Video copyright 2010, Second Chance Chins Chinchilla Rescue
The above video is an actual chinchilla birth. We wanted to share this so that chin owners with a pregnant chinchilla would know what to expect and what is normal. The video is narrated, so please turn on your speakers! You'll notice in the video that there is no sound coming from the mother chin.
Breeding of chinchillas is not something we recommend becoming involved with for several reasons. First and foremost are the large numbers of chinchillas already in need of homes. Secondly, if the mother chin has difficulty during delivery, she may not make it through alive. If she were to pass on because of the delivery but the kit(s) survive, you would be faced with hand feeding the kit(s). This is a commitment of every two hours, 24/7, 7 days a week for at least the first few weeks. This means, no social life, no sleep, no work, no school, etc. Breeding your chin just because "the babies are so cute" is NOT a reason to breed!
However, for some, a pregnant chinchilla is something they didn't bargain for, and hence, the reason for this page on our site. Some may have gotten their chinchillas from a pet store, where both genders were knowingly or unknowingly kept together. Others may have had chinchillas mis-gendered by someone (we've had chinchillas come in to our rescue that were reportedly gendered by a vet, and they were WRONG!) Whatever the reason, once a chinchilla is pregnant, all you can do is be prepared.
The first step in being prepared, and we cannot stress this enough, is to have the name and number (and directions to if you've not been there before) of an emergency vet near you, and the name and number of a vet that is experienced in the care of chinchillas handy. When you have an emergency situation where lives are at stake, is not the time to be thumbing through the Yellow Pages!
We recommend if you suspect you have a chinchilla that is pregnant, that you provide a calcium supplement, in the form of a 1/4-1/2 a fruit-flavored Tums (or equivalent calcium antacid) twice a day from the time you suspect pregnancy. This will help the mother chin support the developing kit(s). Any calcium not needed by the mother will be flushed from her system. It's a good idea to check your chinchilla's teeth a couple times during the suspected (or known) pregnancy period and while she's nursing as well. The teeth should be a nice dark-orange color. If they are white, clear or only a pale yellow, provide more calcium, as this indicates a calcium deficiency. Not having proper supportive care while pregnant and/or nursing could lead to dental problems later in life. Provide plenty of good quality grass hay, fresh, filtered water every day and a high-quality pellet food such as Mazuri or Oxbow. Giving a little alfalfa hay in addition to the grass hay is also a good idea, as it provides extra protein to help support the mother while she is pregnant and nursing, as well as providing another source of calcium.
When you must handle the chin, handle her very gently and carefully so you do not injure the developing kits. Do NOT palpate (try to feel) her stomach to feel the kits. It's ok to lay your hand gently around her tummy, but do not press, as injury to the kit(s) could occur. You likely will not be able to feel any movement of the kit(s) until about the last month or so of the pregnancy. The gestation period of a chinchilla is approximately 111 days. It's a good idea to look at a gestation calendar and try to estimate the last possible due date for her so you'll have an idea when to assume she's not expecting. We also recommend purchasing a digital scale that weighs in grams so that you can track the weight of the mother chin while she is pregnant, and also weigh the kit(s) after they are born and while they are at least in their early stages of development. These can be purchased at many discount stores in the kitchen department as well as kitchen specialty stores. Cost is usually around $30.00, but it's a good investment. Weigh your chinchilla every day or every other day, at approximately the same time of day. Record the weight on a sheet of paper or a spreadsheet. After she's given birth, it's a good idea to periodically weigh her as she will likely be losing weight as she nurses her kit(s). If you know what her normal weight is (when she's not pregnant), use that as a comparison. If you feel that your chin is losing too much weight, consult a veterinarian that has experience with chinchillas. Feeding alfalfa in addition to her regular diet while she is nursing will help support her and help prevent too much weight loss.
If you are pretty sure your chinchilla is pregnant, begin preparing for the arrival of the kit(s). You need a cage that has wire no larger than 1/2" x 1", and preferably that is not very tall (the kits will climb up the walls after a very short time). The cage should have a solid bottom (not a wire floor), and it's a good idea to have litter such as CareFresh on hand for the delivery and for a time afterwards. You may keep a wheel (chinchilla safe, of course) in the cage until the delivery of the kits. Once the kits are delivered, you'll need to remove the wheel so they are not injured. Also remove any shelves from the cage, so that the mother chin cannot go to a shelf and not nurse the kit(s). A hidey-house is also essential so the mother can have privacy and feel secure.
You likely won't know the kits have been born until you hear little (sometimes very loud) squeaks. The mom usually doesn't make any noise during labor or delivery. If you see your chin stretching out and acting listless, the time is near. Births for chinchillas usually happen in the morning hours, but they could happen at any time. You may also see that her bottom is wet, which means her water has broken. The video on this page is an actual chinchilla birth which we were lucky enough to catch on tape! The kit is born, and then mom will take care of her baby. If she goes off to a corner, for a couple minutes, she's likely delivering the placenta. It is not very pleasant for us to watch, but the mother will eat the placenta. Allow her to do this, as it helps replenish nutrients to her body. After the birthing process has completed, clean out any bloody litter from the cage. Once you think she's is done giving birth, it's a good idea to feel her tummy to see if it feels like there are any other kits inside. If in doubt, go to a vet, especially if your chin is not acting more or less "normal" for her.
It is extremely important to remove any adult males from the cage with the mom and kit(s) at the time the female gives birth, but preferably before. The reason for this is that the female can get pregnant again immediately following giving birth. This is called a "breedback" and is very hard on a female. This would mean, that she's nursing her young while she has developing kits inside her again. If you had a female and male housed together intentionally, we recommend using this time where they need to be separated anyway to keep them separated permanently so that she does not become pregnant again. It is also very important to remove any male kits from mom before they are three months of age, because even though they are not adults, they can sometimes impregnate a female by that age. Chinchillas like most other animals will mate with a family member.
