Or maybe you didn’t exactly decide but it was decided for you.
I made this mumbling agreement to allowing Ellie to have a chinchilla if she did well in her GCSEs. I agreed not because I didn’t think she would do well, I knew she would, but because when I agreed I thought she would change her mind by the time the results came out.
How wrong I was.
Until one Sunday afternoon there was a text conversation with a friend who was in a local pet shop saying that her daughter and Ellie wouldn’t leave until I had arrived to buy said chinchilla
Or should I say chinchillas as you should always keep them in pairs. See, we knew nothing about keeping them but got a crash course from the helpful chap in the pet shop and the first thing he said was that we needed two. Which was lucky as they were doing an offer on buying two <raises an eyebrow>. Budget around £200 for them
You of course also need a cage for them. A big cage. Multi-leveled as chinchillas like to climb and jump. You also need to make sure that the bars are not spaced so they can get themselves stuck in the bars. Look at spending around £100 on the cage.
It needs to be kept away from sunlight as they can’t regulate their temperature very well, and be big enough to accommodate different areas, toys, food etc.
Toys and playtime
Chinchillas are very playful and like to have things to play with inside their cages. Or leave a pencil on top of the cage and they will gnaw through that too! They particularly love rolling around in sand and for me watching chinchillas do this is one of the greatest reasons for getting them. It is hilarious. They actually don’t like being dirty so having a sand bath is their way of cleaning themselves, so whilst fun for us to watch it is vital for their well being too. You can either buy a chinchilla bath or you can use an old ice cream tub with a layer of chinchilla sand in it. It might take a few attempts for them to realise what is it you are suggesting but they will soon get the hang of it. They don’t like change so keep the same container if you can so they know what it is they are meant to be doing when you put them in it! Sieve the sand after each bath to remove any lumps and you can reuse it.
Make sure their toys are suitable for chinchillas though, stick with wood or coconut shell and you won’t go wrong
One of the reasons you have to be careful what you give chinchillas to play with is that they have to have a relatively strict diet. They are susceptible to diabetes so they can’t have alot of the sweet treats that other small rodents (sorry, folks these are also rodents) enjoy. The only “treat” we give them is a single raisin each, which they will eat from your hand. Do not give them bits of fruit or treat bars made for hamsters / gerbils etc. Regular food is in the form of special chinchilla pellets, or hay. Other than that they don’t really need anything else to eat and in fact the healthier they are if they stick to this simple diet.
A word about hay, put it in a little basket suspended on the edge of the cage so they pull at it to eat it. Not only does it give them something to do, but it means they wont pee on it and then be unable to eat it.
Use a wire hay cage though, we used a wooden one and they ate it 🙂
Bizarrely they also like burnt toast. Which is handy as there is a lot of that in our house. But it needs to be in tiny cubes
Dried rosehips are also good if you can get them.
Chinchillas like to beg so as soon as you go near the cage they will come out and greet you on the off chance you have food!
Of course it goes without saying that fresh water should also be available at all times .
One of the great things about chinchillas is that they are not nocturnal so they won’t be awake as small people go to bed. They are awake during the day, though they do like peace and quiet so they can nap. They also love to come out of their cages and have a good explore . Their size makes this easy too as they dont tend to get lost behind cabinets. Obviously just make sure that the room is secure, free from other pets and do keep an eye on them to make sure they haven’t found any wires or cables.
I have to say that before we got them, I knew nothing about chinchillas but they are so easy to look after, and after the initial expense, relatively cheap to keep after that. And great fun to handle.
A word of advise though, we were told they don’t bite and one of ours does have a tendency to nip so do be careful with small children and don’t leave them unsupervised.
PS thanks for letting me nick your pictures off Facebook Ellie. I didn’t ask? Oh yeah sorry about that.