It is fundamental that all chinchillas are feed the correct nutrients especially during times of pregnancy. If a female chinchilla is not feed the exact requirements during her pregnancy, the unborn offspring will lack vital nutrients and will be of poor quality with underlying health issues.
It is a good idea during pregnancy to provide a complete probiotic such as Avipro Plus to not only provide the correct nutrients to the mother and developing kits but also help keep the female's digestive tract in good order (a common ailment in pregnancy).
Many owners over compensate when their female is pregnant by offering extra supplementation, which can throw the overall nutritional value of the basic diet causing deformities in the unborn offspring. If you are providing good quality fresh 'chinchilla' pellets, a variety of grasses/hay and cooled boiled water daily then a pregnant female should not need any extra supplementation apart from a 'complete' probiotic (which contains extra vitamins/minerals).
WARNING - It is paramount you do not over-feed a pregnant chinchilla or ever provide fresh vegetables that will cause gasses and bloat, which can be fatal during pregnancy. It is also paramount that you feed a pregnant female only pellets made for chinchillas as any other type of pellet made for another animal will have different nutritional make-up that will cause defects in the developing offspring.
Female chinchillas all commonly have 6 pink nipples (3 on each side). Their oestrus cycle lasts for 24 days and the period for possible conception is 2-3 days. The gestation period varies between the breeds of chinchillas but most commonly occurs for 111 days from conception. The Lanigera breed of chinchilla has a gestation period of 105 - 111 days, the Brevicaudata 124 - 128 days and a Lanigera when bred with a Brevicaudata 111 - 128 days.
Pregnancy is generally hard to detect during the first 60 days but noticeable by 90 days from conception. The first signs of pregnancy will of course be weight gain. You can therefore detect the earliest signs that a female may be pregnant if you weigh your chinchilla regularly. The female's nipples, which are normally unnoticeable become quite red and extend to the length of her fur as the birth date looms.
The pregnant female will also expose mood swings and consume more food daily. A female that was once friendly may began to spray urine or a usually timid female may become more friendly during times of pregnancy. Try not to handle a pregnant female unless she comes up to you and wants to be handled. If the pregnant female shows signs she wants to be held, then great care must be taken to not harm the developing fetuses by holding her too tightly.
If you must hold a pregnant chinchilla make sure there is no chance of dropping her and never examine the female's abdomen for the amount of offspring inside. If for some reason you wish to know how many kits are developing then an x-ray can be performed by a qualified veterinary surgeon, which will determine how many offspring there are and is the safest method to prevent foetus deformities..
Never hold a pregnant chinchilla up by her tail as this will cause a spontaneous miscarriage!
As pregnancy continues, you will notice the female become larger and laze about more. It is during this time you can begin to prepare the chinchilla cage for birth.
Make sure the gaps between the mesh is no larger than ¼" x ¼" or a baby chinchilla will escape () and remove any high shelving that a mother or baby can jump on to and potentially fall causing harm or death. Remember chinchilla kits are fully able when they are born and regularly climb the walls of the cage dropping when they get to the top. Also place flattened cardboard or untreated pinewood over mesh flooring to prevent the kit's feet becoming trapped between the mesh.
The dust bath can continue to be provided during pregnancy until the kits are born and the male can remain in the female's cage providing she is happy to for him to do so and does not start to attack him. Should the female show aggression towards the male at any point during her pregnancy or he is being a nuisance to the female, he will need to be removed from the maternal cage and placed in a separate cage next to the maternal cage until the kits are born and weaned.
NOTE: If the parents need to be separated at any time during pregnancy you will need to make sure you introduce them again in the correct manner before housing them in the same cage together again.
During the last month of pregnancy special care and attention must be given to the female. The pregnant uterus occupies a large space in the abdomen cavity and the pressure produced by the developing foetus on the digestive organs can cause constipation.
During the last days of pregnancy, the female chinchilla will become more lethargic and slow in her movements. You may also notice she is reluctant to come away from her nesting area and not eat or drink as much as normal.
The dust bath should be removed around the time of birth so the vaginal area is kept clean of fine sand, which could later cause an infection and the female's nipples should be examined to ensure there are no abnormalities to prevent the kits feeding properly - any swelling, soreness or abnormal condition to the nipple area should be noted and treated immediately.
Sanitary conditions are paramount at the time of birth therefore the cage and nesting box must be disinfected before the chinchilla kits arrive.
As the birth time approaches you will notice a female become more vocal and restless especially at the start of labor.
A pre-healthy female chinchilla will generally have a problematic-free pregnancy. The only time problems will occur is when the pregnant female is not receiving the correct nutrients during the gestation period or the female sustains an injury or stress.
Spontaneous Abortion (Miscarriage)
Miscarriages are most commonly caused by the interference with or the destruction of, the circulation that exists between the pregnant female and the developing foetus in her uterus. A spontaneous abortion can occur at any time during the female's pregnancy and is especially a 'higher risk factor' with chinchillas that are provided an incorrect diet that lacks vital minerals and vitamins for a healthy foetal development. Miscarriages can also be caused by stressful conditions or if the pregnant female is held incorrectly. It is also known for a pregnant female to self abort her offspring if suddenly scared or threatened. Jumping, fighting and falling in or out of the cage will also cause the loss of a developing foetus. If a pregnant female has aborted her offspring, you will either notice the expelled foetus within the cage or nest box (but generally they are not seen as the mother will devour them) or there will be evident bloody-coloured discharge from the female's vulva. The female's hind quarters and tail will also be soiled and weight loss will become apparent as will loss of fullness to the female's body shape. Any pregnant female that shows symptoms of miscarriage must be taken to a veterinary surgeon for an examination to ensure any debris from the developing foetus is removed and no mummified kits are developing in the uterine tube
As calcium is needed on a daily basis for the development of good bone and teeth structure a pregnant female can be drained of this vital nutrient, which can also have a 'knock-on' effect to the unborn offspring. You must check a pregnant female's tooth-enamel colour regularly during the pregnancy period as the colouration of the tooth enamel will be a clear indication of the female's calcium and iron levels. Should a pregnant female expose a lack of calcium or iron then a supplementation will need to be given as soon as possible under the guidance of a qualified veterinary surgeon.
Back Breeding can occur any time within 36 hours after a litter is born - this means a female can become pregnant again within this time. Back breeding is highly discouraged for many reasons but the most obvious being the lack of vital nutrients and strength the chin-mum would need to nurse her new existing litter whilst pregnant with developing offspring. If back breeding is allowed to happen, a chinchilla will suffer somewhere. A pregnant new chin-mum will experience exhaustion, malnourishment or stress whilst feeding both her new born kits and trying to provide essential nutrients to her developing foetus or the kits themselves can suffer with abnormalities/deformities. In some cases, if a female is not ready to conceive again but the situation happens, she can spontaneously abort her litter enabling her to concentrate on providing essential nutrients to her current offspring.
NOTE: If you suspect there are any problems during the female's pregnancy it is paramount that she is taken to a qualified exotic veterinary surgeon for a full examination and X-ray of the abdomen area.
Further Reading Relating To Chinchilla Pregnancy:
Birth, Breeding Chinchillas, Chinchilla Kits (Babies), Genetics, Gestation Chart, Male Castration, Minerals And The Relation To Chinchilla Disease, Nutrition (Food & Diet), Pre & Post Natal Care, Punnet Squares, Supplementation, Vitamins And The Relation To Chinchilla Disease.