Chinchilla Food Pellets

Chinchilla Food and Diet

Chinchilla Food and DietProviding a healthy and balanced diet for your pet chinchilla is one of the most important parts of chinchilla care. This is done by provided good chinchilla food full of the nutrients they need. Maintaining a proper diet will ensure your chinchilla is healthy, happy, and the correct weight. It will also help them live longer and reduce vet bills. Since their diet is so basic and they eat such a small amount, it’s actually very affordable to feed a premium, healthy diet.

In this article, we will break down all the important components of a chinchilla’s diet. We will also tell you what to look for when selecting hay and pellets, what to avoid, and recommend brands of food for your pet chinchilla.

What do chinchillas eat?

A chinchilla’s diet is broken up into four main parts: fresh water, hay, pellets, and treats. Water, hay, and pellets should always be available for your chinchilla. Filtered water should be provided in a chew proof water bottle and changed daily.

Hay is the main part of their diet and should be fed to them constantly through a hay rack or holder in their cage. Generally, timothy hay is the most recommended hay to feed your chinchilla. You can also mix in other types of hay to add a variety of flavors and nutrients, including alfalfa, alpine, orchard grasses, and blue grasses. In addition to nutrients, hay also helps chinchillas grind down their molars, which are ever growing. Hay is often sold in large quantities and should be stored in a dry place with plenty of airflow to keep them from getting damp and moldy.

An alfalfa based pellet should always be available. A single chinchilla will only eat about 1 to 2 tablespoons in a day, but more should always be given. Chinchillas do not overeat pellets so you should serve them more than the minimum amount they need so they always have access to food. The pellets can be served in a food dish or crock. Note: any pellet brand you buy should be PELLETS ONLY. Do not buy pellets that have mixes of seeds, nuts, dried fruit, colored pellets, etc. Your chinchilla will pick the “treats” out of this mix and leave the pellets behind. This can lead to health problems, weight gain, and an imbalanced diet. Never feed pellets formulated for another type of animal.

Treats can be provided as a very small part of your chinchilla’s diet. They are useful for training and helping you bond with your new pet. Make sure you are giving treats only once a day (or less) and that you are giving healthy treats. Read more about healthy treats for chinchillas.

Here’s a handy image to help you remember your chinchilla’s diet. Save to Pinterest to easily find it later.
A Complete Adult Chinchilla Diet

Can chinchillas eat rabbit food?

Sometimes it can be tricky to find chinchilla food in pet stores or at general grocery stores. Or you may notice that rabbit food is cheaper than chinchilla food. It is not recommended to feed your pet chinchilla any food made for rabbits. Even though they are both small pets, they have very different needs in their diets. The only rabbit foods that are safe to feed chinchillas are rabbit “show” foods. These are feeds designed for show rabbits and are not available in regular pet stores like Petsmart. Examples of this include Purina Rabbit Show Natural Advantage Formula and Manna Pro Premium. If you live near a feed store, you might be able to purchase feeds like that at a cheaper price. Otherwise, you’re better off buying the chinchilla pellets we recommend below, which are available at most pet store chains or online.

Changing Your Chinchilla’s Diet

What if you need to change your chinchilla’s diet? Chinchillas are very sensitive to diet changes and it can lead to health issues, especially digestive problems. Any changes (like switching to a new brand of pellets or trying a new type of treats or hay) must be done slowly. Sometimes your chinchilla will respond poorly to a new food and it should be eliminated completely. Otherwise, you can slowly transition the new food into their diet and slowly remove the old food.

For pellets, you should slowly mix in the new brand of pellets over the course of three weeks. Follow this schedule:

  • Week 1: Feed 75% of the old pellets and 25% of the new pellets each day.
  • Week 2: Feed 50% of the old and 50% of the new pellets each day.
  • Week 3: Feed 25% of the old and 75% of the new pellets each day.
  • Week 4: If your chinchilla has no problems, feed the new pellets exclusively.

Use this infographic as a handy reference:
How to Transition a Chinchilla to a New Pellet Food

If you notice any change in your chinchilla’s stool, including softness, immediately revert to the previous week’s balance. Sprinkle some acidophilus powder on their pellets to balance their stomach. Once their poops return to normal, you can proceed to the next week.

