apple sticks

How To: DIY Chinchilla Hanging Toys

Hanging toys: the cutest, most heartfelt way to watch a chinchilla struggle without a twinge of guilt! They’re also dental-friendly treats that keep your fluffs engaged and entertained during long work or school days. I love chinchilla-safe woods and chews because they are a fabulous non-food way to make your chins happy and show them that you care – not that they need even more from you to be spoiled with! But really, just one more chew toy couldn’t hurt.. (and seriously, it couldn’t!) 😛 So, today’s post is all about how to make DIY hanging toys!

Lulu Fifi Lady Hanging Toy

There are only a handful of tools that are needed to make a very simple hanging toy:

  • Chinchilla-Safe Woods and Chews, 6″ or Smaller
  • Drill with Thin Drill Bit
  • Solid Craft Wire or Pliable Metal Wire
  • Hook to Adhere Toy to Cage Bars
  • Pliers to Cinch Wire Ends
  • Wire Cutter or Strong Scissors to Cut Wire

Craft Wire Drill Wood

The first step is to gather your goods! We use apple sticks, pear sticks, chunks of pine, and vine twirls – but some all-time favorites include natural loofah, blocks of pumice stone, shredder tape, and more! Feel free to read about chinchilla safe woods and chews to get some ideas for your own custom toys. Over time, you’ll come to realize which woods or chews your chins prefer. Another great tactic is to use the barkless wood that your chins have already partially demolished; it’s a thrifty way to re-purpose the seemingly unwanted sticks (they’ll be slower to go at them, but they’ll begrudgingly get to it eventually). Then, I drill through the center of the wood, but wood vendors tend to sell pre-drilled wood for easy toy-making.

wood and fine toys

The next step is to cut your wire to the desired hanging length, adding on a little extra just in case. I typically cut the wire to 12″ and remove any extra length prior to finalizing the toy. It’s important for your wire to be made out of a solid metal to dissuade exploratory chewers (although they’re typically too preoccupied with the hanging toy to consider munching on the wire). Another great way to put your mind at ease is to either fill the wood to the very top so that there is no exposed metal, or to hang the toy strategically so that the exposed area is not reachable. I have seen other varieties in toy-making such as seagrass or chains, but it ultimately depends on what you know to be the safest, best option for your particular chins. So far, there have been zero issues with our construction and the final products are spot-on for my five furry babies.

Muff going for his chew toy

For the top of the toy, I’ll wrap the wire tightly around the hook, using pliers to tuck the edge away. Since we go through faulty glass water bottles every few months, I make sure to keep the hardware for hanging toys – the hooks are perfect for the cage bars, because they’re made for just that! Another good alternative would be shower hooks, as they’re self explanatory and easy to work with.

Water Bottle Hook and Pliers

The funnest part for me is next: to string all the toys on the wire in my favorite order! I like to mix up the different woods and chews to offer some variety for the chins – plus, they look really nice when they have some diversity to them.

Mittenmaus Hanging Toy

The trickiest and final part is to close off the hanging toy. If you’re using a thicker wire, you can simply use pliers to close off the toy in a “U” with the wire and call it a day. Using a thinner wire is easier to work with initially, but is a tad tougher to close off. The way I do it is to string the wire through the last stick – enough slack for the wire to wrap around the stick twice – and thread the wire through the hole a second time, pulling the wire flush to the stick. Because this type of craft wire is so malleable, it will secure itself easily after being pulled and be unable to be readjusted without pliers. The last step is to cut the excess wire flush with wire cutters or strong scissors (although after a certain amount of practice, you’ll be able to calculate the perfect amount of slack not to need to cut the wire at all).

Drilled wood and secured wireSecured wire in drilled wood

And voilà! There we have it – hang away and watch your happy chinchillas struggle with sheer delight! 🙂 The more toys you make, the more endless variety you’ll find that there is! You can make toys in all different sizes and shapes – the fun is being able to take some time out of your day and do something that takes your mind off of how much money, time, and energy you spend on your chinchillas by creating something lovingly by hand for their spoiled enjoyment!

