Did you realize that your chin could be seriously injured or even killed by the wheel they run on? A lot of people don't. We didn't until fairly recently either. Consider the purchase of a good wheel as an investment in the health and happiness of your chinchilla. Below are some photos of different styles of wheels, one of which has a link to the instructions for building your own!
The "Flying Saucer" wheel is a safe, fun exerciser for your chin. These are somewhat expensive, but the chins do enjoy them and you won't likely need to buy a replacement, ever. Each saucer comes with an extra set of bearings that can be replaced when needed. The newer models come with a cover for the bearings to keep dust and debris out of them, which should provide even longer life. The saucer will fit easily through 12"x12" doors and comes complete with mounting hardware. The angle of the running surface allows free movement. We have several of these wheels, both for our own personal chins and some for rescues. The chins that are using them, seem to literally "fly", they get going so fast on them!
The "ChinSpin", manufactured and sold by Quality Cage, is a terrific alternative to the more expensive saucer wheel. While it is still a little expensive, it is safe, heavy duty and QUIET! We recommend only the 15" model, as the 11" is too small for most chins to run on comfortably. This is a pretty heavy wheel, and it is best used on a very sturdy cage. Another consideration is that because of it's size, it may not fit through doors of some cages, certainly something to keep in mind when selecting an exercise wheel for your chinchilla.
This homemade wheel is an excellent example of a safe wheel for chinchillas. It is fairly inexpensive and simple to construct. The running surface is actually a galvanized feed pan, which you can find at Home Depot in the cleaning department, Tractor Supply Company, and some feed stores. The lazy susan bearing can be found at Home Depot next to the casters (at least they are at the one near us!). The rest of the hardware is simple nuts, bolts and washers, which you can get at any hardware store or at Home Depot. Be sure to scrub the feed pan with soap and hot water to remove the oily residue before assembling the wheel! We're in the process of designing our own wheel using this feed pan and some fairly easy to obtain hardware. Once we "work the bugs out" of our design, we'll share our plans. Check back again soon for photos and directions!
For instructions to build your own wheel, please click here.
Any wheel that is this style, with the bars crossing over the openings should be considered unsafe. Chins have been known to jump out of the still moving wheel and be hit by the bar as it comes around. One instance we know of, the chins' neck was broken and it ended up dying a slow, painful death, while the owners watched....not something any pet owner wants to go through!
Another unsafe (and we imagine uncomfortable) style is the type that has the axel in the middle such as the "Comfort Wheel" by SuperPet. Because of its small size (12" is the largest available) combined with the axel in the middle, chins have to arch their back to run. This wheel is also unsafe due to the fact that is made of plastic, an unsafe material to have in a chinchilla cage.
Thank you to Kindra at www.spoiledchins.net for permission to link to the wheel instructions!