photography

How To: Chinchilla Holiday Photography

One of our favorite ways to get festive during the holiday season is with winter-themed chinchilla photo shoots! This guide will go through my process with photographing LY Chinchillas on my own with no strobes or flash (basically, nothing fancy)! Be sure to have a fast camera (I use the Fujifilm X-T10 Camera because of the super-fast continuous shooting mode) and light sources ready to go!Koko Warm Posing XmasThe very first thing to check prior to starting the shoot is the chin-proof factor. Admittedly, the actual time on set is very short – and the rest of the time is spent coaxing your little one back on set or sending them back to their cage to nap off a hard 10 seconds of work! In those off-set moments, you’ll need to make sure that everything is completely chin-proofed to prevent any accidents, fur loss, or injury.Muff Sideways HolidaysThe next thing you’ll want to check are your ambient light sources – that means your natural light, ceiling lights, desk lights, lamps, floor lamps, whatever other illuminating tools you may have in the shooting area. This will help capture your chinchilla by allowing you to have a faster shutter speed due to more available light. Normally, I prefer a clean white light, but for the holidays, there’s nothing wrong with a warmer glow that comes standard in most home lighting.
Grab a portable spotlight if your natural lighting is low – ideally, this will be somehow diffused. You can do this by using a strong flashlight or adjustable desk lamp covered and tied down with a very sheer scarf. This will make sure that your light is not too harsh and capture your chinchillas in all their softness.Set design holidays 2016 The third step is to create your set: start out with a fun, safe idea and execute! Fleece is always great, but other textures can be visually pleasing too. For my holiday shoot this year, I went with simple silver and white tree decorations, along with a chunky knit sweater. It’s important to note that these decorations are obviously not safe for consumption, so I would not suggest this for anyone who is starting out with shoots; managing the talent on set is a huge part of the multitasking these types of productions require!Lulu Munching Warm HolidaysThe final step is to shoot away! I like to set up the scene, get the lights on, take a few test shots, and then plop them in one by one to see how they react. Normally, my chins are very confused at the new environment, so they’ll take 10 seconds to look around before dashing off. Those 10 seconds are crucial! With a fast continuous shooting mode, you can grab up to 8 images per second – more than enough to finalize at least one adorable final shot.Mitty HolidaysKnowing your chinchillas, staying very patient, and setting realistic expectations is key: after shooting for years with them, I know that Fifi will be tough to contain (she has a strong dislike for unfamiliar environments) – so during this year’s shoot, she slipped out of the roster by her own sheer determination. Remember, it’s your own selfish cute-loving self who happens to be encouraging them to pose for adorable photos, so never get frustrated if things aren’t working out. If someone is being a diva, simply save the shoot for another day. Or, if you know a shoot is coming up, hold off on safe chews and treats for the week prior and let them munch on set. If difficulties arise, the rule is: better safe than sorry, always! It’s not worth straining your relationship with your beloved chin over some images.Muff Holiday Warm EatingDon’t be apprehensive to reinvent the concept if needed. Sometimes, simple is better. A fleece backdrop and a chew stick can yield incredibly cute shots, too! Staying basic is an awesome way to start learning how your chins will behave in front of the lights and camera. It’s always truly just a buildup of trust, anyhow. We all wish you a very warm and happy holidays with tons of bonding and photography, sweet friends! Koko Cute Head Warm Holidays

Chinchilla Parenthood – It’s Ongoing!

Well, it’s official: this autumn has been incredibly busy for the human (that’s me!). However, that doesn’t mean that I’ve been neglecting my babies. Life is all about priorities: the people, experiences, and fluffs that are meaningful in your life will rise to the top of your to-do’s and will always be accounted for. So, let me catch you up on some of the fun changes ongoing in the world of LY Chinchillas!whats New Mitty

Pumice Stone RocksVines and ShreddersFun Toy PartsShredder Tape VinesNew DIY Goodies: I am a huge fan of DIY when it comes to the world of chinchillas: cages, toys, accessories, sourcing and preparing your own chin-safe wood (a list of safe wood can be found here), litter boxes, cookies, and more! Most recently, we’ve replaced our pine litter boxes, swapped out some older ledges for clean pine, and added in a slew of fun new hanging toys! It’s always great to make your own toys: it’s less costly than buying toys outright and allows you to be as creative as you want. I often dream up toy designs depending on each of my chins’ quirky personalities!