Chinchilla Food Recomendations

Chinchilla Hay

When buying hay, depending on the supplier, you may have a choice of “cut” either first, second, or third cutting. These stand for which crop of hay it came from during the growing season. Generally, the second cut is the best as it has a good balance of nutrients and fiber.

Kaytee Hay

Kaytee is one of the most common brands of hay and food available, often seen in national pet store chains. They’re also usually the cheapest. Many exotic pet owners complain about the freshness or getting a bad batch, but we have used it without issue. (When buying any hay you should check the freshness and quality of it before feeding it to your pet.)

Kaytee offers the following hay options that are appropriate for chinchillas:

Small Pet Select

Small Pet Select is a newer hay distributor on the small animal scene, but they’re getting great reviews from exotic pet owners and are a good brand to consider for your chinchilla’s diet.

One thing that makes them stand out from other chinchilla hay suppliers, is they pack and ship their hay in a cardboard box, which is the best long-term storage option for keeping hay. They offer timothy hay in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cuttings–we recommend buying the 2nd cutting.

Here are their chinchilla hay options:

Oxbow Chinchilla Hay

Oxbow is a brand loved by many chinchilla owners. They offer a variety of hays that are good for chinchillas and can be found in some local and national pet stores. Their hay is grown in the USA and hand selected to ensure good quality products.

The options they offer for chinchillas include:

Chinchilla Pellets

Often referred to as chinchilla feed, pellets are important to your chinchilla’s diet, especially since the wrong one can have devastating health effects. The best chinchilla food is whichever you can get reliably and freshly that meets your pet’s needs. Remember to look for an alfalfa-based pellet with no add-ins (no seeds, colored pellets, etc.). Here are our recommended brands to consider.

Oxbow Essentials Chinchilla Food

Another great chinchilla food option from Oxbow. Made from their own hand-selected alfalfa hay, their pellets are nutritionally complete for your chinchilla’s needs. It’s also relatively easy to buy in local pet stores or online so you never have to worry about buying the next bag.

Oxbow chinchilla feed is widely recommended by exotic veterinarians and chinchilla breeders. It’s good for all ages of chins.

Depending on how many little mouths you need to feed, it’s generally available in 3 lb., 5 lb., 10 lb., and even 25 lb. bags.

Mazuri Chinchilla Food

Mazuri is another brand trusted by breeders and veterinarians to provide the nutrition your pet chinchilla needs. They are a little bit harder to find in pet stores, though some national chains carry it. Their pellets are nutritionally complete, using multiple fiber sources including alfalfa, timothy hay, and oats.

If you can find a reliable source to buy Mazuri or don’t mind ordering it online, it’s a fantastic choice of pellets for your chinchilla.

Chinchilla Pellet Food in the United Kingdom

If you’re a chinchilla owner based in the UK, finding the above recommended brands is very tricky. Instead, you should try Beaphar Care+, which is the nutritionally best chinchilla food in the UK.

Another brand to consider is Charnwood Chinchilla Pellets, which is a decent chinchilla food and more affordable than Beaphar Care+.

Don’t forget to check out these healthy treats for chinchillas to round out your pet’s diet.

Check out these chinchilla food dishes and hay racks.

Rose Hips Chinchilla Treats

Healthy Chinchilla Treats & Training with Treats

Chinchilla Treats and Training with TreatsLike most pets, chinchillas love treats. But you have to be cautious, because like most pets (and some people), chinchillas will always choose tasty treats over the food they need to stay healthy. Treats should be a very small part of your chinchilla’s diet, but they are still important. They can be used as rewards for training and help you feel closer to your pet. But, you should make sure that the chinchilla treats you’re providing are acceptable for your pet and do not cause problems.

While there seem to be some disagreements among chinchilla owners about what chinchillas should or shouldn’t be given as treats, we always say it’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to your chin’s health. While things like raisins or dried fruit are often popular treats, they should not be given as treats to chins. In the long term, it’s best to avoid highly sugary sweets, especially since your chin will enjoy other treats just the same.

