flawless digestion without dysbiosis or other dyspepsiae (like diarrhea), an optimal dental wearing, and prevents behavioural disorders

Overview of green fodder and roughage:

  • herbage
  • blooms, flowers
  • leaves, foliage, bark, branches (incl. leafage, buds, blossoms)
  • grass
  • species-rich hay, straw
  • roots
  • foliage plants and parts of foliage plants from cultivated plants like corn leaves, endive, carrot greens, rape
  • eatable houseplants like callisia repens (“Golliwoog”) or tradescantia

There should always be a bigger variety of those plants available to your chinchillas. It‘s best to provide them with a species-rich mixture of dried herbs, blooms and leaves (about 1-2 handful per chinchilla per day), a handful of hay in a suitable container or in the cage, as well as different green stuff like branches, vegetables, callisia, field plants etc. (it‘s better to spread the green food in the cage than to serve it in a dish).

Fresh fruit and vegetables – against all rumors – aren‘t substantial and may be fed daily additionally to green stuff and roughage. Individual preferences should be respected because vegetables are rather disliked by many Chins. Endive, lettuce hearts, apples, pears or carrots for example are liked. Fruit and vegetables contain dietary fibres, vitamins, minerals and lots of water but overall less phytochemicals and fibres as wild plants, and they also contain acid and fructose. Therefore, they are no alternative to wild plants but a healthy supplement. Dried vegetables and fruit, however, are no main food but energy food or treats.

Complementary Food

Energy food counts among complementary food. Elements of energy food are:

  • a mixture of seeds
  • a mixture of dried vegetables (popular parts of a self made mixture are tomatoes, bell pepper, rose hip, beetroot, potatoes, sunchoke, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, cucumber, carrot, several stems (like chervil, dill or parsley), savoy cabbage. It’s advisable to mix these components with different seeds or/and pellets instead of feeding them solely.
  • complete feed pellets (only recommended under reservation, esp. for new chinchilla owners and only several brands)
  • commercial food consisting of pellets, extrudates, vegetables, grains etc. (not recommendable!)

A big amount of energy food is necessary during pregnancy, lactation, disease, and underweight/ emaciation. The energy food has to be reduced if the chins have overweight or if they eat too little of their main food.

It is possible to feed alternating types of energy food or just one kind.

Generally, you should not feed  more than 7g of energy food per healthy grown up chinchilla per day, unless the animals are able to portion the food reasonably and don’t stuff themselves.

For detailed description of seeds as energy food see here.

Treats

Treats shouldn’t exceed 1-3 treats per animal and day. You can give them for taming or as a reward. Read here about suitable and unsuitable treats: *KLICK*

 

Water

Water has to be provided ad libitum, either in a dish or a bottle. According to studies, small mammals prefer drinking from water bowls, and thus their water intake is bigger. Read more about the study: *KLICK*