What to Expect When You're Expecting Kits
What to Expect When You're Expecting Kits
First and foremost, Sunshine Chinchillas does not condone breeding unhealthy animals, unpedigreed animals, and animals that are purchased from backyard breeding programs. Nor do we ever condone the deplorable act of selling sick animals that need medical care. Please refer to our page regarding the differences between high quality chinchillas and pet quality chinchillas, here in Show vs Pet Chins.
Remember, breeding is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. Breeding involves birth, death, and blood; it can be messy and upsetting, just as much as it can be rewarding. It is not just about cute babies, a female "needing to experience birth," or profit, breeding is a serious matter and takes responsibility. If you are bringing new animals into this world, you must take accountability.
This page is for those who are breeding healthy show quality, pedigreed animals or accidental pet pregnancies that are not to be repeated.
Before breeding, there are several things to take into consideration. First is quality, you do not want to breed just any animal to another. No rescues, unhealthy animals, chins with genetic disorders or those without pedigrees should ever be bred for any reason.
Another important factor is that attending chinchilla shows is a must. Learning about quality, conformation, density, clarity, fur texture and size can be difficult if you are not physically seeing it in person under show lights with the guidance of a judge.
Before purchasing a breeding pair, you will want to learn about these qualities in a hands on format, preferably at a chinchilla show or with a reputable breeder. You will need to then find a breeder with show quality stock to purchase from; it is best to never purchase sight unseen or small kits when you are first starting to breed. This can make it difficult to determine which animals will compliment each others qualities prior to pairing them up. Always have a reputable breeder or judge help you determine quality animals to purchase for your introduction into breeding.
It is also best to start with the basics, such as standard grays. This can make learning to breed chinchillas much easier and simpler to understand if you start with the basic mutations. Delving right into complicated colors and recessives, can be tricky and discouraging for many first time breeders. As always, having a mentor or reputable source of information can help you learn and create show quality animals.
Please remember, we do not condone backyard breeding in any way, shape or form. If you are reading this as a result of an accidental pregnancy, quality selection is not applicable. The risks that go along with breeding poor quality, non pedigreed animals with no prior healthy history can include: genetic defects, malocclusion, difficulty birthing, lack of milk production, poor quality offspring, and unknown traits popping up in offspring among other possible issues.
Female chinchillas typically go into heat once a month, or every 25-50 days. This heat usually lasts anywhere from a day to 3-4 days.
Upon going into heat, a white, waxy looking mating plug can occasionally be found in the floor of the cage. However, this is not an indication of pregnancy; also, if you do not find a plug, this does not mean the chinchilla is or is not in heat.
Any surrounding males will begin to notice the female is in heat and when she is ready to mate. Males will make soft chirping noises while swaying their tails back and forth to entice the female. For some mating pairs, there may be chasing involved or aggressive barking from the female. If at anytime the animals begin to fight, draw blood, or pull fur from the other animal, you need to separate them. If a female does not want to mate, she will make it clear to the male by standing on her hind legs, chattering her teeth, barking, spraying urine or baring her teeth. This does not necessarily deter the male, he will continue to try and mate until he is successful. Thus, it is important to separate the pair if at anytime they attack each other.
It can take seconds for a mating to be successful. This is why it is so important for pet owners to not allow opposite sex animals to play together or live in the same cage. For some animals, if the opportunity arises they can and will breed through cage bars. Therefore, pet quality chinchillas of opposite genders must always be kept separate.
This photo and video demonstrates the mating type behavior of chinchillas:
Once a female is pregnant, gestation usually lasts around 111 days (15 weeks/three and a half months). For some mothers, they may not show any visible signs of pregnancy and can give birth without the owner ever having known she was expecting. Most chinchillas will have a firmer, rounded belly in the later weeks of pregnancy. For litters of two or more, baby kicks can usually be more easily felt when gently touching the stomach.
Other signs of pregnancy can also be elongated nipples; just like with humans, the pregnancy hormones will prepare the mammary glands to support the young. This causes the teats to turn more pink and lengthen slightly. It is not always noticeable to the untrained eye and should not be used as the only indication of pregnancy. At no point should the teats ever be pinched or palpated to check for milk, this can cause discomfort to the female.
