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CHINformative - Promoting Chinchilla Welfare

Debbie

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About Debbie

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    Owned by Fraggle & Co
  • Birthday 03/13/1970

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    http://www.azure-chinchillas.co.uk

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    Female
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    Near Southampton

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  1. Fur fungus is the common, if somewhat erroneous, term used by many breeders for ringworm. Chinchillas are highly susceptible to ringworm, a fungal infection of the skin and fur, due to their thick pelts which absorb ambient humidity, thus providing an ideal growing environment for ringworm spores to flourish. There is currently an epidemic sweeping through many UK “herds” at present. There are various different strains of ringworm, tinea canis being the most likely culprit. Symptoms are characterised by loss of fur in patches, especially around the eyes, nose and ears. The underlying skin may look reddened, flaky and may be covered in crusts and/or scabs. This condition is obviously itchy and uncomfortable for the chins, and is also highly contagious, so prompt diagnosis and treatment is required. However, it is possible to miss some patches of ringworm on a chinchillas’ body, simply because their fur is so dense that bald areas can be hard to spot!! Therefore, breeders need to be vigilant when checking their entire herds for any problems. It also seems to target animals whose immune systems may be slightly compromised in some way, i.e. they may be slightly, stressed, run-down, or young or old. The good news is that is does appear to be self-limiting and will run it’s course through a herd, and the affected chinchillas, once treated, then seem to gain some sort of resistance. Ringworm is spread by contact mainly, (although spores may become airborne) via other infected people, animals and pets. This is another good reason why good quarantine procedures need to be carried out!! Treatment is varied, but focuses around antifungal preparations. The common “breeders home-treatment” consists of adding about a tablespoon of athletes foot powder to the chinchilla’s sandbaths, so they self-medicate. It is also routinely used as a “preventative” by many breeders, but I have my reservations about the wisdom of using this, as my chinchillas have displayed breathing abnormalities when the powder has been added to their sandbaths, so I no longer add it as a prophylactic. Even with anti-fungal powder added to sandbaths, a cure is not guaranteed if the infection is virulent. Topical, over-the-counter anti-fungal sprays and creams (with active ingredients such as ketoclomazole, mycoclomazole, clotazmole etc) have been used with some success, but they can be messy and difficult to apply. Thought must also be given to the fact that the chinchillas are liable to groom off anything that is applied to their bodies, and these types of human medication can be harmful to them if ingested. My advice is to take any affected chinchillas to the vets, ask them to culture some samples to establish what you are dealing with (as not every type of ringworm fluoresces under a Wood’s Lamp). Then commence treatment with whatever preparation the vet then recommends and prescribes. Malaseb shampoo appears to be very affective and the whole chinchilla need not be shampooed and can just be “spot-treated” which is ideal, as they are very hard to completely dry off after becoming wet. Two applications a week are required, and improvement has been reported even after just one application. It is also VERY important to use an anti-fungal disinfectant, in order to thoroughly clean cages, sandbaths, feed bowls and any other equipment to reduce the risk of further contamination and spread of infection. I routinely use Defence-7, Virkon S or Vanodine V18 anyway, which are all designed for use with livestock and are also effectively anti-fungal. Treatment needs to be thorough, and systematic. It may be several weeks/months before a large herd of chinchillas are free of symptoms. They then need to be all symptom-free for AT LEAST a month (preferably two) before any of them are sold or taken to shows. Full quarantine procedures need to be imposed until the herd is in the clear. With quick diagnosis and appropriate treatment, infection may be limited, minor and may not become widespread and out of control within a herd.
  2. This is another problem that is quite common. Severe cases will need veterinary treatment, but mild cases are usually treatable by the owner. Main Symptoms In mild cases the owner will only see softer droppings than usual, often found squashed flat around the cage. More severe cases will manifest themselves as very runny droppings, resembling cowpats, or smelly, liquid watery droppings. Enteritic conditions may be characterised by the presence of mucous. Possible Causes Many causes. In mild cases, often too many treats are to blame. Lack of fibre in the diet (possibly dental-related). Unsuitable or poor diet. Poor husbandry/sanitation. Possible gastro-intestinal infection. Protozoal infection. Full veterinary tests may be needed. In mild cases where there is only soft droppings present, squished flat onto shelves, and the chin is well in itself - then you will only probably need to do the following: Reduced or no pellets for 24 hours No treats Increased hay (but only if it is top-quality hay - as poor quality hay may make the problem worse - or even have caused it) VERY burnt toast (a thumb-sized piece once a day) Probiotics in the drinking water If the condition persists for longer than 48 hours then I give some Paediatric Kaolin (or Kaogel) (@ 0.5ml - once or twice a day) In cases where the chin is showing signs of abdominal pain, and/or the droppings are liquid, smelly, mucoussy or even blood-stained - then urgent veterinary treatment is needed - don't delay! Ensure good sanitation at all times - and always disinfect the cage and shelves after an outbreak of gastric disturbance, whatever the cause.