Remember, when it comes to treats your chinchilla should only get 1 treat per day, no matter how much they beg.

Never Give These as Chinchilla Treats

The following treats are generally considered unsafe and should never be given to your pet chinchilla.

  • Fruit (fresh, dried, or dehydrated, including raisins)
  • Veggies (fresh, dried, or dehydrated)
  • Nuts or Seeds (peanuts, sunflower seeds, etc.)
  • Commercial Chinchilla Treats

I’m sure you’re thinking, why can’t I use the chinchilla treats at the pet store? Pet treat manufacturers do not necessarily have your chin’s health in mind when they make their treats. They also may make treats targeted to a wide variety of exotic and small pets without taking into account the special dietary needs of each species. The manufacturers also may not even know that some ingredients are unhealthy or dangerous to chinchillas.

It’s better to buy treats you know are safe for chinchillas, even if you are buying them from a grocery store instead of the pet store.

Safe and Healthy Treats for Chinchillas


This is one of the most common chinchilla treats I hear owners give their chins. As long as you get the plain kind, Cheerios are a good treat option for your pet chinchilla. The whole grain oats are fine for chinchillas and they love the treats even though there’s no sugar or sweetness to them.

Old Fashioned Oatmeal

Here’s another treat option you may already have in your cabinet, which is also very affordable. Chinchillas love uncooked oatmeal. You can easily add a little pinch to their pellet dish or a special treat bowl. Make sure that whatever you buy, you do not buy the quick cook oatmeal.

Shredded Wheat Cereal

Another wheat based treat, chinchillas love bite size shredded wheat. It’s so funny to think that a pet will go crazy over a cereal I won’t even eat. Make sure the shredded wheat you’re using for treats is plain (not sweetened or flavored in any way) and is the spoon size. If you buy the large size you should break off pieces and only give a teaspoon portion as a treat.

Dried Rose Hips

Rose Hips Chinchilla Treats
Chinchillas go crazy for these dried treats. Rose hips can be given whole or crushed as treats. They’re packed with vitamin C and healthier than raisins or dried fruit. Most breeders and chinchilla owners agree this is the best treat to offer your pet.

How to Train your Pet Chinchilla with Treats

Treats are a great tool for training your chinchilla. Since they love treats so much and they are very intelligent, they can be surprisingly easy to train. It does take time, patience, and repetition though, but once your chinchilla is trained it will add a lot of fun to your life and also make day to day tasks easier.

Make sure, as always, that the chinchilla treats you’re giving as a part of training are healthy ones. You also need to keep your eye on the quantity you’re giving them. Even when you’re training they need to be limited to one treat per day. Usually, for training, it is better to use smaller treats or crushed treats. Oats, crushed rosehips, or broken up shredded wheat work well because you can give their “daily serving” over multiple tricks in a day.

I recommend training your chinchilla on one trick at a time and then using that trick to build on other tricks and commands.

Returning to their Cage

One of the first “tricks” I taught my chinchilla that made day-to-day activities easier was teaching her to return to her cage at the end of playtime. Often she will return on her own after about 20 minutes, but there are some days where she’s like a toddler hopped up on sugar and will just run and run forever. She always gets a treat at the end of her play time after she returns to her cage. But that knowledge wasn’t enough to make her return in a reasonable amount of time.

To train her, I started to do the following. Once she did return to her cage on her own, I would shake the treat jar and then give her a treat. After doing that for about a week, she started to associate that noise with going in her cage and receiving a treat. I can now command her to return to her cage by shaking the jar. This is great for emergency situations where something comes up and I need to get her back in her cage quickly.

Training your chinchilla to come to you

This is a good command to teach your pet in the beginning. It can be used to summon them away from a dangerous situation or a fun command to get them closer to you so you can deliver a chin scratch.

To train your chinchilla, you should use a gesture and a voice command. One common way is by tapping the floor and saying “Come.” The first few times you do this, place a small amount of treats on the floor where you tap. Your chinchilla should run over immediately to get to gobble up the treat.

