Chinchilla & Degu Diet

Feeding Chinchillas a good diet

Chinchillas in the wild eat a sparse diet of vegetation including grasses, roots and seeds. See Save The Wild Chinchillas list of foods eaten by wild chinchillas here.

In captivity their diet should consist of good quality hay, chinchilla pellets, supplemented with fresh wild plants, grass and vegetables. Protein 15% (up to 18% during pregnancy and lactation), Fibre 30%, Fat 4%,

Chinchillas are intolerant of sugar and fruit should be fed in only small amounts as an occasional treat. peanuts and other fatty foods should be avoided. Their food should be fed fresh as the nutritional value of pellets deteriorates with storage. Hay should be fresh, dry and free from mould. Water should be provided in a water bottle. Fresh food should never be fed straight from the fridge as cold food can cause fits.

The main food of wild chinchillas is the puya plant,  Puya berteroniana.  Chinchillas chew holes and make nests in the puya.  Wild chinchillas eat the puya leaves all year round.They are creatures of habit and should be fed at the same time every day. They also need lots to chew on such as apple, hazel or willow twigs. Hay or alfalfa cubes provide environmental stimulation as well as being a food source. A hollow log filled with hay and a few choice treats is another good way of supplementing the food bowl.

Chinchillas need fresh unsaturated fatty acids in their daily diet as they cannot synthesize these within their own bodies. Diets low in arachidonic and linoleic acids can lead to reduced hair growth and ulcers on the skin.

Chinchillas also require vitamin E, choline (a B complex vitamin) and the amino acid methionine to enable it to break down natural carotene, or pro-vitamin A, into vitamin A. When these are lacking in the diet the carotene build up can cause a condition known as ‘yellow ears’.

Chinchillas also need a ratio of calcium to phosphorous in their diet of between 1:1 and 2:1.

Diet tips for feeding Degus

Degus eatingThe degu diet in the wild consists of grasses, seeds and roots. It is nutrient poor so they spend a great deal of time foraging and eating. Captive diet should be high in indigestible fibre and should exclude all sugary foods including dried fruits. Suitable foods include chinchilla and guinea pig pellets, well cured hay and some fresh vegetables. High fat mixes such as hamster mix should be avoided because they can cause liver problems. Fresh water should be available at all times.

In captivity, degus do not have to spend as much time searching for food as they would in the wild so it is as well to challenge them to look for food or giving them food that they have to work at. A few pieces of chicory root wrapped in a ball of hay and stuffed into a strong cardboard tube or deep inside a rope of plaited hay will help replicate a more natural pattern of eating. Their food bowl should still contain the bulk of what they need for their daily diet but if they want extra they should be made to work for it rather than risk obesity.