  3. Constipation in my opinion should be regarded as a condition that does require prompt treatment. Main Symptoms are: Small, dry, scant droppings. Thin, curved droppings. Few droppings or no droppings at all. Lethargy. Lack of appetite. Abdominal pain. Possible Causes Dental problems that mean the chin is not eating enough fibre. Unsuitable diet lacking in fibre. Illness. Bloat. General treatment should begin immediately. But in acute cases veterinary advice is recommended (as always). For mild cases a little syrup of figs can be given. 1ml twice a day - and an improvement should be noticed by the next day. Probiotics (from vets/suppliers) in the drinking water is also useful. A little extra exercise may also help. Ensure that the chinchilla is drinking well and is fully hydrated. The latest thinking is to avoid giving anything too sweet (although syrup of figs is the exception) - as sugary treatment (such as pineapple juice) in some rare cases can cause bloat to develop in a constipated chinchilla. If you wish to get the same effect as pineapple juice - but without the sugars - then try giving bromelain powder (from health food shops) in the drinking water. Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme (an enzyme that digests proteins) and this can especially be useful if the constipation is caused by post-partum gastric stasis. Strong laxatives should only be given if you are certain that the chinchilla is not suffering from a blockage or intersusseption. This WILL require a veterinary examination to be sure. If the chin is free from a blockage - you can also try medicinal liquid paraffin. 1ml twice a day is usually effective - and once again an improvement should be noticed by the next day. Do not give liquid paraffin for more than 2 days - as the gut can become immune to its effects. Do not give castor oil - as this is harmful to a chinchillas digestive tract. If no improvement occurs after 48 hours - or the chinchilla is showing signs of abdominal pain - then seek urgent veterinary advice.
  4. You will find some fairly detailed information on breeding chinchillas on this link: http://www.azure-chinchillas.co.uk/pages/b...chinchillas.php
  5. Fur chewing is a vice that affects a small percentage of chinchillas. Chinchillas can do it to themselves - and/or other chins sharing the same cage. They chew the top layer off the fur - leaving the undercoat exposed and giving an untidy appearance It has many suspected causes ................ Stress Boredom Dietary Genetic Hormonal There are a few old records stating that one theory was that chins that fur-chewed consistantly were deficient in Arachidonic essential fatty acid. This is mainly found in animal-based sources - so ranchers would hang bacon rind in the cages for the chins to chew. This appeared to work in many cases?? I am not sure how advisable this is though - seeing as chinchillas are herbivores (and I am not recommending it as such - only stating it as a historic fact). Other sources state that it is an inherited vice (a dominant gene) that is responsible for fur-chewing (Kline). Another theory is that affected chinchillas could be deficient in certain amino acids. And finally some sources state that it may be a hormonal anomaly (Kraft). Basically - no one seems to be 100% sure!! There is no 100% effective treatment but the following may help some cases: Just provide a good, balanced diet - peace and quiet during the day - and plenty of mental and physical stimulation when the chins are active. Flowers of Sulphur or a pet-safe bitter-spray can also put a chinchilla off chewing it's fur in mild cases. It is also wise not to breed from affected chins or continue to breed from chins who's offspring have shown inclination towards the vice.
