How to Care for Baby Chinchillas

Credit: Pei Ketron

Baby chinchillas are born with a full coat and their eyes and ears open. They are born ready to take on the world. Even though they are born ready that doesn’t mean they don’t need care from their mother and human keepers. Baby chinchillas are called kits, a shortened version of kittens. Chinchilla females can give birth to one to seven babies. Most often it is only one or two kits.

If you decide to breed chinchillas, this is information you’ll need for when your females begin having babies. This also pertains to those that may have adopted a female not realizing she’s pregnant or any other scenario you may end up in that result in baby chinchillas. The information I provide will help you a ton.

Don’t worry baby chinchillas are easy to care for if you follow the guidelines. The best part is mamma chinchilla can help you with a lot of the work. She will feed her kits and keep them warm.

Simple Steps in Caring for Baby Chinchillas

These simple steps start with separating mom and dad. This must be done a week before the birth of the kits. Otherwise, mom and dad will mate again. This can happen even before the new kits are born. Mom getting pregnant this quickly puts a hardship on her well being and it’s best not to allow this to happen.

The second step is to be sure you have a cage set up for mom and kits. This kit cage is for the protection of your baby chinchillas. You must be sure the cage has a solid floor and the spaces between wires on the sides should be no wider than a 1/2inch. Your kits can get caught in these and hurt themselves if they are not the required space apart. If there are any shelves in the cage they should be removed.

At birth, everything should be as it is with any mammal birth. If complications arise you should call your vet or an emergency vet. They can give you advice, or they may have you bring mamma in so that they may assist her and any kits that may need medical attention. The gestations period for chinchillas is longer than many other rodents. Kits are born anywhere from 110 to 115 days or just over three months. This is comparable to cats or dogs’ terms.

The third step, after birth, is to monitor your little ones. You should handle them as soon as you can. This will start getting them used to being picked up and held. Also, when you pick them up you can check them over to be sure there are no injuries or complications from birth that you would miss if you don’t pick them up. You should also have a mail or kitchen scale to weigh the kits so that you can monitor their weight gain to be sure they are thriving. If you end up with a baby that isn’t thriving, you should consider hand feeding to help them along. Monitor your kits for the first ten weeks of their lives, after that they are close enough to independence and you know they are thriving by this time that your efforts have paid off.

At four weeks of age, you can start to introduce timothy hay and some fresh veggies to the kits to get them started on their adult diet and get them weaned from mom. By twelve weeks they should be completely weaned.

At twelve weeks when they are fully weaned you should separate them from mom. Girls should be placed with other females and males of course should be with males. They can be housed with siblings, even older siblings, or other related chinchillas if they are the same gender.

These are the simple things you can do to care for your chinchilla kits. There are more complicated issues that can occur. We’ll discuss those next.

In Depth Information on the Care of Baby Chinchillas

Deaths

First, you may want to know if all baby chinchillas survive. You may find it a bit sad that 70 to 80% of all kits live into adulthood. That means that if you are breeding chinchillas you will see some deaths.

What causes these deaths? Death can occur by injury, failure to thrive even though all effort is made to try to help, mother may miscarry or have stillborn kits, mother may even eat their kits.

Usually, if the mother has eaten a kit it’s because there was something wrong with the baby. In the wild, they might eat a weak or failing kit so that the other babies may survive. That wild instinct is still with them even in domestication and they may still do this. If you have a mother who is just eating kits and especially if she is eating older kits about three weeks of age you should consider taking them from their mother and hand rearing them.

One way to have an idea if a kit will survive is their tails. They are born with a flat, straight tail. On their first day of life, their tail should curl. If the tail fails to do this, you have an unwell kit and it might not survive.

How to Weigh a Baby Chinchilla

Newborn chinchillas weigh between 30 and 60g. The larger the kit at birth, the more likely it will survive to adulthood.

Adult chinchillas can weigh from 370g up to 1.4kg. Long-tailed chinchillas are lighter than short-tailed chinchillas. Each chinchilla will tip the scales differently. Even littermates will differ in weight and the way they gain because they are individuals. Females are usually heavier than males.

They consider Chinchillas grown at eight months, but chinchillas can continue to grow up to eighteen months before they are fully mature.

You will need a digital kitchen or mail scale and a bowl. When you first get set up, you should place your bowl on the scale then zero it out. Most scales have a button that will allow you to do this. Once you’ve done that, you are ready to weigh your babies.

Place the kit in the bowl to get its weight. You should weight the kits at least twice a week so that you have a good idea if they are growing or may need a bit of help. If you have a jumpy, active baby, you can place them in a container with holes placed in its lid to allow the kit to breathe. Be sure you zero your scale with the container sitting on it empty before you weight a baby.

If your baby has siblings, there is bound to be a larger kit or kits. These larger siblings can stop the small kit from being able to nurse. This kit may be sick or hurt. Also, there may be a chance mom isn’t making enough milk, and the smaller kit isn’t getting enough. You should observe mom and babies at feeding times to see if you can figure out what the issue is. Once you know that, you’ll learn how to help the baby. If you discover an injury or possible illness, take your baby to the vet. If a larger sibling keeps the smaller baby away from nursing, you may have to set up separate feeding times for the babies. If mom isn’t producing enough milk, then you’ll need to step in and help her feed her babies. Low milk production usually occurs with larger litters.

It’s up to you to be diligent and keep an eye on your new babies and their mom to help keep everyone happy, healthy, and thriving.

Weaning and Separation

Beginning at four weeks of age you should start giving the kits some timothy hay or fresh veggies. This will begin the weaning process. By the time they are twelve weeks of age they should be eating an adult diet and ready to be separated from mom.

Separating the babies from their mother is as simple as taking them and putting them into new cages. You can house them with their own gender.

Conclusion

As you see, taking care of baby chinchillas isn’t hard, but there are things you need to pay attention to so that if something goes wrong you’ll recognize it right away and do something about whatever it might be. I hope you found this blog post useful, if you have any comments and questions, be sure to leave them below.

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