Posted: December 30, 2014, 8:40 p.m. EST
© Courtesy Joyce Lyth
In tall cages, add shelves and hammocks or create levels so that there is not a straight drop from top to bottom where a chinchilla might fall and be injured.
Q: I am looking to buy a chinchilla in the future. I have recently brought a bird cage that has never been used and is quite large. Can I make it into a chinchilla cage with ramps, etc.?
A: You will want to be sure the wire on the bird cage is not so wide that the chinchilla can escape, and that the door remains secure when closed. Chinchillas are wonderful escape artists if given the opportunity. Wire spacing of 1 by 2 inches for the walls and top of the cage is fine for adult (fully grown) chinchillas. For young chinchillas, a 1 by 1 inch or 1 by ½ inch wire spacing is preferred for walls and cage top.
If the cage bottom has a wire mesh floor or any wire mesh ramps or shelves, be sure that the wire grid size is half-inch by half-inch or smaller. Wire that is a larger grid size, for example, half-inch by 1 inch, can easily entrap a chinchilla’s foot. Chinchillas are most active at night so this type of entrapment often occurs at night and then is not discovered until morning. Due to the elongated shape of the chinchilla’s hind foot, it is often impossible for the chinchilla to free himself from the wire mesh. The chinchilla may instinctively chew off the trapped foot to escape. This can result in the death of the chinchilla or extraordinary high veterinary bills if the chinchilla lives. It is better to carefully select cage wire size to avoid the problem.
If the bottom of the cage is an open, pull-out pan, then you can use safe shavings, usually white pine, on the bottom of the cage.
You can add shelving and ramps to give your chinchilla more area to explore. The shelves/ramps can be of either pine, fir or half-inch by half-inch wire. You could even use a large apple branch to add some interest. While chinchillas are very agile and can jump from one level to another in a cage, it is important that there is no clear drop from an upper story in the cage to the cage floor. Chinchillas do occasionally fall to their deaths in some of the large cages. We usually suggest creating a full level in the middle of the cage with a hole just big enough for the chinchilla to pass through. If this is not practical, then extra shelving or a wider hammock may provide some protection from a fall.
You may also want to provide some fun hanging toys, a wooden house and a safe exercise wheel for your chinchilla's enjoyment.
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