Posted: July 13, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: Our chinchillas just had two babies. The father and other male chins really want to interact with the babies and the new mom. Today, however, Day 3, they seem interested in "breedback" activities, so I separated them again. We don't want the mom to get pregnant again. The babies really like their dad and know who he is, so I'm not sure how long to keep them apart from him. How long is the mother in heat for after birth?
A: Parents of chinchilla kits must be separated either right before the kits are born or during the labor process. Otherwise, the male chinchilla usually tries to mount the female while she is in labor and afterward. Keeping the male and female together up to and through the birthing process brings substantial risk if the male becomes too persistent or aggressive. The female may attack the male. The male may attack the female and /or kits. The kits could be trampled to death. Most of this behavior is driven by instinct and cannot be trained away.
A female chinchilla can become pregnant right after the birth process and during the few weeks thereafter. If a female becomes pregnant at this time, it is called a breedback. If this occurs, the female chinchilla is likely to be deficient in the nutrients her body needs to rebuild from the recent delivery, as well as those needed for the healthy development of the new kits in utero. This deficiency condition increases the risk of the female chinchilla developing malocclusion.
Breedback kits are often smaller, more sickly, less resistant to disease and have a higher risk of developing malocclusion. Many breedback kits die within their first couple years of life.
Malocclusion is a gradual, progressive drifting of the teeth out of alignment to the point where the chinchilla is no longer able to eat. The result can be slow starvation and death.
A good approach is to separate the male and female chinchilla just before birth. Set up side-by-side cages where the male can interact through the wire with the female and kits. Keep the cages at least a couple of inches apart. If you place the cages too close together, then some toes may be lost if a disagreement occurs.
The male chinchilla can also visit with the mom and kits if you are there to supervise, but if you do not want the female to become pregnant again, you must separate them at the first sign of breeding interest.
Breeding a female a maximum of only once or twice per year will result in a healthier mom and kits that thrive. At the very least, allow the female chinchilla a couple of months to regroup / recover before being put back into breeding. Kits are normally weaned between 8 to 10 weeks, depending upon their growth and health.
See all chinchilla expert Q&A>>