Raising kits (baby chinchillas) can be a pretty daunting experience for any owner, but it can also be lots of fun and present tons of new things to learn along the way.
One of the key questions commonly asked by owners is ‘when are chinchillas weaned?’ This is a very valid question and one with a very definite answer.
So, at what age are chinchillas weaned? Chinchillas are weaned at 12 weeks old on average. It is important that weaning begins no earlier than 8 weeks old to eliminate any health and behaviour problems. Experts believe 12 weeks old is the ideal age providing the kit has reached the optimum weight of 200 grams.
Read On to Find Out…
When Are Chinchillas Weaned? (more info)
Kits can grow at a considerable rate in the first 2-3 months of life and sometimes owners are mistaken for thinking that their kit is ready to be weaned much sooner than they really are.
12 weeks old is the recommended age for chinchillas to be weaned, however, you must ensure that they have reached a suitable weight of 200 grams to even consider starting the weaning process.
Kits under 8 weeks old must be left to mature further until they are developed enough to start weaning.
The weaning process is something that shouldn’t be rushed as this can have health implications going forward.
Can You Wean a Chinchilla Too Early?
If the weaning process is started too early, it is likely for issues to arise. Behavioural problems are a pretty common consequence as are health problems, in particular digestive issues.
There is also the welfare factor to consider. Essentially, by weaning, you are removing the kit out of its mother’s care and preparing it for a new life of its own without the food source and protection its mother provides.
Weaning too early can be considered an act of cruelty and neglect. Always ensure your kit is at the correct age and weight before considering starting this process.
Can You Wean a Chinchilla Too Late?
In complete contrast weaning too late can also cause serious issues. If Chinchillas are weaned later than 12 weeks from the maternal cage it is likely they will have already reached sexual maturity.
This is a time when female Chinchillas become fertile and receptive to breeding and male Chinchillas are ready for the reproduction phase of life.
The consequences of weaning too late are likely to consist of severe fighting between siblings and inbreeding is also highly possible.
Chinchillas, along with many other animal species, are oblivious to the fact they are related to their siblings. Once sexual maturity has been reached, all bets are off.
Blood relative mating partners, with similar DNA, can produce offspring with serious genetic conditions and abnormalities. It is also responsible for a decreased biological fitness of the Chinchilla population, known as inbreeding depression, which affects their ability to survive and reproduce.
Are All Chinchillas Weaned at The Same Age?
A female Chinchilla can mate on average up to 3 times a year and Chinchilla litters are usually very small in comparison to other animal species.
You should expect an average pregnancy to be between 1-2 kits, but it has been known for female Chinchillas to give birth to up to 4 kits in one litter in rare cases.
We have actually researched this in detail and you can find out everything you need to know about how many chinchillas are in a litter in under 3 minutes right here…
In an ideal world, you want to wean all the kits from the litter at the same time, but this isn’t always possible. Certain factors determine whether a kit is ready to be weaned such as overall health and physical development.
You may have a kit in the litter who has reached the recommended age for weaning but is underweight. In this instance, you would want to wait for the kit to further develop, however you may have others in the litter which are ready to do so.
Guidelines are a great teaching tool however an element of your own hands-on experience should always be factored into the equation. If you can see your kit is clearly not ready for weaning at the recommended age you should refrain from sticking strictly to the guidelines.
Does Weight Matter When Weaning a Chinchilla?
Yes. Weight absolutely does matter with Chinchillas. Whether they are a new-born kit or an adult, weighing Chinchillas regularly is vital for their wellbeing. As is feeding them a healthy Chinchilla diet.
Why not head over to our new chinchilla diet and food list guide that shares all the foods that your chinchilla needs to be healthy as well as the ones they need to stay away from
When Chinchillas are first born, you should expect them to weigh around 35-60 grams as standard.
Every week you should expect to see an increase in weight of around 5-10 grams per week. The only sure-fire way to know your kit is developing successfully is through regular weighing.
If the kit is not putting on weight as expected then you can assume they are not ready yet for weaning and need to gain further healthy weight.
An underdeveloped kit could be a sign of an underlying health issue and if you are worried you should contact a qualified vet for peace of mind.
In complete contrast, some kits are prone to overeating and therefore it is important as a responsible owner not to knowingly overfeed. A kit at the 8 weeks old stage should not be consuming any more than ½ – ¾ of Chinchillas pellets in addition to a handful of coarse hay.
Pellet quantities can increase up to the 6-month mark to 1 tablespoon, but should not ever exceed 2 tablespoons per day at any stage in life.
High-quality pellets like the ones we suggest in our recommended food guide here are essential to allow your chins to grow with all the nutrients they need.
Chinchilla treats can also be very fattening such as millet and nuts and should be fed sparingly.
Chinchilla kits do not require treats in their diet and feeding these can cause unhealthy weight gain. Never feed a kit under 4 months old treats.
Do the Chinchilla Kits Need a Cage of Their Own Once They Are Weaned?
Chinchillas are naturally sociable creatures and in the wild are known to enjoy each other’s companionship by living in groups. Ideally, Chinchillas living on their own in a captive environment should receive plenty of daily enrichment and interaction with their owners.
When weaning, it is best to keep kits of the same sex together in a communal cage.
They love the companionship of others and will, in theory, be much happier in this setting. Males and females should be kept apart during the weaning phase to help prevent inbreeding which can be disastrous.
It is important to ensure that the separate weaning cages are in close proximity to the mother and still within vocal ranges distance.
