Chinchillamagic

Helping you care for your chinnie

Breeding

Pairing chinchillas young

There is a lot that is still unknown about chinchillas. I don’t believe the answers are a given for various reasons.
I breed mostly Standard and Beige. Where I breed with mutations it is a “single” mutation, it carries one Standard gene. The few exceptions are recessives and Homo Beige. In almost all my mutation pairs, the male is the mutation and the female is Standard. If the female is a mutation, she is Hetero Beige. I have one pair that are 2 mutations, it was a “mercy” pairing and each of the 2 carries a Standard gene.
I pair them when the girls are older than 8 months. I will keep Spring girls and pair them with Autumn boys. If I keep a Spring boy, I wait. The reason I do this is to prevent too early pregnancies. I also breed Ebony and very few Whites. With Ebony I know from experience that they are sexually mature later than Std and Beige. A Std or Beige girl will give her first litter when she is older than 12 months, usually 14-16 months. If I pair an 8 month old girl with a 4 month old boy, she will be pregnant before she is 10 months old. If I pair a Std girl with a young Ebony boy, it takes months longer.
I believe the mutations influence the age at which they are sexually mature. I can’t put an age to this and it will differ. I also noticed a difference between Costina and La Plata. A Costina girl will fall pregnant a lot quicker than a La Plata girl. Since I pair them older it is not that obvious but I keep records of everything. A La Plata girl will have her first litter at an older age, they seem to take longer to fall pregnant. They also breed slower.
There is also herd dynamics. A young pair, say 9 months old, will fall in with the herd, she will have babies later to fit in with the time everyone have babies. This only happens with monogamous breeding. You get baby seasons with polygamous breeding too but the breeders will simply prevent winter babies by keeping the males away. The breeder controls baby season, in a herd like mine it becomes a natural cycle. Winter babies are rare.
As with any theory, we test it. Willie tested this over 4 years. He pairs La Plata with La Plata because one of the parents were Costina. I work on 2 generations, then breed back to Costina. If not, you end up with huge chinchillas that gives one baby a year. They need the “good mother” properties.
We built up what we have now with careful planning. We kept the right babies. I got RPA and others from Willie and I gave him pure Standard, Ebony, White and Tan. One of the parents is Costina and the other La Plata or it is a first generation La Plata pair. Willie pairs mutation with mutation, all safe pairings. He uses Ebony, Tan, TOV etc. A lot are also paired with pure Std females. They are La Plata.
Right from the start, over 4 years ago, he paired this way. The female will be about 6 weeks older than the male. If there is less than a month difference, they are not paired. Never is a female paired with an older male. In all the years, between all the pairs there was not a single young pregnancy and no miscarriages. They all give birth when they are over 12 months old. I know this because we plan together and we keep records the same way. There was never an exception.
There is no scientific proof for this. I have just seen it often with my own young pairs that the girl will simply prevent the boy from mating with her because she is bigger. She will chase him away. This is why they often only fall pregnant when they are 10-12 months old. If the boy is bigger, he will force her. It happened to Scarlett. When the girl is ready, she will allow him to mate with her.
Chinchillas have an ovulation cycle, like humans. They ovulate roughly every 38 days. There is just a huge difference. An animal like a dog or cat will not fall pregnant if she is not in heat. They will only mate when she is in heat. Rabbits ovulate as a result of mating. Chinchillas do both. They can ovulate as a result of mating, regardless the cycle.
The colony tendency is that they will all ovulate fairly close to each other. It even happens with humans. A house full of females will menstruate at roughly the same time. When a female gives birth, she ovulates again. It excites the males. They will mate with the females that are not pregnant and 16 weeks later there are a bunch of babies. This is also what causes a “second” pregnancy. She is pregnant in one uterus, a female gives birth, the male gets exited and mate with her again.
This causes the other uterus to ovulate. When she gives birth the hormones that triggers the labor process doesn’t distinguish between the 2. All the babies are born. The ones that were carried full term will be fine. The other will be weeks premature, it differs. The “second” pregnancy baby will not live. The few times it happened here they were about 6-8 weeks premature. It didn’t happen for a few years now because of the herd cycle. I know of only one case where the “second” baby was not born with the others but was born healthy just over 80 days later. The birth records proved it but I know of no other.
I believe that because of herd dynamics, the mutation factor, the La Plata properties and the fact that the male is smaller than the female, there are no young pregnancies. There is no way to prove why. It just doesn’t happen. With Standard and Beige it will happen. She will ovulate way too young and you will have a problem.
I don’t think the influence of mutations is fully understood. I’m not aware of any studies into it. The mutation females I know of that got pregnant too young were all Costina, not La Plata. I obviously won’t know of them all.
I am just of the opinion that if things could’ve gone wrong it would’ve. It is not one or 2 pairs. It is about 30 pairs. All mutation pairs and not a single young pregnancy. I can’t say why, I can just share what I have learned and observed over the ears. The difference between Costina and La Plata is not understood. Most people don’t even know about it. Really experienced breeders do and they use it. This I have proved in my own herd.
Because of what I breed I can’t do this. I must pair them older. Since there was never a mishap I must look at the advantages. The biggest advantage is that they grow up together and there is no problem pairing a difficult girl later. The male is not at risk.
I can’t say it will work for everyone. What I can say is that if you do not have the knowledge to pair the right 2 chinchillas, you will end up with a girl that will give birth when she is 8 or 10 months old. This can be fatal.
I am convinced that a combination of all these factors prevents early pregnancies. I am also convinced that if you mess up with how you pair, it will turn out bad. This was a calculated risk, based on the knowledge of all the contributing factors.
Because of this knowledge it proved to work for Willie but it will never work for me. I know it won’t work for Standard and Beige so I won’t even test it. I pair adults.