Koko Hanging Toy

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Chinchilla Cage Accents

Muff hilarious face tube

In tandem with recent posts about Ferret Nation Cages and How To: Build a Custom Chinchilla Cage, this post is all about cage details – all the necessary components that help make your chin’s cage feel like a meaningful, functioning home! Although there are online vendors for listed accessories, all items that are realistically able to be made at home have been described in a DIY manner.

Ladies cage

Platforms & Ledges: I suggest keeping platforms 4-5″ wide, installed under 6” apart height-wise for safety. Any higher, and a fall could potentially hurt your chin. And don’t forget ledges – fun shapes for corners, sides, and all around. Sizes can vary, from 3″ upward. The hardware part is simple: screws, washers, and a drill will keep your items snug and secure.

LYC Hay Feeder

Hay Feeders: Hay is an integral part of any healthy chinchilla diet, and it gets everywhere! Our cages have DIY hay feeders, complete with a standing perch for easy eating. Connected with two sturdy hooks, these feeders are a chin favorite, adhere to horizontal bars with ease, and keep the mess minimal!

 

 

Food Bowls: We recently switched from bottom-heavy bowls to stainless steel bowls that adhere directly to cage bars. It’s been a wonderful transition, as the stainless steel bowls are sleek, safe, attractive – and most of all, easy to use.

Koko litter box

Litter Boxes: Read this post all about DIY litter boxes and litter training! Litter boxes can be a tidy addition to your chin’s cage, encouraging your pets to maintain their space and keep clean. Of course, not all chinchillas can be litter trained, but it never hurts to try.

Muff Home

Huts & Houses: The fluffs love hiding houses, tight corners, and crunching down on the very infrastructure they inhabit. The best way to inhibit this type of behavior is by encouraging it in a safe, healthy manner! Our hideaways are made from kiln-dried pine and offer privacy-seeking chins a lovely respite from the craziness of their peaceful environments (because we all know being a well-cared-for chinchilla is exhausting). 😛

Mitty Granite Marble Tile

Stone Cooling Tiles: Our chins prefer marble or granite cooling tiles; they are a great accessory for the active buggers who dart all over their cages, working up some heat! The tiles offer temporary relief for warm tummies, but only act effectively if hand-in-hand with low temperatures or air-conditioning.

Girls Cage Toy Bowl Hay

Hanging Toys: Hanging toys are quite simple to make, and shockingly fun to watch as your chins swing them from side to side in impatient demolition attempts. Some drilled apple sticks, chunks of kiln-dried pine, and pumice stones make for a really great time – especially for the attention deficit types!

koko hammock

Hammocks and Tubes: While not every chin enjoys hammocks, a lucky few really do love lounging in comfy floating fleece blankets. There’s nothing like a softly swinging sleepy chinchilla to bring a smile to your face! Tubes are also great accessories, offering a round retreat for your fluffballs. I use galvanized steel ducts, which have rounded steel that can be used safely without fleece coverings. Other tube options include PVC or cardboard tubes with snug fleece covers to prevent harmful ingestion.

Muff Heart

Cuddle Buddies: Fleece teddies can be perfect for solo chinchillas! As long as the cuddle buddy has fine stitching and good construction, your chin will be snuggling up next to their new friend (or tossing it around) in no time.

 

Water Bottle: Water bottles are the bane of my existence. As I’m living in the city, I do not have an adequate setup for a water pump system. So, I run through glass water bottles every few months. I always have two water bottles in each cage, a 32 oz. and an additional 16 oz., just in case. Currently, I use Kaytee, Living World, and Lixit (although I’ve tried more than a handful of brands), and simply cross my fingers. I have never understood why water bottles do not have any type of manufacturer’s warranty, as they are often faulty and fail to stand the test of time.

Ladies FN

Running Wheel: Although chinchillas do not require a wheel, it is nice to have one for exercise purposes. My chins have a running wheel in a separate playtime cage, which is an excellent way to encourage a weekly allotment of exercise while teaching them to manage their stress when being introduced to different environments.

