GENERAL ANIMAL HUSBANDRY  

                                                         Taken from the Chinchilla Ranchers Guide

                                                                                                         By Bernard Koch, D.V.M.

 

  • The Chinchilla is a hardy animal and thrives in clean cages and with disease prevention procedures.  But if problems do occur, it is well to be informed.  The following list of DO’s may seem difficult at first, but after awhile they become routine.

 

  • Are animals active, bright and curious?  Droopiness, inactivity and somnolence (inclination to sleep) are danger signs.

 

  • Are the dust baths clean of urine, droppings and caked dust material?  These factors can cause fur damage, stains, etc.  A daily dust bath is a must to keep the skin and fur in good condition, and is also a good, invigorating conditioner.

 

  • When a new batch of pellets has been introduced, is it eaten or pawed at? The rancher should mix old feed with new feed for several days.

 

  • Is hay being consumed?  When block hay or hay cubes are left in cages, is it overly contaminated by urine, droppings and moisture?  Hay is the most important element of the Chinchilla diet and should be kept clean, palatable and high in fiber.

 

  • Are the feeders free of caked feed which can mold and cause digestive disturbances?  The Chinchilla may take a drink and then go from the water bottle to the pellets, thus wetting the feed which may mold, spoil or cake.

 

  • Water…it is consumed?  Is it free of algae and mucous-like scum?  Water is a most critical item of the Chinchilla diet.  A lack of it or reduced consumption can cause dehydration and loss of resistance to disease.  Also, unclean water can cause intestinal problems.

 

  • Ventilation...does the rancher feel comfortable in the unit?  If not, what is the reason?  Remember that the rancher is in the unit only a short time, whereas the Chinchilla lives there 24 hours a day.

 

  • Odors…can you smell urine and ammonia odors?  These odors are conducive to respiratory problems and reduced feed consumption due to feed absorbing the odors.  It is felt that urine and ammonia odors reduce disease resistance in the animals.

 

  • Humidity…is it too high?  Optimum humidity is between 30 and 60%, although higher percentages can be tolerated by Chinchilla if ventilation is optimum.

 

  • Drafts...are the animals exposed to drafts?  The Chinchilla does not tolerate drafts. Like ammonia and urine odors living in drafts lowers the resistance to disease, especially respiratory diseases.

 

  • Temperature…does the temperature in the unit exceed 82° F or higher?  The optimum temperature is between 50-65° F.  However the Chinchilla can tolerate temperatures to 82° F with adequate ventilation.

 

  • Are there any mouse or rat droppings in the unit?  Or in the feed?  Rats, mice and other animals can act as carriers of disease to the Chinchilla.  Continual observance is necessary to keep this problem under control.  Mice or other animals running around can also cause slower production.

 

  • Are the droppings soft, runny, short and shriveled, or extra large and covered with mucous.  Any deviations in size, consistency, and the presence of mucous or blood-tinged discharges are a sign of intestinal troubles.

 

  • Are there incompatibles in the colony cages?  Do you give enough time when introducing animals to each other?  Fights occurring in a colony setup should be cause for remating, especially when injuries are found.

 

  • Are animals about to litter?  Sometimes littering problems occur due to difficult births or too large babies or intense laboring and no delivery.

 

  • Are newborns tended by the female?  A baby may be abandoned at delivery by a female.  When this happens the baby can be dried, warmed up and brought to life and returned to the female for nursing, perhaps with the aide of occasional hand feeding.

 

  • Does the female have an ample milk supply?  Is the female scolding the young?  This generally is a strong indication of lack of milk causing the babies to bite on the mother.  Are the babies fighting each other?  This is a better sign of lack of milk.  Make sure the babies don’t hurt each other by biting each other in the nose.  This will cause them to be unable to breath.

 

  • Is the polygamous male still strong and active?  Some males lose weight when polygamous, and become rundown, while others remain strong.

 

  • Before littering and 1 week after littering examine females that are not doing well.  Examine their teeth and if they are white (yellow is normal color) the female needs a breeding rest to recuperate and replenish her resources.

 

  • Are there too many babies for the female to nurse?  Some of the excess young can be hand fed or farmed out to other nursing females.

 

  • Antibiotics...should they be given orally for respiratory ailments?  Antibiotics injected in the hind leg muscle are a far superior treatment for respiratory conditions.  For intestinal problems oral antibiotics are adequate.  NEVER give procaine penicillin. 

 

  • Are there dogs, cats or other animals in the unit?  The noises from them can contribute to fur chewing and disturbed digestion.  Also, disease could be transmitted from them to the Chinchilla.

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