Always in Stock: While not such an exciting ongoing development, it’s important to mention that with chins, there come perpetual costs. Although pellets and hay are not that expensive if you buy in bulk, chinchillas are intellectual and emotional creatures that deserve (and need) a good deal of mental and dental stimulation. That’s why I always have a full stock of apple sticks, cholla sticks, pumice stones, rosebuds, rose hips, marigolds, shredder tape, and other delicious chew/treat options. Over the years, I’ve been able to curate a good balance of their favorite chew selections and make sure to award them for cuteness! This is all, of course, in addition to the plentiful hay and pellets included in a healthy chinchilla diet. Oh – it never hurts to remind everyone that I have two 26 oz water bottles per cage, and at least two extras on hand for replacement just in case. You never know, and water’s one of those fundamental necessities!

Muff Scratches New FleeceNew Fleece: When the seasons change, so doth the fleece. While colors and designs bring a fresh new feel to their cages, it’s also important to discard fleece after a certain level of usage. Typically, when non-pill fleece starts to lose its original texture, that’s the sign to swap. Luckily, fleece ordered online is inexpensive and plentiful, meaning there’s tons of delightful – and affordable – designs to choose from!New FleeceLulu OctagonMuff Piano PawsMitty OctagonNew Accessories: Not only have we re-stocked on some fun hammocks for Muff and Koko, but we’ve also been fortunate enough to have discovered a new chinchilla vendor – Whisking Woodworks! Creator Robyn is a young furniture designer and chinchilla lover in Seattle, WA, and Whisking Woodworks is all about creating unique chin-safe accessories for fluffy friends. Be sure to visit her website and check out the beautifully crafted octagonal furnishings – perfect for the contemporary, modern, or spunky chinchilla! 😛

As far as existing shelving and ledges, a super helpful tip for a super busy month: if you’re unable to make it out to refurnish your chin’s kiln-dried pine, simply flip your less-than-perfect ledges upside down and re-adhere! You’ll be set for at least a few weeks while you get ready to hit up the local lumber supplier. Over the years, I’ve found it’s much more convenient to buy large quantities of kiln-dried pine in bulk and properly store goods in a dry, clean environment until you’re ready to create some delectable chinjoyable structures! You never know, inspiration can hit you like a 50 lb. bag of blue cloud dust, so the basics are great to always have on hand.

Holiday Photos: Yes, it’s almost that time of year again, where the elves of the world ready their cameras for prime-time-chinchilla-photoshoot time!Fifi pumpkinsWhile we’ve only managed to grab a few pumpkin and autumn-themed captures, we are keen on remaking horror movies and having some spooky fun (click the link – you won’t be disappointed by Mitty’s acting debut)!  But definitely, be on the lookout for some Christmas-themed goodness headed your way, direct from the five flooferoos! 🙂 Have a wonderful month, fluffs and fluff-lovers!

Chinchillas, Music, and Television!

As the season winds into full swing, it’s important for humans and chinchillas alike to slow down, enjoy the importance of air conditioning, and revel in the glory and sweetness of summertime! We have a daily routine outside of dusting and cleaning that I love to indulge in with the babies: the calming joy of music! Because the hearing capabilities of chinchillas closely resemble that of humans and may not be as sensitive as many originally believed at the conception of chinchilla studies, we and they share more than just the love for their happy existence. Our chins hear the same tones and pitches as us! As we know ambient sounds are universally soothing, we can also deduce (and observe!) that the experience of television and soft music is a real treat for chinchillas.

music koko

A few guidelines for picking the perfect music for your chinchillas can be well-guided with a similar approach as song selection for an infant: the smoother, softer, and more harmonious, the better. Some of our favorites are a mix of cheerful and calming classical music, including select works from Giovanni Palestrina, Bach, Mozart (especially his wind sonatas and concertos), and Debussy. Ah, how the chins swoon! They cuddle by their speakers and nap the days away, all while exercising their minds to the peaceful sounds of yesteryear. We use a laptop with USB speakers for easy portability and control, and loop chinchilla-approved music continuously throughout the day.

music2

As for television, although I don’t practice this form of meditation with the chinchillas, it’s just as pleasing and offers visualization in tandem with vocals for their lazy days. The best type of programming would be a child’s program – nothing too action-oriented or containing too many sharp sound effects or exclamations. Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer are all fan favorites!

