For any new chinchillas owner, one of the very first questions you need to ask is “what can chinchillas eat?”
If you don’t have at least a basic understanding of chinchillas dietary needs, then there is the potential they could become seriously ill as they have extremely strict dietary requirements.
In this post, we will share the foods your chinchilla should be eating on a daily basis, how much they should be eating as well as what foods they need to stay away from.
So what can chinchillas eat? Chinchillas require a diet that mainly consists of timothy hay with the addition of supplementary chinchilla pellets. Chinchillas also require small amounts of fresh greens and can be fed occasional treats such as dried fruit from time to time.
Read On to Learn…
What Can Chinchillas Eat? (More Info)
Chinchillas, for the most part, eat a really basic and simple diet that consists of very few foods.
The good thing is that even though chinchillas don’t eat a vast selection and variety of foods, they get most if not all of the nutrition they need from this basic diet.
This is what your chinchilla’s diet should look like…
Hay – Unlimited amounts (80-90% of the diet)
Pellets – Limited amounts to complement hay diet
Fresh Greens – Small amounts offered daily
Fruit – Very small amounts offered on occasion
Let’s now break down the different elements of a chinchilla’s diet and see exactly what they should be eating to keep them both happy and healthy…
Hay For Chinchillas:
Hay should account for anywhere between 80-90% of your chinchilla’s food intake so from these numbers alone it’s clear to see that good quality hay is undoubtedly the most vital part of your chinchilla’s diet.
Hey is extremely high in fibre which is important as the dietary tract of a chinchilla requires constant movement and large amounts of fibre are essential to help with this process. Source:
The teeth of a chinchilla are also constantly growing and coarse hay is a must to keep their teeth short and shaped correctly.
Alfalfa hay is usually recommended for young, growing chinchillas as it helps them to put on weight quickly but this is usually only offered until the age of around 9 months old.
If you want to know what age baby chinchillas are weaned then head over to our post that shares all you need to know…
Feeding adult chinchillas too much alfalfa hay can cause obesity and even calcium stones as the level of calcium and other nutrients is too high and out of balance.
Adult chinchillas are recommended to eat timothy hay as this provides all the nutrients your chinchilla needs and in the correct quantities.
It is also coarse enough to keep their teeth short and stop them from overgrowing.
(Later in this post, we will share the exact brand of timothy hay we recommend you purchase as well as the cheapest place to get it from)
Timothy hay should be offered in unlimited quantities so your chinchilla can graze and feed on it continually throughout the day, again, more on the exact amounts of food to offer your chin each day later in the post.
Pellets For Chinchillas
Chinchillas also need their diets to be supplemented with pellets to round off and balance their nutritional needs.
Pellets should be hay-based and fortified with additional vitamins. A good quality pellet usually contains vitamins such as vitamins A, B12, D3 & E.
In contrast to hay, where you should provide it in large quantities, pellets should be offered in smaller amounts and make up more of the remaining 10% of your chinchilla’s diet.
Later in the post, we will share the exact pellets we recommend you feed your chinchilla so head over to that section of the post if you are looking for good quality pellets.
Greens For Chinchillas
Greens especially leafy greens are a food group that you can and should offer to your chinchilla on a regular basis.
Even though greens are considered healthy or even vital for the majority of the animal kingdom, they are actually less important to the health of a chinchilla so they should only be offered in smaller quantities.
Providing greens in small amounts and not too often is something you will have to get used to as a chinchillas owner due to the fact that chinchillas have unusual nutritional needs
This means that feeding too many greens can cause an unbalanced amount of nutrients such as elevated levels of calcium and in turn, cause health issues.
Even though this might sound really confusing, if you follow the feeding guide later in the post then you should have no issues with over or underfeeding greens to your chinchilla.
Fruit For Chinchillas
Fruit is a food that can be offered to your chinchilla as a treat. As a general rule of thumb, chinchillas don’t need fruit to be considered healthy and they don’t need it in their diet.
In addition to this, a lot of fruit can actually be harmful to chinchillas and they certainly can’t just eat any and all fruits.