  6. Fits/convulsions are relatively common in chinchillas. Although no one is entirely certain why. Symptoms can be ...... loss of coordination rigidity unresponsiveness unable to move normally flattening of ears and a stiff posture flattening of the body twitching and head-tilt stretching head backwards arching of the back There are many possible causes ...... hypo or hyper glyceamia (especially in chins less than a year old) hypo or hyper calceamia (also seen in younger chins) diabetes stress/excitement (AKA feeding fits) thiamine deficiency (rare) genetic/hereditary causes trauma/injury overheating/exhaustion epilepsy Cardio vascular anomalies disease/illness poisoning With "calcium fits" the chinchilla can go rigid, with it's head arched backwards, may stagger around and lose it's balance. "Thiamine fits" are indicated more so by twitching, shaking and trembling, as well as loss of balance. When a chin is fitting - it is best left alone and quiet - as there is nothing you can do - other than ensure they dont injure themselves. Afterwards, keep the chin warm and let it rest quietly to recover. If the fit lasts longer than a few minutes - then veterinary advice should be sought. A chinchilla that fits regularly should also be taken to the vet - and a diary should be kept (recording details such as what was fed, excercise, temperature, interaction with a companion, age etc etc) which may help the vet pinpoint a cause. Strokes may look similar to a fit - but are often longer in duration and usually cause some sort of long or short-term disability such as paralysis. In all cases where a stroke is suspected - veterinary attention should be given and some sort of post-event care should be given (treat as for shock). I hope this helps.
  7. Just adding a section on working out nutritional ratios - as this links in with the calcium topic ........ Chinchillas require calcium to phosphorous in the ratio of around 2:1 respectively (or at least 1:1) to ensure healthy skeletal and dental development (in conjunction with vitamins A, C and D) - as discussed!! It is very likely that chinchillas can tolerate calcium ratios well in excess of the suggested 2:1, but more importantly, it is wise to ensure that the chinchilla is NOT eating a diet that has an inverted calcium:phosphorus ratio, as this (over time) may result in a decrease in bone density. Most hays are naturally calcium to phosphorus balanced too. (This also includes Readigrass (Justgrass) and Supa Forage Excel, which are dried grass products) Some examples: Calcium/Phosphorus Meadow Hay 0.29%/0.23% Timothy Hay 0.43%/0.20% Alfalfa hay (a lucerne not a grass) is high in calcium, and is a high energy food. Alfalfa 1.24%/0.22% Many of use also feed grains/cereals (oats/wheatgerm) in addition to pellets and hay - and I have borne this in mind……. Cereals contain an inverted calcium to phosphorus ratio. Here are some average values. Oats 0.05%/0.34% Wheatbran/germ 0.13%/1.13% Barley 0.05%/0.34% It is worth bearing in mind that hays and grains are natural products and their mineral content may vary somewhat, depending on where and how they are grown, how and when they are harvested and how they are stored. N.B. At the risk of boring you all, there is a way of calculating what ratio of calcium of phosphorus your chinchillas get in their diet……. 1. Weigh what you would feed one chinchilla in a day (these are examples only)…… Pellets 40g Timothy Hay 40g Oats 1.75g Wheatgerm 1.75g 2. Multiply the weights by both the calcium and the phosphorus % content Timothy Hay Calcium = 0.43 x 0.40 = 0.172g Timothy Hay Phosphorus = 0.20 x 0.40 = 0.08g Pellets Calcium = 1 x 0.40 = 0.4g Pellets Phosphorus = 0.25 x 0.40 = 0.1g Oats Calcium = 0.05 x 0.175 = 0.00875g Oats Phosphorus = 0.34 x 0.175 = 0.0595g Wheatgerm Calcium = 0.13 x 0.175 = 0.02275g Wheatgerm Phosphorus = 1.13 x 0.175 = 0.19775g 3. Add all the calcium totals together = 0.6035g Add all the phosphorus totals together = 0.43725g 4. Divide the total calcium by the total phosphorus. 0.6035 divided by 0.43725 = 1.45 So - this diet is 1.45:1 calcium to phosphorus All of the above ratios are adequate and are not inverted. Alfalfa given as an occasional treat will bump up the calcium levels slightly. This is why a diet of pellets and hay is recommended - as it takes the guesswork out of balancing vitamin and mineral requirements!! I hope that this is of interest.
  8. Chinchillas will happily exercise on a wheel, if given the chance to do so, but care must be taken to ensure that a suitable wheel is used. Extra-large wheels, manufactured for rats are not suitable. Some years ago, chinchilla wheels were only available in the USA, but they are now getting much easier to get hold of in the UK. Chinchilla wheels need to be at least 14" in diameter, have fully enclosed bearings, and be of solid construction (not runged) to protect tails and toes from getting trapped. The "Flying Saucer Wheel" and the "Leo Braun Wheel" (both manufactured specifically for chinchillas) can currently only be imported from the USA and Europe. John Hopewell in the UK also makes two different sized wheels suitable for chinchillas (14" and 16") - my chinchillas have the 16" wheels and they really enjoy using them!
