Chinchillamagic

Helping you care for your chinnie

Care

Bath dust and eye irritations

The only way to be sure it is the bath dust is off course if the eye irritation only happens when they bath.
Over the years I tried many different bath dusts and we eventually settled on playpen sand that was very fine and silica free. It was not the best because it made the chinnies yellow and it didn’t absorb too well. It kept them clean but they had to bath often and a lot longer. We made it “softer” by adding baby powder and talc. I later found out that although this is common practice, it can cause eye irritations and respiratory problems. I never experienced any that was related to the dust.
We later found a source of sepiolite, which is all we now use. We changed it a bit from the first batch we tested. It is now 100% pure sepiolite but crushed in a specific way.
In the past I wrote about the difference between sepiolite and pumice. Sepiolite is natural clay and pumice is fine porous glass. They both have excellent absorbency and do not discolor the chinnies, it brings out the natural color. I prefer sepiolite because it is cheaper and we have a supplier. The main reason however is that I believe it is softer. This is personal opinion.
Have you ever watched a chinchilla closely when they take a dust bath? Look at the eyes and nostrils. You will notice they close their eyes when they roll in the dust. What many people probably don’t notice is how they close their nostrils as well. They only do this while they roll in the dust. When they sit in it the eyes are open and so are the nostrils. Their bodies are equipped to handle this, ours are too.
I leave the dust in the cages, i only sift out the poops and replace it about every 10 days. I’ve been doing this for a long time. The few cases of eye irritations I came across here were (that was trustworthy) were all hay related. I have no personal experience with eye irritations caused by bath dust. I used pumice very briefly many years ago but it was too difficult to get hold of.
I have however spoken to quite a few people all over the world and there are definite cases where the dust proved to be the source of irritation. In most cases changing the dust solved the problem. In most cases, changing to sepiolite fixed it but there are cases where changing from sepiolite to something else fixed it. I know of very few.
What tends to be a bigger problem is the texture, how fine or coarse it is. We use a mixture of extremely fine powder and sand, all sepiolite. The fine dust penetrates to the skin and the coarser sand acts as a brush on the fur. It is too soft to cause damage to the fur and it effectively removes loose fur. For me it means that it can’t be that it is too fine or too coarse. Since our dust is both it must be something else.
One thing I did pick up was that additives to dust caused problems. If it is perfumed or have another substance in it, it causes problems. There are no other answers. Nobody did any other research that I could find. Some problems occur when people use Blue Cloud, others stop when they switch to Blue Cloud.
Here, all the problems I hear of now are caused by sand that is not supposed to be used for chinchillas. People even use building sand. The only 2 I know that is widely used is pumice and sepiolite. If one gives problems, try the other.
It can off course be any dust. It can be that the dust blocks tear ducts. It can be that the eyes are over sensitive, there can be many causes. Since I don’t get it I don’t have experience with it. If changing the dust doesn’t work, it is something else.
What happens with eye irritations is that the lens of the eye can get scratched. A blocked tear duct will do it all the time, till it goes open. A scratch or little fleck of dust in the eye causes the eye to tear and it makes the eye release protein to fix the irritation. The yellow stuff you wash out of the corners of your eyes in the morning is protein.
People with contact lenses uses eye drops to remove protein from the eyes and contact lenses. It is not medicated, like antibiotic drops. It just removes protein and moisturizes the eyes. This is also what I used in the past for eye irritations and it cleared up in a few days. I just removed the source, which was wood shavings. In cases where it was hay, it also worked.
All I can say is to experiment with dust but stick to natural dust without any additives. The well known brands all have great support. I don’t know all of them. I can tell you more about it if I know what it is made of. I will just check for other causes too. Eyes that are sensitive from exposure to hay dust or anything else will act up when they bath but can also act up at any time.
I don’t have the answers, I doubt anyone does. I just systematically tested everything and was able to pinpoint wood shavings in my case. Other people were able to pinpoint hay and when they changed hay it went away. In most cases where nothing else was left, changing the dust worked.
Here, switching to sepiolite worked for many people but also switching to some of the imported brands worked. The best known imported brand here is also sepiolite, just a bit too coarse for me.
It can be a lengthy process of elimination. If sterile dust causes the problem it might be a small genetic thing, like over active tear ducts but I can’t be sure. I would just systematically eliminate everything till I find what causes it.
The eye drops for contact lenses works great to manage it because it doesn’t medicate, it just cleans. The brand names in South Africa are Renu-It and Natural Tears. There are probably more, I use Renu-It myself because I wear contact lenses.
Not boosting sepiolite but my eyes are very sensitive to dust and I work with the sepiolite every day without a problem. It just makes my skin very dry. I wish I had more but I couldn’t find more.

