For people who own chinchillas and are looking into breeding them, they might wonder if chinchillas eat their babies?
Before owning a pet, it is a good idea to know everything about them, which includes details on breeding them.
In this post, we take a close look and find out if chinchillas actually eat their babies? Or if this is just a myth? As well as answering all of your other questions related to this topic.
So, do chinchillas eat their babies? Chinchillas are known to eat their babies, although it is very rare. The reasons why they do this are varied and can range from their babies dying to the mother being starved and needing food to help the other babies survive.
Read On to Find Out…
Do Chinchillas Eat Their Babies? (A Closer Look)
It might seem totally unrealistic to even consider that a mother chinchilla could eat her babies.
With this being said, chinchillas, as well as many other animals in the animal kingdom, do actually eat their babies if they feel it is necessary.
To us humans, it can seem unnatural and often barbaric to eat a child, especially our own but when an animal gives birth, they have to make sure their babies are healthy if they want to begin nursing.
When that isn’t the case for a baby, the mother will see that baby as a resource and eat it.
It is often rare for chinchillas to eat their babies, however, it has been known to happen and can be quite a shock for owners.
It is uncommon for the mother chinchilla to eat the babies after they are three weeks old. If it does occur, then the best course of action is to separate the mother from the babies and hand-rear them yourself.
Do Wild Chinchillas Eat Their Babies?
In the wild, it is more ruthless and life can be unkind to animals. Take, for example, a mother bear or lion who has given birth in the wild.
These animals will sometimes kill their own babies if they can’t nurse them or find enough food to keep them all sustained.
If one of the babies dies, the mother will likely eat it to not only nourish her but to remove the carcass.
Barthel explained why, by saying, “That way there’s nothing rotting in her den which might attract predators.”
For chinchillas, which are small creatures and might find it difficult to fight off predators, this would be a key reason why chinchillas eat their babies in the wild, especially if they have already died from infection.
Another reason why a wild chinchilla may eat its own child is if the mother is starving. When the mother chinchilla can’t eat, their milk production slows down, which will cause the babies to starve too.
The mother will often remedy this by killing and eating the weakest kit to ensure the survival of the rest.
Why Do Chinchillas Eat Their Babies?
There are a number of reasons why a mother chinchilla might eat their baby. The unpleasant act can be driven by a few logical processes and they are:
- The mother is starving and maybe about to die (For this reason the mother will eat one or more of the babies to save the rest)
- The mother will eat a baby if it is severely ill
- The mother will eat a baby if it dies from an illness, accident or is failing to thrive like the others
- Fear of a predator
Here’s a more detailed look at all of these reasons…
The Mother Will Eat Her Baby If She Is Starving
This might sound barbaric but mother chinchillas and many other animals throughout nature will actually eat their babies if they themselves are starving.
There are thought to be a couple of reasons for this, the first is that if the mother can’t find enough food to feed her babies or herself, then she feels forced to kill and eat one of her own babies to then reduce the amount of food she needs to find and distribute between her other babies.
The second reason is that the mother can’t look after any of her babies if she is starving so eating one of them replenishes her energy and allows her to look after her other babies.
If she didn’t do this then she would likely die and so would all of her babies so she is just making the best out of a bad situation and sacrificing one of her young for the good of everyone else.
Right now you might be wondering how many babies do chinchillas have in a litter? Well, we have the answer for you in this post…(spoiler it’s not as many as you think)
The Mother Will Eat Her Baby If The The Baby Is Ill
Mother chinchillas will sometimes eat one of their babies if they are ill or weak.
When we say ‘ill’ and ‘weak’ we don’t mean that the baby is having a little off day but rather that they will struggle to fend for themselves once they are weaned.
The mother will often decide that there is little to no point using her resources to feed and look after a baby that has no chance of survival anyway.
The baby may also pose a risk when out looking for food if they can’t move or run at the level and speed that’s required to escape from predators and this can often lead to putting the rest of the babies and the mother in danger.
The bottom line is that if the mother chinchillas think that the baby is a liability then there’s a chance that she will eat the baby for the good of herself and her other young.
The Mother Will Eat Her Baby If The Baby Is Dead
It’s common throughout nature and also with chinchillas that the mother will eat the baby if it happens to die either from illness or an accident.
This can be to not waste vital nutrients as in the wild, nutrition can be hard to come by even though chinchillas are herbivores by nature.
Another common reason why chinchillas and other animals will eat the carcass of their dead baby is to hide the body and smell from predators that might be nearby.
If a chinchilla family is hiding and the rotting carcass of a dead baby attracts a predator then it could bring danger to the mother and all the babies that are still alive.
The safest thing to do is eat the carcass so there is less chance of predators being attracted.
The Mother Will Eat Her Baby If She Is Fearful Of a Predator
Similar to the reason we mentioned above, a mother chinchilla may be tempted to eat her baby if she feels that a predator is near.
If a mother feels extremely threatened to the point where she is sure that her babies are going to be killed by a predator she might eat them herself before the predator does.
At first, this might sound pointless, however, she will do this so she can escape and have more litters throughout her life all while not wasting vital nutrients that would have gone to the predator.
