Greenwood Chinchillas
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Hand Rearing & Fostering

For any breeder, the joy of new born kits is a happy time, but this is also a time when the health a well-being of both mother & kits is at steak.

For a large litter it can sometimes be necessary to supplement the amount of food due to the kits fighting over milk or if there are complications & a kit needs to be fostered to a new mother.

Hopefully the information below will help.

Hand Rearing

Hand RearingBreeding is a risky business, and unfortunately things do not always go well. Occasionally it is necessary for kits to have supplementary or replacement  feeding in order to prosper, this can happen for a variety of reasons.

  • Mum may reject a kit at birth

  • Litters can be too large and not enough milk for all

  • Mastitis

  • Mum may die during the birth

  • Larger kits may bully the smaller ones

  • and more . . . .

Whatever reason you have, supplementary feeding is a time consuming, messy and difficult task, and in many cases you will still lose the kit.  But when successful can be extremely rewarding.

Different breeders have different formulas for the milk substitutes that they use. Here are a few that I have come across, I have only used the top one from his list personally but have been told by other breeders that they have used the others with success.

50% Full Fat Cows Milk, 50% water

25% Evaporated Milk, pinch of Glucose and Water

50% Goats Milk, 50% Water

Kitekat/Wiskas kitten milk

Feeds should take place approximately every 2 hours, keep a close check on the kits weight the entire time that you are supplement feeding, and where possible keep the kits in with the mum for all time except when they are out to be fed, as she will look after and care for the kits even when she is unable to feed.

If you are unable to leave the kits with mum, and a foster mum is not available, then give them a furry cuddly toy to snuggle up against and leave them in a warm draft free place that is secure.  If you have one available, place a kit warming lamp beneath the cage that they are in (this can me a 40w lamp bulb in an old biscuit tin - or professional heaters are available from some equipment suppliers)

If a foster mum is not present then when the feeding is complete, wipe down the kits mouth and head and then using a damp cotton wool ball wipe along the stomach from the front paws to the back end.  This will stimulate the kit to defecate and is an essential part of the feeding ritual if there is not a mother about to do this for you.

If the kits weight should drop then increase feeds to hourly.  If the kit takes more food and weight continues to increase then you can decrease the frequency to 3 hours, then 4 as the kit grows and ages - but remember the more feeds and frequency of them the better the overall growth of the kit is likely to be.

As kits do grow have hay and pellets available in the cage as they will pick at these in time as they develop - often earlier than any people would think.


If you have another feeding female, they will often adopt and rear orphaned or abandoned kits. 

The following technique I have used personally and have found it to be very successful:  

FosteringIt is easier to foster kits to a female that has kits of an already similar age, if the kit is smaller than the existing kits, then there is a chance that bullying could take place, so keep a close eye out for sibling rivalry and bullying.   the younger the kits are the easier it is to do this - I have been most successful when moving a kit to mother within hours of them giving birth.

To ensure that the foster mum takes to the new kit, rub it in sand that has been taken from the foster mothers own sand bath so that it has her scent upon it, or when holding them both gently rub them up against each other.

Another tip I have been told but not used is to place a tiny dab of Vicks vapour rub on the fur on the end of her nose (VERY little as it can burn the bare skin), this prevents her from smelling the new kits as well. 

Handle the new baby well to get its scent on your hands and then handle the foster mum so she gets used to the scent.  Make sure you rub your hands well in the foster mothers fur and then rub that scent all over the baby.  If there are original kits then gently rub the babies against each other 

Remove the original kits so that the female is alone in her cage, and place the new baby in the cage with the foster mum and keep a very close watch.    At this point they will normally just start looking after it as if it was their own kit, they may start grooming.   If you see the female attack or try to bite (not just groom) then remove the kid and continue to hand feed.

So long as the foster mum takes to the kit you can then return her original kits to her.  But continue to keep a close eye on them to ensure that no problems occur.