New arrival. She's been at it for an hour. When she doesn't bath she just lies in the dust. Leaving it in anyways.

New arrival. She’s been at it for an hour. When she doesn’t bath she just lies in the dust. Leaving it in anyways.

Chinchillas as pets : the basics

This is a short checklist of what you must keep in mind. I haven’t thought of the basics in years and write about the more complicated stuff. This will help but to keep it short I might forget a thing or 2.

For who is a chinchilla a suitable pet?

Not for young children. There are very few exceptions but there are kids who grow up with animals and they make good owners. Chinnies are adult pets. Young people that are old enough make good owners but in my experience some lose interest as they get older. It becomes difficult when the kids go to university or college. The best owners are people that already settled down.

Does a single chinchilla make a good pet?

Yes and no. In my opinion, no. They are social and need friends. There are people with single chinnies that are happy but they spend an awful lot of time with them. The owner replaces another chinnie with all the attention. This is not always possible and they are awake when you sleep. They get lonely and bored.

How much attention do they need?

A single chinnie needs an awful lot. With a pair, an hour or so of playtime every evening is fine. The more time you can spend with them, the better. Depending on the cage they need outside playtime for exercise and to prevent boredom. Chinnies are not teddy bears. Very few like being held and cuddled. They will interact with you on their terms, like a cat. A tame chinnie does like attention but they will decide how much.

How tame do they get?

They all have different personalities. How the breeder treats the babies plays a huge role. One doesn’t get tamer than 2, it depends on personality and the breeder. One can become more dependent on you but can even stay wild.

Does same sex pairs work?

Yes, depending on the breeder and personality. 2 Males tend to work better than 2 females. Females who grew up together are fine, it just happens that one can be very dominant and bully the other one. If they grew up in a healthy family environment this is far less common. Males that grew up together will be fine if there are no females around. If they grew up in a colony setup where they learn social behavior the presence of a female in another cage often doesn’t cause problems. This is my personal experience with males I bred and keep together. The best option is to get 2 boys that either grew up together or are paired young, before 16 weeks.

What if I want a breeding pair?

I only pair girls with boys once the girls are at least 8 months old. Males are sexually mature from as young as 3 months and females from as young as 4 months or even younger. Some mutations like Ebony matures slower. The environment also seems to play a role. In a colony setup you tend not to get teenage pregnancies if the male is a few months younger than the female when paired. With Ebony they can be closer to the same age, I just don’t do it. If you want a breeding pair, get the female first and the male a few months later.

The cage?

Bigger is better. The cage size will also determine how much outside playtime you must allow. My cages are 800mm high, 1200mm deep and 600mm wide. They can be bigger and also a bit smaller. I use welded wire mesh with a gap of 12mm x 25mm. If you do not breed it can be a bit bigger but the risk of a cat getting a paw inside increases. If you breed, the babies will get out if the gaps are bigger than 12mm. A flat cage like a rabbit cage is not ideal. They like to climb and jump. The height makes up for less floor space. The floor must be solid, walking on wire causes bumblefoot, a disease that takes a long time to heal.

Cage layout

There must be a nest box. I use the ones Willie sells because they last a lot longer than the bird nest boxes I used to use. They need shelves to jump. I place the shelves at different heights in the cage and make sure they do not overlap. Babies climb from day one. They will fall off and this way they can’t hit anything. My shelves are all 110mm wide and differ in length from 150mm to 300mm. I use hanging bridges in the middle of the cage, from the left to the right. All the shelves and bridges are made from kiln dried (baked) untreated pine. I use dried mulberry branches and untreated apple wood or sickle wood when I can find it.
It provides both things to jump on and wood to chew on. They must chew on wood to keep their teeth short. I do not use pressed wood or melamine covered wood. The resin they use to bind it is toxic. Pressed wood absorbs moisture, making it a breeding place for mold and bacteria. If they can find a place to nibble it, they will nibble it. Because it makes crumbs, they can ingest some of it. it’s not worth the risk.
All my cages have PVC tunnels inside, fixed to the sides. I use SABS approved drain pipe because it contains no harmful chemicals. They do chew it but don’t swallow it. There is always a debate on this but I have been using it for 9 years without a single problem. I check the poop in every cage 3 times a day. PVC doesn’t digest, you will find it in the poop. I also use fleece hammocks in some of the cages. Some will destroy it, others will just sleep in it. Fleece is far more dangerous than plastic. Fibers can be inhaled and the chemicals used to make fleece is carcinogenic (it causes cancer when digested). They just don’t eat it, they just destroy it. I never read a case study where a chinnie died from chewing plastic but I personally know people who lost chinnies to fleece fibers they inhaled. The chances are just too remote to worry about it. I never had problems.

