Basic knowledge


Chinchillas are small South American rodents of the high Andes .

Males are polygamous, they mate with 4 or 5 females. Every female has a cage and males come and go through cages by means of tunnels. These groups are called families.

Pregnancy lasts 111 days, after that time, from 1 to 4 kits are born (on average 2). When kits are born they are fully developed. The kits are weaned at 45-50 days. When females are six or seven months old, they are ready for mating. At eleven months Kits are ready for pelting.

At this moment market prices are good, from 20 to 50 American dollars each one. When the quality of the males is outstanding, we destine them for breeding.

A chinchilla ranch is somewhere you must be completely at ease.

The insulation has to be strictly checked, temperature ought not to rise above 30 degrees centigrade or else the chinchillas will die.

It isn’t necessary to add that ventilation has to be closely controlled (15 renewals per hour) in order to keep the atmosphere comfortably pleasant and dry, without violent drafts of air. The ideal temperature would be between 15 or 20 degrees centigrade.

Cages can be arranged in rows of seven tiers each.. You can heap 7 cages one on top of the other (although the ideal number would be 5). Then you join them and put one male and five females into them, forming a family. To keep the male from running wild, you can fit a restrictor in the tunnel to limit his comings and goings among females that don’t correspond to him.

We have an average of 8 to 10 cages per square meter in each room.

 Each cage has got a feeder.  Animals are on an automatic water system.

The cages have got a tray which contains white wood shavings, preferably pine or poplar wood, to avoid staining the fur.

These shavings must be changed every 10 or 15 days.

Both the male and the female drink and eat out of the same feeders and automatic water system because the male hasn’t a cage of his own.

Each chinchilla eats between 25 to 35 grams of balanced feed. They are also provided with a ration of dry alfalfa or pellets. It’s suitable to supply them with alfalfa when you change the wood shavings.

It’s also necessary to let the animals have a piece of wood to gnaw. This piece of wood will also be useful to provide the animals with marble dust for them to bathe and clean their fur of grease once a week.

Daily program on a chinchilla ranch look at the animals closely.

Feed them, check if any of them haven’t eaten (if this were the case, mark them for further inspection).

Check water supply.

Complete birth charts with the latest kits. Decide if you have to shut off the male.

Wean any kits that are ready for this.  


Add shavings and supply a ration of alfalfa.

Provide marble dust for baths.

When you wean siblings, leave together until they’ve four months old, then put them into separate cages.

As soon as they’re six months old decide which animals you will choose for breeding, and which will be destined for pelting.

After seven months you can put the females into breeding. It is better to let males mature a little more (until they’re 8 or 9 months old).

Be aware and choose only the highest quality breeders, just cull the ones that are of inferior quality.

Place each female in a cage and the male in another one. Then open the access to the tunnel, so he can circulate freely to meet the females. After 10 or 15 days, and after putting plastic collars on the females to prevent them from entering the tunnel, allow males to have access to a female for a week so he gets accustomed to being with her. Once the male has served all the females, you can close the male’s cage and put in a female. This should be closely checked for fear of fighting, which can be harmful.

The new rancher shouldn’t have this kind of problems, because we are very careful and can assure him that the members of the family he buys are adapted to each other and won’t fight.

If you are going to destine chinchillas for pelting, it is suitable to wait until they are 11 months old, and have reached maturity.

Pelts should be dried in the air during 5 to 7 days.

You may keep pelts in a freezer or else send them to a dresser by air mail, parcel post or personally.

Dressing costs 5$ + IVA (15/03/2002)

Pelts should be stored in a dry dark cool place, until you decide to sell them.

You may sell your pelts whatever way you consider best or can be most profitable. It’s possible to sell them privately to the dresser or maybe in a public sale, where buyers could be from abroad or from the home market.

In Public sales the dealer displays the pelts on a specially designed judging table and each pelt has got its price tag. The dealer stands in front and offers the pelts one by one. The buyer judges the pelts in conformity with the prices, and waits to see if the dealer decides to sell or not. Then they continue with the next pelt. The buyer gives his opinion on what he considers undesirable qualities.

The audience listens attentively to him checking if they can learn anything useful to them in the future.

The importance of these sales is that we are able to assess a lot of important items, mainly we can ascertain if our business is thriving in the way we want it.

When we sell something we set a price on it and establish paying conditions, so we have to asses that nothing goes wrong, and we can collect our money in the way we agreed on at the moment of the sale. Prudence is important.

Only the best chinchillas can give us utmost satisfaction. A very important item when we’re talking about pelts is the importance of maturity, never underestimate this point of the question.

It’s impossible to get top prices for your animals or pelts if they resemble rats.

It is of utmost importance to purchase chinchillas of excellent quality and continue improving them by selection.

We must bear in mind the investments we’ll have to make at the start of our new business; such as cages for kits, feed, dressing, etc. The money we’ve spent won’t be retievable until we sell our first pelts in two years time or less. So we’ll have to save in case we need to buy anything else.

Chinchilla breeding is profitable business which doesn’t require a large investment at the beginning.

If you need chinchilla pelts you’ll have to buy them at a chinchilla ranch. In the wild these animals are a reddish brown, besides they’re practically extinct. Something which would make them a renewable and ecological resource. These furs are biodegradable, but in contrast artificial ones are not since they’re made from derivatives of petroleum.


Ing. Agr. Roberto F. Klein

      RJK Chinchillas