Koko Fleece Cage

Fleece: The safest fabric for chins, fleece is a good way to cover up harmful plastics in your cage or line the bottom of your cage with a pretty pattern. While fleece is not necessarily easier to clean than bedding, it does help make your chin’s home more personal. If your chin is litter trained, I suggest washing fleece every 2 weeks with a hot water and lemon juice/vinegar mixture. If your chin is not litter trained, fleece should be washed weekly to prevent urine buildup. It’s important to note that while most chins do not eat fleece, some will try! If that’s the case, then fabric should be removed immediately to prevent consumption.

Mitty pan

Custom Steel Pans: Galvanized or stainless steel pans for your chin’s cage are an awesome investment – they are easy to manage and long lasting with proper care. Swapping out plastics for steel is a simple way to prevent harmful ingestion, blockage, or impaction that can come with gnawing malleable plastics.

Ko ball

As always, try to incorporate safe woods into your chin’s environment, and understand the importance of choosing wood over plastic. Be sure to always have an air-conditioning unit (or two!) during warm months, keep a regular dusting routine, and monitor your chin’s weight for changes in consumption in order to catch early warning signs of illness. 🙂

Mitty tail tube

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Ferret Nation Cages: Pros and Cons

These past few weeks have been busy! As we slowly emerge from a long winter, a few major changes have come to LY Chinchillas too: we switched from our custom-built digs over to Ferret Nation 182 cages! Admittedly, I went a little crazy with the purchasing process because we ended up with 3 full double units, but after much deliberation on space and convenience, I’ve decided to keep the third double unit boxed up and in storage until more space allows for it in the future.

To start, I’ll speak a little about the emotional change that comes with a major cage change. We had built our custom cages with time, energy, and great care, and they turned out great. They were a little less spacious than I had hoped given the constraints of finding a convertible wardrobe unit, but the larger cages had a lot of vertical space for the two mosaic girls Lulu & Fifi, as well as my standard firstborn son Mittenmaus. Koko resided in the top cage partition, as she has never (to this day) displayed an iota of jumping capability. Separately, Muff had a custom cage built out of two smaller unit cages that he simply loved, including a climbing wall and lots of space for his jellybean self to roam and chirp. There were some downsides to the custom cages, but overall, they were built with great love and care with safety and personalities in mind.

Ferret Nation Cages

And then, before I knew it, the Ferret Nations were on their way. Honestly, it was a spur of the moment order. I had been thinking about new cages for a while, and after researching options on the market, opted for the 182 model. And then, before I knew it, the Ferret Nations had arrived. The cages have a ton of positive points, but the first few nights were actually filled with anxiety for both me and some of the chins.

The girls didn’t mind at all. They are seemingly more independent and less attached to the comfort of any one place, as if peace of mind is something already engrained in their brains, bringing a sense of ease and calm to their transition. Mitty is an (unsuccessful) escape artist, that’s just how he rolls. He explored his cage to the fullest, memorized each jump and leap and corner, and settled in. Of course, he’s still going forward with his master plan of eventually escaping, and I do wish I could give him a full double unit to himself, but the space is adequate for him and I’m confident that he will adjust over time. Muff, on the other hand, was as nervous as I was. He missed his old cage! Truthfully, this space was a little bit of a downgrade for him, height-wise. The way Muff was acting, I was really starting to doubt my decision. There was a noticeable increase in stress: nervous squeaking, an unwillingness to talk to me or meet my hands, weight loss, and agitated jumping for several days. Part of me wanted to turn back and give him back his old everything, but I made the executive decision to wait and let the new cages settle in – for both me, and the chins.