1music

Volume should be set depending on distance of speakers from cages, existing ambient sound from your air conditioner and dehumidifier, and type of acoustics in your chinchilla room. Generally speaking, the volume should be audible but not loud to the human ear (think: a toddler should be able to drift to sleep easily in this soothing environment). A great way to test for acoustics and best volume is to stand next to your chinchilla cage and set different volumes until you find yourself being lulled into a happy dream state – just kidding, but you know what I mean. If you have some time to relax and shuffle through idyllic songs, I suggest sitting with your chins and finding a few alternating playlists to their liking: variety is always good, even in soft doses. Happy listening, fluffballs! 🙂

lu fi music

Our Favorite Chinchilla Topics!

Over the year, we’ve had some great topics and fun things to write about! Located on our Favorite Topics page, we wanted to share with you our most poignant and important posts that have helped out our furry friends and their owners the most. The entries are linked so you can click through and read whichever article you find most helpful!

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What’s a Chinchilla?

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Chinchilla Health

Chinchilla Care

Chinchilla Food

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Custom Chinchilla Cages

Chinchilla Cage Accents

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Chinchilla Playtime

LY Chinchillas: About Us!


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As always, don’t forget to reach out and stay in touch with LY Chinchillas on social media! We’re on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and Twitter!

We’ll be sure to update the Favorite Topics page as time goes on, so don’t forget to leave us some commentary and follow the blog! 🙂

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

Get To Know: Koko Bear

KOKO BEAR [my sweetfaced sweetheart] AKA Koko, Ko, Ko-Bear, Fatty-Ko, RoKoko

Extra Dark Ebony, Born 06/28/2014, approximately 700 grams

Koko Box

Role in Playtime Kingdom? Lovely damsel in distress – desperately in need of a good scratching! She absolutely melts for scratches in any situation, and oftentimes needs mom to swoop in for a cuddle and scratch!

Favorite Hiding Place? Koko doesn’t have very adventurous playtimes, and couches are her haven. She’ll simply waddle her cute butt around under the periphery of the couches (most of the space beneath the couches have been blocked for playtime safety purposes) and pick a spot to prance around back and forth.

Physical Capability? Koko is cautious! She likes to take her time, and stick to the well-known spots. She also isn’t capable of jumping very high or wall-surfing (yet). As slow as Koko is in most environments, she’s also capable of being speedy in her home! She’ll dart around her cage with exact precision. Every time she receives a shredded wheatie in her cage, she’ll run all around her cage with the treat in her mouth for a good 3-4 minutes before choosing a corner to settle down in and get her munch on!

Koko Tutu

Vocal? Hardly! Koko is super quiet, except for little squeaks when you traverse onto her belly during scratch-time.

Human Cuddle Status? Yes, she will! Shocking, right? But Koko is a surprising little jellybean and a total joy to have. She’s the most recent chinchilla to join the family, and it has been a whole new experience! She’s unlike any of my other babies.

Koko and Ellen

Favorite Way to Be Picked Up? This delicate fluffball enjoys being picked up by the torso and tail – she always starts head-shaking when she’s picked up, and it immediately ceases after she’s adjusted (thank goodness her shaking was proven to be an expression of nervousness, not a neurological problem)!

Intelligence? Low. But who needs it when you’re the sweetest chinchilla in all the land! Koko is the slowest to come to the cage door for treats, and when anyone talks sweetly to her, she looks all around in honest confusion! I’m glad she has the eating and drinking thing down, though 😛

Ko ball

Is She Compatible with Other Chinchillas? I personally believe she would be, if I had a sweet cage mate for her. But in the current state of events, no one likes Koko’s scent! It’s so unfortunate: the mosaic sisters have each other, and they look at her as a threat.. the boys don’t register that she’s female, even though they’ve all gone through a lengthy introduction process with her! Sometimes, things just don’t work out the way you’d hope. But it doesn’t detract from the happiness they experience and the joy they bring a dedicated owner separately!

Koko Box Pink

Ready for a Photo Shoot? She’s the reigning queen of photo shoots! I have an endless arsenal of super-cute Koko photos, because she’s so darling and docile and happy to be there. No treats needed – this model is a pro!

Koko Posing

Love to Dust? She dusts in sporadic energetic bursts, but I don’t think she enjoys it or dislikes it either way. Just another part of life for this little sootball.