Expectant mothers may or may not also eat and drink slightly more, this can cause them to urinate more or soil their cage faster than normal. For some females, it may not be noticeable while others it can. Thus, it is important to ensure they have fresh pellets, hay and water at all times. Pregnant chinchillas do not require any special feed or care, they can be treated just like you would normally care for them. NEVER feed calf manna or beet pulp supplement during pregnancy, this can cause overly large kits that can be hard for the female to birth.
Pregnant females can be cared for just like any another chinchilla. However, it is important to consider that you should not be over handling a pregnant female. Not only can rough handling damage the internal organs and fetus, it can also cause stress to the mother. Allow her to have her own clean space to relax and live while waiting for the kits to arrive. Just like a human pregnancy, most mothers prefer to be left alone and not poked or prodded. Unless there is an emergency, allow nature to take its course.
Unlike some rodents, chinchillas can have cage-mates live with them before, during and after pregnancy. For breeders and ranchers, males are often left in the cage to assist the mother with raising the kits. Allowing the father to stay with mom and babies should only be done if the animals are pedigreed and show quality with the intent for the mother to become pregnant again. Females that are not breeding quality should be immediately separated from any male they share a cage with. Any mother can be left with a same-sex chinchilla; a sister, aunt, grandmother or unrelated female can be a great companion to the female during pregnancy. However, its best to not try to bond a new chinchilla to a pregnant female as this can cause unnecessary stress on the mother and can put the babies at risk.
Before your female gives birth, you will want to ensure she has a safe cage for her and the kits to live in. Kits can easily squeeze through large spaced bars; anything larger than 1 inch by 1/2 inch can be too large of a space. Make sure that your cage is made from safe materials and baby safe wire, this will prevent escaped kits and injuries.
You will also want to keep cage accessories to a minimum. Just like a human toddler, chinchilla kits can and will hurt themselves on almost anything. Therefore, it is so important to take anything out of the cage that they can get hurt on.
Hammocks, wheels, hay bags, houses/huts that can be easily flipped, high up shelves, hanging toys, wire shelves, fleece tubes, fleece with holes in the fabric, etc. can be dangerous and even deadly for kits. We keep our females' cages minimally furnished when they are nursing kits. All they will need are the basics; food, water, hay, bedding, and some things to chew are acceptable during this time.
Although you may feel that the cage is too boring for your chin, remember that wild chinchillas spend most of their time within a small den in-between rocks with only enough room to comfortably move around. Mother and babies will not suffer by not having hammocks, toys, shelves or a wheel; in fact, they will be happier as they won't hurt themselves on these items.
Another consideration is that mom and babies do not need special feed or supplement; fresh pellets, hay and water will suffice. If you would like to give them a treat, hay cubes can be very fun for mom and babies to chew or shred. Never give a baby chinchilla a raisin or goji berry as the sugar content within these are much too high for their systems to handle.
Approximately 111 days after mating, you can start to expect kits any day. For most females, they prefer to give birth alone during the early morning or late evening. When contractions begin, you will notice the female will start to stretch out or stand on her back legs while stretching up. She will usually have her ears relaxed and her eyes squinted. During this process, do not pick her up or try to feel her stomach. Allow her to give birth naturally, this helps mom and babies to stay safe and stress free. Typically, she will birth her kits within minutes or a few hours after contractions start.
Kits usually begin to rotate to where they will be birthed head first. If they do not and they are born feet or bottom first, this is called a breech birth. Breech births can be more difficult for the female; sometimes tails or limbs may be bitten off in the birthing process as the female needs something to grab onto and pull for the kit to come out. Some kits may be born with no issue, others may be born with the tip of their tail missing, or more severe wounds if the female had trouble pulling out the kit. If for any reason she has been in labor for hours without resulting kits, she may need an emergency c-section.