How far pregnant is my chinchilla?

This is my own experience, based on what I see with my girls. It is not based on any facts and it differs between individual chinnies.
I hardly ever find a mating plug because of the hay in the cages but based on their behavior I can see if they probably mated or will soon mate. Since I have a terrible memory anyways and dates or time has little meaning to me, I learned to notice other small things.
My chinnies live in a herd, in pairs and a few trio’s. They adopt herd behavior and follow a natural yearly cycle. Because of this I know roughly when to expect babies. There are always exceptions but twice a year there are a lot of babies in a time span of a month or 2.
The gestation period is 111 days. If they mate today the babies will come 111 days later. This can also differ a bit, a day or too sooner or later. I don’t count the days because I don’t know the date anyways. I measure it in weeks, 16 weeks, 4 quarters of 4 weeks each.
The first 6 weeks you won’t even know. By week 6 I just have a feeling, I don’t see anything, I just know. In the first 6 weeks there will be very little, if any, weight gain. I weigh my chinnies when they are adults, for my records. After that I do not weigh them again because I can see the slightest change in weight and since I handle them all the time I will feel it too.
There are statistics but they differ. The old statistics is also not always applicable. Over the years chinnies were bred bigger and babies are born bigger. It also differs between individuals, some mommies will carry big and gain a lot of weight. With others you will barely notice they are pregnant. For me weight gain is not a good enough indication. Obviously if she gains a lot of weight and looks like a blown up balloon she is probably pregnant. If she looks like a balloon but didn’t gain weight, it is bloat and she needs a Vet.
By week 8 you can feel the babies. It is called palpation, examining the body with your hands. This is extremely dangerous and if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, you will most likely injure her and the fetuses. I won’t describe how to do it because people will try. Don’t do it, it is not necessary. In my view, knowing she is pregnant won’t make the babies arrive faster. Overall health is far more important.
Most people by far will not recognize the signs of pregnancy before week 10 or 12. If she is gaining weight it will now become obvious and as the weeks go by it will be more every week. It will also depend on how big the litter is but some mommies who carry only one baby can get huge while others who carries 3 will stay relatively small.
A sure way to see that she is pregnant is to look at her nipples. They are usually so tiny you won’t find them if you don’t know how. From about week 10-12 they get more prominent. They don’t sit where most people look. A chinnie has 6 nipples. The top ones are the best to look at because they will be the biggest. Let your arm hang at your side. Take the distance between your shoulder and your elbow, right at your side where your arm hangs. On the chinnie, look in the same spot. When you blow the fur open you will see it. You can also feel it.
The nipples are very thin and as it gets closer to week 16, they get longer. During the last few weeks they will become red, especially the last few days. The mammary gland below the nipple will get swollen to prepare for the milk that will come later. There is no milk yet, she doesn’t store milk for when they come. They must suckle for her to produce milk.
This will also differ between individuals but from about week 12 she will eat a lot more. It will be obvious. Her behavior changes a lot now. She will start sleeping on her side more and for longer periods. She will be less busy than before and can be moody at times. Her mate will either sit with her and spend a bit of time grooming her or leave her in peace. They know when not to bother her and they know when to pamper her, unlike humans, hahaha.
The last week or 2 will be mostly spent sleeping, usually on her side, drinking a lot more water and eating. I can also see from the condition of her fur that she is pregnant, long before this. It is difficult to notice, you must know the fur qualities and use very good dust.
She will start spending more time in the nest box now and often sleep there for hours. About the last 3 days she will spend almost all her time in the nest box. She will still drink a lot of water but eat a bit less. Often you will hardly see her eat anything the last day or 2.
I can see from what she eats in our food how far pregnant she is. From about week 8 she will eat a lot more of the round pellets, which contains more vitamins and minerals. This becomes quite obvious by week 12, she will eat a lot of the round pellets. She will still eat some lucerne pellets but less. I feed them lucerne every day and from about week 12 it will be obvious that she now eats a lot more. This increases towards the time of birth.
A week or so before she gives birth it will change again. She will eat a lot more lucerne and the last few days will eat more lucerne pellets. They still eat both, I just notice the difference. In my opinion the reasons for this is that when the fetuses start developing, the skeleton must be formed. This takes a lot of calcium so she eats more calcium rich lucerne pellets and lucerne hay. Once the skeleton is formed it grows but muscle tissue must now grow more rapidly. During this time she will go for the higher vitamin and mineral content pellets. She still keeps a balance, she just eats more of what she needs more and it is obvious. The calcium content in both is good, the lucerne pellets just have more and contains more fiber.
As the fetus develops over the last 6 weeks, a lot of tissue growth happens, the organs grow, the immune system develops, etc. Just a simple example. There is a lot more. For this to happen, the vitamins and minerals are needed, as well as more protein. She will also often experience some digestive tract discomfort as the growing babies presses on her intestines. To relieve this, she eats more fiber, the hay.
It is a lot more complicated than this but there is a reason for everything. For this reason I have a problem with a single pellet diet. If she needs more vitamins and minerals, she must eat more pellets. Whatever she doesn’t need is also eaten. Instead of having a choice she must eat a lot more. People feed supplements to pregnant chinnies to compensate for this. I don’t because they don’t need anything else.
This is why the food must be balanced, there must be enough of everything and she must be able to make the right choice. A few token round pellets to make the food look good is not enough. There is a reason for the ratio. If she doesn’t get enough vitamins and minerals, you can just as well leave it.
This is also why rabbit pellets is not good enough. Even though it is made from lucerne, it lacks a lot of vitamins and minerals. They will breed and there will be babies, the problems will just become obvious a generation or 2 later, when the immune system is too weak to stop anything and they just can’t reproduce anymore or the babies gets smaller and the qualities go for a loop. You see it is the fur, posture and facial features. You get tiny chinnies with long noses, long bodies and terrible fur.
And I wandered off the subject again, hahaha. But this is the lot I can think of now. When she moves into the nest box and hardly ever come out, the babies will be born within a few days. Off course you will get some that will work on your nerves for weeks just because they can. Apparently it is a female thing, hahaha. Don’t worry, my wife will kick me for all your sakes.
This sounds like a lot. It is easy once you noticed it the first time. The more time you spend with them and the better you know them, the easier you will notice small changes. For me it became a gut feel, I know long before I can see anything. It only works with my own chinnies because I know each of them. With someone else’s I can see the signs and confirm it but since I don’t know them like I know mine, if there are no signs, I won’t know. Small personality changes are often all you need.
The best advice ever. If they deviate from their normal behavior in any way, something is happening. They can be sick, she can be in heat or she is pregnant. Many other things too. You can even see in the daddy of the mommy is pregnant. You can see from his behavior when the babies will come. He will be very exited but the last day or 2 he will give her space. If he gives her space but the males in the other cages are very exited and busy, it is a day or 3 at the most.
Small things you learn to notice by spending an awful lot of time with them. Sorry for drifting off a bit but if the diet is not right, I don’t see the point of letting them have babies. Future generations will pay a very heavy price and people will lose loved pets because of this.