Chinchillas have an extremely sensitive digestive system and the large amounts of sugar that are usually present in fruit can be harmful to your chinchilla.
Fruit can cause problems to chinchillas such as…
- Gas (Serious & Even Deadly)
- Tooth Decay
It’s always best to check before you offer your chinchilla a new fruit just to make sure it’s safe and to see just how much you can offer them in one sitting.
In this post, we have listed many of the safe fruits for chinchillas although this list isn’t conclusive.
We will be constantly adding new dedicated posts where we spotlight popular fruits so you can see in detail if the fruit is safe as well as how often and how much to offer your chinchilla.
Two such posts that we have recently published are…
Dried fruit is often preferred to regular fruit, this is down to the fact that dried fruit offers much less water (which is considered bad for chinchillas) as well as increased levels of other nutrients such as fibre.
The only downside to dried fruit is that as nutrients such as fibre increase so does the sugar content and this can elevate the amounts of sugar into alarming levels.
Either way, you need to be careful when offering your chin both fruit and dried fruit and always check to see if the fruit is recommended for chinchillas and what quantities it should be offered in.
What Is The Best Hay For Chinchillas?
As we mentioned earlier, hay is the most important part of a chinchilla’s diet.
There are so many different hay varieties to choose from and sometimes it can be hard to know which ones will serve your chinchilla’s nutritional needs the best.
With all things considered, the best 2 hay choices for your chinchilla are…
- Timothy Hay
- Orchard Grass Hay
There is very little difference in the nutrition provided between timothy hay and orchard grass hay.
Timothy Hay Vs Orchard Grass Hay
|Hay Type||Protein %||Fat %||Fibre %|
|Orchard Grass Timothy Hay||7%||1.5%||32%|
One thing that’s worth pointing out is that orchard grass hay is slightly more coarse than standard timothy hay and will do a better job of keeping your chinchilla’s teeth short if they are starting to look overgrown.
Having said this, both hay varieties will do a great job of keeping your chins teeth short and providing them with the nutrients they need to be healthy.
We have created a list where we share our recommended timothy hay and orchard hay products to feed your chinchilla as well as the best place to purchase them from and you can access the list right here…
What Are The Best Chinchilla Pellets?
When it comes to pellets for chinchillas, it’s important that you purchase pellets that are specifically designed for chinchillas.
There are some great hay-based pellets out there on the market that complement your chinchilla’s hay-based diet and fill in the gaps in your chin’s nutrition really well.
The brand that we would recommend using is ‘Oxbow’ as their pellets are of a high quality and are fortified with vitamins such as vitamin D3.
Again, you can head over to our dedicated page here…where we share all of our recommended food products for your chinchilla and the best place to purchase them from.
What Greens & Vegetables Can Chinchillas Eat?
Chinchillas don’t need a whole lot of greens in their diet but they are still important in the right quantities.
Just because a green on the list below is labelled ‘safe’ doesn’t mean that you can feed your chinchilla unlimited amounts of that green or vegetable.
All greens and veggies should be offered in limited quantities and in moderation. Later in the post, we will show you how much hay, pellets, greens and fruit your chinchillas should ideally eat per day.
Feeding greens and vegetables in large quantities can upset the nutritional balance of the hay and pellets you are providing to your chinchilla.
Greens and veggies that would usually be considered really healthy choices for most animals can be harmful to chinchillas as nutrients such as calcium can cause unwanted health problems if consumed too often and in large quantities.
Below we have listed the most common greens that your chinchillas can safely eat in moderation as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Please remember that there are hundreds of greens and vegetables from around the world.
For this reason, we have chosen to list the most common greens and veggies that owners often choose to feed their chinchillas and that we can validate are safe using veterinary sources such as the PDSA.
We recommend that you stick to simple and researched greens and vegetables rather than experimenting with all sorts of different options that really aren’t needed, remember, a chinchilla only needs a simple diet to be both happy and healthy.
List Of Safe Greens & Vegetables For Chinchillas:
- Sweet Potato
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Green Leaf Lettuce
What Fruits Can Chinchillas Eat?