  9. There is very little space between the female's urethal cone and her anus. Whereas with the male chinchilla, the gap between the penis and anus is much more pronounced, even as kits. **awaiting undignified photos of digruntled chins **
  10. Some of the below colours are not commonly seen in the UK, but are worthy of mention. Wilson White (AKA Silver, Mosaic) Incomplete Dominant, Lethal Factor, Heterozygous Only Tower Beige (heterozygous or homozygous) Gunning Black (Black Velvet) Lethal Factor, Heterozygous Only Tasco Black French Blue Busse Ebony Wellman Beige Recessive Sullivan Beige Recessive (red eyes) Albino Charcoal Sakrison (Curly Brown Charcoal) Stone White (prone to opthalmia) Larsen Sapphire Lester Black Treadwell Black Young Lavender-Brown Sullivan Violet Deutsche Violet Many more mutations can be created by crossing the above colours to produce a hybrid or blend.
  11. Chinchillas are very suseptable to shock. Many pet chins die from delayed shock, even when the actual injuries may be relatively minor. Symptoms of shock may include the chinchilla appearing listless, withdrawn, sleepy and lethargic. Paws and ears may feel cold to the touch. There will almost always be a total lack of appetite and the digestion may shut-down, so few (if any) droppings will be observed. It is imperative that shock is treated IMMEDIATELY!! Phone the vet for advice - but do commence basic treatment yourself, as prompt care is essential. Warmth is paramount, keep the affected chinchilla warm (but not hot). Use a hot-water bottle wrapped in a towel or a specialist heat-pad to ensure that continuous warmth is supplied. Fluids are also essential. Dehydration treatments are better than water alone (they can be bought from chemists - i.e. diaoralyte - and should be made up according to packet instructions). Slowly and gently, drop by drop if necessary, syringe as much fluid orally as you are able (5-10ml at a time, aiming for about 40ml spread throughout the day). Ensure that the chinchilla does not inhale any. If necessary sub-cutaneous fluids can be administered by a vet. This is essential if a chinchilla is too weak to take anything orally. Ensure the chinchilla is kept as stress-free as possible. Provide a retreat or nest-box that the chinchilla can snuggle into, and keep warm and feel secure. Apart from administering medication/fluids, disturb the chinchilla as little as possible. When administering treatments, do it quietly with as little fuss and bother, and maintain a speedy and efficient routine to minimise stress. If the chinchilla survives the first 24 hours, but is still not eating, then you can try offering favourite foods to tempt the appetite (Oxbow Alfalfa Nibbles are recommended). If no food is eaten voluntarily eaten, then try a little food replacment (see the "nutritional first aid" article). Although there is much you can do yourself to help (and keeping the chin in a familiar environment can pay dividends), in many cases veterinary care is also required, as any wounds sustained will often need veterinary treatment/antibiotics to prevent septicaemia occuring (very common if the chinchilla has been fighting). However, do ensure that the chinchilla has improved (stabilised) a little before risking transportation to the surgery!
  12. What Age to Breed? This mainly depends on how soon your bloodlines mature, as some mature far later than others. I tend to initially start introducing potential breeding mates at around the age of about 8 months old, no younger. Chinchillas usually become capable of reproduction from the age of around 4 to 6 months, depending on the individual, of course. But breeding from such young animals may result in complications, so is not recommended. I have even heard reports of chinchillas as young as 8 weeks managing to breed, but this is exceptionally rare, but still serves as a reminder to separate siblings at a reasonable age to prevent any interbreeding. What Type of Chinchillas are Most Suitable for Breeding? If you intend to allow a chinchilla to have a couple of litters, it is wise to choose your breeding stock wisely, as certain problems may be inherited. With this in mind, it is best to use the highest quality chinchillas that you can (within reason), that have a traceable history. You can also fully discuss the chinchilla’s background with the breeder when you go to view the chinchillas too. I do not recommend breeding from chinchillas that have had any history of dental problems, as this dreadful affliction is becoming way too common and it is my belief that is arises from poor breeding practises, among other causes. If you purchase from a pet shop, it is unlikely that you will be able to get any background on a chinchilla, and you will not be able to ascertain if the chinchilla has been bred from healthy bloodlines or not. For these reasons I would not recommend using such an animal for breeding although they will still make enchanting and wonderful pets. My only recommendation is to always aim to purchase quality breeding stock from reputable chinchilla breeders, whenever possible. How do I Pair Chinchillas Up? Chinchillas are territorial and if caged together with no introductions can and will fight. Try to pair suitably matched chinchillas for breeding (i.e. similar in age and size). I have found the best way of introducing