Benjamin keeps watch over a very pregnant Pixie. It's a pleasure to see how committed the daddies are and the huge role they play with the babies.

Benjamin keeps watch over a very pregnant Pixie. It’s a pleasure to see how committed the daddies are and the huge role they play with the babies.

Royal Persian Angora, recognizing a carrier

I am a bit irritated so won’t write too much. RPA is now the in thing in SA. I hear a lot of comments and get a lot of questions. People also ask my opinion on pics but that I don’t give.
RPA is recessive so pairing RPA with Std will result in a RPA Carrier. It means there is one RPA gene and one Std gene. There are ways by which I can recognize the RPA gene, even if there is only one. Willie taught me a lot and I figured out a few more. Knowing the characteristics of the gene makes this easier than people think.
I won’t share much because it is not needed. All you need is to know the rules of the recessive genes.

Mystery, a RPA girl I bred

Mystery, a RPA girl I bred

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are pics of her parents. When they arrived here I didn’t know how to recognize the RPA gene. I took Willie’s word and paired them. They are both RPA Carriers and were young when I got them. In Roger it is obvious now but not in Scully. To me they looked like ordinary chinnies. The fur only changed much later.

These 2 carriers gave me 2 RPA kits. All we did was to apply the rules. If one parent is a RPA, the kits are RPA Carriers, no matter how they look. The laws of genetics says they must be. The characteristics of RPA says it can take months or longer for them to “mature”. Roger started showing it when he was 9 months old. I noticed it in Scully when she was 14 months old, not because I didn’t know. By this time I did know. Because she only started changing then.