Three Words/Phrases to Sum Up Her Personality? Docile Darling, A Pure Joy, Luckiest Find in All the Land

Get To Know: Mufftoneous

MUFFTONEOUS [my giant goofball] AKA Muff, Muffton, Muffles, Sir Mufftoneous, Fatty

Black Velvet, Born 07/15/2013, approximately 750 grams

Muff Simba

Role in Playtime Kingdom? Full time jester, and part time squisher/carpet puller/hyper-speed zoomer! Muff is full of energy, energy, energy! He is a total sprinter – incredibly fast for short distances, then off to chill out in a tiny crevice somewhere with his watchful eyes peeking out like a paranoid owl. At times, he has been referred to as “overlord,” because sometimes, it really feels as if he’s the universal puppet master (Muff is so simple that he’s.. infinitely complex?).

Favorite Hiding Place? Under the filing cabinet, where he attacks the entrance at great speed! Don’t worry, it’s now been sectioned off, but it doesn’t stop him from trying to burrow in.

Physical Capability? Agility is super-chinchilla level! Moderate jump height. Willing to walk for rare treats. Will, shockingly, happily finish the entire wood stick, not just the bark. Greatest strength probably being a lack of fear and a sense of youthful invincibility. He is incredibly talented, however, at wall climbing! He even has his own climbing wall in his cage, which has been super customized for his quirky personality.

Vocal? You betcha! Muff will sing, chirp, bark, and from time to time, even scream (especially if he’s hopeful to gain a bit of the girls’ attention). He has been physically vet-cleared as healthy, but there’s some dark music behind that cute little face and gleaming, beady eyes.

Human Cuddle Status? Definitely not. No chance. It’s impossible to contain a squishing athlete! He’ll squirm right out of your arms and bolt away at super speeds! A more recent development, however, is that he LOVES scratches! I’m such a happy chin-momma to see this little guy just melt under the chin and chest rubs!

Favorite Way to Be Picked Up? Sir Mufftoneous will only allow a pick-up with a regal hand elevator. Hand is offered, and Muff will hop right on until the destination is reached.

Intelligence? Eh, it ebbs and flows. Muff can be very loving and kind, but a lot of the time he’s totally ridiculous. I question the gleaming universe behind those eyes – is it empty? Is it just a reflection? What is the meaning of it all?

Muffton Squish

Is He Compatible with Other Chinchillas? Muff is in full love with Lulu. He can’t even bear a moment without her (even though he lives a whole room away from her, and only gets supervised playtimes once a month with his lady). Of course, because his heart is taken, no other chinchilla comes close to interesting. Naturally, this means him and Mitty are pretty much sworn enemies. How cute is Muff around Lulu? Take a look below!

Ready for a Photo Shoot? Muff will jet off even before you get the chance to set him down on set! Good luck, human! The best bet is for Muff to tire himself out during playtime and grab a few shots when he’s resting – and if you insist on a set, you better have some treats on hand.

Love to Dust? Favorite. Thing. Ever! Muffton will stop at nothing! Dusting is his all-time favorite thing in the world. Dust? MORE DUST PLEASE! He bats my hands away every day when dusting is over, eager for just another roll in the heavenly blue cloud.

Muff Dusty Scale2

Three Words/Phrases to Sum Up His Personality? Fearless Goofball, Hopeless Romantic, Jester Who Refuses to Play by Your Rules!

Muff Vday

Next Week… Lulu!

Get To Know: Mittenmaus

MITTENMAUS [my love] AKA Mitty, Mittybae, Mitts, and any other adorable version!

Pure Standard, Born 07/03/2013, approximately 800 grams

Mitty Toy

Role in Playtime Kingdom? Top Dog and engineer – Mitty’s the king of his playtime! He utilizes his time out to jump, surf, investigate, measure, climb, and stretch those adorable paws.

Favorite Hiding Place? Under the couch, but near the edge so he can catch action and wall jump around it at any given point.

Mitty Couchy

Physical Capability? Super strong and a high jumper! Watch his epic jumps below!

Vocal? Sometimes, but this is one mature chin. He doesn’t like to make a ruckus! Mitty has been known to purr or sing from time to time, but never in excess.

Human Cuddle Status? Not a huge fan. 75% of the time will not accept cuddles, although if you catch him on a rare day, he will turn all the way around for scratches! Other than that, puh-leeease! This is a chin that is nearly human! He demands freedom and respect. Eskimo kisses during playtime are a 50/50 shot – take it human, it’s better than nothing.

Loaf

Favorite Way to Be Picked Up? While Mitty doesn’t like feeling small enough to be picked up, he will accept daily and necessary pick-ups with ease. He enjoys being held gingerly by the torso and base of the tail, although he will sometimes rest like a fluffy loaf in my arms (it’s part of the dance before he pounces off and announces cessation from the herd).