Bedding

It is very popular to cover shelves and the floor with fleece. I do not cover the shelves because they want to chew it. I also do not use fleece to cover the floor. I don’t care if it looks neat and cleans easily. I prefer to use what they like. They like hay. The floors of all my cages have a layer of about 5cm of hay. They eat it and dig in it. Some people use wood shavings and I have used untreated pine shavings in the past. It looks neat but it hides moisture very well and mold or bacteria can grow in it. It also contains dust and the only times I ever struggled with eye irritations was when I used wood shavings. I stick to hay because it is safe and they love it. It must just be fresh and dry. I put it in the sun for a few hours before putting it in the cages.

Toys

Wooden toys are fine, just make sure it is safe wood. If they can chew it they will. I only use pine, apple, mulberry and sickle wood. This includes bridges, swings and chew toys.

Cleaning the cage

In wet weather I clean cages and change the hay once a week. In Winter, once every 2 weeks. They will poop all over the place but will pick a corner in the cage to pee. I clean this corner more often. It does happen that they will pee on nest boxes or shelves to mark territory. Mine are all settled and they don’t do this. Every 2 weeks the cages are washed. My cages are metal with galvanized sheet floors. I wash them with water and Sunlight dish washing liquid. For Sunlight to cause harm they must digest quite a bit and it will then cause mild diarrhea that will soon pass. There is nothing in it that can cause permanent damage and since they don’t drink it nothing happens. I even wash the wood with it. I just rinse it with clean water and let it dry thoroughly. You can use products like F10, it is good. Do not use anything with an ammonia base, like Handy Andy and do not use anything with a chlorine base, like bleach. This causes permanent damage to skin and especially the respiratory tract. Lung damage is permanent and chinchillas have very sensitive respiratory tracts.

Food

Obviously I feed only Mighty Thor MiniMagic. The secret to good food is not the name, it is the ingredients it is made of, the nutritional values and the balance. You can either research the nutritional needs and compare it to the food or trust a well known brand. In other countries, get advice from good breeders and pet owners who had chinnies for a long time. The effects of bad food takes a few years and a few generations to show. It is irreversible, you can’t fix the damage and you can’t make a weak baby stronger.
Avoid food that contains a lot of treats like dried fruit. They will pick out the treats and leave the pellets. The packet of food will overall be fairly balanced and can contain good nutrients but because they don’t eat everything they don’t receive the benefits. They get fat. As pets, they must eat pellets because we can’t give them an all natural diet. We must just make sure the pellets contain everything they need. What we add to the pellets is part of the diet and in the right quantities. Their staple diet is pellets, not treats. Seeds, nuts, most fruit, maize, etc are poisons. A diet like that kills adults in 4-6 years and it greatly shortens the life expectancy of babies. The more generations, the worse it gets. They love it, just check the nutritional contents and you will realize you are killing your chinnie
Hay is extremely important and they must have free access to hay daily. I give lucerne (alfalfa) daily and use Eragrostis or Teff as bedding. This gives them a choice and they eat both. In other countries it will be Timothy or something else. In season I also give oat hay. They need the fiber in the hay to keep their digestive tracts working. Hay like lucerne also very effectively file down the molar teeth that will grow too long if they don’t have something like this to chew on. Hay must be fresh and stored correctly. If it gets damp it forms mold. The mold makes toxins that causes miscarriage and poisons adults. If it smells like old socks or some weird cheese, it is old. Old hay also makes dust as it degenerates. This causes eye irritations and respiratory problems. Old hay also loses most of the nutritional value. Hay stores well if it is kept dry and out of sun light.

