Chinchillas need to be housed at a temperature which is below 25°C (77°F). 10-15°C (50-59°) is ideal although they can survive temperatures as low as 0°C (32°F) if the atmosphere is dry and draught free.
They suffer greatly in high humidity or high temperatures and should be kept away from windows and radiators. When the humidity and temperature are high, it is important to use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity at around 70% and an air conditioning unit to keep the air around them cool.
Because they are great gnawers, chinchillas are kept in wire mesh cages or aviary type accommodation. Many of these cages have wire mesh bottoms for hygiene reasons.
As wire mesh is hard on their paws, it is important, if you use a cage with wire mesh floors, to provide plenty of resting boards and shelves where they can rest. Mesh size should be maximum 15mm x 15mm and there should be a maximum drop of 45cm between shelves in multi-tiered cages
Keep hay racks on the outside of the cage to avoid injury and only leave the dust bath in the cage just long enough for your chinchilla(s) to have a bath in it. 10 minutes 3 times per week is plenty. Otherwise you will find the chinchilla using the bath as a toilet and then bathing in contaminated chinchilla dust. Always use proper ‘chinchilla sand’ which has rounded particles, ordinary sand can damage the chinchillas coat.
Making a chinchilla cage
The video is in German but there is more information on the products themselves on Alfer’s UK site. It shows how the cage illustrated above was made.
Buying a chinchilla cage
If you don’t have the time, tools of skills to make your own chinchilla housing, we recommend AviFabs who make aviaries but will also make custom built chinchilla and degu cages.
Chinchillas are nocturnal creatures and extremely active. An evening exercise period outside the cage and a solid wheel like those made by John Hopewell in the UK (open wire wheels are extremely dangerous) for night time exercise will keep your chinchilla in good condition. A room where chinchillas are allowed to exercise should be ‘chin-proofed’. Electrical cables in particular need to be protected from their gnawing. Chinchillas will poop all over the place as they go, but are less likely to urinate outside the cage.
In households where there are several cages of chinchillas and the chinchillas from one cage are allowed to exercise outside the cage, you need to take care that fights leading to injuries do not occur through the bars. I have heard of several chinchillas that have had paws bitten off by rivals in this way.
Erodent has a list of tried and tested exercise wheels for chinchillas page including where to buy them in the US and the UK.
Chinchillas love having sleeping boxes or nest boxes to curl up in. Chose those made from untreated safe wood as they will gnaw then to pieces eventually. Giving your chinchilla safe wood to gnaw on such as willow and hazel will hopefully mean you won’t have to replace the wooden chinchilla nest box too often!
Degus gnaw through wood and plastic. Cages should be made from metal or glass. Aviary type accommodation or a large aquarium with a mesh top are ideal. The cage should provide space to exercise and to hide, sleep and store food. The floor should be covered in a safe, dust free bedding such as Carefresh or Megazorb. Housing should be out of draughts and direct sunlight. Room temperature is ideal.
Many rat or ferret cages are suitable for degus but chinchilla cages provide more space and make it much more interesting for you to watch the degus going about their daily activities.