First and foremost, Sunshine Chinchillas does not condone breeding unhealthy animals, unpedigreed animals, and animals that are purchased from backyard breeding programs. Please refer to our page regarding the differences between high quality chinchillas and pet quality chinchillas, here in Show vs Pet Chins.
This page is for those who are breeding healthy show quality, pedigreed animals or accidental pet pregnancies.
Before breeding, there are several things to take into consideration. First is quality, you do not want to breed just any animal to another. No rescues, unhealthy animals, chins with genetic disorders or those without pedigrees should ever be bred for any reason.
Another important factor is that attending chinchilla shows is a must. Learning about quality, conformation, density, clarity, fur texture and size can be difficult if you are not physically seeing it in person under show lights with the guidance of a judge.
Before purchasing a breeding pair, you will want to learn about these qualities in a hands on format, preferably at a chinchilla show or with a reputable breeder. You will need to then find a breeder with show quality stock to purchase from; it is best to never purchase sight unseen or small kits when you are first starting to breed. This can make it difficult to determine which animals will compliment each others qualities prior to pairing them up. Always have a reputable breeder or judge help you determine quality animals to purchase for your introduction into breeding.
It is also best to start with the basics, such as standard grays. This can make learning to breed chinchillas much easier and simpler to understand if you start with the basic mutations. Delving right into complicated colors and recessives, can be tricky and discouraging for many first time breeders. As always, having a mentor or reputable source of information can help you learn and create show quality animals.
Please remember, we do not condone backyard breeding in any way, shape or form. If you are reading this as a result of an accidental pregnancy, quality selection is not applicable.
Female chinchillas typically go into heat once a month, or every 25-50 days. This heat usually lasts anywhere from a day to 3-4 days.
Upon going into heat, a white, waxy looking mating plug can occasionally be found in the floor of the cage. However, this is not an indication of pregnancy; also, if you do not find a plug, this does not mean the chinchilla is or is not in heat.
Any surrounding males will begin to notice the female is in heat and once she is ready to mate. Males will make soft chirping noises and sway their tail back and forth to entice the female. For some mating pairs, there may be chasing involved or aggressive barking from the female. If at anytime the animals begin to fight, draw blood, or pull fur from the other animal, you need to separate them. If a female does not want to mate, she will make it clear to the male by standing on her hind legs, chattering her teeth, barking, spraying urine or baring her teeth. This does not necessarily deter the male, he will continue to try and mate until he is successful. Thus, it is important to separate the pair if at anytime they attack each other.
It can take seconds for a mating to be successful. This is why it is so important for pet owners to not allow opposite sex animals to play together or live in the same cage. For some animals, if the opportunity arises they can and will breed through cage bars. Therefore, pet quality chinchillas of opposite genders must always be kept separate.
This photo and video demonstrates the mating type behavior of chinchillas:
Once a female is pregnant, gestation usually lasts around 111 days (15 weeks/three and a half months). For some mothers, they may not show any visible signs of pregnancy and can give birth without the owner ever having known she was expecting. Most chinchillas will have a firmer, rounded belly in the later weeks of pregnancy. For litters of two or more, baby kicks can be felt when gently feeling the stomach.
Other signs of pregnancy can also be elongated nipples; just like with humans, the pregnancy hormones will prepare the mammary glands to support the young. This causes the teats to turn more pink and lengthen slightly. It is not always noticeable to the untrained eye and should not be used as the only indication of pregnancy.
Expectant mothers may or may not also eat and drink slightly more. For some females, it may not be noticeable while others it can. Thus, it is important to ensure they have fresh pellets, hay and water at all times. Pregnant chinchillas do not require any special feed or care, they can be treated like you would normally care for them.
However, it is important to consider that you should not be overly handling a pregnant female. Not only can rough handling damage the internal organs and fetus, it can also cause stress to the mother. Allow her to have her own clean space to relax and live while waiting for the kits to arrive. Unless there is an emergency, allow nature to take its course.
