TO KNOW BEFORE BREEDING:
talked a lot about cages already on my "ChinCage"
page but what I need to emphasize here is the need to be prepared
with one or two back up cages for the following reasons:
a female chinchilla can technically have 3 litters per year this
is strongly advised against. She should have no more then two
and get a break sometime during the year. Her mate (and her) will
probably want to breed again the evening after a birth or sometime
within about a week. This is fine if mama hasn't just had two
consecutive litters, but if she has then it will become necessary
to separate papa for 7 -10 days to prevent a breedback. It's a
good idea to give them supervised time together during the day
with each other and the kits to be assured that mom will indeed
let dad live with the family and help raise the little ones. She
may not and it may become necessary to keep them separated until
the kits are weaned. Therefore, you need to have a NICE cage available
to provide for the male's temporary bachelor days.
Separation From Mother
will come when it may become necessary to separate your kits from
their mom, especially the males, by the time they are 4 months old,
and you will, obviously, need a NICE cage for them. Click here
to see more on this topic below.
Vital Statistics Pertaining to Breeding
Size: 1-6 (average 2)
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precocious, fully furred, open eyes)
Weight: 30 - 60 g -
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age: 6 - 8 weeks
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4 - 8 months -
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to start breeding: 8 - 12 months -
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life: 10 years
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cycle: 25- 50 days; seasonally polyestrus
to May, July)-
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estrus: fertile (40%) -
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105 - 115 days (average 111) -
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Other Interesting Vital Statistics
Span: 9 - 17 years
- Body Weight:
adult female: 450 - 700
adult male: 500
- 500 grams
- Body temperature:
100.5° - 102.2° F
- Rectal temperature:
102° - 103° F
- Respiratory Rate:
- Heart Rate: 200-350
- Dental: aradicular
hypsodont teeth (i.e. without anatomical roots and having
long crowns) that grow continuously throughout life. Incisors
are yellow; grow 5.5-6.5 cm annually
can have from 1 to 6 kits in a litter although more then 3 is
unusual. While chinchillas do have 6 nipples it is very difficult
for them to raise any more then 4 kits so you may to learn a bit
about hand rearing.
weight of a newborn chinchilla is 30 - 60 grams (1 - 2 ounces).
Kits in the lower range can be a challenge to keep alive and should
be watched closely (see "Feeding
to wean all of our kits at 8 weeks of age. Two exceptions to this
rule would be if it's a large litter and mom is having a hard
time with it or if the litter is a single kit who, due to a lack
of competition, is fairly large and otherwise mature enough for
an early weaning.
chinchillas can reach sexual maturity as young as 4 months old
so it is important to remove the kits from the family cage by
that time if there is any family member of the opposite gender
living there. Inbreeding is a very bad practice in chinchillas.
chinchillas are sexually mature at a young age the females should
not be bred until they are at least 9 months old. It is actually
best to wait until they are at least one year old as they are still
growing themselves until then! The drawback here is that it's harder
to introduce older chinchillas so the ideal set up is to have them
in two adjoining cages. If the female is not in heat you certainly
can (and should) let them have supervised play time together.
chinchillas in captivity live for up to 17 years. Until they are
about 10 years old they can be in breeding. After that they certainly
deserve to enjoy their retirement!
main things to consider here are: health, age, compatibility, genealogy,
and color mutation genetics. It's important to breed only very healthy,
young chinchillas that have not been over bred. I've already mentioned
breeding age. It is also important to take into consideration that
it's not always easy to pair up chinchillas. Please go to my "ChinFriends"
page for plenty of information about this. Also, it is a very bad
idea to inbreed chinchillas. There should be no family relationship
back at least 2 - 3 generations. The last consideration is color
mutation genetics, which I cover in more detail on my "ChinGenetics"
page. The important thing to understand here is:
two color genes in chinchillas that are referred to as "lethal
genes". These are the Velvet (TOV) gene and the White gene.