Once they get the hang of that, tap the floor and say “Come” and then give them the treat. As soon as they come over, you should give auditory praise either with clicker or by saying something like “Good.” Make sure you use the same praise every time, for every trick you train on.

Going into their carrier

Many chinchillas do not like to be grabbed or held, even after years of bonding and training. This can make it a nightmare to get them into a travel carrier. If there’s an emergency where you need to evacuate your home, you won’t have to time to chase your chinchilla and catch them. Instead, if you have your chin trained, they will automatically go in making the whole experience less stressful for both of you.

Before you can train them to go in the carrier, you must train them to “Come.” Once they know that command perfectly, you can convert it to the carrier by doing the same gesture. Again start by placing a small amount of treats inside the carrier and doing your gesture while saying the command word “crate”. Your chin should run over to get the treats. Give the auditory praise of a clicker or “Good.”

Once you’ve done that a few times, start doing the gesture and handing the treat after they go in. Don’t forget to give your auditory praise as soon as they go in. You should be able to start doing your gesture on any part of the carrier to summon your chin.

Though you may not need to crate your chinchilla regularly, it’s good to keep them fresh on this command and make it a part of playtime at least once a week. This will also help them feel more comfortable with their carrier so they will not fear it whenever they see it.

Semi-Octagonal Wood Hay Feeder

Best Chinchilla Hay Feeders, Racks, and Holders

Chinchilla Hay Feeder, Rack, or HolderHay is a crucial part of a chinchilla’s diet. It provides essential fiber and gives them a chance to chew and grind down their teeth a little. Because it’s so important, your pet chinchilla needs to have unlimited access to clean and fresh hay. Because chinchillas can be a little messy and often have a tendency to pee on hay placed on the floor or a shelf in their cage, using a chinchilla hay feeder is the best way to keep the hay clean and reduce messes.

When shopping for a chinchilla hay rack you should keep a couple of things in mind. First, consider where you want the hay holder to be located in your chinchilla’s cage. Will it need to hang from the side of the cage or the ceiling? Next, look at the materials it is made out of. Easily accessible plastic parts should be avoided if your chin is a chewer. You should also consider size (or buying multiple racks) if you have more than one chinchilla.

Here are some of our recommendations for economical and fun chinchilla hay feeders.

Chinchilla Hay Feeders and Holders

Lixit Chinchilla Hay Rack

Lixit Chinchilla Hay Rack

Lixit offers another affordable hay rack that easily attaches to any chinchilla cage. The big pro for this feeder is that since it’s made of a solid piece of plastic, it does a better job of holding in hay than the wire version. That helps reduce messes outside of the cage.

The con is that it is made out of plastic. The rack is easy to install and easy to clean, but you should take into consideration how much of a chewer your chinchilla is before you buy this rack. Note: because this hay feeder is made entirely of plastic, it should be hung on the outside of your chinchilla’s cage. They will be able to eat the hay through the bars of the cage.

Dimensions: 10.5″ length x 3.5″ width x 4″ depth

Ware Manufacturing Metal Hay Rack

If your chinchilla is an insatiable chewer, then this hay rack is a great choice that they cannot chew! Ware makes this powder coated metal hay rack that easily hangs on the outside of your chinchilla’s cage. Just hang this rack on their cage bars and they can pull the hay through to eat. Because this rack is fully metal, your chin won’t be able to chew it or destroy it.

I do not recommend hanging it on the inside because your chinchilla could try to hop on top of it and injure themselves.

Dimensions: 9.5″ long, 4″ wide, 7.25″ high

Wooden Chinchilla Hay Feeder

Wooden Chinchilla Hay Feeder

If you want a wood option that is safe for your chinchilla to jump on, check out this awesome hay feeder from Good Wood by Nadezda.

Reinforced with metal hinges and wire, this hay rack has a lid that lifts up to put fresh hay inside. This design helps reduce mess and make sure your chinchilla doesn’t get injured while jumping on or around their hay rack.