Intelligence? Soaring. Super. Very high. Potentially smarter than me. Watch him communicate his needs below!

Is He Compatible with Other Chinchillas? He likes to flirt with Lulu, but has a rocky history with the rest of the group. Muffton was his best bud until they lost their bond – now, they are mortal enemies as they chirp competitively at the ladies. Fifi was once amicable with him until she decided to go berserk and partially sever one of his fingers; needless to say, they don’t talk anymore. Koko is not very interesting to him. So, he spends most of his time alone or with his mom (that’s me!). On rare occasions, he’ll be given supervised playtime with miss Lulu until she starts getting annoyed.

Ready for a Photo Shoot? Nope! He’s no object to be paraded around, and he knows it. He likes to be known for more than just his good looks, and will jet off set as soon as he’s placed on it. Multiple attempts are needed to get a still shot (tips on chinchilla photography here)!

Mitts Mailbox

Love to Dust? Yes! Mitty favors dusting and has no dry skin issues, but he won’t go crazy – he knows how many full body turns he likes to do at bath time (4-5) and after that, he’s all set for the day. He’s all about maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. He’ll do a quick dust every day, as supervised by mom.

Three Words/Phrases to Sum Up His Personality? Smarty-Pants, Freedom Fighter, King of the Castle

Mitty Wicker Chair 2

Next Week… Mufftoneous!

How To: Weigh Your Chinchilla

An often overlooked aspect of chinchilla ownership is weighing your chinchilla. While it’s not imminently necessary if you have a healthy chinchilla, owners often regret not weighing them once an illness or injury has occurred. Because chinchillas don’t show too many visual cues, weight is a great albeit general way to see how everything is doing with your chin. In addition to weight, behavior, consumption, and digestive output (poop!) are important elements to consistently monitor – they’re major cues to any potential problems.

There are only a few simple steps to successfully weighing your chinchilla.

Buy a Scale: Scales are easy to purchase in stores or online, and relatively inexpensive (around $30). I use a digital kitchen and food scale that weigh items (and chinchillas) up to 10-12 lbs. Most chinchillas weigh under 4 pounds, so these scales are more than adequate for your chin-kids. There are many different styles; some have circular platforms, rectangular, oval, and even curved platforms, which many owners love because of its harder-for-chinchillas-to-escape design. I use an Ozeri brand food scale with a circular surface, and it works well for my round babies.

Scale

Be Consistent: It’s important to weigh your chinchilla from time to time in order to utilize the aspect of weight in your chinchilla’s health. Each owner has their own routine: some weigh monthly, weekly, or from time to time when they suspect any health problems. Personally, I try to weigh my chinchillas every day. I feel that the routine helps me bond with my chins and build a level of baseline interaction. Interaction is more important than weight, as it helps you understand any variations in your chinchilla’s behavior (which, if acutely different, should be checked out by an exotic vet). I try and weigh my chinchillas at roughly the same time of the day – although it doesn’t necessarily guarantee consistent results, I try to keep my variables as close to a baseline as possible.

Paper Pen

Understand Variation: Due to consumption, time of day, and slightly altering routines, your chin’s weight can fluctuate daily, upwards of 15-20 grams! It’s important to note that weight is only one indicator of many to your chin’s health. Most of the time, any weight lost yesterday will be replaced tomorrow. My rule is, if there are no changes in consumption, poops, or behavior, then I’ll give my chins one week to bring their weight back up before considering further action. If there’s weight loss coupled with a negative change in any of the other three indicators, I’ll give 2-3 days for self-recovery prior to a vet visit. If there’s weight loss coupled with obvious injury or a more acute drop in consumption or behavior, I’ll schedule a visit for the next day. Growth slows over time and chinchillas are considered full-grown around 8-18 months old; prior to then, chins should be gaining weight steadily over time. Once full-grown, chins should be maintaining their weights or slightly increasing with slight variation. For LY Chinchillas, Mittenmaus is leading the way at 835 grams and Koko ties Fifi for last place at 663 grams! Aside from controllable factors like diet and exercise, uncontrollable factors like genetics and age always have something to do with weight; that’s important to remember.

