There is no doubt that everyone's favorite time of the day is mealtime! There is no doubt that this is something that extends to chinchillas just as much as it does to their human companions, perhaps even more so.
Listed below you will find a comprehensive guide about all the information you need to know about how to care for chinchillas and their food habits, including information about what they eat, how much they eat, and whether or not they can have treats, and what they should not be given.
A Pet Chinchillas Diet Vs. A Wild Chinchillas Diet - What's The Difference?
The first thing you should know is that you should not feed the wild diet of chinchillas to your pet chinchillas. Even so, we do believe that if you want to be as educated as possible, knowing the dietary requirements of a wild chinchilla can give you a bit of insight into your pet's diet as well, making it easier for you to make an educated decision.
There is a big difference between a wild chinchilla's diet and that of a domesticated one, and the most important one is that wild chinchillas eat more omnivorous foods than their domesticated counterparts do. As a supplement to their own diet of berries and seeds, they also will eat small bird eggs as well as insects.
Apart from the fact that wild chinchillas are more omnivorous in nature, they also share a lot in common with domesticated chinchillas regarding their diet, as they consume a wide variety of grasses and vegetable leaves that are native to their surroundings.
What Is Good Chinchilla Food?
Ideally, chinchillas should be fed a diet that is made up primarily of low-fat, low-carb, and fiber-rich foods in order to lead a long and happy life. It is recommended to provide your chinchilla with a mixture of pellet food, such as Oxbow or Mazuri food, along with Timothy hay to keep them as healthy as possible.
There are other options available, such as loose mixtures that contain the same ingredients that are found in pellets, however, we don't recommend these mixes because you can't guarantee that your chinchilla is getting all the nutrients they need since these mixes are not compressed together.
What is important to note is that no matter what brand of food you choose, you should stick to that brand. You will find that different brands have different ingredients or different ratios of ingredients, so jumping from one brand to another may cause your chinchilla problems if you switch them out for one another.
You should gradually switch your pet's pellet if you want to avoid upsetting or shocking the digestive tract with a new formula. During the first week, mix 25% of the new pellet with 75% of the old pellet. During the second week, mix 50% new and 50% old. During the third week, mix 75% new and 25% old, and by the fourth week, feed 100% of the new healthy pellet. In some cases, extremely malnourished animals on a poor diet will have a cold switch, but consult one of the reputable breeders or vets before doing so.
How Much Food Should Chinchillas Eat?
For chinchillas, it is recommended that they be fed about 1-2 tablespoons of food a day, depending on their size. Therefore, many owners will take a tablespoon measure and pour one tablespoon of food in the morning and the other tablespoon of food in the evening.
The majority of a chinchilla's diet should consist of hay - while pellets provide the nutrients needed for the animal, hay contains a large amount of fiber that can help regulate its digestive system in a natural way. Timothy hay, in particular, is the most common and recommended hay choice to go with, but there are many other types of hay that are safe to provide. Alfalfa, oats, and alpine are all examples of good hays.
Can Chinchillas Eat Too Much?
There is a myth that chinchillas are able to overeat, and it is one that has been perpetuated throughout the years, but in reality this isn't a fact unless you feed them a low-quality food that has a high percentage of cornmeal or some other ingredient that is deficient in nutrition.
Chinchillas, on the other hand, have a constant need to eat to stay healthy and will know when it is time to stop eating on their own, so you won't have to worry about them gorging themselves on whatever food they can find.
It is important to take note of the fact that chinchillas may be prone to overeating if they have been living in neglected home, since they view food as scarce in those circumstances. But with some patience and a watchful eye you can make sure your chinchilla does not exhibit these behaviors.
Can Chinchillas Have Treats?
Chinchilla owners, just like the owners of most other pets, love spoiling their chinchillas in every way they can. In addition, new owners may also wonder if their chinchillas can have treats - the good news is that they can!
The only thing to keep in mind is that chinchillas under six months of age should not be given treats, since their stomachs are significantly smaller than older chinchillas, and they will fill up on the treats and not get the nutrition they need.
Our recommendation is not to give your chinchilla fruits or vegetables of any kind, as they can mess with their delicate digestive systems - even if sources say it is 'safe' in small amounts, you can never be too cautious when it comes to its health.
It is worth noting that our three top recommendations for safe treats are rose hips, which are rich in fiber and vitamin C, as well as apple wood sticks, which are beneficial to filing down your chinchilla's teeth, and marigold flowers - which promote healthy digestion and circulation in chinchillas.
Unsafe Chinchilla Foods
It's important now that we've covered all the safe foods and treats that your little chinchilla can enjoy, it's important to discuss with you what is not safe at any time for your chinchilla to eat.
As mentioned earlier, fruits and veggies as a whole are highly discouraged. Fruits and most vegetables as a whole, especially dried, are discouraged because of the sugars in the fruit - sugar should only make up 4% of a chinchilla's diet and a piece of fruit would exceed this in only one piece.
There are a couple of chinchilla owners who may be surprised to find out that nuts and seeds are harmful to their pets, the reason being their high-fat content - which allows chinchillas to become prone to conditions like fatty liver disease.
Additionally, it is important to make sure that the pellets you are buying only contain the best and highest quality ingredients - and avoid additives such as corn and soy, as well as any other added sugars.
Do Chinchillas Need Vitamins?
As long as your chinchilla is eating pellets, hay, and the occasional treat, you shouldn't need to supplement the diet with any extra vitamins that aren’t already being provided to your chinchilla.
Occasionally, your vet may recommend supplemental vitamins if you have a sick chinchilla or if the normal diet does not replace any vitamins that your chinchilla is missing out on. If you are concerned that your chinchilla may be deficient in any vitamins, please speak to your vet.
Can Chinchillas Eat Rabbit Food?
So let’s say your local pet store runs out of your chinchilla's food and you have to order it online, can you use rabbit food in the meantime? The short is no, there should never be a need for you to feed your chinchilla rabbit food. Rabbits and chinchillas are so different from each other in terms of their nutritional requirements that if you fed one the other food, they would be missing out on vital nutrition they need.
If you find yourself running low on chinchilla food - it is possible to supplement with just hay until you can buy more or receive your shipment. While we don’t recommend this for longer periods of time, this can prevent any digestion issues short term.
If you can anticipate that you’ll be out of your brand of chinchilla food for a longer time, we recommend either transitioning to a brand more easily accessible in your area or ordering their current brand in bulk online.
How Much Water Do Chinchillas Need?
In all likelihood, you've noticed by now that chinchillas' diets are quite dry when compared to the diets of some other animals and that you probably would like to know how chinchillas get the water they require from their diets.
The good news is that the water from your chinchilla's water bottle will be sufficient to provide them with all the water they need throughout the day. Which you may be surprised to find out is only 1-2 tablespoons!
This is due to the fact that chinchillas are naturally adapted to living in desert environments where they originated, and as such, they have become highly adept at conserving water for the sake of keeping themselves healthy.
The proper diet of your chinchilla can be quite simple to manage once you have a basic understanding of what they need in terms of nutrition, as well as what you should avoid feeding them.