Mystery's mother, Scully

Mystery’s father, Roger

Mystery's father, Scully

Mystery’s  mother, Scully

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What irritates me is that people will venture opinions and dish out advice without applying the basic rules. I am not friends with anyone who has RPA but Willie. I don’t know who buys what but I do see the pics and hear the comments. people will ask a friend to ask me or Willie. Not that we know it all, they don’t want to talk to us.
It shows the incompetence and lack of knowledge people have but they want to breed. The laws of genetics doesn’t lie. The looks also doesn’t lie, they just don’t see. What I see is very thin fur (bad density) that lies flat and will never stand up. It makes me wonder what the parents are and if it was a safe pairing. I wonder about the posture, facial features and how big the chinnie will be as an adult.
I know the gene is there. What makes me decide of they can breed or not is firstly the parents and secondly if the babies will be good parents who will give good strong babies. This is a lot more important than just the gene. It means you used your head and made the decisions that were best for the chinchillas.
There are going to be a lot of very weak RPA chinnies in this country in the future. Many people are going to buy “carriers” that don’t carry the gene. Some will buy RPA, pair them wrong and make a mess that will hurt both people and chinchillas. I don’t care about the breeders, just what they do. If someone is stupid enough to buy a chinnie without having the knowledge, I hope it costs them a fortune. Those poor chinnies do not deserve what is done to them.
RPA is a weak mutation but by breeding right you can keep them strong. It is the most unforgiving of all mutations, it doesn’t tolerate mistakes. Firstly it is so obvious that anyone with a bit of basic knowledge can see the mess you made. Secondly, they will either die young or their babies will die young. It will take a few years for this to become clear but it will. Just like with the food, it takes time but the end result is sad.
For the life of me I can’t understand how people will pair chinnies that will result in weaker babies, feed them rubbish that will kill them and then give themselves out as being so knowledgeable. There is an awful lot I don’t know and must learn. If I don’t know I don’t pretend I do. I find out.
The saddest part is that it is always the chinnies who pays the price.

Pairing chinchillas for life

There are implications but mostly it is about “tying up” a good male to a single female. For me this doesn’t play a role.
The main concern is to prevent them from backbreeding. From when the mother delivers the babies she will be in heat for about the next 3 days. When she then falls pregnant, it is called backbreeding. The concern is that she will fall pregnant and have babies growing inside her while she have young that suckles. It is a reason for concern but then you have to ask yourself: “Is she a good breeding female”?
I found the answers to all my questions about this in Mother Nature. I used to separate them years ago but when my one girl abandoned the kits and sat in the corner of the cage, staring at the male, I realized this can’t be right. I put him back with her and they raised the babies. I started researching it and never removed a male again.
In nature weak females will often die due to complications or the kits will just not survive. This means there will be no weak females around. Males will fight for the right to mate with females so only the strongest will pass on their genes. Humans mess all this up. Putting a male and a female in a cage means there will be babies. This is where weak chinchillas comes from. It happens with other species too. Breeders of “treacup” dogs or pigs will use the smallest animals to breed with to get even smaller babies. Then they wonder why some have deformities and why so many spend more time at the Vet than at home and die young.
If nature intended for them to backbreed, there must be a reason so I looked for it. It is a simple matter of natural habitat and seasons. Where they used to live and now live in the Reserva in Chile, the seasons are the same as where I live in South Africa. The climate is much the same and even the vegetation is similar to parts of SA.