Muff Holding

The Weighing Process: You only need your chinchilla to be still for 2-3 seconds on the scale in order to successfully record your data. This process can be quite tough for most people, as chinchillas are skittish and hate standing still! Many owners like to tempt stillness with a safe treat – however, with daily weighing, I’ve opted out of the treat option and learned how to hone the chinchillas without any treats. Like many things with chinchilla ownership, the first step is patience. Of course, you’ll want to set your scale to measure in grams, which is the most common unit of measure for these little guys. After that, get familiar with your scale and keep your weight notebook nearby. At that point, these are my steps:

1. I dust my chinchilla. Because we live in an area of relative humidity and none of my chinchillas have dry skin problems (and love to dust), this is added on to my daily routine. This step disorients them a little, and they’ve just exuded a little bit of energy rolling themselves around and getting dizzy. If you’re not able to dust daily or daily dusting isn’t needed due to your geography and preference, then this step can be skipped.

Lulu Holding

2. I carefully lift my chinchilla and place him/her on the scale. I handle them either with them willingly standing on my palm to be transported – see Muff above, or being held gently by the torso and base of the tail – see Lulu above. The scale is located 3-4 feet from their cages; minimizing distance traveled helps the process be as seamless as possible. Patience is key here, as after they are oriented, they’ll try to scurry away and jet. I’ll steady the chinchilla, making sure the tail is lifted and not touching the ground (if the tail is resting on a surface, it will take pressure off the scale and the chinchilla will end up weighing 10-20 grams less) and lift my hands away, keeping a sharp eye on the number and the chin. I’ll try this four or five times if the chinchilla is being uncooperative, cupping my hands around the chin until he/she is still and then removing my hands in an attempt for a quick read. If a chin really isn’t in the mood to stay still, I’ll return the unwilling participant to his or her cage and try again later. At this point, since the scale is part of their daily routine, I have minimal problems and it’s a rare day if I have a chin behaving badly.

Muff Dusty Scale

3. I record their weights. After successful weighing, I won’t have enough time to write their number down. Instead, I’ll memorize the number and place the chinchilla back in their cage, often with a little willow twig or apple stick as a safe chewy reward. After they’re safely in their cage, I’ll write their number down and do a quick comparison. If the number is not showing a steep or steady decline, I’ll continue on the daily routine without worry.

Lulu Willow Stix

4. I analyze the numbers! Every week or two, I’ll enter these numbers in an Excel spreadsheet and graph the bad boys just for some visual fun! Working with numbers isn’t exactly the most exciting thing, so it’s always rewarding to watch the numbers grow and change over time!

Weights

Another method which has been successful for owners (but requires some minimal math or resetting of your scale settings) is to place a container on your scale that more easily confines your chinchilla, then weigh your chinchilla and subtract the weight of the container. This method helps minimize the need to manually contain your chinchilla, although you may need to try this method several times as well, due to any shifting weight or escape attempts. Stillness is key to a successful weighing, and most chins won’t let you succeed too easily! Patience is key to unlocking your chinchilla’s weight, and a can-do attitude never hurts!

Mitty Scale 2

Chinchilla Basics 101

After spending a decent amount of time on social media posting about my fur-babies and receiving feedback, I’ve come to realize that there are quite a few people out there with very basic questions about chinchillas. It seems I’ve skipped right over that in my blog and discussed more complex issues! In an effort to condense all beginner Q&A in one area, I’ve decided to do a very simple blog post with a lot of information this week: Chinchilla Basics 101.

Koko Window

What is a chinchilla? A chinchilla is super soft crepuscular rodent, native to South America’s Andes. Simply because these animals have a rodentia classification, they are no ordinary rodent: they are extremely clean, beautiful animals with a great depth of emotive and intellectual capability. Their name means “little Chincha,” named after the indigenous Chincha people of the Andes. Crepuscular means that chinchillas are most active at dawn and dusk. It is a common misconception that chins are nocturnal, as they are not. In the wild, they’ve been known to live at high altitudes in herds of up to over 100 chinchillas, but as a pet, can be very picky about which chinchilla(s) he or she wants to live with. Chinchillas have poor eyesight but a strong sense of smell, hearing, and through their whiskers, touch. Through their whiskers, they can sense pressure changes and vibrations. They also have excellent memories and are incredibly fast, agile, and can be very high jumpers. Chinchillas are very intelligent and have specific personalities and preferences, which means it can take quite a while to bond and get to truly know your chinchilla. How long can a chinchilla live? Chinchillas can live upwards of 20 years with strong genetics and a healthy diet, although the average is 12-15 years. Chins are no short-term commitment, meaning that a lot of consideration must be made prior to buying your first chinchilla. Your heart may start in the right place, but due to your wallet, growing family, or lost interest, you may put a sweet chinchilla out of a good home, causing this intelligent and emotional animal to become neglected and end up in the hands of someone who doesn’t care to research a chinchilla’s needs as well as another first-time owner. In such a case, you are encouraged to reach out to a chinchilla rescue and research the best options for your pet.

