Your care instructions will depend on the age of the chinchilla babies, or kits. During the first couple of weeks, their mother will provide most of the care, and you’ll focus on providing a safe, clean environment for her and the babies. This includes making sure they always have plenty of food, water, and clean cage linings. The chinchillas will also need room for exercise, dust for bathing, and wooden chew sticks to keep their teeth under control. As they become older, you’ll gradually begin caring for the chinchilla babies in the same ways you would care for adult chinchillas.
Generally, you can handle your chinchilla babies much like you’d handle kittens. Be gentle, as the kits are delicate when they’re young. Never squeeze or hold the chinchillas too firmly. Use two hands to pick up, hold, and carry them. One hand can support a chinchilla under its belly, and the other hand can keep the animal steady.
Handling your chinchilla babies will prepare them for future human interaction. Still, if the kits haven’t been weaned and are still with their mother, try to keep the handling to a minimum. During this time, which typically lasts up to eight weeks, your care instructions will focus mostly on the kits’ environment. Their mother will handle everything else. This time period is an important bonding time and constantly removing the kits from their mother, as well as leaving your scent on them, can interrupt the bond.
Make sure your cage is big enough to comfortably accommodate the chinchilla babies and that there are no spaces between the bars big enough to allow them to escape. Consider the space available for the mother, too, if she’s still caring for the babies. Most experts advise lining the cage with kiln-dried pine shavings rather than regular pine or cedar, as these can cause various liver, respiratory, skin, and coat problems. Chinchillas are playful, active crepuscular rodents and need plenty of exercise. Consider equipping your cage with an exercise wheel and different levels for the chinchillas to climb.
Since a chinchilla’s teeth constantly grow, they need to gnaw items to keep them worn down. For this reason, it’s best to avoid using plastic water bottles or feeding bowls. Keep wood sticks and toys in the cage for the chinchillas to chew. Again, avoid pine and cedar sticks. Look for chew sticks made of willow, birch, manzanita, apple tree, or kiln-dried pine.
If the chinchilla babies haven’t been weaned, they will obtain nutrition from their mother. You’ll need to keep fresh water and food in the cage for her, and you can increase the amount once the babies are weaned. Pellets and other kinds of chinchilla foods, such as hay stalks and cubes, are available at pet stores. Avoid feeding your chinchillas any food high in protein and fat. Frequent treats can cause digestive problems, but feeding the chinchillas dried fruit a couple of times a week is usually safe.
Unless you have a suitable wet nurse, you’ll need to hand-feed orphaned chinchilla babies. It’s best to consult a veterinarian, pet store workers, or chinchilla breeders for tips on the proper milk formula for orphaned kits. You can find small bottles designed for feeding pets that haven’t been properly weaned, but small medicine droppers might work best during the first couple of weeks. Chinchillas are most active from dusk until dawn, but you’ll need to feed them around the clock. Generally, kits younger than three weeks can be fed every two hours, and those three weeks old and older can be fed every three hours.
Chinchillas bathe in dust rather than water. Since their fur is so thick, bathing in water can cause fungus and fur rot. You can find dust especially for chinchillas at pet stores and veterinarians’ offices. Allow the chinchillas to take a dust bath twice a week to prevent oil buildup, but no more, as too much dust can cause their skin to become dry. Place a bowl of dust in the cage, and the chinchillas instinctively play and roll around in the dust to get clean.