Dimensions: 6.5″ x 4″ x 7.5″


Chinchilla Cut Out Wood Hay Feeder Box

Chinchilla Cut Out Wood Hay Feeder BoxThis is a cute and chinchilla-safe hay feeder option. Made from pine wood, this hay box has the silhouette of a chinchilla cut into the side so your pet can easily eat their favorite timothy hay. The top is fully open to allow your chin two ways to access to hay and to make it easy to refill.

Handmade in the USA, the box features hooks on the back to easily secure it to the side of the cage.

Dimensions: 6″ x 4″ x 5″

Semi-Octagonal Wood Chinchilla Hay Feeder

Semi-Octagonal Wood Hay FeederIf you’re looking for a more modern style wooden hay feeder, this semi-octagonal one may fit your needs. Hand made in the USA from kiln-dried pine, this feeder is chinchilla safe and a great way to offer unlimited hay. The top is open for easy refilling and your chin can easily eat hay out of the holes.

This chinchilla hay feeder comes with bolt, washer, and nut mounting gear. The rack can be mounted to your cage wall vertically or horizontally. This is a great option for a chew friendly hay rack.

Dimensions: 8-3/4″L, 7-1/4″ W, 4-1/4″ D, diameter of holes: 2″

Update: Do Not Use the Wire Hay Balls

Unsafe! Hay Food Ball for ChinchillasI used to recommend this wire hay ball for chinchillas and other small pets because I’ve used it for years with rabbits and chinchillas with no problem. I learned that some pet owners have had tragic and even deadly experiences with them.

It’s very easy for chinchillas and guinea pigs to get their heads stuck inside these balls, which if it isn’t discovered quickly can be deadly. Other owners have shared experiences where their chinchillas have gotten legs and arms stuck in them, which requires amputation.

Do not give your chinchilla any wire hay racks or balls. They can be deadly.

To make sure you have all the cage accessories you need to keep your chinchilla happily fed, make sure you should check out our articles on water bottles and food dishes.

You & Me Ceramic Chinchilla Dish

Best Chinchilla Food Bowls and Dishes

Chinchilla Food Bowls and DishesChinchilla pellets are an important part of their diet and you’ll need a food bowl to serve it to them. The food bowl helps to keep the food clean and dry, while also minimizing mess within the cage. When shopping for chinchilla food bowls, there are a few factors you want to keep in mind. You should avoid any bowls or dishes that are plastic since they’re not safe for chinchillas to chew. The bowl should either be heavy like a crock or attach to the side of the cage to keep it in place so it doesn’t spill or accidentally get kicked around by an enthusiastic chinchilla.

One thing to remember is these dishes are meant to be used for pellets and treats, not water. Water should only be served to your chinchilla via a chinchilla safe water bottle. This is because chinchillas are very active and any water served in a bowl will quickly be tipped over, making a wet mess in the cage.

We’ve rounded up some different types of chinchilla food bowls for you to consider. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find one that works for your cage and your chinchilla.

Chinchilla Food Bowls

Stainless Steel Hanging Bowl

These bowls are advertised for cats and dogs, but they work perfectly for feeding a chinchilla. This dish is a stainless steel bowl that comes with a hanger to easily attach to the side of your chinchilla’s cage. This will keep the dish firmly in place reducing messes.

The bowl is easy to remove to clean and disinfect. It’s available in five sizes, but the 8 oz. (0.5 lb) will probably work best for 1 or 2 chinchillas.

Dimensions: 5-2/7-inch length by 4-2/7-inch width by 3-inch height

Living World Ergonomic Chinchilla Dish

These ceramic dishes from Living World are a great option for chinchillas and other small pets. They are designed to be base heavy so they’re difficult to tip over. They are also “ergonomic,” which we’re not exactly sure what that’s supposed to mean in reference to exotic pets, but it’s probably referencing that the dish has a lower height on the side, which makes it easier for your chin to access their food.

Since this dish is ceramic, that makes it completely chew-proof and easy to clean. It can be disinfected in the sink or in the dishwasher. The small size should work well for single chinchillas. Four colors are available to match any cage decor.

Available in Small and Large sizes.

