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February '06 Meeting
3 types of Hay
- Grass: Timothy, Bermuda, Johnson, Brome, Orchard. They don't produce "pods" like legume hays. Contains double the fat of legume hay, and about 5% more fiber.
- Legume: clover, alfalfa. More than double the protein (15% to timothy's 7%). Has more than double the minerals and calcium than timothy hay. Too much protein can be stressful stimulus for the kidneys (the kidneys process it and it's a lot of work to break it down), and increases urinary calcium excretion which can be harmful to the bones over time. Protein also requires vitamin B6; if it's all being used up processing protein then it will give the chin a deficiency and cause anemia.
- Grain: barley, oat, rye. More than double the fiber of the other two types of hay, but a bit less protein. Higher range of minerals. Too much fiber (ie. from the doubled intake of this type of feed) can decrease the amount of vitamins and minerals that the body can take in, and can cause gas and runny poos.
A good guide to go by is 70% - 85% hay and 15% - 30% pellets, depending on the nutritional breakdown of the pellet brand (higher fiber pellet = lower percent range for hay. Should still be mainly hay).
A good mix of hay is 70% - 90% Grass to 30% - 10% Legume, again depending on your pellets (higher protein pellet = smaller legume percentage, more grass).
Steps to harvesting hay
1) Field is cut in the summer.
2) If it's cold weather, it's left on the field. If it's hot then it's raked into windrows (a pile of hay loosely placed so it can dry). If it's very hot then it's raked and baled all in one day.
3) When it's baled, it can't be too moist or it'll mold.
4) A sweating period of 21 days happens outside where the bale lets off heat as chemicals break down and moisture further evaporates. Too much moisture during this period can not only cause mold but also make the bale spontaneously combust.
1) Premium: AKA first cut, it's cut pre-bloom in legume or pre-head in grass. 50% or more is leaves, and the stems are fine. It's very high in nutrients and proteins.
2) Good: Early to average maturity. Up to 25% has gone to bloom or head. 40% or more is leaves, and the stems are fine to medium.
3) Fair: Late maturity, mid to late bloom in legumes or head in grass. Less than 50% leaf content and coarse stemmed.
4) Low: Very late maturity. Seed pods or mature heads abundant, and the stems are coarse with a high mix of weeds.
Safest hay is the stuff fed to the race horse industry as they're very sensitive to mycotoxins and molds.
How to write a contract for the selling of live animals, and possible options you can include in your contract. Please download this sample for a well-worded contract that you can edit to suit your needs..
July '05 Meeting
Our meeting in Whitby focused on information for caring for kits and new chinchilla moms. You can download the information below and print it out here.
Recipe for hand feeding kits
1 can of goat's milk (if goat's milk cannot be found you can use evaporated milk)
1 can of water
1 tablespoon of live active bacteria culture yogurt
1 tablespoon of dried baby rice cereal
2 drops of light corn syrup (I didn't use this in my mixture because it gave the kit diarrhea)
This mixture only stays good for 2 days. You can freeze the rest in ice cube trays.
Hand feeding should take place every 2 hours for the first week the kit is born. You can get away with 3 hours at night. Then increase the time between hand feedings by an hour of each additional week. Week 2 feed every 3 hours, week 3 every 4 hours, etc.. At night you can increase the time by an hour as well.
When starting to get a kit to hand feed gently hold the kit in one hand in an upright position. Place your fingers over the legs to prevent the kit from getting loose. Try not to hold the kit too tightly, just enough so it cannot get away from you. Then, place the syringe on the lips in the kit, and allow one drop to sit on the kits lips. The kit will then lick the drop off its lips. Continue to do this until the kit gets the hang of hand feeding. You do not want to rush the kit into hand feeding because you then run the risk of aspiration. You will know the kit has aspirated if it start to make a coughing noise and milk starts to come out of the kit's nose. Don't be alarmed if this happens, because chances are it will occur when your kit is starting out at hand feeding. If this happens put the kit's body into your hand (make sure you support the neck) and bring the kit up to your body, then swing the kit down towards your legs. This will force out any fluid remaining in the lungs. If not a lot of milk has entered the lungs of your kit then the kit should be able to cough it out by itself, just make sure you wipe off the milk coming out of the nose to prevent it from going back into the nose. Hand fed kits should be weighed at every feeding during the first week. It's much slower for weight gains in hand fed babies. This is because it takes them a while to figure out the whole hand feeding process. If your hand feeding a kit and the kit is not gaining any weight and has started to lose weight, you need to start hand feeding more often. If the kit is not gaining and not losing you can try to feed them more often. During the first week of life kits should be taking anywhere from 1 - 3 full syringes. One syringe equals 1 cc.