Reserva, Chile

Reserva, Chile

The first litter comes in early Spring, when the climate is warmer, it rains and food is easier to find. By the time they are weaned, it is Summer. They live in semi-desert. Winters are tough. For us it will be baby time from August to October. Let’s say the litter is born on 1 September. They mate again and she conceives again. This will make the birth of the second litter roughly 1 January. From April it gets cold. May to July is Winter. The second litter will be 4 months old by 1 May. They have a good chance of surviving Winter.
The other scenario. The first litter arrives on 1 Sept. You prevent the backbreed and she weans them on 1 Nov. She ovulates again on 1 Dec and falls pregnant. The babies are born on 1 April. They will be 8 weeks old on 1 June, slap bang in the middle of Winter. Now they are weaned and must fend for themselves. And eat what?
This is why they backbreed. This is why I don’t prevent it. They still only have 2 litters a year. Usually the Spring litter is bigger and the Summer litter is smaller, often only 1 kit. I never had a 3rd litter in a year, not in all these years.
If her body is not ready for the second litter, she will either not conceive or she will re-absorb the embryos. You won’t even know. Nature provided for this. They were made to work this way or God would’ve made them work different. The safety of the babies must just be ensured. If I need to take the male out for a few hours I will, then he goes back. The cages provide ample hiding places for the kits if things gets rough during mating. I’m also always here so I see it.
I just make sure I don’t pair the girls too young. This means the first litter is due when they are 12-16 months old, usually closer to 16. They are young adults and ready to handle the babies. No teen pregnancies. I don’t lose backbreed babies, I lose a baby from a big litter, the Spring litter. We do get Winter babies but they are rare and usually from a new pair. The pair will then settle into the herd breeding cycle, which is normal and the babies will all arrive within the same few months every year.
Because I believe in the emotional attachment I don’t mess with the pairs, they get married. I have girls I bought years ago and paired with much older males. I lost some of those males to old age and I lost some girls I bought to numerous causes. They can’t be alone, they need a friend. If the girl is close to retirement anyways I will not pair her with a young male again. She will go with a rescue girl or she will look after growing girls.
If a male loses a mate and he is a good breeding male I will pair him with a good girl again. If he is old and one of my older chinnies, he will get an older girl that doesn’t breed anymore. An old male that was with a female his whole life won’t easily take to another male, not even a young one.
The pairs I paired over the past few years are all roughly the same age and will grow old together. I didn’t lose any of the girls I bred over the years, neither the boys for that matter. They were selected for health first and paired for life. A few pairs won’t have kits again and a few pairs will stop in a year or 2. They just retire together, as they lived. They stay right here, I don’t sell or re-home them.
Pairing for life only makes sense from an emotional point of view. It is often a “waste” of a good male. This is why I will never breed the best show qualities. The emotional side is too important to me.
I am very conservative with “male/female” things and I apply it to all my animals. It is what I believe in. Just like I believe God didn’t make mistakes and Mother Nature knows best. The answers to all the questions lies in nature and the explanations for everything that goes wrong can be found where humans tried to manipulate nature.
For me they are too intelligent and too emotional to give me the right to mess with it. I believe in their feelings and I respect it. This is why I do it the way I do. They are not livestock, they are my pets.

Vinny, Gizelle and the 3 girls on the roof of their house.

Vinny, Gizelle and the 3 girls on the roof of their house.

Safe Breeding ages

I spoke to a lot of breeders all over the world, read everything I could find and then made up my own mind. What I will write now is how I do it.
Male chins can reach sexual maturity as young as 12 weeks of age. We know this because of mothers and sisters that gets pregnant from sons and brothers. You just count back 111 days from when the kits are born and you will know the age of the father. This differs between certain mutations. If the boy is Std or Beige, he’s going to mate young, even with his mother or sister from a previous litter.
Females takes a bit longer, 14-16 weeks or even longer. Just like with males, you can work out how old she was when she conceived. It is scary and extremely dangerous to the girl. Not worth the risk.
I remove the kits at 10-11 weeks, depending of gender and litter size. Boys are removed the day they turn 11 weeks, no gambling. I will leave girls a week or 2 longer. The boys go together and the girls go together.
I keep my girls together till they are 8 months old before pairing them with boys. Then I still check weight and other things, I get a gut feel I can’t explain. Chinchillas mature at 8-12 months. Just like humans, some will grow slower and some faster. I keep this in account.
There are breeders who pair them younger but then the male is always a few months younger than the female. Mutation also plays a role because mutations like Ebony and White matures later. This works for them and the first litter is usually when the female is 14-16 months old, which is perfect.
I breed Std and Beige and will not risk it with them. There is no problem with waiting. I did however pair 2 pairs of Std (VC) young. The girls were 2 months older than the boys. They are now adults and there was no babies. I suspect the one girl might be pregnant now which means if she is, she only conceived after she was an adult already. Chances of Spring babies or very late Autumn babies are good, meaning they will be about 14 months when the babies comes.
I just prefer to pair Spring girls with Autumn boys, then the boys are young, making the pairing easy but the girls are mature. There is no deadline to meat, no schedule to keep and no hurry. The dangers of a teen pregnancy outweighs the advantages because there are no advantages in my eyes.
Apart from the dangers of miscarriage or something going wrong at birth, when she gets pregnant too soon the growing fetuses competes with her growing body. Nutrients she needs to grow will go to the fetuses. Often teen mommies then stay small. Apart from this, they just don’t know what to do. Even old enough first time mommies don’t always have the instincts yet. Often they do not open the birth sack and the baby suffocates. Or they just don’t have the mother instincts of caring for the babies. They don’t feel the need to feed them. Or they are just so young that they don’t produce milk yet.
There is also a danger in letting them breed for the first time when they are too old. Literature says 2 years. Cavies works like this too, just much younger. The pelvic bone must allow the baby to pass through. If this doesn’t happen before a female is 2 years old the pelvic bone grows too much and the opening is too small. In short this is what the clever people say. This is not a problem for me because I pair them young enough. I do take in girls that never bred and retires here. Some are beautiful and come from excellent parents. They still won’t breed. If I have to buy a girl that is a bit older I will not pair her with a boy if she is older than 18 months and never had babies. This gives her 6 months to have her first litter. I just don’t buy adult girls to breed with so it is not a problem for me.
The age when the females stops breeding differs. I have girls that stopped between 8 and 9 years, all by themselves. I just retired the pairs. I have pairs that are now in their 8th year so I’ll see what happens. The oldest girl I know of from a reliable source was just over 11 years when she had her last litter. This is unusual and all the others from the breeder stopped between 8 and 9 years, very few just over 10 years.
I believe this is influenced by how the females were bred, for how many generations, what they ate for a few generations and general care. There are other influences too but people tend not to understand La Plata and Costina chinchillas so I stopped explaining.
I can’t say pairing a girl that weighs 800g at 7 months is wrong. She might be mature already. If I have to do it I will just pair her with a young boy. I am just over conservative, especially with Std and Beige. I have no problem waiting a few months.
I must add that the breeders who pair mutations younger didn’t have problems for years, even if one was Std. The boy must just be a few months older than the girl. The benefit of doing it this way is that you eliminate all the hassles of trying to pair adults. They grow up together and the age difference seems to work fine, no teen pregnancies.
Me, I am too set in my ways. I did it now with Mina and Moo, the 2 Tan sisters. I paired them with a Light Ebony boy that is a few months younger than they are. The boy didn’t fit in with the other boys and couldn’t be alone. Since Ebony matures a lot slower, they will be fine.

