Chinchillas can be the cutest pets, but even though it is great to keep a pair of two chinchillas, you should keep in mind that males and females should not be kept together if you are not planning to breed. Baby chinchillas are called “kits” and are absolutely adorable.
As a whole, chinchillas reproduce sexually and are mostly monogamous. The fertilization happens inside of the female. The pregnancy lasts up to 4 months, which is rather long for a mammal. They are born with fur and with open eyes.
In the following, you will learn more about the mating process of chinchillas, the pregnancy, and the reproduction in general.
How Do Chinchillas Reproduce?
Funny enough a male and female chinchilla would theoretically be able to mate, even if they are kept in different cages. If the cages are close enough (about an inch or less), the male would still be able to get the female chinchilla pregnant.
As a whole, chinchillas reproduce sexually. A male and a female chinchilla are needed to breed. The male needs to mount the female from the back while she is in heat. At the end of the gestation period, the female will give live birth to her children.
Breeding chinchillas comes with a lot of responsibility for your pets. It requires some previous research, preparation, and patience, as well as enough space for the kits and separate enclosures for males and females since you probably don’t want to keep reproducing for the next 15 years.
One litter can be anything between 1 and 4, in some rare cases even more kits. Make sure that you meet all the requirements that kits need, before jumping into breeding.
But even if you accidentally became kit-parents due to a mix-up or misunderstanding at the pet store, you will do a great job caring for your chinchillas.
If you accidentally bought a pregnant chinchilla or got a pair of male and female chinchillas instead of a same-sex couple that you originally wished for, make sure to separate the father immediately to prevent any more pregnancies.
Unfortunately, these things can happen, since many pet stores are all about profit and less about the well-being of the animals. This is why it is rather recommended to acquire a chinchilla at a breeder’s place with a good reputation.
If you want to know more about where to get a chinchilla, you can check out this article: Where can I get chinchillas?
Best Chinchillas for Reproduction
There are several factors that should be taken into consideration when it comes to choosing chinchillas for reproduction.
Some male chinchillas are able to mate from around 10 weeks of age. This can be an issue because most kits are weaned at the age of 8 to 12 weeks. If a male chinchilla is already ready to mate before it is weaned, it might result in inbreeding which can lead to sick or deformed kits.
Chinchillas should not be too young, nor be too old when they reproduce. The body of the female should be mature and ready for pregnancy and for giving birth. Keep in mind, that this is an exhausting process for the body and a very young chinchilla might not be ready, even though it might be sexually mature.
Male chinchillas are able to mate throughout their lives. A senior chinchilla should not be given the opportunity to mate. Just like for all living creatures, from a certain age on, making babies is not healthy anymore, even if it is possible.
The best age to breed is around 1 year for a female chinchilla. They should also be under 2 years of age.
That might seem very young since chinchillas in captivity can live for 15 to 20 years, but it’s the best time for breeding as the chinchillas are young and vital enough to carry babies without risking their own health or the health of their kits.
Some breeders start to reproduce with females that are only 7 months old, some state that a 9 to 10-month-old female is the best age, but every chinchilla is different and there is no “perfect age”.
Just make sure that the body of the female is mature and strong enough to carry babies.
Very young females might also fight off males when they try to mate.
Since the female does most of the work in this entire process of reproduction, it is important to choose the female wisely.
The pelvic area of the female you choose should be big enough so that breeding and giving birth do not become an issue.
A good size is about the size of a thumb. If you want to have a look by yourself, hold your chinchilla and put your thumb below the tail to compare the sizes. If you are unsure, you can always have a vet look at your chin and give a professional opinion.
If a small pelvic area leads to a difficult pregnancy or even to a cesarean operation to save the mother and the kits, it will become very difficult and dangerous for the chinchilla and pretty expensive for you.
A female that is supposed to carry babies should be in perfect health conditions, which includes a normal weight. The normal weight for a female chinchilla (before being pregnant) is around 650g.
Health and Character
Choose a healthy chinchilla for breeding. Check the fur. It should be shiny and dense. The eyes should be clear and obviously, there should be no sign of any medical issues.
The chin you choose should also have a nice temperament that you would like to see in the offspring.
Step by Step Mating Process
Chinchilla’s mate at a certain time in the year to make sure that the kits are not born in winter. In the northern hemisphere, that would be between November and May for mating, so that after 4 months of pregnancy, the kits will arrive between spring and autumn.
It does not make a difference for chinchillas in captivity, but chinchillas in the wild have to make sure that their kits have a high chance to survive, and winter is not necessarily the best time to be born.
The food is scarce, the temperatures are freezing, and the female might not be able to nurture her kits.
In the southern hemisphere, the seasons are the opposite, therefore chinchillas tend to mate between May and November.
Don’t rely on that fact and let your male and female chinchillas together during the rest of the year, if you don’t want to breed. Some chinchillas are extremely fertile and are able to reproduce throughout the year.
Chinchillas tend to mate at a time of the day when they are most active. For the majority of chinchillas that is dusk, dawn, or at night.
But many pet chinchillas have adapted to a more crepuscular or even diurnal lifestyle, due to their owners. These chinchillas might also be happy to mate during the day.
Choose a Room
Before the mating process begins, the male and the female need to get to know each other. It is not possible to simply put two chinchillas that don’t know each other, into the same enclosure, expecting them to mate. It is more likely that they will fight and injure each other.
Therefore the male and female need separate cages at first. The cages should be close enough so that they can see each other, but not too close to prevent fighting through the wires.