Muff Cuddle Buddy

Are chinchillas considered exotic pets? Chinchillas are critically endangered animals, having been hunted to near-extinction for the profit-hungry fur industry – 90% killed off in the wild in the span of a mere 15 years. They are indeed exotic (although not in terms of import/export in the United States) – there has yet to be extensive scientific research on their species, in terms of intellectual, emotional, or physical capabilities, outside of some agricultural uses. Most of what chinchilla owners know beyond the very basics is based largely on first-hand experience, opinion, or what we have gathered about chinchillas prior to hunting them out of the wild. Since chins have been domesticated, bred in captivity, and raised as pets, chinchilla breeding has become an art of sorts – with very beautiful colors (i.e. Blue Diamond) and variations (i.e. Royal Persian Angora and Locken), in extremely exclusive markets (i.e. select markets have refused to sell to others, keeping the costs of certain variations of chinchillas in the high thousands). Aside from color mutations and breeding variations, chinchillas are all-around very special animals, with special needs. A few of these needs are:

  • Temperature: chinchillas can overheat at temperatures over 75°F, as they do not have sweat glands. Chinchillas have 50-100 hairs per follicle, as compared to a human’s 1 to 1 ratio. They are built for high altitude, cold environments with very low humidity. Owners are responsible for recreating that environment – it’s suggested to keep your chin’s living space between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (still comfortable for owners, safe for chinchillas). Red ears are a sure sign of overheating: if your chinchilla is too hot, be sure to place him/her in a cool environment with a cool slab of granite and closely monitor his or her water and food consumption. Be sure to always have a 24-hour exotic vet’s contact information on hand, in case of emergency.
  • Diet: Chinchillas should be free-fed, and they have very specific diets (and very sensitive little tummies!). While they can over-indulge on any plethora of treats, they cannot overeat on their diet basics: high quality chinchilla pellets and fresh Timothy hay. Read up on my version of a safe chinchilla diet here.
  • Teeth: Dental care for chinchillas is critical for a healthy lifestyle. Chin teeth are constantly growing, and need to be filed down with wood chews to stay healthy. There are quite a few dental problems that can occur, rising either genetically or through poor care. It’s imperative to have a plethora of safe woods and chews readily available for your chinchilla and check for any changes in consumption or behavior, as changes could be a sign of dental problems.
  • Health: Chinchillas require careful monitoring, as they do not show illness or pain very visibly. They are unable to communicate in the way a dog or cat could whine, as some chins are not very vocal. It’s necessary for owners to constantly monitor food and water consumption, as well as ‘output’.
  • Cage: Ideally, chinchillas need spacious, non-plastic, multilevel cages with safe wood platforms and other elements to encourage chewing and prevent boredom. Additionally, wire bottomed cages can create a condition known as ulcerative pododermatitis, or “bumblefoot”, which is a bacterial infection that occurs from calloused feet. It’s important that if you have a wire cage, offer many areas where the wire is covered with fleece or replaced with hard flooring. Read up on how to build your own custom chinchilla cage here.
  • Exercise: Chinchillas need a good amount of safe room for exercise and stretching their furry legs! Everything in your chin’s exercise space must be chinchilla-proofed – tight spaces must be closed off, sharp objects put away, wires and molding hidden behind blankets or cardboard. It’s necessary for owners to be present and active watchers during playtime, in case something goes awry. Chinchillas are like babies – they truly need constant supervision. Read up on tips for chinchilla playtime here.
  • Cleaning: Well, chinchillas are high maintenance. You’ll find yourself vacuuming, dusting, sweeping, filling food bowls, hay racks, and water bottles, sneezing up dust and hay particles left and right. It’s no glamorous job, but owners have to do it daily. I would say that upwards of 33.33% of my relationship with my chinchillas is active cleaning or feeding duty.