How To Reduce the Chances of A Chinchilla Eating Its Baby
If you are looking to breed your chinchillas, then you will need to know how to increase the chances of survival for the babies.
Around 7-10 babies will survive to adulthood, which is a high rate when it comes to rodents. You must be prepared for not all of the chinchilla babies to survive.
We also have to remember that chinchillas can reach sexual maturity at 7-10 months old, which is young for an animal that lives so many years and you can’t always expect a young mother to make all the right decisions.
This is another reason why as an owner, you need to do all you can to help the mother chinchilla, especially a young mother to raise a successful litter.
There are a number of ways to help reduce the chances of a chinchilla eating one or more her babies and to raise a successful litter.
Read on to learn how to help on your mother chinchilla raise a successful litter and not feel forced to eat her babies…
Separate the Mother and Father
Before the mother gives birth to the chinchillas, it is a good idea to separate the male and female. Compared to other species, chinchilla fathers can be good parents and take care of the young as well.
The reason why you need to separate them is that the male will want to mate again with the female as soon as she has given birth.
If you don’t want to have more chinchilla babies than those in the first litter, keep them apart. While it would be an inconvenience to owners, it can also be stressful for the female chinchillas.
It is very easy to separate them. Simply buy the male a new cage with everything they need.
You can head over to our recommended cages page where we share the 2 best cages we suggest you house your chinchillas in.
If you are wondering when you should separate them, a week before the birth is a good time.
Buy a New cage For the Chinchilla Babies
Chinchilla babies are more independent than you might realise. Compared to some animals, they are born with a full coat of fur and can even open their eyes and ears straight away.
This allows them to explore from the moment they are born and interact with the cage they’re in.
At first, chinchillas have to live with their mother, but they can be separated later on once they are weaned. Before this happens, make sure that you have a suitable cage ready with enough space for them to play and relax.
Question – Do you know at what age baby chinchillas are weaned? Head over to our new article that answers that very question…
If you choose to get them a wire cage, make sure they won’t be able to escape through the bars and that the floor of the cage is solid so they don’t injure themselves.
Limit Other Pets Near Your Chinchillas
As we mentioned earlier, nursing animals can be fearful of what they perceive as predators and this can force them to eat their young.
Other pets such as dogs and cats can be seen as predators by the chinchilla.
If your chinchilla fears that your other pets might be trying to kill one of her babies then there’s a chance she will eat them before the predator does or in this case before the dog does.
For this reason, it’s best to keep all other pets away from your chinchilla if possible and allow the mother time and space to feel relaxed and calm.
Provide Enough Food
This may sound pretty self-explanatory, however, it’s very important that you ensure the mother chinchilla has all the food and fresh water she needs at all times.
If the mother thinks she is going to stare then it could possibly kick in their survival instinct to save herself by eating one of her young.
You can check out our new guide that lists out our handpicked hay and chinchilla pellets that we recommend as well as the cheapest place to grab them from…
Kep Them Warm
Baby chinchillas have to be kept warm once they are born. Most of the time they will stay close to the mother, but sometimes you may need to add a heating pad to the cage. This is especially true if there is a large litter.
Other Ways to Help
There are many little things that are often overlooked but these little things can often cause your mother chinchilla to become scared, anxious and uneasy.
Ultimately this can result in her fearing for the lives of her babies and unfortunately eating one for the reasons we mentioned throughout this article.
These often-overlooked reasons are…
- No hides and tunnels in the cage (makes the mother feel exposed)
- Don’t have the TV on loudly near your chinchilla’s cage
- Don’t have the radio on near your chinchilla’s cage
- Don’t allow lots of visitors to come near the cage all at once
Common Ailments In Chinchilla Babies
As we found out, one of the reasons why a chinchilla may eat its own child is if it becomes ill or comes down with a disease.
There are a number of common ailments that can affect chinchilla babies.
The more you know about them, the quicker you can treat them so they all remain healthy and alive.
Conjunctivitis – This is often caused by a viral infection and bacteria entering the eye socket. To treat this, you will need to visit a vet and get some antibiotic drops for them. Make sure to treat the area regularly.
Sore Eyes – most often a baby chinchilla will get sore eyes from scratches and abrasions, as well as foreign objects getting into their eye. Make sure you treat it straight away with a saline solution and take them to the vet if you notice any infection.
Indigestion – overfeeding will cause babies to have digestion issues. Chinchillas can suffer from all sorts of problems due to their sensitive GI tract including diarrhoea.
It is more common among chinchillas who are being hand-fed instead of sucking their mother’s milk. If you have to hand feed the baby for whatever reason, make sure you don’t feed them too much.
Injuries – like any small animal, they are more likely to injure themselves shortly after birth as they are more fragile. Make sure the mother is set up in a safe environment before giving birth and separate the father so he doesn’t trample on the babies.
Temperature variations – baby chinchillas have to be kept warm at a constant temperature. A drop in temperature is one of the main reasons why baby chinchillas die. Keep their cage away from any draughts and cover with blankets if necessary to keep them warm.
while it is rare for a chinchilla to eat its own babies, breeders and owners should always be prepared for the unexpected to happen.
If you prepare before the birth and monitor them closely afterwards, you should be able to raise a healthy litter of chinchillas.