Evidence-based refinements for chinchillas

In a laboratory setting, it is important to provide housing that allows expression in a wide range of species-typical behaviors while also meeting research goals. Substandard housing can lead to aggression, stereotyping, and anxiety. Understanding the animal’s natural behavior enables us to build quality environments that meet physical, behavioral, and social needs. Proper design is critical for improved health and welfare, both of which improve scientific validity. 

Making changes to current housing standards can be challenging especially since facilities may be at very different levels of current housing. Start making small changes from where your facility is currently to improve. Also keep in mind that some of the recommendations below (e.g., providing certain types of environmental enrichment) can change some specific experimental models. 

Before implementing housing changes, be sure to consult the relevant scientific literature and consider the requirements of your scientific model. Each facility may require an individual approach to increasing housing standards as much as possible. 

Key Natural Behaviors

  • Herbivore 
  • Precocious (born with eyes open and eating solid food) 
  • Crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) 
  • Likes to have hiding spaces 
  • Dust bathing to maintain fur coat  
  • Jumping and climbing (benefit from vertical space) 
  • Social creatures  
  • Chewing and gnawing 


  • Availability of Dust Bath 3x/week 
  • Vertical spaces in primary housing 
  • Temperature < 70°F and relative humidity < 50% 
  • Solid bottom caging 
  • Weekly cleaning or continuous spot cleaning 
  • Access to shelter for hiding & perching for vertical space in a cage 
  • Minimum floor space: 1-2 ft2/adult with 12 in of cage height  
  • Gnawing enrichment (pumice stones, Nylabones®, wood sticks) 
  • Cohoused in same-sex cohorts of 2-4 adults 
  • Caging needs to be modified to house kits (baby chinchillas) with no gaps > 0.5 inch 
  • Can be fed chinchilla, guinea pig or rabbit diet 
  • High-quality hay is available at all times  
  • Regular positive human interaction

Further Reading



This page was created by members of the Chinchilla Consortium

Background on the Chinchilla Consortium: The Chinchilla Consortium is a volunteer group of laboratory animal veterinarians, animal resource facility managers, and IACUC professionals from approximately 20 research institutions across the United States. The goals of the Chinchilla Consortium are 3 fold: 1) to identify and support a nationally recognized vendor for the production of purpose-bred, specific pathogen-free chinchillas for biomedical research, 2) support the veterinary and laboratory animal community with reliable knowledge and resources for the veterinary care of chinchillas in a research environment, and 3) to develop and standardize the highest level of husbandry and veterinary care practices across institutions.  

For further chinchilla questions or to join the Chinchilla Consortium, email one of the authors cited in Darbyshire et al. 2022. 

The Chinchilla Consortium logo

See Next

Guinea Pigs