A Chinchilla's Diet

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.

 

 Eating Chinchilla

Pellets

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.
  • Seeds
  • Nuts

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?

Chinchillas can be offered a variety of hay.

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...

A great alternative is to offer hay cubes. Hay cubes come in many forms. You can get them as cubes that are either Timothy hay or Alfalfa hay , Or a 50/50 blend. You can purchase hay stacks from Oxbow, which are round compressed bales. Or you can purchase compressed hay cookies for your chinchilla. Choosing any of these will greatly reduce the amount of hay-dust in your home that may be affecting your allergies. 

Treats

While it can be nice to treat our pets, something important to understand is that it's mostly for us. Of course our pets enjoy the bits of delicious goodness, but we derive joy from what we perceive as making our pets happy.  It's our jobs as caretakers to know when enough is enough. Moderation is a VERY important thing. 

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. 

3 comments

  • Yes, Mazuri has a very good reputation. Breeders often use it.

    PAmela on
  • I always go with Oxbow for Pellets. Then I use Pet Select 2nd Cut Timothy Hay. When, I let them out to play I put some alfalfa hay inside a tube for them to chew on; do this once every 2 weeks.

    Jonathan Williams on
  • Hi,

    My local feed store has a big bag of pellets made for Chinchillas. The brand is Mazuri. The owner said it was a bag that someone had ordered but didn’t need any longer.

    Is this a good quality pellet? One of the ingredients is flax seed, which I wouldn’t think would be good for them.

    Thanks

    Jacqueline Hooper on

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