Neither of these genes can exist in the homozygous state, meaning
a gene pair of Velvet + Velvet or White + White would not develop
beyond the embryonic stage. It has been said that when this embryo
dies and is reabsorbed it can cause blockage of that uterine horn
(chinchillas have two
horns to their uterus that branch out from the cervix).
I'm not know if this is true. The result of breeding two animals
with lethal genes may just be smaller litters, but it is definitely
best to avoid such a pairing. Any two animals carrying the Velvet
gene should not be bred together (i.e.. Black Velvet + Brown Velvet,
TOV White + TOV Violet, etc.) and any two animals carrying the White
gene should not be bred together (i.e.. White Mosaic + Tan and White,
Ebony and White + TOV White, etc.). Any of these colors can, although,
be bred with any other colors. This is also discussed on the "ChinGenetics"
page. The other thing to understand before establishing a pair of
come in several different colors - one of the things that makes
them SO ENJOYABLE to raise. Again, this is discussed in more detail
on the "ChinGenetics"
page. The main genes for colors are Standard Grey, Beige, White,
Violet, and Sapphire. The genes for color patterns are Velvet and
Ebony. The combinations of these can produce a whole "rainbow"
of colors and if I get started on it here I won't know where to
stop, so go visit the "ChinGenetics"
page and have fun imagining all of the wonderful colors you could
are seasonally polyestrus from about November to May with heat cycles
anywhere from 25 - 50 days and an individual heat lasting 3 - 4
days. There is often a mid summer heat as well. When a female is
in heat the transverse opening of the vagina, normally not visible,
becomes visible, moist, and reddened. She may also expel a small
(0.5") waxy "estrus plug". Her behavior maybe noticeably
different, perhaps more aggressive or more submissive, and urine
spraying and fur slip is more common at this time.
assuming here that you are working with a pair of chinchillas that
has already been well socialized (see the "ChinFriends"
page). When the male is ready to mate (which of course he pretty
much always is once mature enough - just waiting for the signal
from the female) he may make a cooing, chuckling noise and both
sexes may rub their chins on the floor or nest box. Mating usually
takes place at night, but often it also can be observed in the evening
or the early morning hours. Following what often becomes an all
night romp you will often find bunches of fur and perhaps the "mating
plug". This is a waxy plug, larger then the "estrus plug",
about 1½" long.
mating the male should be checked for the presence of a hair ring.
Most males are very careful about cleaning the penis after each
mating, but due to the often large amount of hair loss during
mating it can be hard for him to remove all of the loose fur that
can accumulate inside the penile sheath. This can create a ring
of fur that will act as a constricting band around the penis resulting
in pain, difficulty urinating, and eventually prolapse, swelling,
and damage of the entrapped organ. This can lead to excessive
grooming which leads to further damage. If hair rings are present
the penis should be gently lubricated with petroleum jelly. The
hair ring should then be carefully teased open and cut off (VERY
CAREFULLY) with fine scissors.
lasts an average of 111 days. During this time the mated pair,
and perhaps another female or two, live together harmoniously.
By day 90 the female should have abdominal enlargement and her
nipples will be swollen and reddened. Avoid palpating her as this
can cause harm to the babies. The best way to monitor a pregnancy
is by monitoring weight gain. A weight gain of 25 - 30 grams per
month is expected initially, increasing in the last month of gestation.
A healthy, balanced diet is very important at this point. Supplementing
the diet with a sprinkle of Calf Manna in the first two months
of pregnancy is beneficial but can be harmful in the last 2 months
as kits can get too large. Also, a nest box should be provided
on the lower level of the cage along with at least 2 inches of
pine shavings. During the final weeks (or month) of pregnancy
the mama-to-be will often lie on her side and you may even be
able to see signs of the kits moving about.
Complications During Pregnancy
are rare, but certainly a possibility. Spontaneous abortion can
occur at any stage of gestation due to poor nutrition, a concurrent
illness, stress (even loud noises), trauma such as a fall, and
unskillful palpation. If an abortion does occur be sure to watch
for signs of illness resulting from retention of tissue in the
few days before the due date be sure to remove the dust bath.