Mina, Moo and Mikey

Mina, Moo and Mikey

Why it is becoming difficult to sell chinchillas

Before I write about planning to breed for quality I must explain this. A few years ago it was easy to sell a chinchilla in South Africa. I do not read the ads (because I lose my temper, hahaha) but apparently there are lots being advertized.
This happened with a lot of other exotic animals too. I can quickly think of a few, marmoset monkeys, bearded dragons, iguanas, snakes, tenrecs etc. The moment there is money to be made people start breeding them. Eventually the market just get flooded, prices drop and those who bred for money stop breeding. There are breeders who halved their prices in the last year and still can’t sell them.
It is not only supply and demand. Buyers also get educated. If someone breeds purely for profit they will not breed quality. Reputation is everything, for those who understand anyways. Take Mosaic or any White chinnie. 3 Years ago the price averaged about R 4 000. Now you get them for R 2 000 because breeders can’t get them sold.
There are breeders who breed specifically for pet stores. The younger the store gets them the cuter they are and the easier they sell. I get phoned a month or 2 later because they pick up problems. It is because they were weaned too young.
To keep the prices high breeders try to breed funnies and rare mutations. There are rules for safe breeding, especially with recessives. To breed more the rules are broken. Instead of the worldwide trend of losing about 5% of kits it becomes a lot higher, they just keep quiet. Breeders don’t tell people when they lose a kit. Sticking to the rules for safe breeding keeps it low but it is still nature. They will never all survive.
This gives the buyer the upper hand. A few years ago breeders could ask what they want, now buyers can pick and choose. If you use your head you can now buy clever, you don’t have to take what is available.
Another problem is that most people who wants pets buy a pair because they want babies. For every pair sold there will be an average of 4 more babies a year that must get homes. What if it is a weak pair that is not supposed to breed? How do you know? This makes it difficult for the smaller breeders with good chinnies to find homes for them. I have 2 friends with very good chinnies that are now in this position.
Breeders like myself and Willie don’t struggle yet. We don’t breed for profit, we breed for health and quality. I breed specifically to breed good pets and good breeding chinnies. Most becomes pets because I don’t easily help a breeder. I help the few I know. Even with all the precautions I take I don’t have a 100% success rate. Nobody will, if they say they do they are lying.
Selective breeding and breeding pure makes a huge difference. A pet must be strong and healthy, it doesn’t need a lot of funny genes. It can’t be an experiment that just happened to survive. The best pets are the basic mutations that were bred right. The less complicated the genetic make-up is the stronger they are. It is still no guarantee.
My biggest worry is not getting homes for my babies. I am lucky that people know me and I explain everything. They are pets first and always will be. The biggest problem is that breeders breed rescues. The moment the problems start they are not wanted anymore. They end up in pet stores or if they are lucky they end up here.
In South Africa it is not a big problem yet but it is becoming one. There is still a good market for females because breeders buy them. It is not easy to get a female from me because I know what people do to them. There are a lot more males available and a lot more males than females get born. Willie and I are lucky, we get more girls than boys. It’s because of how we breed.
It will get even harder to sell babies. To make it as a breeder it will depend on why you breed and what you breed. I will not breed if I make the problem worse. It is just sad that good, strong and healthy chinnies can’t get homes because too many people breed with anything they can get hold of. This happened all over the world. It is happening here too and it is going to get a lot worse.
The moment chinnies don’t have value anymore there is going to be a lot of rescues and it worries me. Nobody will want them. The only way not to contribute to the growing problem is to breed right. Right means good strong chinnies with good qualities. Show qualities doesn’t mean anything here yet because people just can’t recognize it. It will change. Hopefully it will close down the breeders who breed purely for profit.
I don’t breed the best chinnies. Mine can die too. I can breed them prettier and I can breed a lot of rare ones, I have the chinnies to do it. I don’t see the need and I don’t feel the greed.
In my opinion a breeders biggest responsibility lies with breeding them stronger, prettier is just a bonus. It doesn’t make sense to breed a chinchilla that looks like a Ferrari but runs on a Tata engine.
I really hope it never comes to this but history says it will. It makes the small breeders with good chinchillas suffer and they are the ones that shouldn’t give up because they do things right. It will just take time for more people to realize this.
We made a good start with the Chinchilla Breeders Association of South Africa (CBASA). It is just not a guarantee either. You can’t guarantee what Mother Nature will do. All it does is guarantees that a breeder who belongs to it agreed to the Code of Ethics which stipulates that you must breed within the guidelines. It is difficult to enforce but babies doesn’t lie and it will come out.
I few months ago I said it will take 2 years. It will give the babies time to have babies, then we will know. The answer always lies with the babies of babies. Now we just wait and do what we know is right.
I do not want to see this go full circle because I take in rescues. It is hard. I just know it will go full circle and I am preparing for it. What will happen is not right but it never stopped people before. This is the sad part.

