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Claire D

An Alternative Approach To Hand Rearing -

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Hand Rearing Chinchilla Kits - Alternative Approach

There are some excellent articles/website which contain information regarding hand rearing chinchilla kits. What is presented here is an alternative approach to the usual methods of hand rearing.

The formula I have used successfully with kits which required hand rearing or supplimenting is one favoured by many breeders.The ingredients are as follows:

One part evaporated milk

Two parts cooled boiled water

One drop of Abidec or other children's vitamins

One small pinch of glucose

It is also possible to a tiny pinch of probiotics to the formula if necessary (can help with squishy droppings) and another optional ingredient is a tiny pinch of Vertark Critical Care powder.

Hand rearing and supplimenting chinchilla kits is time consuming, tiring, and sometimes emotionally draining. It is necessary to feed kits 1-2 hourly round the clock in the initial weeks which can be frustrating and tiring for the body and soul.

For those of us who do not function well on little sleep, have to work or look after families, and only manage to stay upright by using strong black coffee or bucket loads of Red Bull, hand rearing/supplimenting can seem like a nightmare.

It is possible to use an alternative method rather than kits having to wait for their sleepy human parents to provide them with formula.

Chinchilla kits, by their very natures, are survivors - they are born fully furred, eyes open, ready to go! They are adaptable and rapidly learn from their mothers - it is not uncommon to see kits copying their mothers by mouthing hay or pellets from as early as 2 days old.

I have successfully raised kits on bottles of milk hung from the cage mesh. Even young or small kits can adapt to drinking from a bottle of formula, especially if a new batch of formula is made each time and warmed to body temperature. Adding a pinch of Vetark Critical Care Formula to the milk can give a boost to runty kits.

There are certain advantages of using bottles of formula over pipette feeds, however, it does not take away the necessity for the chinchilla owner to get up during the night to check on kits' progress. The kits will also need to be stimulated to pass urine and faeces by "topping and tailing" using damp cotton wool (unless the kit is being raised by a surrogate mother who does this toileting themselves).

Once kits have become used to drinking formula from a pipette it is relatively simple to introduce a bottle to the cage. Warming the formula to body temperature and encouraging the kit to check out the bottle is the first step - a small drop of milk on the end of the bottle spout will encourage kits to take a tentative drink.

Kits soon get the taste for drinking formula from the bottle. They can feed as and when they require rather than having to wait for a feed.

Bottles are sterilised and cleaned out at each feed and a batch of new formula made up daily which can then be stored in the fridge for 24 hours. Bottles can be heated several times a day when checking kits' progress - new formula can be made up each time. Mouse bottles are suitable for small kits

I have personally found this system of feeding/supplimenting kits to be very effective. Careful supervision, scrupulous hygiene and sterilisation techniques, and daily weighing to monitor progress are essential.

The Bottle Feeding Process.

The process I use for introducing kits to bottle feeds is as follows:

- Once the kit is feeding happily from a pipette add the formula to a small, sterilized bottle (mouse bottles are an excellent size).

- Gently cupping the kit in a hand place the bottle against the lower lip so that a drop of milk touches the mouth (do not allow too much milk to flood the kit's lips).

- Remove the bottle while the kit licks the milk off its lips.

- Repeat the above process until the kit begins to lick the bottle nipple itself.

- Once the kit is adept at drinking from the bottle whilst being held the bottle can be attached to the cage mesh at a level low enough for the kit to comfortably reach.

- Gently place the kit in front of the bottle (the kit may need to be gently held in position until it finds the bottle nipple). Kits soon get the idea of a bottle and will eagerly scramble to the front of the cage when they hear you coming with a fresh bottle of warm formula.

- Refresh the formula as necessary - at least 4 hourly to ensure bacteria does not flourish in the warm milk.

- Ensure the kit is feeding sufficiently by continuing to record daily weights.

A word of warning when making up bottles of formula: To ensure the milk is free-flowing (before kits drink) it is important to get the air pressure out of the bottle by depressing the nipple - please make sure this is done with the bottle facing away from you - the warm milk makes the air inside the plastic bottle expand and it can be expelled with some force when the nipple is initially depressed.

Weaning kits from bottle feeds:

Once the kits reach 8 weeks old and have achieved at least 200g in weight it is a relatively simple process to wean them from bottle feeds. In fact, some kits will wean themselves given the choice. Personally I do not begin to wean any kit who has not achieved 200g in weight at 8 weeks old - these "runty" kits may need continuous bottle feeds for longer (10-12 weeks).

Gradual increase in the dilution of the formula encourages the kits to wean themselves. From a formula of 2:1 (cooled boiled water to evaporated milk) it can be diluted to 3:1, 4:1 5:1 etc over a period of a couple of weeks (the other ingredients are gradually reduced in a similar manner). Usually by the end of the fortnight (or longer if necessary) the kits have lost interest in what has essentially become water slightly flavoured with milk.

It is also possible to decrease the amount of time the bottles are attached to the cage so that the kits begin to increase their pellet and hay intake. For example, bottles can be removed from the cage every few hours and only put on for feeds - the intervals between "feeds" is then increased slightly each time.

It is important to note that during the weaning phase the kits should still be monitored daily to ensure there is continuous weight gain. A decrease in weight may mean the kits are not yet ready for weaning and the formula should be strengthened again and left on the cage for longer periods of time.

An example of the success of using this alternative, bottle method is highlighted by the pictures of the small kit (Cassie) - she was 28g and took to the bottle feeds immediately after 24 hours pipette feeding. She doubled her weight in 3 days and has continued to gain weight at a great pace. She is now a happy, healthy adult chin.

Cassie1.JPGCassie3.JPG

Cassie2.JPG

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