Before your female gives birth, you will want to ensure she has a safe cage for her and the kits to live in. Kits can easily squeeze through large spaced bars; anything larger than 1 inch by 1/2 inch can be too large of a space. Make sure that your cage is make from safe materials and baby safe wire, this will prevent escaped kits and injuries.
You will also want to keep cage accessories to a minimum. Just like a human toddler, chinchilla kits can and will hurt themselves on almost anything. Therefore, it is so important to take anything out of the cage that they can get hurt on.
Hammocks, wheels, hay bags, hidey houses that can be easily flipped, high up shelves, hanging toys, wire shelves, fleece tubes, fleece with holes in the fabric, etc. can be dangerous and even deadly for kits. We keep our females cages minimally furnished when she is nursing kits. All they will need are the basics; food, water, hay, bedding, and some things to chew are acceptable during this time.
Although you may feel the cage seems boring for your chin, remember that wild chinchillas spend most of their time within a small den in between rocks with only even room to comfortably move around. Mother and babies will not suffer by not having hammocks, toys, shelves or wheel; in fact, they will be happier as they won't hurt themselves on these items.
Another consideration is that mom and babies do not need special feed or supplement; fresh pellets, hay and water will suffice. If you would like to give them a treat, hay cubes can be very fun for mom and babies to chew or shred.
Approximately 111 days after mating, you can start to expect kits any day. For most females, they prefer to give birth alone during the early morning or late evening. When contractions begin, you will notice the female will start to stretch out or stand on her back legs while stretching up. She will usually have her ears relaxed and her eyes squinted. During this process, do not pick her up or try to feel her stomach. Allow her to give birth naturally, this helps mom and babies to stay safe and stress free. Typically, she will birth her kits within minutes or a few hours after contractions.
However, labor should not last more than a day. If she is still having contractions for several hours with no resulting kits, an emergency vet visit may be necessary. With any pregnancy, complications can sometimes arise.
An important concept to remember during a healthy birth is to leave mother and kits alone. There is no reason to bother them and interfere unless it is absolutely necessary.
Here is a great video demonstrating chinchilla birth:
After kits are born, you will want to ensure you have the proper supplies on hand if they are needed. Sometimes, for litters of three or more, kits can start to fight over the mother's milk. If this is the case, you will want to supplement the kits with a goat's milk mixture.
Typically, you will want to add two parts goats milk to one part baby rice cereal and then heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave. Then, just like a baby bottle, the milk mixture should be tested on the forearm to ensure it is warm but not hot. The mixture should then be put into the feeding syringe and prepared for the kit(s).
To feed each kit, you will want to wrap them gently in a hand towel to hold them securely. Once they are wrapped, you will only want to put a drop of milk on their lips. Never force them to eat or shove milk in their mouth. Only allow them to lick the milk off themselves, as they consume the milk you can slowly give them more by placing another drop on their lips.
When they are finished eating, they will stop eating the milk droplets and their bellies will feel plump and full. Some kits may need time to learn how to eat this way; if they do not choose to eat the formula, do not force them as they may be getting adequate milk from their mother.
Once the kits are eight weeks old or 200 grams, they can be weaned. At this time, it is so important to make sure the weaning cage they are in is safe. Kits are just like toddlers, they can and will try to hurt themselves on almost anything.
All shelves must be very low, a kit falling from a high cage can be the equivalent to a human falling from a three story building. Absolutely no hammocks, hay holders, hanging toys or anything that can be a hazard should ever be in the cage. Kits can easily get a leg, arm, teeth or tail caught in anything. Never allow a kit to have playtime outside of their cage; kits can quickly get over-heated and overexerted leading to seizures and death.
Having a flat wide open space with low shelves is the ideal cage to wean kits in, like in this photo. Make sure to give them plenty of hay, pellets and water at all times. During this time, kits are just beginning to get the hang of growing up. They can be clumsy and bouncy just like a little kid, so they should be treated as such. Only once they are six months of age should they be treated like an adult chinchilla.