Labor should not last more than a day. If she is still having contractions for several hours with no resulting kits, an emergency vet visit may be necessary. With any pregnancy, complications can sometimes arise. Thus, it is important to remember that you should have an emergency vet visit fund on hand for medical emergencies. If an animal needs surgery or medical care, you should be prepared to take responsibility for their health and well-being. By bringing more animals into this world, you must also make sure they have the care they require if the need arises.
Newborn chinchillas are born precocial; this means that when they're born their eyes and ears are open, they are covered in fur, and they can begin walking or running around. With that in mind, it is so important to consider this when breeding. Precocial young are much larger than their non-precocial (altricial) rodent counterparts. Rats, mice, gerbils, and hamsters are all born hairless with their eyes and ears closed (often called "pinkies"). Unlike precocial, altricial offspring are much smaller and easier to pass through the birth canal. Precocial young have a much higher chance of getting stuck in the birth canal due to their large proportions compared to their mother. Thus, it is so important to have an emergency vet fund available if a birthing complication arises. This is one of the main reasons that only show quality animals should ever be bred. Show quality female chinchillas typically are much larger with wider hips for kits to pass through.
Chinchillas also do not eat their young due to stress or a foreign smell on their kits. For any mother that begins to consume a kit, it is almost always because the kit was a stillborn or died during birth. For the most part, except in rare cases, chinchillas do not eat live young. Chinchillas typically will consume a dead kit as a result of being a prey animal. Prey animals usually will "cover their tracks" by removing evidence of a deceased kit so that predators are not attracted to the area. Most chinchilla mothers use their instincts to sense when a kit has passed away or is very ill, she may or may not then consume the remains.
Another important concept to remember during a healthy birth is to leave mother and kits alone. There is no reason to bother them and interfere unless it is absolutely necessary. Unless the mother is in severe distress, has an overly large kit stuck in the birth canal, or is unresponsive, its best to allow nature to take its course. Handling of newborn kits should be at a minimum, only to feel if their bellies are properly full or for weighing them.
Here is a great video demonstrating chinchilla birth:
After kits are born, you will want to ensure you have the proper supplies on hand if they are needed. Sometimes, for litters of three or more, kits can start to fight over the mother's milk. If this is the case, you will want to supplement the kits with a goat's milk mixture. However, you should always leave mom and babies alone for the first few days. It can take a while for the mother's milk to come in and this can cause some kits to fight, this is normal. If the kits are still fighting consistently after 2-3 days, supplementing may be necessary.
A very basic kit formula can be made as follows:
• One part condensed canned goat's milk (not powdered goat's milk)
• One part organic apple juice (not sugar free)
• One part baby rice cereal
• One part plain yogurt (not Greek yogurt)
• Equal parts water (four parts water in this case)
After making this mixture, heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave. Then, just like a baby bottle, the milk mixture should be tested on the forearm to ensure it is warm but not hot. The mixture should then be put into the feeding syringe and prepared for the kit(s). A better formula mixture can be found via ABC Chinchillas and RDZC Ranch.
To feed each kit, you will want to wrap them gently in a hand towel to hold them securely. Once they are wrapped, you will only want to put a drop of milk on their lips. Never force them to eat or shove milk in their mouth. Only allow them to lick the milk off themselves, as they consume the milk you can slowly give them more by placing another drop on their lips.
When they are finished, they will stop eating the milk droplets and their bellies will feel plump and full. Some kits may need time to learn how to eat this way; if they do not choose to eat the formula, do not force them as they may be getting adequate milk from their mother.
You can use a food scale to get daily weights on kits, measured in grams. This helps to watch for any weight loss that could indicate a health concern. Any weight gain is a good sign, whether that is one or two grams or ten. A few grams of weight loss does not always mean the kit is in critical health, they may just need to nurse or require supplementation. Most kits are around 30-45 grams when born. They should consistently gain weight over the next eight weeks. Most larger breeders or those that have been breeding for several years don't weigh their kits. This is because after years of breeding, they can usually spot, feel or notice behaviors that can be indications of problems occurring with a kit. It becomes second nature for them to notice the most minute details when kit handling.
Some breeders do also have kit rotation systems in place for large or fighting litters. Just like breeding in general, this should always be done in the guidance of a reputable mentor. Kit rotation is the act of removing certain kits from the mother for a short amount of time to allow the other kits to nurse.
