Feeding your Chinchillas

Chinchilla’s are Herbivores – which means they only eat plants. The best kind of diet for your chinchillas is one that’s as natural as possible, packed with plenty of fresh veg and hay.

Top Tip: Avoid muesli-type food mixes. Chinchillas will leave the bits containing fibre and only eat the sugary bits. This causes painful, dental disease and can lead to obesity.

The best diet for your chinchillas will include:

  • As much high quality hay or grass as they want to eat. It helps keep their teeth and digestive system healthy
  • Commercial chinchilla nuggets, which you can buy from pet shops. These have the right mix of nutrients for your chinchilla. Follow the feeding guidelines on the packet – it should be around 25-50g for an adult.
  • Fresh greens – around a teaspoon a day per chinchilla
  • Fresh herbs and leafy greens as a small daily treat. Chinchillas prefer dead and dry leaves to fresh leaves, and can be given dried herb and plant mixes. You can buy these in pet stores.
  • Chinchillas need constant access to fresh, clean drinking water from a suitable water bottle with a metal spout.

Make feeding fun

Wild chinchillas would spend most of their waking hours searching for food. You can recreate this for your pet chinchillas to keep them occupied and to encourage their natural types of behaviour:

  • Scatter their daily pellets around their cage and exercise area instead of feeding from the bowl. This is also a really good way to feed your chinchillas if one is very protective of the food bowl and often stops others getting their fair share of the food.
  • Hide hay, pellets and greens in paper bags, cardboard tubes and boxes
  • Try out some special activity toys suitable for small animals, such as puzzle boards and feeding balls.

Healthy veg for your chinchilla

You can feed your chinchilla vegetables like:

  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Sweet potato

Some vegetables aren’t safe for chinchillas and should be avoided. These include:

  • Rhubarb and rhubarb leaves
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Lettuce
  • Peas

This isn’t a full list so always check if a vegetable is safe before you feed it to your chinchilla. You can find more things to avoid on our poisons and hazards page.

Things to chew on and gnaw

Chewing and gnawing is a really important, natural behaviour for your chinchilla. It helps to wear down their teeth and is fun for them.

Chinchillas love to shred things like:

  • Banana Leaves
  • Cardboard (packaging from food products)
  • Coconut Shells
  • Hay Cubes
  • Mineral Lava
  • Unbleached loofah
  • Pumice stone
  • Seagrass

They can gnaw on untreated softwood. Before you give them any softwood branches to chew, bake them on a low heat for an hour and give them a good wash to make sure they’re safe for your chinchilla. Good woods to use are:

  • Apple
  • Dogwood
  • Elm & Red Elm
  • Grape & Grapevine
  • Hawthorn
  • Hazelnut
  • Pear
  • Poplar
  • Quince
  • Willow (goat, weeping, or pussy willow)
  • Yucca

Help! My chinchillas are eating their own poo!

It might seem disgusting to us but it’s natural for chinchillas to eat their own poo – in fact, it’s a really important for their gut health.

Chinchillas are ‘caecotrophic’. This means they produce two types of poo. One is a shiny, smelly pellet - or ‘caecotroph’ - and this is the kind they eat because it’s still full of nutrients which they haven’t properly digested yet. They’ll usually eat them straight from their bum.

Once all the nutrients have been properly digested, they’ll produce a small, dry poo which can be cleaned up and thrown away.