monogamous pairs is to cage them side-by-side so that they can see and smell each other. Once they have become accustomed to each other's presence (this can take a while with some chinchillas) you can then allow them to meet on neutral territory, supervised of course. If all goes well, the put the female into the male's cage and keep a watchful eye on them. If no aggression occurs after several hours, then they should have accepted each other and you will see plenty of mutual grooming going on (this is always a good sign). If they snarl and snap at one another, or of the female sprays at the male, then it is time to separate them before things develop into a full-scale fight. Allow them a few days (still caging them side-by-side) to settle down, and then try again. The length of time that they need to accept each other can vary from as little as a day or two to as long as a few months. Just be patient and don't try to rush things, compatible pairs usually accept each other in the end. What is the Usual Oestrus Cycle? This can vary, but the normal cycle can average from 24-42 days. My females seem to come into season every 35 days during the winter months, almost without fail. How do I Tell if a Female is in Season? If you have a look at the females genital area, you will see her anus and then very close in front of it you will see her urethal 'cone'. In between these two structures is the female's vaginal opening. It is shut and virtually invisible when the female is not in season, but when she comes into oestrus the vulva will become visible as a horizontal opening. Sexing Chinchillas? There is very little space between the female's urethal cone and her anus, whereas with the male chinchilla, the gap between the penis and anus is much more pronounced, even as kits. How do I Know if a Chinchilla has Mated? Chinchillas are not at all discreet when is come to procreation. The best way to tell if a female has mated is to actually witness the mating itself. This will consist of a lot of tail-wagging and squeaking on the part of the male. He will also chase the female around quite a bit and she will respond by being quite aggressive at times, until she is ready to receive him. The male will continue to mate with the female, at intervals, for many hours and you may hear a curious 'hiccoughing' cry from the male sporadically. The female may produce one (or several) mating plugs. These look like white waxy 'blobs' averaging between 1 and 3 cm long. These mainly consist of seminal fluid, and if found are usually a good sign that mating has taken place. By morning you may also find clumps of fur littering the cage floor (chinchilla mating is pretty physical), this is all quite normal behaviour, but do ensure that they are not fighting. What are Fur Rings? Due to the way chinchillas mate, and the fact that they have copious amounts of fur, it is possible for a male chinchilla, especially a novice male, to develop something called a fur-ring (or hair-ring). This is where the penis collects a ring of fur around it (usually under the foreskin), during the act of mating which can cut off the blood supply to the penis. It is prudent to quickly check the males 'bits' after he has mated to make sure that all looks normal. The penis 'telescopes' out of the foreskin for examination, but ensure you are careful and use plenty of lubricant when you do examine him in this manner. If there is any redness or swelling or the penis looks discoloured and congested or if the foreskin is not covering it properly, then prompt attention is needed to remove the fur-ring. Ensure that the penis remains moist and does not dry-out (KY jelly is recommended). You can attempt to carefully remove the fur-ring yourself, if you feel confident, but take considerable care not to damage or injure the penis. Use plenty of lubricant and carefully try to tease the fur-ring apart with your fingers. Once removed, ensure that everything goes back into place normally and that the penis does not prolapse. If you are unsure, or are not able to remove the fur-ring, then take the male to the vets to have it removed. Do not delay, as the penis can suffer irreparable damage if left untreated. How long is Gestation? 111 days, give or take up to 5 days either way. How Many Kits are in a Litter? The average is 2 kits per litter. Singletons and triplets are also common. Quads and quins are rarer, but do occur. Most females rear twins easily but triplets upwards may require supplementary feeding or rotating as one kit may be 'runty'. How Can I Tell If My Female Is Pregnant? A mating plug (if you find one) is a sure sign that a mating has occured - but not if conception has occured. Some signs of pregnancy are: * Significant weight-gain (in the 2nd month particularly). * Swollen/hard belly. * Engorged/reddened teats. * Kits will be seen to kick. * Lying on side more than usual. Be careful when handling pregnant chinchillas. Don't palapate the stomach if you are not certain how to. Remember that all chinchillas are different - and will show their pregnancy in different ways - this is merely a basic guide. What Can I do to Prepare For a Forthcoming Litter? Unless a Female is particularly used to being handled and is very relaxed about it, do not over-handle a pregnant female if at all possible. With very highly-strung and nervous