Treats

I do not believe in treats. There are healthy treats like rose hip and goji berries. A dried cranberry a week is actually beneficial to the digestive system. The problem is that it doesn’t stay one a week. Chinchillas are extremely cute when they beg so they get treats. My chinchillas are all tame and love attention but they do not beg. They ask for attention and get it because they want it, not for a reward. If they don’t know what a raisin or peanut is they will not miss it. Raisins, peanuts, nuts, the wrong fruit and anything funny causes a lot of damage and doesn’t contribute to their health. I choose health. Killing a chinnie with kindness is not an option.

The dust bath

Chinchillas secrete oil through their skins. It gives their fur an oily appearance and to get rid of the oil they roll in dust. If they do not roll in dust the fur gets matted. I use sepiolite, a natural clay that is also widely used in Europe. It is crushed to my specifications and contains both fine dust and slightly bigger particles. The fine dust penetrates right to the skin and the bigger particles brushes off loose hair. Sepiolite is extremely hygroscopic, it absorbs a lot of moisture. If the particles doesn’t contain dust it doesn’t clean to the skin.
Pumice is widely used in the USA but show breeders are now switching to sepiolite. Sand like play pen sand or reptile sand doesn’t have the absorbency to thoroughly clean them. To increase the absorbency, baby powder and corn flour is added to the sand. Both have been scientifically proven to cause eye and lung irritations. Another risk factor is silica. Silica is a carcinogenic, it causes cancer. Silicosis is a lung disease caused by prolonged exposure to silica. About all sand contains silica, so does pumice. It depends on how much. The safe percentage I found in research is less than 3% per volume. Sepiolite have way less than this if it actually does contain it. It depends on where it is mined and the sepiolite we use contains about nothing.
Some of the imported dust is pumice, some is sepiolite but without dust and very coarse. Some doesn’t specify so I don’t know what it is. The benefits of good dust is that it doesn’t discolor them. Playpen sand tends to make them yellow and white sand contains a lot of silica. Because of the better absorbency they stay cleaner for longer.
There are 2 ways to do it. I leave the dust in the cages. It becomes part of the environment. My chinnies doesn’t pee in it, they got used to it. They poop in it but they poop everywhere. I sift out the poop, top up what they dug out and replace the dust every 2 weeks. This is what they do in nature. They will not bath only once a day, they will bath when they feel like it and will often sleep in the dust.
Most people give them bath time. They put in the dust and remove it after about 30 mins to an hour. They must have bath time every second day and in wet weather, every day. If the dust is good, this will be enough. If it is sand, they will never be really clean. They will roll like crazy but you are bluffing yourself. If they do get clean it is not the sand, it is the baby powder and corn flour.
Imported dust is extremely expensive. The dust we use is a better quality sepiolite that is finer and is a lot cheaper. I can’t see the point in buying lower quality dust at a huge cost just because it is imported. The people who export it here imports it from Spain, re-packs it and sell it to you. The finer it is the higher the price. This is why it is so coarse.

Comments

This is the basics. A good cage that is prepared right, good food, no treats, good quality bath dust, wood to chew on and hay. They do not get sick easily and if they do it is often the food, treats or bad care.
All they need is to be loved, understood and well taken care of. Compared to other animals they don’t have to be expensive to care for, they are not that much work and they reward you with a lot of love.
They are just not for everyone so make very sure.