It is always best to find out if the mother's milk is coming in before you decide to hand feed any kit. Finding out if the mother chinchilla's milk has come in can be tricky if your chinchilla does not like to be held. Make sure to hold the chinchilla firmly so it cannot get loose. You then gently spread the fur covering the teat, you should be able to visibly see an elongated red/pink teat. Gently squeeze the teat at the base of the chinchilla's skin in a downward motion, this should cause milk to come out of the end of the teat. Do not worry if on the first day no milk appears to have come in. Chinchilla mother's milk usually does not come in on the first day. To help the mother's milk to come in you can put a water bottle, consisting of half water and half non sweetened cranberry juice, into the cage. Make sure you provide the chinchilla with a water bottle with just water in it as well. During the first week of life, make sure you weigh the kit often to make sure the mother is providing them with enough milk. Kits should gain 2-5 grams per day.
Caring for a chinchilla mother
When a chinchilla is in breeding it is beneficial to respect what the chinchilla wishes are. Try and restrict handling if the chinchilla does not like to be held. Handling chinchillas that are pregnant and not use to being handled, puts risk on the mother and potential offspring. Chinchillas have been known to abort when put under stress, so it is best to restrict handling as much as possible if your chinchilla prefers not to be. Weighing potential mothers on a regular basis is often beneficial. This is a good way in which to determine if your chinchilla is in fact pregnant. Weight gain varies with each chinchilla. Weight gain consisting of 100 grams or more is a good indicator of whether or not your chinchilla is pregnant. Once you have confirmed that your chinchilla is pregnant, provide that chinchilla with plenty of extra hay, food, and water. Expectant mothers will drink and eat quite a bit more so it is imperative that more food and water are at the chinchilla's disposal. Some people will stop giving calf mana to there chinchillas once they know they are pregnant. People have reported that calf mana can cause larger babies and therefore causes the mother to have a more difficult birth. This could result in the baby getting stuck in the birth canal. A chinchilla's vagina opens before the chinchilla gives birth. Each chinchilla is different, so this can occur a week before she delivers, a few days before she delivers, or on the day of delivery. If you do not know your chinchilla's due date, it is best to remove the chinchilla from her partner once you see she has opened. This will prevent breedback from occurring. Breedback is when the female chinchilla has delivered her litter and the male will breed her again. This causes a lot of stress on the chinchilla's body because she is feeding and looking after kits on the outside, and nurturing kits on the inside. Breedback takes a lot out of a chinchilla mother. If breedback does occur, make sure the chinchilla gets a long break before she is put back into breeding. After the female chinchilla has given birth her vagina remains opens for approximately 10 days. Once her vagina has closed the male chinchilla can be put back in with her to help raise the kits. Monitor the female and male closely to ensure nothing negative happens. Also monitor the female's genitalia after she has given birth. Sometimes females can get infections, so watch for any discolored discharge, or bad odor. If you see any signs of infection, the chinchilla will have to be taken to the vet for antibiotics.