Dimensions: Small: 3.5 inches long x 3.5 inches wide x 1.5 inches high. Large: 5 inches long x 5 inches wide x 2.5 inches high

Available Colors: blue, green, pink, terracotta

You & Me Ceramic Chinchilla Dish

You & Me Ceramic Chinchilla Dish

Cute, affordable, and perfectly sized to feed your pet chinchilla. You & Me makes a variety of small ceramic dishes that can be used to feed your chin their favorite healthy pellets.

This cute polka-dotted dish comes in a small size. The ceramic is easy to clean and sanitize, with the bonus of being completely chew proof.

Add some fun and festivity to your chinchilla’s cage.

Fiesta Small Ramekin as Chinchilla Food Bowls

Ramekins make a great food dish substitution for the cheap plastic bowls you see in most pet stores. They’re ceramic, which makes them chew proof and also a little heavy so it’s harder for your pet chinchilla to accidentally knock the bowl over.

These Fiesta ramekins are a great option. They’re dishwasher safe, which makes them easy to wash and disinfect. Also, they’re made in America and totally lead-free so you don’t have to worry about them making your chinchilla sick. These ramekins are also very affordable so it’s easy to order more than one to add a little color variety to your chinchilla cages and also switch them out regularly for cleaning.

Dimensions: 4″ by 2″

Available Colors: black, ivory, tangerine, sunflower, turquoise, cobalt, lapis, lemongrass, paprika, peacock, plum, poppy, scarlet, shamrock

Make sure to get everything else your chinchilla needs for their cage, including water bottles and a hay rack. Check out all of the chinchilla cage accessories.

Kaytee 6 oz. Glass Chew Proof Water Bottle

Best Chinchilla Water Bottles

How to Keep a Chinchilla CoolIt’s obviously to say, but chinchillas need access to an unlimited amount of fresh water. This should be provided in your chinchilla’s cage with a water bottle. Do not give them water in a bowl or crock. Water in a bowl can easily be spilled when your pet chinchilla bounces around the cage or may be contaminated by food, waste, or hair. A chinchilla water bottle is the best way to provide your chin with water.

Glass bottles are recommended because they cannot be chewed, but a plastic water bottle can be used if it is hung in a way that the chinchilla cannot chew on it. The bottle should be hung on the outside of the cage, with only the spout sticking through the bars. Some owners recommend having two water bottles available in case the first one fails, so the chinchilla always has access to water. Here are some recommended bottles to try.

Chinchilla Water Bottles

Lixit 8 oz. Glass Water Bottle

Lixit 8 oz. Glass Chinchilla Water Bottle
Lixit makes some of the best water bottles for pets. It’s what we have used for our exotic pets for years. The chinchilla water bottles are made of sturdy glass which is completely chew proof. The glass is extra thick and our bottles have survived being dropped several times without cracking or breaking.

The 8 oz. size is perfect for chinchillas. The Lixit water bottle comes with spring holder with metal clips to easily attach to the outside of your chinchilla’s cage. Since it’s metal, that means the holder is chew proof as well.

Kaytee 6 oz. Glass Chew Proof Water Bottle

Kaytee 6 oz. Glass Chew Proof Water BottleKaytee provides another chew proof glass bottle option, this time in a 6 oz. size. The bottle attaches to the side of your chinchilla’s cage with a stainless steel spring attachment hanger. The cap is also made of stainless steel, making it 100% chew proof.

The spout includes a double-ball bearing that makes it drip-resistant, creating a vacuum seal.

Also available in 12 oz., 16 oz., and 26 oz. sizes so you can have enough water available no matter how many chins are in a cage.


Lixit 16 oz. Glass Water Bottle

Lixit 16 oz. Glass Water BottleHere’s another great glass water bottle from Lixit. The big difference with this one is it features a rubber stopper to connect the drinking tube to the bottle. The mounting hardware is also stainless steel and more secure than the normal spring mounts.

This water bottle is marketed for birds but works perfectly for a chinchilla. All components can be sterilized in the dishwasher or in boiling water to keep the bottle clean and bacteria-free.

To make sure you have all the cage accessories you need to keep your chinchilla happily fed, make sure you should check out our articles on cage ledges and shelves and food dishes.