Muff FN

Ladies FN

Mitty FN

Koko FN

I knew that I purchased these cages for a particular reason: in the hopes that they are the very best, safest, and cleanest option for our living situation right now. Residing in a NYC apartment is not exactly spacious, and every square foot counts. The same day the cages were set up and before I had the chance to reconsider turning back, I had already dismantled the old cages and re-purposed any salvageable kiln-dried pine for ledges and platforms in the new cages. This made it tough, because the moment I started taking parts down, I knew that I wasn’t going to reconstruct the old cages. I had some restless sleep (yes, I’m seriously in tune with my kids) but I lived with it. It was time to move forward. In the following week, all of Muff’s weight loss had been regained, and attitudes from all parties were perking up.

So, that brings me to this very lengthy post – a post which, in many ways, is a formulation of my opinions that are still in infancy. I’ve had the new cages for under a month, and have had some time to modify their interiors to my liking. While I have yet to make any definitive emotional connection with Ferret Nation, I’ve also been forced to put my custom cages in my past. I figured that places me in a unique position to evenly critique the pros and cons of Ferret Nation.

Mitty FN2

PROS

  • User-Friendly, Lots of Control: This is a huge pro! These cages are truly designed for the pet owner, many thanks to Ferret Nation for that. All the points below will simply highlight and point back to this one major pro.
  • Reliable Doors: Two self-locking doors that swing open as far as possible? Yes, please! The doors swing open a lovely 225 degrees. This means you can deal with one chinchilla at a time with all the elbow space you need, without having to worry about another chin’s escape.
  • Mobility: Smooth wheels do the trick. Rolling the cages from room to room or rotating 360 degrees is totally manageable with one person. I should note that although the wheels have worked fabulously for these first few weeks, a double unit cage is pretty heavy and could cause some wear and tear on the wheel function over time. As mobile as these cages can be, they are more suitable for a stationary situation.
  • Light and Ventilation: Nothing sucks more than not being able to see your super cute chinchilla. These cages are awesome for that! Light passes through really easily, making it a little easier to catch the cuteness on camera (which, as chin owners know, is part of the struggle). Bottom levels have a little less light than desired, but such is the payoff for separated top and bottom units. An added bonus of light passage is also air passage, which helps ventilation and improves overall living conditions.
  • Universal Nature: So easy to use and self-explanatory, I would consider trusting a pet sitter to handle these cages – and for me, that says a lot.
  • Longevity: These cages will last for years. They may get scratched up, but these cages will stay relevant and get the job done.
  • Professional Look: The design is simple and sleek.
  • Safe and Sturdy: The bars and overall structure is pretty heavy duty, easing the weight of worry on neurotic owners.
  • Easy to Clean: A simple structural design makes cleaning as easy as could possibly be! Double unit cages have corners that are easy to reach with (almost) no hidden areas for grime to build up in.
  • Resale Value: Hand-in-hand with the “Cost” bullet point in the Cons section, these cages maintain their value pretty well in comparison with other cages.
  • Brand Recognition: The commercial value of this product and presence in the industry is pretty solid. This at least means the brand has been somewhat successful long enough to be oft recommended and widely distributed.