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The weather

I doubt that people fully understand the influence of the weather on their chinchillas. I know I don’t. I just notice things because I’m with them most of the time.
A while ago I wrote about the influence of the seasons. This is different, it is the day to day weather. What we are experiencing where I live is not normal. When we get rain it is a thunderstorm followed by sunshine. It’s been raining 2 weeks now with very little sunshine. Humidity is sky high and it is affecting our chinchillas. It is bad news.
This Summer we had heat waves that was also not normal and at times they shouldn’t occur. In a month more people contacted me about miscarriages than in the previous years combined. Out of all my breeding chinnies I had one, a girl a friend gave me. She is now a happy pet with another girl in a good home. I gave her away a while ago. It was her first pregnancy but I believe it was the right decision.
Now we have this extreme humidity. Over the past month I heard of more cases of ringworm than ever before. It is now so wet you can’t get the humidity down safely. You can get it down but to do this you need wind. Normal ventilation is no longer enough because the sun doesn’t shine to dry the air. Heating the room will increase humidity, all that helps is wind. The problem is that high humidity + wind = pneumonia.
I lost both Crystal’s kits a few days ago. They were fine and doing great. The evening they still ran around and the next morning I found both dead, as they slept. I can see if there is something wrong and a chinnie will not survive. By the time a baby is 3 days old I know if the baby will live. If something goes wrong later I see it days in advance, like with the one orphan. There was no indication. They just died. This never happened to me in all these years. We also never had this weather in all these years.
It is not the temperature, it is not cold enough. If it is too cold the babies die soon after they were born. We had babies in the middle of Winter, I dried them with a hair drier and they were all just fine.
I can’t heat up the room because it will make the humidity a lot worse. When it rains I keep the fans running. Now I can’t because it will cause pneumonia. I keep the heat down very effectively in Summer so didn’t have any of the problems associated with it. Even if they don’t get heat stroke and you don’t notice it, the heat causes them to stress. This weakens the immune system and they get sick. If this was the case, I would’ve known. The girl I gave away was not meant to breed, I don’t take chances.
Have you noticed what happens to hay in this humidity? It gets damp, it absorbs moisture from the air. Even food will do this. I don’t even pack food in this weather. When we have a good day I pack for a few days in advance. Moisture in hay and food will cause mold. That mold causes miscarriages and disease.
To combat the humidity I change the hay in the cages more often. Most of my day is spent changing hay in cages. It makes a huge difference. I just dry the hay when the sun shines and change it before it gets damp.
You should also have noticed that your chinnies look oily a lot faster now. They will get more excited to get a bath. I don’t notice this because I leave the dust in. I just remember from years ago. Mine bathes a lot more often in this weather and they spend more time in the dust. This is where good dust is so valuable, they stay cleaner a lot longer.
I don’t have too boost the dust, the majority of chinnie owners in Europe can’t all be wrong. What I do get is people asking advice because the sand they use causes skin damage, especially to the ears. Using building sand does that. It’s like cleaning a chinnie with sand paper. It also prevents ringworm. I was extremely lucky but have 2 more cases now. 3 out of almost 140 in this weather is perfectly acceptable. If you drop water on the dust and it makes a limp, it has good absorbency. If the water just runs through it, you are bluffing yourself. To improve the absorbency, they add baby powder and corn flour to playpen sand. With good natural dust this is not necessary. The natural clay is also extremely soft on the fur and skin, it just brushes and absorbs, no damage.
We don’t experience the small changes in the weather like they do. Animals adapt their behavior according to the weather. It is instinct. We don’t have that instinct and I can’t explain it. What I can explain is what I see. I see what they do different at certain times of the day and in certain weather conditions.
I can’t dry the air or make the rain stop but I can do what is within my means. All it takes is a lot more effort and expense. In weather like this I use 100kg bath dust a month and 3 bales of hay a week. I throw out the food every single day. In dry weather I can do it every second day and change the hay every 2 weeks. Now I must do it this way.
I believe the dust, changing the hay so often and keeping the food fresh makes a huge difference. The ringworm will happen and losing the 2 babies hit me hard. There is just no disease and they are all dry and shiny. I am extremely irritated but my chinnies are happy.

Protecting the water bottle

I learned this years ago with hamsters. I quickly made this one from a tin. You cut it in length and attach the round “belly” to the cage. Just use the right size tin. The edges are sharp but you can bend them over. The sharp edges doesn’t touch the cage but with the tin in the way they can’t eat the bottles. Just improvise a bit.

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Water bottle or bowl?