Mitty Cage

Are chinchillas easy to care for? No. Do not be fooled by pet stores or oblivious owners. If you are a caring owner, chinchillas are not easy pets. Be prepared to spend at least an hour a day with these guys, especially if you want to bond with them. My family has often told me my energy and time dedicated to my 5 chinchillas is very similar to owning a mid-sized dog (albeit a dog that can live up to 20 years), and I wouldn’t disagree. It requires just as much time, money, energy, and emotion to adequately provide what I consider to be a happy life for these guys. Does it get easier? Yes. With time, routine, and a little bit of help from your loved ones, caring for your chinchillas is like riding a bike – still takes energy, but you get stronger with experience.

Ellen and Koko

Why do chinchillas need dust baths? Because chinchillas have around 60 hairs per follicle, their fur is the densest in the world. Their fur is so dense that they cannot contract fleas, nor bathe in water to clean themselves. Their fur is not be able to dry naturally and could create deadly fungus or other skin conditions if not treated immediately (AKA carefully blow-dried on the coolest setting). In the wild, chins bathe in volcanic ash to ensure the richness and cleanliness of their dense coats, which helps to remove moisture and oil. In captivity, chins bathe in a very similar dust (created from ultra-fine aluminum silicate powder), often branded as Californian blue cloud dust. If your chinchilla has dry skin problems (this can occur in dryer times of the year), dust 2-3 times per week. If your chinchillas have no skin issues and love to dust, daily dusting is totally fine!

What items do I need/should I buy for my first chinchilla?

  • Cage: Try at all cost to avoid plastic, which most chins will chew up, and as mentioned before, cover wire bottoms. Cages should be multilevel, spacious, and if you have the time/energy, you should build your own! It’s suggested that chins should have a safe wooden house to hide away in while they become accustomed to their new environment.
  • Food: High quality pellets and a variety of hays (Timothy should always be available and the foundation for your chin’s hay diet). Read up on my version of a good diet here.
  • Wood and Chews: The more, the better! Woods and chews prevent boredom and encourage teeth filing. Read up on your safest options here.
  • Ceramic Bowls: One for hay and one for pellets! Ceramic tends to be most popular, but I also use some very thick bottom-heavy glass bowls – it’s important to ensure glass bowls don’t tip and aren’t movable. If you’re able to affix these to your shelves, that would be for the best. Chins love to tip bowls over. I would suggest a hay rack as well, but certain types are chin-dangerous in their structure, so I would avoid using a rack until you do a bit more research about what works with your particular cage and what will be safest for your setup.
  • Glass Water Bottle: Avoid plastic! Chins will chew right through them, leaving them without water and a big mess.
  • Dust: Blue cloud dust is widely available on the web, and can be bought in bulk quantities if needed. I start with 2-3 cups of dust in my container, reuse that quantity daily for all my chins, and add a half cup every week. It’s best to use a mostly closed container with an opening for fresh air. Remember to dust in a confined area because Dust. Gets. Everywhere. It’s important to note that not every chin needs to be dusted daily; mine do because they love to dust, have no dry skin issues, and we live in an area with moderate humidity.
  • Granite or Stone Slab: Chinchillas need to stay cool, as you now should know. A slab of granite or polished stone will do nicely for a nice relaxing place to sleep, although it is in no way a replacement for the proper environment and temperature!
  • Air Conditioning Unit and Thermometer: Yep, this is a step that’s critical for the warmer times of the year! Chinchillas don’t have sweat glands and are densely surrounded with fur, so they need to stay cool year-round at temperatures 75°F and below. Over-heating can be deadly, so don’t skimp on this one!
  • Food Scale: Most commonly, chins are weighed in grams. Due to genetics, diet, and other factors, full-grown chinchilla weights can vary dramatically, from 400 g to 1200 g+! Most chinchillas are considered full grown around 8-18 months, so they should be constantly growing until then. As aforementioned, since chinchillas aren’t very expressive, their weight is a great way to see how they’re doing, and to determine the possibility of illness or injury. Any sharp decreases in weight should warrant an exotic vet visit ASAP. I keep record of my chins’ weight daily, so I know that there can be quite a variance in their weights on any given day due to consumption level, time of day, and other factors. Weights can fluctuate up to 20 grams a day, but as long as overall trend is upwards or at least the same over a period of 2-3 months, I’m happy. Read about how to weigh your chinchilla here!

Start there, and learn as you go! Sure, as time goes on you’ll probably look into a wheel, hammock, cuddle buddy, and other fun accoutrements for your pet. But basics are basics, and that’s what this post is all about. I hope you find this helpful, and feel free to share with your friends and acquaintances – you know, the ones who ask, “What’s a chinchilla?” 🙂