If you're lucky enough you will get to witness the birth of your chinchilla's kits. People often miss the birthing because it usually occurs in the early morning. However, chinchillas can give birth at any time during the day or night. If you have a cage with multiple levels, the chinchilla will go to the very bottom level to give birth, this usually happens about a week before the birthing. When the time to deliver comes your chinchilla will begin to start stretching. She will walk around the cage stretching her back legs. Once the contractions start your chinchilla may be sitting on all four legs or standing on her back legs. If the chinchilla is having contractions while on her back two legs she will stand straight up when having the contraction. She will then go back to sitting on her back two legs. If the chinchilla is on all four legs having contractions she will lean forward during the contractions. You may even be able to see the sides of your chinchilla become really indented during each contraction. It is not uncommon for chinchillas to grind there teeth while in labor, some will even let out squeaks of pain. Once the water breaks your chinchilla's stomach may become soaked with water, however, this doesn't always occur. Sometimes when the water breaks the water will just go into the shavings and there will be no visible signs of the water having broken. You may notice your chinchilla monitoring her vagina during the process of her labor. Once the chinchilla is ready to deliver a kit she will bend down and pull the kit out with her teeth. She will then proceed to cleaning the kit off. Sometimes with first time mothers they become a little eager to clean their baby. This can sometimes result in the kit getting injured. If you notice your chinchilla becoming a little too eager with her kits, you can remove the kit and start to dry it off yourself. In the case of a multiple litter, the mother chinchilla may start to have contractions right after delivering her first kit. She may then ignore the kit that was just born and move on to begin delivering the second kit. If you see this happening, remove the kit and start to dry it off until the mother chinchilla can focus her attention on it. The mother chinchilla will deliver an afterbirth and in most cases, this signifies the end of the birthing. However, there have been cases where the chinchilla is not finished. Chinchilla have two uterine horns and can hold kits in both horns. The afterbirth may just be the ending of one of the uterine horns. Once your chinchilla has finished giving birth, it is best to pick her up and check her stomach to make sure there are no other chinchillas inside her. By gentle pushing her stomach, she should feel squishy, but if her stomach still feels hard and you can still feel lumps, she still has kits inside her. Give the chinchilla some time to see if she has the kits on her own. If her labor has stopped completely she should be taken to a vet. Some chinchillas can go hours between kits and some will have one right after the other. If a kit becomes stuck in the birth canal you can gently try to ease the kit out with the chinchilla's contractions, *most kits often die when they become stuck and you have to work them out*. This should only be done if you are confident in handling your chinchilla under stress. If you are unable to get the kit out the chinchilla needs to be taken to a vet. The faster you get the kit out the better chance you have of saving the mother chinchilla. Kits that becomes stuck are fatal to the mother chinchilla. Chinchillas will bleed during delivery but not a whole lot of blood will be noticeable. If you notice your chinchilla is bleeding quite a bit and continues to bleed after she has finished delivering all the kits, she needs to be taken to a vet.
February '05 Meeting
Our meeting took place at the Riedstra Ranch. Here are the notes taken from what we spoke about, organized into general subjects.
- The Guelph animal hospital knows chinchillas well. Tom used to donate to them to help them learn how to treat exotics as they are fairly rare.
- The chinchilla ear is very similar to the human ear, and so theyre used in tests for ear implants and such.
- Its possible to treat many problems at home. You first need to determine if the problem is Mechanical or Disease. For example, if your chin's eyes are watery or shut with puss, use some basic saline eye drops a few times a day for a few days in a row. Check its teeth for mallcolusion. If it doesn't clear up, then its likely not mechanical, and is probably a disease. Another example of what you can do at home is using fingernail clippers to clip the teeth of mallcoluding animals, or if the kits have sharp teeth and are hurting the mother when nursing, you can use a nail file to grind them down.
- There are two types of malocclusion. If it's happening in the front then we can just get regular filing done and the chin can still live a healthy life. Plus if you are lucky and the teeth is filed just right, there is a chance that the chin might be able to work at it and keep it at a proper length by themselves. The other form of malocclusion happens in to the back teeth where we cant reach to clip or file down. In this case, it's more humane to put the animal to sleep as it's a very painful disease.
- Open the eyes of kits if the mom missed them (sometimes happens in large litters), otherwise the kit could lose the eye.
- To revive a kit, even if its stiff, put the body in warm water up to the head, and massage it a bit. The brain is the last thing to shut down, so there's still a good chance that it will come back.