Water bottles are by far more popular and widely used. If you buy good quality bottles and keep them clean it is the best option. Just remember that algae grow in water and by the time you see the green stuff it’s been there for a while. I have only a few concerns with water bottles. The washing part. Using bottles can make you lazy. The plastic nozzles get chewed off. Good quality metal nozzles are fine. The nozzles have little metal balls in them and the better ones also have a spring to apply pressure. A piece of hay can make the balls get stuck and water won’t come out. Using bottles are handy, it must just be kept clean and checked to see the water actually comes out.
I prefer stainless steel bowls. I used bottles for years but replaced them all long ago with bowls. This is not an easy option. It is a lot more work. I have a double set so one set is in the cages and the other set in the dishwasher. Every single bowl is replaced with a clean one every single day. There is no risk of old water or algae. There are other risks though.
I custom made holders for the bowls. They must be placed in the cage in a position where there is nothing above it. If there is a pipe or shelve above it, they poop in the water. They can still tip the bowls but with all my cages I found this seldom. When I do, I just change the hay because the hay absorbs the water. I just make sure it is dry.
The biggest risk is to babies. They can fall into the bowls and drown. When only a few hours old a baby will climb all over the place. I witness almost all births and first thing in the morning I check everyone. When I know mommy is due, I reduce the amount of water in the bowl drastically. The downside of this is that you must then top it up a few times during the day, just a bit at a time. There must always be water but the level is so low that even a newborn baby can’t drown in it.
I never lost a baby to drowning. They very soon learn. After a few weeks they will drink both from mommy and drink water. It forces me to check the water frequently and causes a lot of extra work. I have the time for this so I don’t mind. It is a personal choice and it works for me. It is not the best option, I just prefer it.
Good quality bottles are safer and less work. The way I do it, I force myself to change the bowls every day and to spend a lot of time with them. If you do use bottles, just get good ones, the cheap ones get stuck and no water comes out. I have this thing about them not being able to drink and the bowls always have water.

Mighty Thor water bottle

Wasting less food

I just spoke to a customer. It hit me that we do this but I never shared it. Chinchillas dig in the food. Not all of them but when they dig they dig.
If you feed the imported food with all that treats in it, you will know this. They pick the treats and leave the pellets. That’s why they don’t get a balanced diet, they don’t eat the good stuff.
If you feed our food, they will dig to look for the rose hip and goji berries. Willie solved this problem with the wooden food bowls. I also started using them last year and the change was incredible. I still waste a lot of food but it is because I give too much.
Because the bowl is flat they don’t dig out the food. They can get to the nice bits without digging too much. Once they got it they will eat the pellets. A few of mine still dig but most don’t even wake up when I change food. They know the goji berries and rose hip will be there. The only ones that attacks the food are the babies. As they grow older they too stop digging.
They will still not eat everything. Chinnies graze, they don’t sit and finish a meal. They will eat a little at a time most of the night. They eat a bit, do chinnie stuff, roll in the dust, nibble some hay, eat a bit, chew some wood, roll in the dust again and do chinnie stuff. I know because I have spent whole nights sitting with sick chinnies. I see what they do.
Depending on the weather, the season and whether they are pregnant, also how far pregnant they are, their feeding habits will differ. I have chinnies in all stages of pregnancy now and the season is changing. I wrote about it a week or so ago. They will eat more or less hay at times, will pick out the lucerne pellets or the round pellets. Mostly they eat both. Towards the end of her pregnancy a female will eat a lot more round pellets. Once the babies are there she will eat a lot more lucerne and more lucerne pellets but there will be a balance.
When they then do waste food it will be the lucerne pellets, which are a quarter of the price of the round pellets. You can’t put in less round pellets, they need the balance. It is not the lucerne pellets that makes the food expensive, it is the round pellets and other stuff. Putting in a “token” goji berry or 2, a few pieces of rose hip and a dash of oats doesn’t make it a balanced meal.
It is all worked out according to their nutritional needs. More oats will not be good and less will not be beneficial. The same with the other ingredients. If there is not enough there can just as well be nothing at all because it doesn’t make a difference. It is not in there to make the food look impressive and to sell more. It is there for a reason, in specific amounts, worked out according to weight.
The chopped lucerne in the food is not enough. You must still give hay every day. It is not even in the food as a hay supply. It is in the food because it keeps it fresh. Only lucerne does this, other hay doesn’t. Other hay in food is downright dangerous. It doesn’t keep long like lucerne. It degenerates and makes dust that causes eye irritations. When it gets old and was stored wrong it also makes mold. That mold causes miscarriages and can even kill chinnies. If a bit of mold on hay can cause a cow to have a miscarriage, imagine what it does to a chinnie. The dust from lucerne will always be there. It is the leaves that crumbles as we pack it. Since it is not dust from degeneration it is not harmful. It is actually more nutritious than the hay itself.
When they then waste anything it will be a few of the round pellets and more of the cheaper lucerne pellets. If you don’t give too much food like I do there won’t be a lot of waste.
The flat wooden food bowls makes a huge difference. So does the hay bedding in the cage. They won’t eat old or dirty food. They will pick up clean food from the hay and because we change it so often they also nibble the hay. I still give fresh lucerne every day so they have a choice.
I change the food every second day and put the bowls in the sun for the day. The other day I just top it up. Once a week the wooden bowls gets scrubbed with water and a brush, nothing else. They then stand in the sun for the whole day. There is no bacteria or parasite you might find (and it is in every cage) that will survive a day in our sun, not even in Winter. It kills everything, except ringworm spores. What the sun doesn’t kill will make you sicker than it will your chinnies.
It is a simple thing to change the food bowl to a flat one. I still use 10-15kg of food per day. It used to be over 20kg with less chinnies. They get used to it and because they know what they will get, they eat like well mannered chinnies, hahaha. Except the babies, they still learn.
I don’t mind selling less food because you use less. The same happened with the dust. The same people still buy it, it just lasts longer. The only ones complaining are the shops, hahaha. They sell less. Not to share this will make me wrong.