Now choose a rather quiet room for mating and breeding. This is where the cages of your chinchillas should be placed.
The perfect room is chinchilla-friendly to allow them to play outside of the enclosure. No strong smells, flashlights, loud noises from a TV or radio, or other pets should be in this room to make the environment as calm and chinchilla-friendly as possible.
Introduce Male and Female to Each Other
The most important part here is to be patient. Chinchillas that don’t know each other and that are put together in a cage might fight, even if it’s a male and a female.
You start with each chinchilla in one cage. Put the cages close enough so that they recognize each other and observe their reactions.
In many cases, you can already see if the chinchillas tend to be friendly, curious, or aggressive towards each other.
Of course, being friendly and curious is what you wish for, but an aggressive attitude, at first sight, does not necessarily mean that these two cannot get used to each other and mate. You just have to be more careful.
Once the chinchillas appeared to get used to each other in the separate enclosure, you can let them play in a big playpen, or in a chinchilla-friendly room, where both have the possibility to run away and hide, if the other chinchilla decides to attack.
Repeat the process every day until you only see friendly reactions. This is when you are able to let them live together in one cage.
The Mating Process
Once the female is in heat, the male will start acting differently. It will be excited and might even chase the female through the cage.
A female is usually in heat every 30 to 40 days.
It is normal, that the female is not as thrilled as the male at first. She might spray with urine or make sounds to show her distress or discomfort. In some cases, the females will even attack the males.
This is why the cage for the mating process should be big enough so that the male can run away and hide if necessary.
The male will try to mount the female from the back and might pull the female’s fur during this process. It might appear aggressive, but there is no need to interfere unless the female turns around and attacks the male by biting or scratching him.
If the female attacks the male and it seems like the male might get hurt and cannot escape, you might want to interfere.
Never grab a chinchilla during a fight with bare hands. You should rather open the cage or make a sound that startles them both so that they stop fighting for long enough to get one chin out of the cage.
While the male and the female mate, a copulation plug develops. After mating the female ejects the plug and you can find it as a waxy substance in the cage.
When the mating process is over, the female will take off and the male will groom his pelvic area to prevent hair rings.
After mating, you should check for a hair ring on the male chinchilla. If there is hair twisted around in the pelvic region, it needs to be removed quickly. The best way is to see a vet since this process involves cutting the hair in a very sensitive region. Otherwise, it can lead to serious health conditions and injure the male “down-there”-parts.
For the female: Make sure she is pregnant. Check the weight regularly and go see a vet if you detect any issues.
The gestation period is around 4 months.
How do Chinchillas Give Birth?
The gestation period of female chinchillas is usually between 110 and 120 days, which is rather long for small mammals.
A few days before the female gives birth, you should not let her take sand baths anymore. A few weeks before she is due, she might change her behavior, lay on her side, drink more water, or eat less food.
Right before the female gives birth, she might become aggressive, stop eating, or just lay around. This is totally normal behavior and you do not have to worry about it.
The birth itself usually takes place at dawn or during the night. This is the time when the female is most vulnerable and does not want to be disturbed. If you happen to be awake or around when the birth happens, try to be as silent as possible around the female and let her do the best she can. Do not try to help or interrupt in any way.
A female chinchilla that is stressed might have trouble giving birth, and might even eat her own kits because she feels like they are not safe. It is something that can happen with most rodents. In nature, a mother would rather eat her babies to gain energy, than leave the babies for any potential predator.
After giving birth, the mother will clean her kits and herself. Do not interfere in any way. Cleaning and licking the kits is very important to stimulate them and to help them get rid of the fluid that might still be in their lungs.
Do Chinchillas Lay Eggs?
Just like all mammals, chinchillas give live birth. They do not lay eggs. The kits are born with fur and open eyes. Within only a few hours, the kits will be able to walk.
How Can You Tell if a Chinchilla is in Heat?
Chinchillas tend to choose a partner they are not related to, but if there is no other option, they will inbreed. This is an issue because inbreeding can lead to disabilities and deformations in the kits. This is why male and female siblings should not live together once they are not kits anymore.
As a whole, there are a few indications of a chinchilla being in heat such as the male chasing the female around in the enclosure, or the female being more energetic and playful.
It is not too obvious when a female gets into heat, but the reactions of the male around often give it away. Males are very excited when a female gets into heat and starts running around, chasing the female, and trying to mount her.
How Long Does the Pregnancy of a Chinchilla last?
The gestation period of chinchillas lasts around 110 to 120 days in total. Compared to other rodents, this is a very long period. Rats and mice have gestation periods of under a month, and even guinea pigs that are closely related to chinchillas have a gestation time of only 60 – 72 days.
How Many Kits Can a Chinchilla Have?
If you are planning to breed, it is important to know how many babies your beloved chins are able to make.
As a whole, a chinchilla can have between 1 and up to 7 kits per litter, while one or two kits are common. With two possible pregnancies per year, that could lead to anything between 2 and 14 kits per year, while 14 is highly unrealistic, but still not impossible.
Usually, a female chinchilla will have 1 to 2 kits per litter, in some cases females give birth to up to 4 babies, and in extremely rare cases even up to 7 kits.
Since the gestation period is around 4 months long, a chinchilla could theoretically be pregnant up to 3 times per year.
But due to the fact that chinchillas usually only mate at a certain time of the year (Northern hemisphere: November – May; Southern hemisphere: May – November), it is more realistic to say that a chinchilla could have two litters per year, instead of three.