- If a chin looks like it has dull fur or has a tired or run down look, use electrolytes to give it a boost. You can find them in any drug store, often called Pedialyte. Just a bit in the water should be fine.
- Males could be a factor of low birth numbers, if they have low sperm count or poor/weak sperm. Some males just won't breed with certain females. Tom's had some where they'll breed with every girl in the run except one, and the last one he'll stay in and snuggle with her all the time because they treat eachother like buddies, not mates.
- The mating plug won't stop a breeding (ie. if the female mates once, but it failed, and the boy mates her again or another male mates her, even with the plug she could get pregnant the second time).
- A female who is very fussy, even to the point of constantly spraying you with pee if you go near her, won't necessarily be a bad mother.
- Females spray pee because in the wild, it gets extremely cold in the mountains, so if a predator or unwanted male approches, the last thing they want is to be wet in that weather. Females can get your eye from 6 feet away.
- When a female stops producing, that's when they retire. All females are different, so theres no specific age limit. They'll stop on their own. A female can even abort a fetus if she senses the kit is wrong or if she feels she can't raise it (either because of herself or her environment).
- Unless he's doing a breedback, Tom waits 42 days after a litter to bring the male back in, or until the mom weans her kits. Also wait 42 days after a female's first litter. Keep in mind, the male still has contact with her from his run above the cage, so they don't "forget" about each other.
- 22 ounces is the average weight for an adult chinchilla. That works out to 625g.
- Males should be between 9 months and a year old before going into breeding. Females can be as low as 4-6 months if theyre of good size and have a large enough opening to pass a kit. The reasons males should be much older is because first of all your males should be the higher quality, as they pass theyre genes on to more females, and secondly when they first go in its like heaven, but if they get beaten up and kicked around too much, after a week it will seem like hell. They can quickly get mean and will refuse to breed, or even kill their females.
- A rancher in Arizona measured the testicles on numerous males and compared it to their production rate, and found that there was no correlation.
- Hold the mom up and blow on her fur to see if shes lactating. Look for an infection or bite marks. Get a cream at the drugstore for human moms who have mastitis, rub it on and it should get the milk going. If you help the kits too much, mum's milk will go down because its an on demand basis. 1st few days are important so the kits get antibodies. You can use pablum with a bit of sweetner like honey or molases. Leave the kits with the mom and give 1 full eyedropper 3 times a day if theyre feeding a bit and after 1 week. If theyre not feeding at all from the mom, once every 2 hours for the first week. Carnation condensed milk with corn syrub, or baby formula works too, warm it up a bit. Don't get it in the nose or put it right into the mouth, you can't force feed a kit as they'll drown easily. Tom doesnt recommend using a surrogate mom after the first few days, he's had problems with the mom killing the new kits then. However if its within the first few days, you take the kits who need a new mom and rub them with the new mom's kits to transfer the scent over.
- When you first start grooming your chinchilla, use a "cat comb". It should look like a wide spaced chinchilla comb but the needles arn't sharp at all. Hold the chin 1 inch from the base of the tail, as many nerves are located right at the base and thus is sensitive. Remain calm; if you're nervous the chinchilla will pick up on it. Use the back of the comb and rub it over the back from tail to head to let the chinchilla know what will happen. He should think that its not so bad, even feels nice. Avoid the sides of the chinchilla at first, because those are the most ticklish and your chin will get skittish right at the start. Then comb the very tips of the fur, from tail to head, and slowly go deeper. Don't touch the skin for a while, as it will startle the chin. If you hit a knot, NEVER pull through it. Roll the comb over the knot, then go back with little strokes until its worked out with next to no tugs. Don't worry about the direction of fur just yet, just go back to front. You want the first few times you groom to be filled with good memories.
A couple of months before the show, you'll start grooming every two weeks, then every week. Then, if the show is on a saturday, the tuesday or wednesday before that you do the last combing and the last dust bath. Only start using the finer combs closer to the show. To get the chin and belly, hold the chin's head and ears between your fingers and use the palm of your hand to push the lower legs into your chest. Lift the head up and comb the chin and belly carefully.
