Introducing Chinchillas

Whether you want to combine a mating pair or same sex animals, introducing chinchillas so they can have a long term relationship can be tricky.

Remember that chinchillas have personalities almost as complicated as humans. Introducing chinchillas is not an exact science, and a pairing cannot be guaranteed to be successful. That said, almost every pairing I've made has been successful, as long as I was patient.

You should look for a chinchilla with a similar personality. You want to avoid pairing, for example, an aggressive, dominant chinchilla to a quiet, well-mannered one. It's possible that a pairing will change the personality for the better (I've seen it) but I wouldn't count on it. I've never had a problem combining two calm, well-mannered chinchillas.

Do chinchillas need a friend?

introductionNot necessarily. A chinchilla can live on his own if he bonds with you and gets lot of attention. In the wild chinchillas live in herds, so by accepting him into yours he can feel like he belongs. It may be preferable, though, to have a friend (or friends) to bond with. This allows a closer, natural bond - although you may come in second place for affection from then on! There's nothing like a chinchilla family...

Remember, if you pair two chinchillas of the opposite sex they will mate. This is a possibility in even a few seconds or between cage bars! So make sure you don't introduce male/female pairs, even during playtime, unless you plan on breeding.

The introduction process

Make sure that the cage they will be living in is spotless, with no evidence of territorial ownership. You should remove all toys and chews if either of the introduced chinchillas has used them. Create a barrier within the cage, or place a smaller cage in the larger cage.

First, introduce the chinchillas outside the cage while holding each of them (you may want help from a friend with this). Let them sniff each other, put them end to end and under each other. This is to help establish trust in a neutral environment. Then, put them in the cage (one in each part of the cage) so they may get used to the smell of the cage first. After about ten minutes, remove the barrier.

You will have to supervise your chinchillas for up to a day (again, a friend is a good thing to have!) to make sure they don't fight. Some aggressiveness and mounting or spraying is okay (attempts at dominance), but if hostility continues or escalates, separate them (keep gloves handy, just in case).

If not successful, you may have better luck with a second try. But it is possible that the two chinchillas will never get along, and you'll have to find a better match. If there is a physical injury they can never be comined again.

There are other methods. Many ranchers use the "smoosh" method, putting two chinchillas in a very small cage that limits their movement and forces them to get used to each other. Small breeders usually put two cages next two each for a period of days or weeks. To me, this just delays the inevitable confrontation.

Need help, ideas, or support? Let us know. or talk about it in the forum.

Pair or colony breeding?

I have done both, and I'll vouch that colony breeding is not for the beginner. Pairs will bond and often be happy forever, while problems in colonies are more likely to occur over time. I have had wonderful colonies where mothers cared for all the kits, and I've had a mother kill all the kits of the others. You never know for sure. It's great to mimic the realistic herd, but it may not be worth the trouble.

If you are introducing a colony of animals I've found the best technique is to allow the male (there should be only one male in a colony, or they will fight for dominance) to live in the cage for about a week before the introduction. This allows the male to claim his territory, and avoiding a battle among the females over the cage. Then introduce the females all at once, monitoring them for a few hours.

More information about introducing chinchillas for breeding runs.

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