Chinchillas are born with all their fur and their teeth. Their eyes are open and in a very short time, they are all over the cage! It is ok to handle the kit(s) right after they are born. Mom won't disown them if your scent is on them. We recommend washing your hands prior to handling the kits. It's a very good idea to weigh each kit on a digital scale that measures in grams and record that weight on a sheet of paper or on a spreadsheet. This will tell you how the kit is progressing in its growth. Kits when they are born should weigh 35 grams or more. If they weigh less, you should seek the advice of a veterinarian. We also recommend weighing the mother chinchilla very shortly (within a day or so) of giving birth, and monitoring her weight every few days. It is normal for kits to stay the same or even lose a couple grams the first couple days of life. This is because the mother's milk takes a couple days to come in sometimes. If the kits do not begin to gain weight after 2 days, we recommend seeking the advice of a veterinarian experienced with chinchillas immediately. It could be a life-threatening situation if they aren't getting the nutrition they need from mom.
If mom isn't feeding all the kits equally, you will need to help out. If the mom has a large litter (3 or more), she may not be able to produce enough milk for the kits. If this is the case, the best thing to do is to rotate the kits in with mom so that they all have an opportunity to get mom's milk and also supplement some with a hand feeding formula. Rotating also may be done if there is an issue between kits where one won't let another eat (squabbling). When the kits are away from mom however, you must provide them with a warm place, since they will not have mom's body heat to help warm them. Placing a heating pad on the lowest setting under (not inside) half of the bottom of a carrier should suffice. Be sure that the kits cannot get free of the carrier place the carrier inside something they cannot climb out of . Place a fleece blanket inside the carrier for them to snuggle into. You may use a towel, but you'll need to monitor closely to be sure they're not chewing it and possibly ingesting the strings from it. The reason for heating only half of the carrier is so that the kits have a place to move to if they become too warm. Place a small dish of pellets and a small water bottle on the carrier, as the kits will actually be eating solid foods as well as nursing very soon after they are born. Rotate the kits in with mom, every two hours (yes, even in the middle of the night) for the first couple weeks. You may wish to put them all in and observe after a couple weeks of rotating to see if they will all get along and get enough to eat. If rotating the kits is still necessary, lengthen the time to 4 hour shifts for the next couple weeks and try reuniting the whole family again. Do not remove the kits from mom any sooner than 8 weeks.
Other than keeping the cage clean, providing all of the necessities for the mother (food, hay, fresh filtered water daily and chew items) there really isn't much for you to do except for enjoy the little ones. We recommend continuing with a bit of alfalfa and the Tums until the mother is finished nursing to help support her while she gives milk to the kit(s). It is essential that the mother drink plenty of water. You will likely have an idea of what her normal amount of water consumption is, so you'll want to be sure she's drinking plenty. This helps her produce plenty of milk for the kit(s). If it appears that she is not drinking a bit more than she normally would, you may add a bit (no more than 25% of the volume of water) of 100% apple or cranberry juice (no-sugar-added, cocktail is not acceptable) to her water which will encourage her to drink a bit more because it will be sweet. The water bottle must be emptied, rinsed and refilled daily so that the juice does not ferment (sour).
We recommend handling the kit(s) daily (which you would do if you were weighing them) so that they understand that humans are not going to hurt them. Pick them up gently and carefully. It's ok to pet them and let them crawl on you. Keep other pets away from them, as they could carry pathogens that could be dangerous to a young chin (we don't recommend allowing inter-species "mingling" even with adult chinchillas, especially with predator/prey combinations). If you are ill (cold, flu, something contagious), do NOT handle the chins or any of their supplies unless you absolutely have to. Have a family member feed, water and clean the cage. If you absolutely are the only one that can care for the chins, minimize contact with them, wear a mask (even a handkerchief around the mouth and nose), and wash your hands thoroughly before handling anything. Chinchillas CAN become ill from humans!
You may be surprised very early on to see the kit(s) nibbling on pellets and hay. This is normal in their development and a good sign that they are doing well. Chinchillas teeth are white when they are born, and will slowly become a nice dark orange color as they age. This is normal.
It is extremely important that no dust baths be given to the mother chinchilla until 10 days after the birth of the kit(s). The reason for this is that she could get an infection because the birth canal is still "open" and dust could cause an infection. Mark the date on a calendar so you'll know when you can treat your chinchilla to a dust bath again. As far as any mess on her from the birthing process, she will clean herself, and any blood she has on her fur will soon be gone. Chinchillas are very clean animals and take their grooming very seriously.
Continue to provide mom with her chew toys (you'll likely start seeing the kit(s) chewing on them as well) so that she can maintain her teeth and allow her short out of cage playtimes so that she can stretch her legs, especially since she won't be able to have a wheel and ledges for a while. Keep the kit(s) in the cage until they're older. Extreme caution must be used when allowing the kit(s) out of cage time. Because of their size, they can easily get into the smallest of places. It would be wise to completely cover any heating vents and completely block off any areas where they could get in and you not be able to get them out easily (like under the refrigerator or a heavy piece of furniture). As with all chinchillas, constant supervision must be used when a chinchilla is out for playtime, but especially when they are still very young!
If you have questions about the information provided on this page, please feel free to write to us. If you feel you have an emergency with a pregnant chinchilla, go immediately to your vet!
Hand feeding instructions (thank
whomever we got these from!)
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