On the day of the show, use your fine brush. It shouldn't require a lot of combing if you've been combing them at home the weeks before. The goal is to direct all the fur to the point between the ears. Comb the sides up in that direction to make it look like the animal has a lot of fur in the shoulders and neck. Comb the forehead too. Even though the face and forehead arn't judged in a show, when your animal is of equal quality with another, the judge has to look for anything to put one over the other, so you don't want to give them that excuse.
- When asked about Tom's favorite colour, he said he doesn't really have one, but he does like ebonies and their crosses such as tans and violet wraps.
Tom has pressed plants and drawings of the native plants chinchillas eat in the wild. Here is a list of the latin names for these plants:
November '04 Meeting
Video footage from the 2004 Ohio Mansfield Claim show.
Notes from the Auburn '04 Shindig
Presentation by Becky West
- Each chinchilla should have their own dust bath to prevent a spread of infection or sickness.
- A fishing net on hand helps catch escapees more easily, faster, and with less stess to the animal.
- Pay attention to your market. Know what you're going to do with your babies. Know if you are in a pet, breeder, or fur market.
- Visit a rancher, seminars, and shows to learn and improve your eye.
- If you house your chins in a barn, supply it with hot water.
- Buy your chins from a lot of different ranchers, to offset any recuring bad traits in one's herd.
- Concentrate on a few colours. By getting every colour there is, you'll end up with a lot of not so great animals.
- Use herd imporvement standards, as it will make a huge difference.
Breeding and Happy Chinchillas
- By playing music in the barn or chinchilla room, it will help them breed better by covering up outside noises and maintaining a constant even noise level. It gets them used to different voices, so that when you have company or buyers looking at your animals, the new sounds won't stress them. A study done in the 50's showed that there were better breeding results with classical music.
- Colony breeding involves lots of females and one male in a large open space. There is more likely to be fights and lost babies, so while it's more natural, its also not very common.
- Not all pairings work. Even if the two chinchillas look good, you don't know if they are hiding undesirable traits from their background.
- Leave your breeders alone whenever possible. Randy Jagielo said that when someone visits the barn, 111 days from that day, not one baby will be born.
- The key to good nutrition is balance. Everything should be balanced with something else. For example, calcium won't work without phospherous and vice versa. Timothy hay should be balanced with alfalfa at an 80% timothy to 20% alfalfa level.
- When an animal needs extra energy (cold weather, not eating), give a few pellets that have been dipped in oil. Soy oil is best, animal oils can go bad too fast, and canola oil should not be used.
-High quality feeds are more likely to have digestable nutrients. Cheaper feeds will show good percentages for their contents, but they may use feather meal to boost the protein, which isn't digestable for them and therefore the feed isnt balanced.
- A couple of neat facts: baby's milk is mostly water. The digestive tract of a horse can go around the horse 12 times, a pig's can go around the pig 14 times, a cow is 20 times, and a chinchilla is 23 times.
- Chins are not designed to eat large meals. They are grazers. Too much digested too fast can result in health problems such as bloating, enteritis, malocclusion, constipation. They have a small stomach compared to the body size.
- The Cecum: food goes in and moves along one side, and comes back on the other side. Its a very long process, during which many more nutrients are absorbed.
- Feed by weight, not by volume. Weigh the food for 2% of the animals body weight per day (ie. a 600g chinchilla will eat 12g of food). Remember that different foods have different weights.
- If too little nutrients are being digested, the animals will be tired, weaker, and have pot bellies. They will eat a lot more undigestable food to make up the difference, and will lead to breeding and growing problems.
- Bacteria in the cecum takes 4 to 7 weeks to change when given new food, so when switching feeds, it should be slowly, over this amount of time.
- Mix the humid air with the non-humid air.
- Put a fan on the floor and tilt it towards the ground to circulate the cooler air.
- Put air conditioners up high so they will cool as well as dehumidify.
- Dehumidifiers can put more heat into the air than they will take out in humidity.
- 70 Chinchillas will exhale one pound of water per hour.