CONS

  • Customization/Inability to Prorate Space: As customizable as the inside space of the cage may be, the size of each cage is fixed. That means there are three choices: 1, 2, or 3 unit cages. I can’t, for example, give a little more height to the boys or a little more width to my girls without adding another overwhelming unit to their existing spaces.
  • More Width Than Height: This might seem like a weird point for some people because most cages are wider than they are high, but with custom cages we had the luxury of being able to customize a safe cage with more height than width, which the chins seemed to love and have more fun with. Of course, you could add on that additional unit and make the height appear, but the overwhelming presence! I would like to point out that this Con is also a Pro, limiting falls and height-related injuries.
  • Presence: These cages command attention and space, and definitely carry a presence. A three unit cage would be a little daunting to run into at a friend’s apartment (unless you love chinchillas, which I’m sure most of you do).
  • Loud: FN cages consist largely of bars, and these bars reverberate sound against any connected point, such as hammock hangers, washers, and attached ledges. Any jump or leap will produce more sound than wood, which better absorbs vibrations and sounds.
  • Bars and Biting: Bar biting is really annoying. Not only is it noisy, but it also leaves a mark – yes, chin chewing can easily create indents and grooves in the cage bars’ powder coating. Behaviorally, it’s a bummer to see your chin trying so hard to escape. Wire mesh in custom cages completely prevents this type of behavior.
  • Cleaning Between the Bars: Tough! Dust is the main contender against a totally clean cage situation. Residual dust settles between the bars, and those little nooks are pretty tough to reach and stubborn to clean, even with a high-powered vac.
  • Ferret Nation Quality Control: Leaves a bit to be desired. Some details are offset, door locks aren’t symmetrical, plastic panels that I didn’t use arrived shattered and broken, and there were minor scuffs on nearly every piece of metal. Part of these problems are due to their shipping practices (one large cardboard box and no reinforcement) but must also be due to manufacturing practices and company quality control. To be fair, there’s a limited one-year warranty and FN will replace broken parts, but if there was a higher standard across the board, there would be no need to go through a time-consuming warranty shakedown.
  • Plastic Bottoms and Platforms: I know there’s a profit to be made, but I could never understand why high-volume national suppliers don’t switch to metal instead of providing their customer’s pets with low quality edible plastic, which can cause blockage or worse. From a caring owner’s standpoint, I’d have hoped for a better industry standard by now. Anyhow, I had to order custom metal pans at an additional cost (which were a great investment, and I’m very happy with).
  • Shaking: Although somewhat subtle, the cages will shake from side to side if your chins are running on their wheels.
  • Cost: The cost is relatively high, but as would be a custom cage of a similar size.

Fifi New Cage

The takeaway? These cages are great for our status quo. Make no mistake about it: when the time comes to buy a house in the country, I have grand plans to painstakingly build fully customized cage mansions for each of the chins (blueprints are already on hand). For now, Ferret Nations will do the job, and do the job relatively well. Stay tuned for future posts about FN cage customization! 🙂

Angled Ferret Nation

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Chinchilla TLC: Toys, Love, Care!

As we know, the holiday season is in full swing! As we cross off Santa’s ever-expanding list for family and close friends, we turn to our chinnies for a sweet, longing gaze. I heard you, buddy. I know what you want. Let me grab my Santa hat, hop online, and get to ordering your holiday stocking stuffers. Who could say no to such sweet faces?

Around this time of year, I spend a few hundred on the little guys, most of the money going towards stocking up on diet essentials and safe chew toys. Not only are prices competitive, running on a fever from Black Friday deals, but delivery is prompt and customer service steps up its game. The earlier, the better, though – the closer you push towards Christmas, the crazier the frenzy on all operational fronts, increasing the chances of higher prices and sloppy service.

Christmas Lights NYC

This year, we opted for a mix of willow balls, a few fleece hammocks, apple sticks, sisal toys, mulberry sticks, and a variety of wooden coins! Nothing too special or different from their usual mix of toys.

 

 

I think it’s important for us all to remember that it’s not necessary that we spend a great deal of our babies in order to have a fun time this holiday season. A playtime favorite for us is building and playing around in cardboard mansions! They’re free to make and safe, as long as you keep a good eye on your chinchillas. Cardboard, if ingested, can expand and cause blockages that may lead to health issues. However, if you are an active participant during playtime, you can prevent issues before they arise. I created and modified a three-story mansion as my Cyber Monday deliveries rolled in, and the kids simply loved it! The funnest part about creating toys, cages, and mansions is that you are free to modify whenever you want, offering a new feel every week. The more creative you’re able to be, the less you’ll have to depend on others for your fun chin toys.

 

Oh, and our holiday photo shoot was a great success! We love taking photos and sharing our images with the world. We’re even considering making cards in the future and offering chinchilla photo shoots for interested owners! Of course, all these great additions will come with time and growing interest. For now, enjoy our videos and posts! Stay tuned and subscribe by email for next Wednesday’s blog post.

LY Chinchillas Treat Donation

Buy delicious hay-based treats or apple sticks for the entire LY Chinchillas family!

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