How chinchillas fall pregnant and signs of pregnancy

Chinchilla breeders usually work out the due date for babies from the time when they found a mating plug. They mark the date and 111 days later the babies must just be there. This do happen and is fairly accurate. It is also just as often not.
To understand why it doesn’t always work we must know how the female chinchilla works. Mammals have an ovulation cycle. In humans it is the menstrual cycle. In dogs or cats, they are in heat when they ovulate. Not all mammals have this cycle. Rabbits doesn’t. Ovulation in rabbits is caused by mating. There is no cycle needed, when they mate she ovulates.
Chinchillas have a cycle. Opinions differ but it is about 38 days long. Roughly every 38 days she will be in heat because she ovulates. She can then get pregnant if they mate. What makes chinnies different from other mammals with an ovulation cycle is that although they have a cycle they will also ovulate because of mating. This makes it very difficult to accurately determine how long the cycle actually is. Literature have it between 25-38 days. I work on 38 because then I know it’s not too short.
This means that if she was in heat a week ago but they mated today she will ovulate because they mated today and she can fall pregnant. The mating plug is a wax plug that forms to keep in the sperm and to keep out another male’s sperm. A chinchilla male wants to spread his genes, he doesn’t want the competition to spread theirs. Some hours after mating the plug falls out and you can find it in the cage the next day.
The problem is that even if they didn’t mate the female can leave an “ovulation plug” that looks very similar to a mating plug, it is just shorter. If you never saw a real mating plug you will not know the difference. They can also mate again a few days or even a month or 2 later. They will mate even if she is already pregnant. the implications of this is that if your pair lives together finding a plug is only an indication that they mated, not when the babies will arrive. Some also eat the plug so you never find one.
Since I keep my chinnies as natural as possible and only prevent backbreeding after a first pregnancy or a big litter finding a plug doesn’t tell me much. I know my chinnies and I look at other signs. I will explain what I see but must just elaborate on the whole pregnancy thing a bit.
Chinnies have a 2 horned uterus, it looks like a “Y”. This means there are eggs on both sides and the sperm swims up both sides. It can also cause complications. People often ask why there are one or 2 normal size babies and then a very small one. This is why. When the mommy falls pregnant it can be only on one side. One leg of the “Y” will have an embryo or 2 or even more growing while nothing happened on the other side. A few weeks or even a month or 2 later they mate again and an egg or more in the other leg of the “Y” is fertilized.
There are now babies growing in both legs of the “Y”. The problem is the “second pregnancy” is a few weeks or a month or 2 “younger” than the first. When the older babies reach full term at about 111 days they will trigger the hormones that will cause labor. They will be born all big and nicely developed. So will the ones in the other leg of the “Y”. Labor can’t be induced only on one side. When she goes into labor they all get born. This is where the small babies comes from.
There is a difference between just a small baby and a premature baby. A small baby will weigh less but will also open it’s eyes and do what the bigger ones does. There is often a noticeable weight difference but if the small baby is strong and has a strong will it has a good chance of survival. A typical weight difference will be eg. 2 babies that each weigh about 50g and a third that weighs 40g.
This baby can be a few days premature because of a “second” pregnancy but it can also be that the baby just didn’t get all the nutrients because the bigger ones took most of it. Seems like the rule of thumb is that babies over 30g have a chance of survival. I do not agree with this. It doesn’t go about weight alone. It goes about if the baby is premature or just small. The smaller off course, the smaller the chance of survival. If the small baby is small because of a “second” pregnancy and was born too premature it will not survive. If it is just small but not too premature it has a chance and they often do survive to become beautiful chinnies.
I have a mommy with a premature litter now. It was also a big litter. I estimate they were born about 10 days premature. One died a few hours after birth, the second smallest one. She was weak from the start. The other 3 are going strong 4 days later. Their chance of survival doubles after 3 days. As sad as it is, I do not interfere. I will not help a weak baby. Nature must take it’s course. If the mommy has a problem I will feed the babies. If mommy is fine, like is the case with these babies, I will not feed the babies. Helping a weak baby that should’ve died to survive and grow up means you will have a weak adult. Even if this chinnie is only a pet it can end up with some idiot who will breed with it, resulting in more and even weaker babies. There is a reason why it happens in nature. It prevents weak genes from being spread. Humans interfere too much.