This will help to keep the kits calm knowing their mother is still nearby, but the comfort of knowing they can still socialise with their siblings. This can also help majorly with reducing stress levels in young Chinchillas.
You also need a cage that’s big enough to house more than one chinchilla. Our cages guide lists our 2 recommended cages that are suitable for housing one or more chinchillas, you can head over to the free guide any time by clicking here…
As well as this guide, we would also recommend that you take a few minutes to read our post that shares if chinchillas need a cage mate?
The post answers all the questions you could possibly have on this topic so you can make the best decision possible before housing 2 or more chinchillas together!
Can Owners Help With the Weaning Process?
Yes! Chinchilla parents of the human variety can most certainly intervene with the weaning process if they feel there is a need. In an ideal world, a baby kit will wean themselves off their mother on their own accord, but this isn’t always the case.
If the kit is of a certain age (around 12 weeks), is an ideal weight, and still hasn’t begun the weaning process off their own backs then it is a wise idea for us human’s to give them a helping hand.
Under normal circumstances, a Chinchilla kit will usually carry out the weaning process over about a 2 week period where they will begin to rely less and less on their mother for milk.
The mother will be able to supply milk during the early stages of weaning and the kit will feed on average once or twice a day, reducing the number of visits throughout the course of a few weeks.
Some Chinchillas kits do not take to the weaning process well and continue to rely on their mother’s milk frequently, even after the 12-week milestone.
As mentioned previously, kits mustn’t be weaned too late as this could cause additional issues such as health issues, inbreeding, and aggressive behaviour.
How to help with the weaning process (step by step)
There is a need sometimes for humans to intervene with the weaning process. Most Chinchilla kits wean successfully on their own, however certain circumstances may prevent them from doing so and needing to be hand-reared such as:
- Not taking to the weaning process and too reliant on the mother
- The Chinchilla mum has rejected her kit
- The litter is large and Chinchilla mum does not have enough milk for all her offspring
- The baby kit is the weaker one of the litter and is being bullied by their siblings
- The Chinchilla mum has sadly passed away
These are some situations where you may want to intervene to give your baby kit the best chance at life as possible.
This may all sound very daunting at first but is easy once you know-how and highly rewarding. Let’s take a look at some steps you can take to help with the weaning process.
Feeding your Chinchilla kit manually is the only way to know for sure they are receiving the right amount of milk and nutrients their body needs to develop sufficiently. This requires around the clock feeds during the initial weeks every 1-2 hours.
Several wellness checks should take place regularly whilst helping with the weaning process. Topping and Tailing is a term that is used to describe the process of stimulating your kit to pass urine and faeces using cotton wool.
Calcium deficiencies can occur in Chinchilla kits so it is always a good idea to monitor the colour of their tooth enamel which should present itself as a dark orange colour. Lighter colours could mean they are experiencing a lack of calcium.
Putting together the right formula for your baby kit is important for growth and overall well being. The formula must be liquefied to be transferred into a syringe for feeding and will need to be at a temperature of 99°-100°F.
Half a syringe full of the formula is usually an adequate amount for most baby kits however as they get older you may need to increase the formula, but space out feeding times (i.e. from every 2 hours to every 4 hours).
Bottle feeding can be a great alternative to hand-rearing with a syringe and most Chinchillas prefer this method of feeding. It can take a while to get your kit feeding successfully from the bottle, but even a small drop leaking from the bottle can encourage your kit to start feeding.
The bottle must be placed low enough for your kit to be able to reach it comfortably and the milk formula must be at room temperature before feeding. Start by placing the opening of the bottle on your kit’s lips so they get a taste of the milk. Chinchillas learn quickly and it won’t take them long to get the hang of things.
The formula for baby kits can be mixed together quite easily using the following ingredients and quantities:
- Evaporated Milk (1 Part)
- Coiled Boiled Water (2 Parts)
- Probiotic, such as Avipro Plus (1 Tiny Pinch)
- Critical Care Powder (1 Tiny Pinch)
- Nutrobal – Calcium and Mineral Supplement
You can store formula for up to 24 hours for convenience, however, once that time has lapsed any remaining formula must be thrown away and a new batch produced. Always ensure you completely sterilize bottles after every use, particularly at the nozzle.
How Can You Sex a Chinchilla?
Sexing Chinchillas can sometimes be tricky to determine and it isn’t uncommon to mis-sex them due to the similarities in their nether region.
When looking at the genital area the female Chinchilla exposes a urethral canal that looks very similar to the male penis. This is often where the confusion occurs.
Examining the genital area carefully is the only true way of sexing Chinchillas correctly. When looking at the genitals you will notice the area consists of a cone and the anus.
The space in-between these two elements is the key to finding out whether you have a male or female on your hands.
If you can see no space between the cone and anus then you have a female Chinchilla. Male Chinchillas have a noticeable space between these two areas.
Another significant difference you will notice on a female Chinchillas is a line that extends from the urethral cone up towards the anus.
In conclusion, having baby kits in the home can be a very exciting experience, but can also be somewhat time-consuming.
You must ensure that you have enough free time available and are willing to provide 24-hour care for those kits that cannot wean themselves and have the correct feeding equipment to hand for any eventuality.
Baby kits should be weaning themselves at around 12 weeks old and if this is not the case you may need to intervene.
Weaning will require some additional much-needed attention from you, but the whole experience, including all those horrendous night feeds, will be worth it in the end.