Fruits should only ever be offered as a treat to your chinchilla. Once again, this boils down to the fact that chinchillas don’t need the nutrition from fruits to be healthy so they are only a luxury.
The problem is that the majority of fruits are high enough in sugar to cause your chinchilla digestive problems amongst other things so only a handful are really considered safe enough to eat even in small quantities.
The list below contains the fruits that chinchillas can eat in moderation and as part of a balanced diet…
Fruit Chinchillas Can Eat:
- Green Apples
- Apricots (dried)
- Dried Fruit (various)
What Treats Can Chinchillas Eat?
Apart from the fruits that we mentioned above, that can be offered in really small quantities, there are a handful of foods that are considered healthy enough to feed to your chinchilla as treats.
Remember that treats are only supposed to be offered sparingly and not in large amounts daily.
Foods You Can Feed to Your Chinchilla as Treats Include:
Rope Hips are considered one of the healthiest treats you can offer your chinchilla. They are extremely high in fibre while offering low amounts of sugar.
Hibiscus is known to be a healthy treat for chinchillas if offered in small quantities and is often used in commercial chinchilla treats.
The popular cereal Cheerios are also seen as a treat that chinchillas can eat due to their dried nature and high amounts of fibre.
You can find out exactly which variety of Cheerios is safe to feed to your chinchilla right here…(We researched all popular varieties and only recommend feeding your chinchilla these 2 varieties)
What Foods Can’t Chinchillas Eat?
As well as knowing what foods chinchillas can eat, it’s also important to understand what common foods your chinchilla should be staying away from too.
We have created a list of common foods that chinchilla owners regularly contemplate feeding their chinchilla.
The foods below are considered unsafe or too unhealthy to feed to your chinchilla and therefore should be avoided…
Foods Chinchillas Can’t Eat:
- Apple Sauce
- Bell Peppers
- Brussel Sprouts
- Dandelion Greens (the flower)
- Iceberg Lettuce
- Sunflower Seeds
What Do Chinchillas Like to Chew?
Like most rodents, chinchillas love to chew things. Chewing is good for your chinchilla’s teeth as they continually grow throughout their lives and chewing safe objects will help to keep their teeth short and healthy.
Providing your chinchilla with safe wood for them to chew on is the best and most convenient option.
Anu wood sticks you offer your chin needs to be from non-toxic trees and free from pesticides.
You can either purchase wood sticks from a store or collect your own.
If you decide to collect your own wood then you need to make sure you do a few things before handing it over to your chinchilla.
- Wash The wood Thoroughly (remove all visible dirt)
- Boil The Wood In a Pan For 1 Hour
- Bake For 1 hour at Around 200°F
- Ensure Sticks Are Totally Dry (should easily snap under pressure)
The PDSA also recommends that you bake any wood you offer to your chinchilla for an hour and also give it a thorough wash to ensure it’s safe and clean.
Here Are Safe Wood Options For Chinchillas to Chew On:
- Elm & Red Elm
- Grape & Grapevine
- Willow (goat, pussy or weeping willow)
Do Chinchillas Need Water?
There is often a lot of confusion about if chinchillas actually need water.
This is because chins can get ill if they are exposed to large amounts of water on their fur.
The answer is that chinchillas do need fresh water daily and if they don’t have access to water they will become dehydrated and eventually become ill and die.
Water should be provided in the form of a water bottle rather than a bowl as this is much more hygienic for your chinchilla.
As for what kind of water chinchillas solid drink, you can’t just give them any old water from the tap.
Take a look at this guide that shares the types of water your chinchilla can drink…
Water Options For Chinchillas
|Tap Water||Yes & No||Most tap water is clean, however, dirty water can contain giardia and would not be suitable for use in your Chinchilla Water Bottle. Always check the quality of your tap water at home before choosing this option.|
|Filtered Water||Yes||Filtered water is ideal for use in Chinchilla bottles. It is the purest type of water available and it does not contain any bacteria.|
|Distilled Water||Yes||Distilled water isn’t as easy to get hold of as water from the tap and it, unfortunately, does not contain any minerals which your Chinchilla needs. There is, however, no harm in using this type of water providing they get enough minerals from elsewhere.|
|Bottled Water||Yes||Bottles water is safe for chinchillas to use but is an expensive way of providing your Chinchilla with water and some would consider this quite wasteful|
How Much Should My Chinchilla Eat?