females, the less handling they receive whilst pregnant, the better. Some people like to weigh their females regularly during pregnancy, to ensure that she puts on weight, but I find that this is not usually necessary and can disturb them unduly. Kits are born precocious (fully-furred, eyes open and can walk almost immediately). It is a good idea to line the floor of the cage (if wire-floored) with clean newspaper, as the female approaches her due-date, until the kits are a couple of weeks old. This helps the kits when walking, as they do find wire-floored cages a bit difficult at first. Change the newspaper regularly for hygiene reasons. The female can have a sandbath right up to her due-date, but do not leave it in the cage unsupervised, as she may have her litter early and you do not want her littering in the sandbath. Once the kits are born, withhold the sandbaths for about 7 days, in order to reduce the risks of infection. The kits can have their first sandbath, along with mum when they are about a week old. The male should be removed shortly before the kits are due, to prevent a breedback. He can be returned after a week (but will probably mate with her as soon as she comes into season again - which in my opinion is not giving the female enough rest) or after the female has rested for a few months, after weaning her litter. Females come into season within 12 hours of giving birth. If they are mated again immediately, this is known as a breedback. This can be very tiring for the female, as the kits can take an awful lot out of her, so breedbacks should be avoided if there are more than 2 kits in a litter or if the new litter is already the product of a previous breedback. To ensure that the male and female accept each other again after being apart, they should always have contact (i.e. caging them side-by-side). The Birth Female chinchillas always seem to have their litters in the early hours of the morning. You may first notice that her chest and forepaws are soaking wet, this is due to the waters breaking. The female will also be licking repeatedly at her undercarriage too. Contractions are usually quite visible. During these, the female may arch her back, strain a little and even cry out. The kits are delivered headfirst and the female uses her teeth to pull them free. There may be a couple of hours between kits being born - BUT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD A FEMALE BE ALLOWED TO STRAIN OR LABOUR IN VAIN FOR LONGER THAN 3-4 HOURS WITHOUT PRODUCING ANYTHING!!! If she does - then IMMEDIATE veterinary advice should be sought!! When the birth is over, within an hour or two the female will start expelling the afterbirths. There is usually 1 per kit, but occasionally kits share a placenta, so this is not a hard and fast rule. If you do not witness the expulsion of the afterbirths, the usual evidence is a bloody snout, forepaws and a bloody patch in the cage. The female and the kits soon dry off, especially if clean dry newspaper is placed in their cage. Additional heating is usually only necessary if the female is kept in an outside unit or littering in an unheated room in the colder months. A heat-pad or a light bulb placed in a biscuit tin, placed under the cage, will keep an area of the cage warm. What do I Need to do Once The Kits Are Born? Sometimes the kit's eyes do not open, but instead remain gummed shut from dried birth fluids. I usually bathe the eyes either in warm saline solution or Optrex, to soften any dried matter, and then very gently prise them open with my thumbs, taking care not to cause any injury. The kits squeal in protest a bit, but they do suckle much better once they can see!! Happy, well-fed kits will not squabble much or bite mum’s teats, they will make happy 'peeping' sounds when suckling, their bellies will feel full and their tails will curl upwards. Restlessness, fighting, a hunch-backed appearance and an empty-feeling belly are all possible signs that there is not enough milk, or that the mother’s milk supply is slow to come in. In which case supplementary feeding is advised. But not so much that the kits do not attempt to suckle, as the quantity of milk produced by the female is subject to the demands of her kits, and if they are not hungry they will not suckle - and she will, in turn, not produce much milk. You can also give the female a couple of millilitres of syrup of figs (if she will take it), either by syringe or off a teaspoon. This will help her pass the afterbirths that she may have eaten. Although they usually pass unaided through the digestive tract, a few ml of syrup of figs won’t harm. Some breeders remove the afterbirths, and prevent their females from eating them but this is not necessary, as they are full of much-needed protein. Weaning Kits I wean my kits from 8 to 10 weeks old, depending on how well they are doing. They will have been eating solids since a few days old, but just ensure that they are drinking proficiently from a drinking bottle before weaning them. I do no stagger weaning or do it in stages, the youngsters are simply removed from their dam into cages of their own or sometimes into similar-aged, same-sexed pairs depending on the size of cage available. Do keep a very close eye on the kits for a few weeks after weaning, to ensure that they are coping well on their