No matter for which way of feeding you decide for your chinchillas and whether you give commercial feed like pellets or completely natural feed, the following rules should always be followed, if you want to assure your chinchillas a species-appropriate feeding and promote health maintenance.
The diet of chinchillas consists of 4 components:
More information about the 4 components will follow:
Folivorous small mammals like chinchillas, degus, guinea pigs, rabbits etc. should be mainly fed with green fodder and roughage as in nature. Only this kind of diet ensures a flawless digestion without dysbiosis or other dyspepsiae (like diarrhea), an optimal dental wearing, and prevents behavioural disorders.
Overview of green fodder and roughage:
Roughage and green feed should always be available to chinchillas in unlimited quantities and in greater variety in the cage.
Contrary to all rumors, fresh fruit and vegetables are also not very energy-rich and may be fed to chinchillas in addition to (not instead of!) the green food and roughage on a limited daily basis. Individual preferences are to be respected, because especially vegetables are rather disliked by many chinchillas. Popular are e.g. chicory, endive, lettuce hearts, apple, rosehip, various berries or carrot. Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, vitamins, a lot of water, but overall also less phytochemicals and fibres as wild plants and they also contain acid and fructose. Therefore, they are no alternative to wild plants but a healthy supplement.
Dried vegetables and fruits, on the other hand, are no main feed, but only energy feed or treats. They contain concentrated sugar because of the low water content.
Memo box: Minimum requirements for the main feed
Supplementary feed is the energy feed (= concentrated feed). Components of concentrated feed are:
You can give different concentrate feed alternately or give only one type of concentrate feed.
For detailed information on seeds as a concentrate feed, see here: Seed feeding for chinchillas (in German)
Memo box: Requirements for the concentrated feed (seeds, pellets, compound feed)
Healthy, adult animals with normal weight and no other additional requirements AND fed according to the above plan (see the first memo box!) do not require concentrate feed.
Concentrated feed, on the other hand, is obligatory for animals with additional nutritional requirements, i.e. during pregnancy, lactation, growth, illness and, as a result, underweight/weight loss. Animals with additional needs can be given 1 tsp of concentrated feed 2-3 times a week, depending on individual needs. The absolute maximum is temporarily 1tsp/day per animal.
Recommendation: At most 1-2x small treats per animal per day, e.g. used for taming or as a reward. What treats are suitable and unsuitable, you can read here: Treats for chinchillas (in German)
Water must be accessible to chinchilla unlimited, in a bowl or a bottle, although according to studies, small pets prefer to drink from water bowls, which also allows them to absorb more fluid.
More on the topic at: