Standard Guidelines for
the Operation of Chinchilla Ranches
Table of Contents
- Section 1 - Management
- Section 2 - Accommodation
- Section 3 - Feed and Water
- Section 4 - Health and Disease
- Section 5 - Sanitation
- Section 6 - Transportation of Live Chinchillas
- Section 7 - Euthanasia
- Sample Questions from Veterinary Inspection
- Certification Procedure
- Application for Certification of Chinchilla
Domestication and artificial selection of livestock have made farm
animals dependent on humans. Consequently, according to the currently
accepted moral and ethical standards of our society, humans have
no choice but to accept this dependence as a commitment to practice
humane conduct toward domestic animals and to prevent avoidable
suffering at all stages of their lives. These voluntary guidelines
represent a step toward meeting that commitment.
These guidelines are intended to be used by the chinchilla fur
industry, scientists, and animal-welfare groups as an educational
tool in the promotion of sound husbandry and welfare practices.
The recommendations do not claim to be comprehensive for all circumstances,
but they attempt to define high standards of chinchilla production
and well-being in commercial, research, educational, and other ranch
These guidelines can serve operators in the various sectors of
the fur industry to compare or improve their own managerial routines.
It should be understood that new scientific discoveries and changing
economic conditions may make revisions of these Guidelines necessary
from time to time.
It should be noted that minimum pen sizes are based on current
ranching practices. No published research was available when these
guidelines were drafted.
The chinchilla is a member of the rodent family and in its wild
state is an the endangered species list. Wild chinchillas are native
to the Andes mountains region of South America. Ranched chinchillas
are raised world wide for the production of fur.
Through countless generations of selective breeding for fur quality,
fecundity, colour, size, and growth rate, the ranch-raised chinchilla
is vastly improved in quality over its wild counterpart. Good nutrition,
clean, ventilated housing, stress free environment, and veterinary
care have resulted in a calm, ranch raised animal that is dependent
on the humane rancher for survival.
In this document "chinchilla" refers to the ranch-raised variety
and not to its wild counterpart.
These operating guide have been prepared for the benefit of ranch-raised
chinchillas and the chinchilla fur industry worldwide.
These guidelines are designed to assist ranchers in providing a
humane environment for their animals. Consideration was given to
the physical and psychological needs of the captive chinchillas
The guidelines were prepared by leaders in the chinchilla fur farming
industry, and professionals in the fields of veterinary medicine,
animal nutrition, and animal care and control.
It is the sincere hope that chinchilla ranchers will study and
adhere to the high standards set out herein. This will greatly benefit
their animals and the fur industry as a whole. Ranchers who are
certified will be publicly recognized. Certification procedures
are set out on page 18.
We proudly submit these self-regulatory guidelines to chinchilla
ranchers worldwide. We commend you for your commitment to excellence
in ranch management and your vigilant attention to the maintenance
of these humane standards.
Section 1 - Management
The humane raising of chinchilla is entirely dependent upon the
skill, training, and integrity of the chinchilla ranch manager/owner.
Ranch-raised animals depend entirely upon the ranch environment
and the ranch manager. These practices emphasize the prime importance
of good management, which is the key factor in the welfare of all
The manager must have a basic knowledge of chinchilla welfare,
including familiarity with normal chinchilla behaviour, as well
as knowing about proper husbandry and handling procedures.
Management must be so designed that the welfare of the chinchilla
is the first consideration, whatever system is used.
The manager must see that routines are set up, imposed and followed.
The system must provide for the cleanliness and comfort of the animals.
It must facilitate regular feeding and watering as well as permitting
effective animal inspection.
The entire herd should be generally inspected on a daily basis.
Breeding animals require close individual inspection daily.
Section 2 - Accommodation
Any building used to house chinchillas must permit clean, airy,
hygienic conditions, and at the same time afford protection from
the elements. There are almost as many chinchilla unit designs as
there are chinchilla ranches; therefore it is recommended that the
rancher visit several ranches or farms and inspect their designs
for adaptation to his/her needs.
- Units may be used specifically to house stock kept for breeding
or pelting, or for a combination of both.
- Chinchillas should not be housed in buildings with any other
- The chinchilla unit should (through natural or artificial light)
give the chinchilla a sense of natural day/night light cycle.
- Chinchillas should be kept in housing or units that will give
them adequate protection from elements. There must be the necessary
equipment, in good working condition, to heat or cool the unit
as needed. The unit average temperature range should be kept between
55 °F - 80 °F. (13 ° - 27 °C).
- Aisles or passageways between rows of cages should allow sufficient
space to operate feed carts and to allow access for ease of cleaning,
maintenance, and animal management.
- The unit should have some ambient noise of non-disturbing nature.
A totally quiet area is not recommended as it may stress the animals.
- The unit should be designed and maintained in such a manner
to prevent undesirable animals from coming into and living in
the unit. Undesirable animals include, mice, rats, birds, bats
- The number of animals in a unit should be kept to a number that
will allow enough room for proper maintenance and management as
well as fresh air. With ideal air circulation and cage design
the population density could reach up to one (1) square foot of
floor space, or eight (8) cubic feet of room space per animal.
An example would be three thousand (3000) animals in a thirty-eight-foot
by eighty-foot room with an eight (8) foot ceiling (38'x 80'x
- Air circulation and fresh air is needed inside the chinchilla
unit. Air circulation throughout the unit is required to keep
bedding dry and animals comfortable. Air circulation needs to
be evenly distributed throughout the unit without drafts on individual
animals. Fresh air should be brought into the unit as necessary.
The air in the unit should be fresh and free from ammonia odours.
- The unit should be maintained in a degree of cleanliness that
promotes safe work areas, inhibits disease growth, and keeps the
animals at a reasonable level of comfort.
Chinchilla cages must provide sufficient area for the animals to
exercise, to defecate, and in the case of breeding pens, to rear
young. The animal must be able to stretch and move about comfortably
within the cage. The materials used to build a cage may vary but
the following requirements must be met.
- Cages should be of sufficient size to pro-mote the general welfare
of the animal. Breeder pens must have a minimum of two thousand,
two hundred (2200) cubic inches. Weaner cages must be a minimum
of one thousand five hundred (1500) cubic inches. These are not
presented as optimum sizes; many breeders prefer cages somewhat
larger than these minimum requirements.
- All cages must be designed to allow sufficient air movement
through the cage.
- The breeder cage should not have mesh or other holes larger
than one half (1/2) inch in width.
- The cage should be sturdy and free of sharp edges or nails that
may cause injury to an animal.
- The breeder cage should allow ease of access for the male chinchilla
to enter the breeder cage safety. The access should be able to
close and open easily.
- When wire-bottom cages are used, it is recommended that the
animal is supplied with some solid object so it can rest off the
- In every cage, a watering device, such as a water bottle or
automatic watering nipple, and a feeding device, such as a feed
trough or bowl, must be available so as to permit easy access
by the chinchilla and for inspection cleaning, as required.
- Some method of sandbathing the animal must be provided and made
available to the animal at least once every two weeks. When the
humidity exceeds sixty (60) percent, sandbathing should be made
available at least every week.
- Cages should be cleaned on a regular basis to repress disease,
fungus growth, urine odour, animal stain, and to provide a healthy
enjoyable environment for the chinchilla.
Section 3 - Feed and Water
The manager should study the general nutritional requirements of
- Chinchillas should never be fed any feed that has been contaminated
by vermin, pesticide, spray, or molds.
- A quality mixed feed ration should be obtained from a qualified
- If feeds are supplemented with hay, care should be taken to
feed a good, quality clean hay, free of molds and insecticides.
Hay should be stored in a manner to prevent vermin contamination.
- It is important to store feed in such in a manner that it does
not become contaminated by vermin.
- Bags of feed should not be placed directly on a cement or moist
dirt floor. A separate room, or area in the animal room may be
set aside for proper feed storage. Feed bags may be protected
from dampness by putting them on a wooden pallet.
Sufficient feed must be given at all times to ensure the health
and well-being of the chinchilla.
- Feed should be placed in such a position that the chinchilla
can easily reach it. This is particularly important with young
- Pellets should be fed in suitable feed containers. Feeders should
be cleaned out on a regular basis.
- Chinchillas should be fed on a regular schedule, depending on
the type of feeder and cage that is used. An animal kept on wire
will need to be fed more frequently than an animal housed on shavings.
The chinchilla producer must ensure that clean safe water is available
to the chinchilla at all times.
- Many modern ranches use an automatic watering system. Care should
be taken so the system remains clean and that the individual valves
or nipples do not become blocked.
- Regular maintenance should be carried out to prevent leaking
of valves and connections, which could cause wet areas or flooded
- Bottles are also an acceptable method of watering chinchillas.
A regular maintenance and cleaning schedule should be implemented
to keep the bottles clean.
Section 4 - Health and Disease
The chinchilla rancher must always be aware of the condition of
the herd and be able to recognize signs of a distressed or ill animal.
- There is no requirement to be an expert on chinchilla diseases,
but the rancher should have a working relationship with a knowledgeable
veterinarian or an experienced chinchilla rancher who is willing
and able to give sound advice.
- It is important that the chinchilla rancher develop an ability
to observe the chinchilla closely in order to detect any abnormalities
of behaviour, posture, or other indication of ill health. Appropriate
treatment should be given immediately.
- The rancher should pay particular attention to the droppings
of the chinchilla, which is an excellent indicator of the animal's
- No unexplained death(s) should go uninvestigated by post mortem
Stress is very harmful to the chinchilla and can cause health problems
and/or damaged fur. Every effort should be taken to relieve any
stressful conditions in the chinchilla unit. Generally a clean,
well-ventilated area with clean fresh water and feed and no sudden
or extremely loud noises will provide a nonstressful suitable environment
for the chinchilla.
Section 5 - Sanitation
A chinchilla rancher must impose effective hygenic and sanitary
programs to avoid conditions that are unpleasant or harmful for
- Cages should be cleaned on a regular schedule to prevent stressful
conditions for the animals, to keep urine odour to a minimum,
and prevent stains on the animals.
- The chinchilla unit should be kept well ventilated to help prevent
the spread of disease and to keep the unit fresh between cleanings.
Ventilation will help minimize the smell of ammonia, which can
have serious side effects on the chinchillas.
- It is essential that an effective vector control be implemented,
as mice and rats can carry communicable diseases to chinchillas.
- Domestic pets should be kept outside the chinchilla unit.
Section 6 - Transportation of Live Chinchillas
Travelling crates must be adequately designed for transportation
by road or air to allow sufficient space, air-flow, and comfort
for each animal. Correct documentation, as required, must be prepared.
- Cages should be of sturdy construction with no sharp materials
that may cause injury to the animal or cage handler.
- Cages can be made to individual specifications with regard to
the number of compartments.
- Extreme care must be taken at all times to allow sufficient
air flow. If the air is restricted within the area where the crates
are stored, heat will build quickly, and chinchillas, always susceptible
to heat exhaustion, may expire or rapidly become ill.
- Cases should not have any hole larger than one-half (1 /2) inch
- Cages must have a solid bottom and top.
- The animal must be provided with some type of bedding.
- The cage must be large enough for the animal to lie down and
turn around, yet not so large that a sudden stop or start would
injure the animal. A recommended size is six inches by eight inches
by five and one half inches high (6" x 8" x 5-1/2"). For airline
travel the height should not exceed eight (8) inches.
- The cage size may vary as the rancher can supervise the handling
of the cages.
- The cage wire mesh size may be larger.
Animal Care In Transport
- Only one full grown animal or one female with kits under three
(3) weeks of age per cage is allowed. If a female has kits over
three (3) weeks of age, they may be placed in a cage together
beside the mother's cage.
- If animals are to be in transport for more than twenty-four
(24) hours each animal should be given water-soaked grain by the
rancher. In such a case the animals should be watered promptly
after reaching their destination.
Section 7 - Euthanasia
Humane death of chinchilla is of paramount importance. Euthanasia.
methods must ensure immediate insensitivity to pain without causing
fear or anxiety.
There are several types of euthanasia recommended by veterinary
associations. The two listed forms of euthanasia, in addition to
meeting humane requirements, are found to be safe, practical, reliable,
and easy to use with application to chinchilla.
- The individual should be comfortable handling chinchillas and
fully trained in cervical dislocation.
- Electrical equipment should be specifically built and properly
maintained for optimum effectiveness.
Each type of euthanasia has guidelines recommended by Veterinary
Medical Associations. Those guidelines should be strictly adhered
Sample Questions - from Veterinary Inspection
- Is there proper equipment in good working condition to maintain
a temperature between 55 ° - 80 °F?
- Does unit layout promote good working conditions?
- Do cage sizes meet minimum standards?
- Does the cage design and construction meet minimum standards?
- Does the cage arrangement allow visual and physical inspection
of all areas?
- Is the quantity of light sufficient?
- Do the animals observe a day/night light cycle?
- Does the animal population density meet the requirements?
B. Food and Water
- Does the rancher know the general nutritional requirement of
- Is the feed placed in a position where it can easily be reached
by the animal?
- Is feed stored in such a way that it does not become contaminated?
- Has the rancher established a regular feeding schedule?
- Are feeders and feeding utensils clean?
- Is clean safe water available in a position permitting easy
access by all animals in the cage?
- Does the position of the water source allow easy inspection
and cleaning by the rancher?
- Is the schedule for cleaning and maintaining the water system
C. Health and Disease
- Is the ranch aware that behavior, droppings, and posture are
indicators of health and should be watched closely?
- Has every effort been made to provide a comfortable environment?
- Are chinchillas the only animal allowed in the unit?
- Has the rancher set up a regular cleaning schedule?
- Is there proper ventilation?
- Has the rancher implemented an effective vector control program?
- Has the rancher implemented an effective fly control program?
- Are animals humanely euthanized?
In your opinion, based on your training and experience, does this
chinchilla ranch provide humane care for its animals? *
Chinchilla Industry Council, Empress Chinchilla Breeders Cooperative
Inc., and National Chinchilla Breeders of Canada, encourages all
chinchilla ranchers to manage their ranches in accordance with the
Standard Guidelines reproduced herein. When a veterinarian's inspection
shows that a ranch meets the guidelines, your breeder organization
will certify that the ranch is a well-run, humane enterprise.
If you wish to have your ranch certified and feel that it meets
all the standards, please do the following:
- Contact a veterinarian of your choice who agrees to inspect
your ranch. (Any inspection fees are the responsibility of the
- Fill out the form on the next page, identifying yourself and
your veterinarian, and send it to: Your breeder organization will
send instructions to the veterinarian you designate. The veterinarian
who inspects your chinchilla ranch will be asked to notify your
breeder organization with the results of the inspection. If the
veterinarian reports that your chinchilla ranch complies with
all standards, a certificate will be issued by your breeder organization.
The certificate is suitable for framing and can be displayed in
an appropriate location on your ranch, such as the ranch office,
and may be used in advertising.
Application for Certification of Chinchilla
(Please type or print)
Name of Chinchilla Rancher____________________________________________
Name of Ranch______________________________________________________
Address of Ranch____________________________________________________
Tel: (____)_________________________ Fax: (____)_______________________
Name of Inspecting Veterinarian_________________________________________
Address of Veterinarian________________________________________________
Tel: (____)_________________________ Fax: (____)________________________
My chinchilla ranch meets the standards promulgated by these guidelines
and I hereby apply for certification.
Signature of Chinchilla Rancher__________________________________________
Prepared by the following organizations under the auspices of the
Chinchilla Industry Council:
Empress Chinchilla Breeders Cooperative Inc.
P.O. Box 318
Sixes, Oregon 97476
National Chinchilla Breeders of Canada
Norval, Ontario L0P 1K0