own, before even thinking about selling them on. Keep all treats to a minimum, as too many sweet or rich treats can severely upset a young chinchilla's digestion. Never be tempted to buy or sell a young chinchilla under the age of 12 weeks old. Personally, I think that 14 weeks is a better age to purchase a youngster at. Care of The Breeding Female All breeding stock should be in excellent health and be fed a sensible basic diet of top-quality pellets and hay. Despite these precautions, in some cases a female chinchilla can lose too much weight and condition after rearing a litter. This may be due to her having a large litter or that she has not been rested sufficiently between litters. If a loss of condition does occur then she should be rested completely and not used for breeding again until she has regained condition. It may not harm to occasionally weigh her at this stage. Good accurate digital scales that weigh in 1g or 2g increments are ideal, and will easily allow you to monitor the weights of females and kits alike. However, do not become too reliant on them as daily weight fluctuations and disparities are quite normal and it is easy to become paranoid. Learn to SEE what constitutes a healthy chinchilla without always resorting to weights! Breeding chinchillas can be very enjoyable, but it is not without it’s complications, as with breeding any animal. It is wise to gain some degree of knowledge and understanding before venturing into the realms of hobby breeding. You do need to take into account the amount of separation and weaning cages you will need, sourcing and purchasing quality stock, maintaining accurate breeding records, possible veterinary care and it’s associated costs and also the time, effort and money involved with finding good homes for any surplus offspring. This takes a lot of time, money, understanding and effort - but if approached sensibly, it can be extremely rewarding.
  13. All wood should be taken from areas that have not been sprayed with chemicals. They should also be away from busy roads where car-exhausts won't have affected them. Thoroughly wash (in hot salted water) and allow to fully dry before giving it to the chins. If necessary, dry the wood in a warm oven. If your chin is not used to eating/chewing wood - give a tiny amount at first - and gradually increase it over a period of weeks. Be aware that some woods turn a chinchillas pee bright orange. This is nothing to worry about. The following are all regarded as safe - but if in doubt - don't feed it!! Apple, pear, medlar and hawthorn. Rose and bramble prunings are enjoyed (watch out - they may be too prickly for some chins) Elm Mulberry Poplar Aspen Ash Birch Lime (not the citrus wood - but the common UK Limetree) Sycamore Willow - with the exception of white willow. Hazel Pine wood is safe (kiln dried - not fresh pine) Thoroughly washed and dried "old" pinecones can also be given.
  14. Showing Chinchillas When a chinchilla is being judged at a show - the judges consider several main points - clarity, density, condition and conformation. Conformation - a show chin should be big and "blocky" in shape - and not "necky" (weak-necked) or "wedgy" (narrow at the shoulders). Clarity - the colour should always be a "clear" blue and not tinged or off-colour. Regardless of the colour, be it brown velvet, pink/white, ebony or pastel there should always be a blue "aura" to the colour. Any white (including the under-belly) should always be a persil-white and not yellowish or off-white. In standards, there should always be plenty of veiling or "tipping" to the fur, this may be described as "good veiling coverage". Density - the fur of the chinchilla should be very thick, silky, plush and strong and so packed-in that it stands up on its own and you can barely see the skin if it is parted. Some colours have a tendency to have silky, weak fur (such as self-blacks) that can flop around everywhere. Chinchillas that are weak-furred tend to "fall-open" at the hips (the fur parts at the hips). Condition - A chinchilla that is moulting (priming) - will not get as good an award as a chin that is in "prime" (finished moulting). A chinchilla that is not in best condition (this could be weather influenced) will "break-open" this is where the fur parts or "splits" at the sides or around the neck (this can also relate to the chinchillas fur-quality too). A good groom can sometimes prevent "splitting" but it is hard going to hide any "priming-lines" (a wave of fur that spreads out from the crown of the back, downwards across the chin in a horseshoe shape, as the chin moults or "primes". Preparation Keep the chinchilla in immaculate conditions from birth. A daily sandbath in fresh clean sand, and perhaps an occasional quick groom to remove the dead undercoat. No sandbaths any later than a day or two before the show. No food that may stain the fur!! Preparation On The Day Give the chin a final thorough groom ...................................... See "Grooming a Chinchilla" Once groomed, chinchillas are kept in their cages and not handled, as this will spoil the well groomed fur. Register your Chinchilla Dont forget to take a pen - as you will need to register your chin into a class ....... (you have to register before 10.30am) Main Classes A: Young standard females under 7 months. B: Young standard males under 