It’s important to know how much food you need to offer your chinchilla each day in order for them to be considered healthy.
Offering too much or too little of one food group can cause your chin to have digestive and even health issues.
Take a look at the guide below that details what foods your chinchilla should eat and in what quantities…
- Timothy or Orchard Grass Hay – Always Available
- Chinchilla Pellets – 1-2 tbsp per day
- Fresh Greens – 1 tsp per day
- Fruit/Treat – 2-3 times per week
Note: It’s important to understand that this is a guide only. Please talk to your vet for a detailed diet plan that suits the individual needs of your pet.
What Nutrients Are Important For Chinchillas?
Like most animals in the world, chinchillas require a variety of nutrients to be considered healthy and for their organs to work correctly.
With this being said, as an owner, there is one nutrient that you will notice your chinchilla seems to need more than anything else…and that’s fibre.
Chinchillas require large amounts of fibre in their diet for their digestive system to function correctly.
It’s important to offer your chinchillas an unlimited amount of fresh hay in their cage daily so they can continually consume the large amounts of fibre they need.
Here is a breakdown of the nutrients your chinchilla needs in their diet and in what percentages…
- Fibre – 30-35%
- Protein – 16-20%
- Fat – 2-5%
- Sugar – 3-4%
What Nutrients Are Unhealthy If Overfed to Your Chinchilla?
Chinchillas have an extremely sensitive digestive system as we have already mentioned in this article.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep their diet simple and stick to their base diet as much as possible and only add the foods that are needed to keep your chinchilla healthy.
Basic nutrients such as sugar, fat and even calcium can all cause health problems to chinchillas if they are overfed.
Let’s now take a look at each of these and see why you need to only offer foods that are high in these nutrients sparingly…
Because of the sensitive nature of a chinchilla’s digestive tract, sugar can be extremely harmful even if it’s fed in moderate quantities.
Sugar can cause problems such as…
- Tooth Rot
While long term overfeeding of sugary foods can cause problems such as tooth decay and obesity, even overfeeding sugary food just once and cause diarrhoea and gas.
This might not sound that bad at first, however, the fact that a chinchilla’s digestional tract isn’t adapted to processing large amounts of sugar means that it can be left to ferment and cause gas.
This is made worse by the fact that chinchillas don’t have the ability to pass gas and therefore the situation can become extremely painful and in some cases, it has actually caused death.
Always offer small amounts of sugar to your chinchillas and seek advice from your vet if you still aren’t sure.
Fat is another nutrient that chinchillas need in very small amounts to be considered healthy.
In the wild, chins consume very small amounts of fat in their diet so offering them a high-fat diet that their gastrointestinal tract isn’t used to can lead to more digestive problems.
Chinchillas only need to consume around 3-5% fat in their diet which is easily attainable from their base diet so foods such as nuts and sunflower seeds need to be avoided.
Calcium & Phosphorus
Calcium and phosphorus play an important role in your chinchilla’s diet, albeit a complicated one.
Too much calcium can have a negative effect on a chinchilla’s health as excessive amounts can cause calcium stones.
On the flip side to this, if your chinchillas have more phosphorus than calcium in their diet then this can also cause health problems with muscle development, bones health and growth.
Ideally, you want to offer your chinchillas a low to moderate calcium diet that on the whole contains more calcium than phosphorus.
The recommended ratio for calcium to phosphorus is 2:1 so that’s two parts calcium to every one part phosphorus.
This is a general rule for most small animals such as hedgehogs and even the majority of reptiles.
You don’t need to panic about the role that calcium and phosphorus play in the health of your chinchilla, instead, simply stick to a basic and recommended diet of fresh hay, supplemented with pellets and a small number of fresh greens or vegetables.
If you do this, your chins diet should easily fall into this low calcium and even lower phosphorus model providing you stick to safe and recommended greens and veggies.