Feeding bowlThese bowls are available from Mighty Thor

 

Bedding

I have used pine shavings in emergencies but it is not the answer.

Pine shavings are clean and harmless. It just makes dust which can irritate the eyes of some chinnies, especially Beige and White. In an emergency it is better to use it than to leave the cages dirty. The other problem with pine shavings is that it will make mold (alge) when it gets wet. So you must clean it a lot more frequently. Since I found a reliable source of hay I don’t use it anymore. It is popular in Europe and the USA and if done right it is fine. It must just be untreated, dust free and you must keep it dry.

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We use lucerne, eragrostis and teff. I prefer eragrostis and teff but do use lucerne when I can’t get other hay that is good enough. Pet shops sell it and it is expensive. It also comes out of a warehouse where it could’ve been stored for months. Hay have seasons, just like fruit. Lucerne will be harvested from end August to late Autumn. The lucerne you buy in winter and early spring have been stored somewhere. If stored correctly there is no problem. If not stored correctly it will make your chinnies sick. The mold in hay causes development problems in babies and can lead to miscarriage or deformed babies. Not only in chinchillas, in all mammals who eat it.

Teff is a winter grass. We bought our last teff a few weeks ago and will not get more for a few months. Depends on seasons and where they harvest it off course. What you will get now is eragrostis. The eragrostis you bought a month ago is old and have been stored somewhere. This is what farmers do. It helps them feed animals when there is no other food available. The problem is that people who pack for and supply pet stores don’t always take the same care that farmers do. It will make no difference to most animals but it will to chinchillas.

Willie and I do not buy anything from pet stores. We buy from the people who buy from the farmers and we buy from the farmers themselves. This is not for advertizing but we can help you. I sell hay to a lot of people. It will be cheaper to find a good source but if you can’t we will help you any time.

Other bedding. You get milled corn cobs and other stuff, even recycled paper. My problem with this is dust and the same that goes for pine shavings. Since I have no problem with hay I won’t use it. People use cat litter too. “Organic” cat litter is silica. Silica is carcinogenic, which means it can cause cancer. Most of the bath dust sold here is also silica based. Reptile sand is. “Natural” cat litter is sepiolite, what our bath dust is. Our dust is a mix of pure clay playpen sand that is silica free and sepiolite, which is also a clay and also silica free. This cat litter does work in cages. It is just heavy but absorbs well.

Chinnies will poop all over the place. Their poop is not dirty if they are healthy so there is no problem. They will pick a corner in the cage to pee. They don’t pee a lot and you can just clean this corner more often. You can also potty train them. Get a sand bath thingy like for cats, put in cat litter and place it in the corner where they pee. They will make it their toilet. I just don’t do it because I keep the cages clean. I also leave in the bath dust and only change it every second day. They will not make a toilet of it if you don’t place it in the pee corner. There will be a lot of poop in it because they spend time in it, especially in summer. A few will pee in it but I just throw out the sand every 2 days, skip a day and put it in again. You go through a lot of bath dust but my chinnies are always clean and fluffy.

The hay pet shops sell as “mountain hay” or “timothy hay” or whatever is teff or eragrostis. The fancy name means more people buy it and they make more money. It is the same hay as what Willie and I use, only we don’t pay a fortune.

Oh, I forgot. Hay is grass. Lucerne is not, it is a legume, like peas. Lucerne only makes dust because of the leaves and flowers. If it is not old the dust won’t do anything. Hay that gets old makes dust because it degenerates. The eye irritations in chinchillas is mostly caused by this dust. And off course the wrong bath dust. But that is another story I explained in detail in the past.

Alfalfa hay (lucerne)

Alfalfa hay (lucerne)