Chinnies will usually mate again after she fell pregnant because of herd dynamics. If a female in another cage gives birth or is in heat the males gets exited and they will mate with the females again. It also causes a lot of babies to be born within a few weeks of each other. In 8 years I only had this twice. In both cases there were 3 babies. 2 were over 50g and perfectly normal but the 3rd was tiny and stillborn.
It is good practice to weigh your chinnies regularly. I weigh the babies the day they are born and then at regular intervals to make sure they are growing well. By weighing the females every few weeks you will pick up that they are pregnant. A change of 10-20g per week is normal. It goes up and down depending on how busy they are, how much they eat and drink and what time of the day you weigh them. If she constantly keeps picking up and it doesn’t fall again she is probably pregnant, depending off course on the fact that she must be a fully grown and healthy adult.
It is difficult to say how much she will gain because it differs between females, how many babies she carries, how far she is pregnant etc.
The fetus itself will weigh between 30-40g on day 90 and between 50-60g on day 111. These are average weights. Babies tend to be bigger now than years a go. They will also be smaller if there are more. The average weight used to be between 40-45g. It means that if your mommy carries 3 babies that each weighs 50g she will gain 150g during her pregnancy. This is not accurate because the placentas also grow and there is a lot of fluid. She herself will also pick up a bit of “baby fat” if she is on a good diet. A rough estimate would be that she will pick up between 150g and 250g during her pregnancy. Again just an estimated average. A big female carrying one baby will often deliver the baby before you even realize she was pregnant. A huge girl carrying 4 big babies can gain over 300g.
Apart from weight gain I look at their eating habits. Because of the diet I feed I can see how far pregnant she is from what she picks to eat. During the first month you will not notice anything. During the second month she will eat a lot more lucerne(alfalfa) pellets. In the last month, especially the last two weeks she will prefer the round pellets that is full of extra vitamins and minerals. Once the babies were born she will eat a lot of lucerne pellets and I also give mommies as much fresh lucerne as they want. Lucerne stimulates milk production.
Her behavior will also tell you she is pregnant and how far. I usually know for sure between 6-8 weeks of the 16 week pregnancy. It is then just a gut feel I get. By week 10 she will start to eat a bit more. There will be mood swings, from being overly affectionate to being a real cow. It is the hormones. When in doubt, blame the hormones. From about week 12 she will start to sleep on her side more often. By week 14 she will sleep on her side a lot and she will eat a lot more than usual.
She will also be a lot less active and will start to spend time in the nest box. The time she spends in the nest box will become more as the actual birth get closer. The last 3-4 days she will only come out to eat, drink water and walk around a bit. The weird thing is that although they spend so much time in the nest box they will have the babies outside in most cases. My cages have hay in and the last few days of the pregnancy I also put hay in the nest box. She just digs it out again. She will have the babies on the hay, clean up everything and then move them to the nest box. I will put in hay again and this time she will usually leave it for a while.
I think they do this because they do not want to attract predators to the nest. They also dig out anything you put inside before they give birth because they have a burrowing nature and want to make the nest deeper. Once the babies are there and they move them into the nest box they leave it because if they dig the babies will get lost.
There are other signs. You can see it in their teats too. This is also estimated but by about week 10 the teats will get bigger and the nipples will get longer. Usually the nipples are tiny but as they get closer to the due date the nipples gets longer and the teats gets swollen. The nipples are very thin but they become longer. From just bigger than a pin head it will get over 5mm long, depending on mommy. It can be as much as 10mm. By this time I do not handle mommy anymore. I know long before I see the nipples.
Their teats are not under their bellies like on a dog. Let your arm hang by your side. Take the spot between your shoulder and your elbow, on your ribs. That is where you must look for the top nipples on a chinnie. Blow the fur away and you will see it. I just don’t handle them when they are more than 10 weeks pregnant. The secret is to know your chinnie. You will notice from her behavior that everything is not the same. since she eats well, gains weight, is not sad and keeps busy she is probably pregnant. A sick chinnie will not sleep on it’s side. it will sit hunched up in a bundle with the ears hanging.
By knowing them, knowing the signs of other things and paying attention you will learn to know a lot by looking at them. Just looking doesn’t help, you must actually see.