Not sure what to feed your chinchilla? This article goes in depth on the best nutrition for optimal results - written with the members of Let's Love Chinchilla's.
A Chinchilla's diet should be simple. A quality pellet, ample amounts of fresh hay, and unlimited access to water. If you can get these 3 things together, you'll have a healthy well-nourished chinchilla. A quality pellet can be made specifically for Chinchillas or you can choose to feed a high quality rabbit pellet.
A lot of the pellet selections sold at the pet store are not "quality pellets". In fact, they're junk food riddled with fruit, nuts, fillers, and treats. How can you have a healthy pet if you serve treats with every meal?
Things you'll want to avoid in your pellet choice are:
- Fillers such as Corn or Soy
- Vegetables or Vegetable products, dried or fresh.
- Fruit, dried or fresh.
A good rule of thumb, if it's bright and shaped funny...it's a treat.
The reason we tell you to avoid fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables, is because they're very unhealthy for your pet.
Fruits + Vegetables contain a lot of natural sugar in their natural and dried forms. Pet chinchillas do not need this excess sugar. This excess sugar can resort in your Chinchilla becoming ill. Diabetes, hyperglycemia, and hypoglycemia are all risks when feeding a sugary diet.
Many do not realize that a dehydrated small piece of dried fruit is just a shrunken big piece. When you dry fruit, it shrinks down, but the sugar is still there. It's just concentrated into a smaller piece.
In their natural form, fruit and vegetables contain ample amounts of moisture. Chinchillas originate from a dry climate, and have developed needing a very dry diet. Excess moisture in their food will lead to bloating. Bloating is a hazard because chinchillas can not relieve themselves of any gasses, meaning without intervention they can pass from buildup.
Nuts + Seeds are high in fat. When a chinchilla is fed a diet high in fat they become prone to ailments like fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is known as a "silent killer" in chinchillas because they'll be gone before you realize that was the cause of any problems.
So please, your pet relies on you to make educated choices about their diet. Take what you've learned here and apply it to your next purchase so your pet can live a long healthy life.
** Note: When switching your pet's pellet, it should be done gradually so you don't upset or shock the digestive track with a new formula. Try switching over a month's time. During the 1st week mix 25% new pellet with 75% of the old pellet. During the second week serve a 50% new and 50% old mix. The 3rd week do 75% new and 25% old and by the 4th week you should be serving 100% of the new healthy pellet. - In some cases, very malnourished animals on a poor diet will have a cold switch but please consult a reputable breeder or your vet before doing so. **
Hey! Don't forget the Hay
Hay is very important in your chinchilla's diet. What nutrients they don't get from their pellets they get from their hay, and what they lack in hay they get from their pellets. Hay not only is a good staple in keeping a Chinchilla's digestive track on track, but it's also one of the main sources for keeping teeth healthy.
As a Chinchilla chews on their hay they grind their back molars together keeping them short and trimmed. Without hay ( and ample chew sources ) a Chinchilla's teeth can become over grown! Ouch! So be sure to offer plenty of fresh hay daily.
What type of hay do Chinchillas eat?
The most common hay is Timothy hay. Timothy hay comes in 3 cuts. It should be bright green.
- First cut, which is very coarse stemmed and has a lot of heads.
- Second cut, Which is a mix of softer and firm, leafy hay ( most popular )
- Third cut, is very soft and leafy and best for picky eaters.
There is also Alfalfa Hay which is sweeter and rich in nutrients. It's best for young / growing animals, or for malnourished animals. It can be offered occasionally to adults as a treat, but should not be their staple hay. Bright green and fresh smelling.
Orchard Grass is a high fiber, leafy hay. Sometimes a mix of Timothy, Garrison, and Alfalfa. It's a good alternative to Timothy. Green and bright in color.
Oat Hay is a hard, stem filled hay that is tough and yellow/pale in color. It comes with oat heads, so it should be fed sparingly.
Blue Grass Hay is another leafy hay option.
Botanical Hay is generally Timothy hay with herbs mixed in.
** Please avoid purchasing and serving any hays that are sold mixed with fruits or vegetables. **
Some owners are allergic to hay...
We will not go over every treat here, because there is just so many.
Common healthy treats for Chinchillas are Rose hips, non-frosted Shredded Wheaties, Old fashion rolled oats, Alfalfa hay, and an array of chinchilla safe herbs
For more information regarding vendors for treats, pellets, and hay, please visit the Let's Love Chinchilla's website.
For advice, questions, or concerns, please leave a comment below.