7 months. C: Adult standard females 7 months and over. D: Adult standard males 7 months and over E: Young Mutations under 7 months. F: Adult Mutations 7 months and over. Novices can show in the same classes - but their cage cards will be suffixed with an "N" (for novice). There is a fee of £1 per chinchilla to enter into a show. You do have to be a National Chinchilla Society member to actually exhibit chinchillas - but all shows do welcome non-members as spectators (I believe it is possible to become an NCS member on the day too). The showing season is from September to March/April. This is for several reasons. Firstly this avoids the hotter weather, as chinchillas are extremely prone to heat-stress, and secondly, the chinchilla should have a more superior winter pelt at this time of year. Regional Shows are held throughout the season all around the UK. They then culminate in the best and final show of the year - The National Show!! So come along for a fun day out, there will be hot and cold refreshments, a raffle and, of course, experienced NCS members available to give full advice and support - not to mention some of the top UK chinchillas too!! Please see this site for more information ... http://www.natchinsoc.co.uk/
  15. Debbie

    Treats

    Healthy Treats: Apple Tree & Hawthorn Twigs/Branches - should be cleaned in warm water. Once cleaned, the bark should be left on. You can give a twig or two daily, but branches will last a little longer. Chinchillas love to strip off and eat the bark, which provides an excellent fibrous treat that is good for the teeth. It closely resembles their natural diet too. Willow and hazel and other kinds of fruit tree wood (as long as the fruit DOES NOT contain stones) may also be given instead of apple wood. Hawthorn is relished too. Alfalfa Hay - May be given once or twice a week. High in calcium (although much of it is calcium oxalate) and protein too. A tasty and healthy treat. Readigrass or Supa Forage Excel - freeze-dried grass. Naturally contains the correct balance of calcium to phosphorus. A good source of fibre. An ideal treat and may be fed once or twice a week. Natural Liqourice Root - A very tough, fibrous treat, great for the teeth. A length about an inch or two long may be given once a week, if your chinchilla likes it (not all chinchillas do). Dried Herbs - a good pinch per chinchilla can be fed a few times a week too. Some herbs are full of phyto-nutrients and can provide a good source of vitamins and minerals. However, they can also have medicinal uses, so do check the suitability of your chosen treat before feeding it. Introduce all new foodstuff slowly, as usual. Shredded Wheat - has no added fat or sugar and makes a suitable treat for chinchillas, if fed in moderation. Treats that may be given Sparingly: Raisins and other dried fruit - Chinchillas will sell their souls for a raisin or other kind of fruit. However, they are usually preserved in a little vegetable oil, and if fed too much, the chinchilla may develop slightly soft or runny droppings. In fact, because of this, many breeders treat them as more of a medicine than a treat, and will give them to chinchillas who appear to be slightly constipated. Only the equivalent of a couple of raisins should be given weekly. The raisins (or other fruit) can be split into smaller pieces, in order to make them go a little further. Baked Dry Bread - I sometimes put sliced wholemeal bread into the oven, and bake it until it is dry and crunchy. I feed about a quarter of a slice per chinchilla as an occasional treat. Although the bread is actually quite a healthy treat, it should only be given occasionally as it is quite filling and the chinchillas may not eat up all their staple diet if too much is fed too often. Fresh Apple - If fed in excess can have slightly laxative properties. However, a thumb-sized piece once or twice a week is relished by most chinchillas. Treats to Avoid: Sunflower Seeds/Peanuts - Although some breeders say that they can be fed as a very occasional treat, I personally avoid them totally. Most seeds and nuts, such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, coconut, millet etc etc, are actually very high in fats and oils. Chinchillas should not be fed a diet that is high in fats, as it is too rich for their delicate digestive system. With so many other more healthy alternatives, there should be no need to feed them to chinchillas at all, and chinchillas will certainly not miss them. If they simply must be fed as a treat, then do so a sparingly as possible, as infrequently as possble. Green Foods - Foods such as broccoli, lettuce and fresh grass etc, should not be fed to chinchillas. They can (and have) caused bloat in chinchillas and therefore, should be avoided. Commercially Made Treats - Some types of chinchilla treats available in petshops are actually quite unsuitable. Try to avoid anything that contains seeds, nuts, oils and sugars as these will not be healthy for your chinchilla. Human Food - Once again, although chinchillas LOVE biscuits and cereals etc, please use your common sense when feeding them. Biscuits are extremely high in fat and sugar, and you are not doing your chinchilla any favours if you feed them regularly. Some sugar-coated cereals should be avoided too.
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