The night before delivery the female may become aggressive toward
the male and any other cage mates. She may also refuse food or
become more passive. Most births take place in the night or the
early morning hours and are generally a quick process. If you
have the privilege of witnessing the birth make yourself as invisible
as possible! Preliminary contractions and the loss of amniotic
fluid announce the onset of labor. The female may groan, writhe,
stretch, and make sounds of pain and her genitals, mouth, and
nose will appear wet. The strenuous phase is usually brief, about
1/2 hour and you are justified in being concerned if it lasts
for more than an hour. Finally, the female will carefully pull
out the kit. In multiple births the entire process can take several
hours. Each kit has it's own placenta and this afterbirth can
be delivered after each kit or perhaps all of them at once. The
female will eat it and this is actually good for her. While it
may be messy, let nature run it's course. She will be busy cleaning
herself and the kits up for quite awhile after this and would
love to have a dust bath. DON'T give her one for at least a week.
She will now warm and dry the kits and then you'll be glad to
know more about "Development of the
Young", but first you need to know about:
also are rare but can include: dystocia (difficulty in delivering),
metritis (inflammation of the uterus), pyometra (pus in the uterus),
puerperal septicemia (bacteria from uterus get into bloodstream),
agalactia (absence of milk production), damaged teats, mastitis
(inflammation of mammary glands), caked mammary glands, cannibalism,
tympanites (abdominal distention due to intestinal gas - associated
with hypocalcemia), and constipation. I don't want to go into
detail about most of these here but would be happy to answer any
questions or concerns about any of them. I will say that in the
case of dystocia if you have a female who appears to be having
trouble delivering you should get her to a veterinarian within
3 - 4 hours of first observing trouble.
chinchillas have a postpartum estrus. That means that they come
into heat again right after delivery. If she hasn't just had her
second consecutive litter it's okay for her to breed back. While
most male chinchillas make wonderful dads it's best to separate
the male if it's time for mom to get a break. Her postpartum heat
will have passed within 7 - 10 days, at which time you can reintroduce
dad. The best way to make this successful is to be sure to give
the entire family plenty of supervised playtime during the day
(when chinchillas aren't particularly interested in mating) to
maintain the social structure. Otherwise mom may become very defensive
of the babies and not let dad anywhere near them after a week
or so. If this happens you will have to wait until the kits are
weaned before reintroducing the parents.
OF THE YOUNG
after birth the fully developed and instinctively intelligent
baby will crawl under it's mother's body, where her body heat
and licking quickly have it dry. Soon the kit will be making whimpering
noises and mom may gently nip the back of it's neck, as may other
cage mates. Even though the kit may now squeal louder this is
usually just healthy socialization and you'll continue to hear
this "don't-hurt-me" noise until the kit is a young
adult. Be sure to observe the relationships among the newly restructured
family to be sure that no chinchillas in the cage pose a threat
to the kits. Most male chinchillas make wonderful dads, but there
have been reports of attacks to the kits by dads. The biggest
concern would be other adult females in the cage.
most common cause of loss of young is hypothermia. On colder days
I've put a few cups of pine shavings in the microwave to warm
and put them right into the nest box (after making sure they are
the right temperature). A chilled youngster can also be held in
warm water, submerged to the neck, and then toweled vigorously
to increase it's body temperature. The chest can be gently massaged.
