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How To: Prepare Chinchilla Wood!

During apple-picking season, you may be compelled to think about your fluffs while you’re out with friends and family, gathering delicious ripe fruits by the handful. I certainly always think about my chinchillas, especially when I’m out and about in nature! As my fluffs are indoor pets, I always dream up ways to bring a taste of the outdoors to them. On occasion, one way I do that is by preparing delicious chin-safe woods with organic, pesticide-free wood. Multitasking in the orchard is always a challenge, but the chins will thank you! 🙂

Apple Orchard

Because apple wood is an absolute favorite for all my chin-babies, I love to source what I can during the season from healthy apple trees at local, untreated orchards in upstate NY or eastern CT. I’ll always ask the orchard manager if it’s okay for me to snip some branches from the trees as I’m picking my fair share of apples, and 9 times out of 10, they’ll comply with a smile. I aim mostly for twigs and sticks – the thinner, the better, as those are plentiful and easy to collect (and the chins love destroying twiggies!). Plus, smaller sticks and twigs are easier to manage when you’re preparing the wood for chewy consumption. Be sure to snip live branches, as those are the safest for your chins to chew once properly prepared.

Koko Fall

When you’ve gathered your arsenal of future treats, the first step is to break or cut them to size – delectable treat size, that is! I usually aim for 4-5″ in length, because they fit so perfectly in those adorable chinchilla paws. 😛 Place the pre-sized goods into a container of hot water, and use a clean toothbrush or scrubber to remove tannin and lichen from the sticks. You may have to rinse and repeat several times until the water runs clear over the sticks. Alternatively, you can opt to boil your pre-cut wood for 15-20 minutes, rinse, and scrub. Boiling the wood will help sanitize them better than hot water alone. It’s also fine to use a combination of these methods, as long as you fully implement one or the other.

Muff Cholla

After a final rinse, air dry the sticks over a towel. Once the sticks are completely dry to the touch, evenly space the sticks over aluminum foil or a tin pan, and place your chin-treats in the oven. Baking the wood is a matter of personal preference: some like to bake at an extended period of time on the lowest possible temperature, while others are more aggressive with the baking process. The most common range of temperatures fluctuate from 170 degrees to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lulu cute

While chinchilla owners have their own preferences, I suggest trying out a few different temperatures to determine your favorite. Keep in mind that time and temperature can – and should – vary, depending on the thickness of your wood and overall quantity. I generally like to veer in the middle, around 230 degrees for as long as possible. I constantly keep the oven light on and check for any smoking bark. I’ll rotate the sticks or coins every half hour or so. Eventually, you’ll be able to see or test whether or not the wood is done – coins may be cracked, wood will be dry to the touch, and twigs will snap crisply and easily.

Apple Stick

Finally, turn off your oven and remove your sticks to cool. Once cooled, store your wood in a cardboard box and keep your goodies handy in a cool, dry place close to your chinnies. Or, you could work on some more DIY projects, such as creating hanging toys from your delicious woods! They’ll thank you for all your hard work – or at the very least, they’ll delight you with their happiness as they’re munching away! 🙂

Mitty Hanging toy

Chinchilla Cookie Recipe

To celebrate the inevitable approach of spring – finally! – I’ve decided to share my chinchilla cookie recipe with everyone, so that our fur babies can have a delicious treat to celebrate with us! My mentality about these baked treats is more “baked” than “treat” – offering your chinchillas their daily diet in a different form or composition is a great way to encourage healthy eating habits and boost consumption! Diversifying is always a fun way to prevent boredom, too. These cookies are simple to make, and fun to consume.

Chinchilla Cookies

Cookie Flower

Makes 20-25 Small Cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes / Bake Time: 2 hours

Mitty Eating Cookie

DOUGH: For the base of my cookie dough, I use a mix of pellets and hays. Since my chins’ diet consists of Manna Pro and Mazuri, I like to use 1 cup Mazuri and 1/2 cup Manna Pro. You can use the chin feed your chinchillas prefer! Mix the pellets with a variety of hays: a combination of Timothy and Alfalfa hay “dust” – you know, the leafy, dusty, tiny particles left over from hay bags. Sift through the hay dust to remove larger stems, as they won’t hold well in the dough. Place the 1.5 cup of pellets and 1.5 cup of hay dust in a food processor or blender, and blend until everything becomes a fine powder.

Cookie Dough

ADDITIONS: Place the mixture into a stirring bowl and add in one tablespoon of cold-milled ground flax seed and 1/8 cup of organic rolled oats. Separately, I prepare my water mixture, with 9 parts water to 1 part unsweetened apple juice (I use a juice press to press the juice from fresh fiji apples, for taste).

Cookie Flax

MIXING: I make sure all the dry elements are well-mixed, and begin adding in my water/apple juice mixture little by little, kneading the dough as I go. Hays and pellets have an absorptive reaction, so kneading by hand is the best way to tell how saturated the dough is.

Koko Cookie 2

REFRIGERATE: When the dough is at a cookie dough consistency, I place the mixture into a plastic bag. Then, I flatten the dough in the bag and refrigerate for several hours in order for the dough to set and become more easily mold-able (this refrigeration step is optional, but recommended).

Cookie Bag

MOLDING: When I’m ready, I’ll make small balls of dough, press them flat, and use a rolling pin to flatten the cookies evenly. I personally don’t use cookie cutters, because I prefer the natural shape each cookie has – but I’m sure they would be adorable if you chose to use shapes. Keep in mind that due to the consistency of the dough, it’ll probably take some time to form your cookies into dense enough shapes to bake successfully.

Muff Cookie

BAKING: Finally, I’ll bake the cookies at 200 degrees for approximately 2 hours – don’t forget to check the oven from time to time to gauge the cookie’s status. The low heat prevents burning, while allowing the cookie to fully bake through. Mold during storage can be a problem for home-cooked chinchilla goods if the water content has not been adequately baked out, so it’s important to make sure the final cookies are dry and brittle. Also, chins love the crunch!

Lulu Cookie 2

STORAGE: Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to dry overnight at room temperature. Keep cookies stored in an airtight food container in the freezer and serve as needed for a delicious treat! Since most of the moisture content has been baked out of the treats, freezer storage does very little to alter them.

Koko Cookie

There you go! Healthy cookies for your fluffballs. There are plenty of other versions out there that include pumpkin puree or molasses, but we opt for a more basic cookie treat that isn’t too much of a guilty pleasure! My chins enjoy 2-3 cookies per week as a supplement to their existing diet – although adding in these cookies means decreasing all other treat consumption. Cheers! 🙂

Cookie Flowers