Breeding Information

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.


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