A heat pad on the low setting (or just a return to a dry cage
and warm mom) will then help maintain it's temperature.
chinchillas are referred to as nidifugous or precocious, meaning
they are fully developed at birth, fully furred with open eyes
and ready to drop and run (well, almost). They may actually climb
up the cage mesh and hop onto low objects on their first day of
life. It's a good idea to give them the opportunity to get accustomed
to being held in these early days if the parents are relaxed enough
about it. If not, it can be counter productive if mom or dad are
sending out negative signals that cause the kits to associate
human interaction with something bad. Just wait until the whole
family is okay with it. It may work to just lure mom and dad away
with some juicy raisins and gently scoop up the babies. Unlike
other species, chinchilla parents will NOT reject their young
if they smell human scents on them. If you would like to see some
adorable newborn baby chinchilla pictures go to THIS
is almost always a job reserved just for mama chinchilla. In addition
to it's mother's milk a newborn chinchilla will start nibbling
on stalks of hay and soon it can eat pellets as well. The changeover
from mother's milk to solid food is gradual allowing the little
chinchilla's stomach and intestines to adjust slowly. After three
weeks the kit's birth weight should have doubled. If you have
an underweight newborn or an older kit that isn't gaining weight
you may need to supplement the mother's milk. See the next two
the mother dies you will have to either find a "wet nurse"
for the kit or plan to hand raise him/her. A suitable wet nurse
would be a chinchilla or guinea pig mother with only one kit of
approximately the same age as the orphan. A good trick to try
is to put mentholated ointment on the orphaned kit's back as well
as on the new mom's natural kits so that they all smell the same.
Watch the litter closely to make sure that the orphan is accepted.
If not you need to hand raise them, an endeavor that is not always
rearing milk try using KMR (available at pet stores, feed stores,
and veterinary offices) or a product designed for feeding baby
lambs. Newborns need to be fed warm rearing milk (freshly prepared)
every two hours for the first two weeks, then every three hours.
Gradually lengthen the feeding time and reduce the amounts fed
until they can be weaned at 6 - 8 weeks. You can go a little longer
with night time feedings, but not too much as these are their
normal awake hours. I've found that an insulin syringe works better
then an eyedropper for feeding newborns, then a 3 cc. syringe,
then an eye dropper or regular water bottle as they get older.
Hold the newborn cradled upright in your hand, making sure he
doesn't choke and get milk in his lungs. After the feeding gently
massage the tummy. Go ahead and provide hay and pellets for him
to nibble on. I avoid providing a water bottle (with water in
it) for at least the first few weeks so as to encourage a good
feeding of milk. By 2 - 3 weeks of age you shouldn't need to hold
the little guy in your hand anymore as he will sit upright for
his feeding. You can also gradually add baby cereal to the milk.
Food For Large Litters
there are 3 - 4 kits in a litter the mother's milk may not be
plentiful enough for them. If you don't help her with providing
food for her young they may nip, bite, and injure her nipples
in their struggle for milk. They may also become aggressively
competitive with each other. You can supplement their feed in
a manner similar to feeding orphans, but in smaller quantities
and less frequently. It may also be advised to separate the kits
into groups, removing one group for about 6 hours (and supplementing
their feed) then rotating with the other group to give mom a break
and prevent sibling rivalry. You may prefer a different schedule,
like separating the groups for 8 hour segments (when older) then
putting everyone together at night. You may want to give mom a
time all to herself, allowing all of the kits to maintain some
contact with each other, especially if you won't be keeping everyone
together at night. See what works best for you and your family
but keep in mind that the kits should only go for short periods
without mom's milk when very young, then for longer periods as
they get older. Also remember to weigh them frequently to determine
whether or not they are gaining an adequate amount of weight,
adjusting your schedule and supplement amounts accordingly (a
lot depends upon the mom's milk supply). For a good reference
of kit weights go here.
mentioned before, weaning is a gradual process that is normally
complete at 6 - 8 weeks of age. You can keep the young with their
parents until they reach sexual maturity. If you separate them
right after weaning be sure to observe closely to be certain they
aren't overeating. This would most likely be indicated by changes
in the stool - either diarrhea or constipation. If you sell a
weanling be sure to tell the new owner what to watch for and how
much to feed. A weanling only needs 1/2 - 1 tablespoon of pellets
daily along with a handful of hay or a small hay cube.
And now we've come full circle,
moving on again to puberty, breeding age, etc...
The circle of life continues.
May you consider your involvement in it a God given honor not
to be taken lightly.