Once the kits are eight weeks old or 200 grams, they can be weaned. Male kits need to be weaned as soon as they are eight weeks and at least 200 grams, this is to prevent them from breeding with their mother. Female kits can stay with mom indefinitely as long as dad is not housed in the same cage. Prior to adopting out your kits, we always recommend to keep them for an additional one to two weeks after weaning. This way, you can observe them and make sure they are adjusting well to being away from their mother. At this time, it is so important to make sure the weaning cage they are in is safe. Kits are just like toddlers, they can and will try to hurt themselves on almost anything.
All shelves must be very low, a kit falling from a high cage can be the equivalent to a human falling from a three story building. Absolutely no hammocks, hay holders, hanging toys or anything that can be a hazard should ever be in the cage. Kits can easily get a leg, arm, teeth or tail caught in anything. Never allow a kit to have playtime outside of their cage; kits can quickly get over-heated and overexerted leading to seizures and death.
Having a flat wide open space with low shelves is the ideal cage to wean kits in, like in this photo. Make sure to give them plenty of hay, pellets and water at all times. During this time, kits are just beginning to get the hang of growing up. They can be clumsy and bouncy just like a little kid, so they should be treated as such. Only once they are six months of age should they be treated like an adult chinchilla.
Complications and Casualties
Complications and Casualties
WARNING: The following images are graphic in nature and may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
Breeding any animal is not for the faint of heart. There are so many things that can and will go wrong eventually. If considering breeding, please take in mind that not every birth will turn out well. Complications or casualties can and will happen at some point. Every breeder has experienced it and do have horror stories about certain instances they have dealt with. If you are breeding or have a pregnant female, you need to have an emergency vet on hand, no exceptions.
Mothers can die due to many different reasons. Calcium deficiency, infection, mastitis, internal or external bleeding, uterine tears, uterine or rectal prolapse, kits stuck in the birth canal, miscarriage, emergency c-sections and sometimes unknown causes can all cause an animal to pass away. Mating pairs also have the potential to fight; if this occurs and you do not separate them, one of the animals may attack and kill the other.
Kits are also not immune to death. There are so many different reasons a kit can pass away, thus it is so important to take precautionary steps. Miscarriage, premature birth, breech birth, mummification, birth defects, lethargy, postpartum hemorrhages, decapitation or limbs being bitten off from the mother pulling them from the birth canal, rare instances of mothers eating kits alive, rare instances of fathers attacking kits, kits being stuck in the birth canal and asphyxiating, failure to thrive, kits fighting to the death, lack of milk production from the mother, bite wounds from other chins, mothers consuming dead kit remains, internal or external bleeding, rectal prolapse, hypoglycemia, hypothermia, heat exhaustion, getting stuck on an object within the cage, water bottles flooding the bottom of the cage, squeezing through cage bars, escaping the cage, falling from high shelves and sometimes unknown causes can result in kit causalities. Birth and motherhood can be beautiful as well as dangerous. This is just how mother nature is, both in the wild and in domesticated animals. Death is natural and does happen.
Please remember these things when contemplating the decision to start breeding. It can be overwhelming when first beginning, so its important to take these ideas into consideration before taking that serious step. If you don't feel that you will be able to handle dealing with any of these situations, you may want to reconsider breeding. It is also helpful to find a mentor with whom you can discuss what breeding complications they have had and how they dealt with it. If you are bringing these animals into the world, you will want to make sure you are prepared to give them the care they need.
WARNING: The following images are graphic in nature and may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
This kit was born much too early, this was the result of a double pregnancy as chinchillas have a double cervix. Although rare, chinchillas can become pregnant in both cervixes with two or more separate fetuses. Unfortunately for this baby, the mother went into labor at the correct time for the older fetus. This lead to the premature birth of a small underdeveloped kit and the birth of a normal healthy sized kit. In these circumstances, there really is no way to prevent double pregnancies. Though some premature births can still be successful, it is much harder for kits this small to survive and this one passed within minutes of birth.
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