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How to encourage Chinchilla to eat more hay?

ChocolatPocky

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I adopted a Chinchilla about a month ago, and he definitely has a preference for pellets over hay (probably how he got his molar spurs which had to be removed a few weeks ago).

How do I get him more interested in hay? I now have several varieties of it, but he still has a preference for pellets. I can cut the amount of pellets available but I don't want him to go hungry... I've tried stuffing the hay into a jar of oats to have them smell like oats, because he loooves oats, but he wouldn't gobble up the hay like I was hoping he would!

Tips appreciated, thanks!
 

Amethyst

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An adult chin should only have about 2tb of pellets a day, the rest should be hay, so if you are feeding more then that you can cut back. Also have you tried mixing the hay types together? Sometimes that helps get them interested. You may also need to try different brands of hay, chins can be picky. You could also try hay toppers, like one from Fuzzies Kingdom or you can make your own, basically herbal treats that you sprinkle over the hay.
 

ChocolatPocky

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An adult chin should only have about 2tb of pellets a day, the rest should be hay, so if you are feeding more then that you can cut back. Also have you tried mixing the hay types together? Sometimes that helps get them interested. You may also need to try different brands of hay, chins can be picky. You could also try hay toppers, like one from Fuzzies Kingdom or you can make your own, basically herbal treats that you sprinkle over the hay.
I tried a sample pack from rabbitholehay.com and he loved the medium timothy hay! Guess he really wasn't feeling the oxbow (still likes the oxbow oat hay tho). Phew, hopefully this will help prevent him from getting molar spurs in the future!
 

Binki

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I also have a rescue who though that hay was made of tiny snakes that were there to get him. Since he loves rolled oats I got him oat hay, which was marginally more interesting but still kinda nyah. Then I had a brainwave: every night I give him 1/4 willow stick tied to a loop as a chew (if your give him the bunch that comes from the pet shop he just goes through the middle like a chainsaw) so I decided to put into the loop some stalks of the oat hay. Breakthrough! From that day on I could add bunches of timothy hay and get him to eat it. Not without waste, I should add but eventually we'll get there.
 

Spoof

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Molar spurs are not caused by a lack of hay. Please don't limit pellets. If your chin is preferring the pellets it is a sign that the batch of hay you have doesn't have the nutrients he needs. Hay can vary between nutritionally void to extremely high in sugars depending on the growing conditions and time of harvest. It is best to free feed pellets and offer toys to chew on. The action of chewing grinds down the teeth, what goes in the mouth isn't important. I don't feed hay except once a week and it is cubed. Some don't feed it at all. Genetics and the quality of diet determine bone/jaw and tooth health. :)
 

ChocolatPocky

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Molar spurs are not caused by a lack of hay. Please don't limit pellets. If your chin is preferring the pellets it is a sign that the batch of hay you have doesn't have the nutrients he needs. Hay can vary between nutritionally void to extremely high in sugars depending on the growing conditions and time of harvest. It is best to free feed pellets and offer toys to chew on. The action of chewing grinds down the teeth, what goes in the mouth isn't important. I don't feed hay except once a week and it is cubed. Some don't feed it at all. Genetics and the quality of diet determine bone/jaw and tooth health. :)
Mr. B has been great at chewing his apple sticks in general (other than that he's pretty picky), before and after molar spur removal. But he was starting to get tiny molar spurs again after just 2 weeks of getting them removed (wow their teeth grow like hair!), but I got him a new brand of hay soon after which he loooves. I now feed him Timothy second and third cut, mountain hay, and oat hay, with a pinch of supplements from Fuzzie's Kingdom. I'm guessing that's rounding out his nutrition needs with the pellets?
He got another check up 2 weeks later and the molar spurs were gone! Not sure what I'm doing right but it's been working so far! He now shows way more interest in his hay than before and is more energetic in general.

I been hearing conflicting information on how much pellets to feed a chin. The lady who runs the chin adoption center said she gives them unlimited amounts. The vet I talked to who specializes in exotics said to give 2 tbsp, but bc he's trying to gain weight give him 2.5-3tbsp which he barely finishes anyways, so I'm gonna stick with that for now. I'm currently monitoring his weight and he's gonna have another teeth check up in a month to see if any molar spurs are back.
 

Spoof

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Hay will not round out the nutritional needs, pellets are fortified with vitamins found in the soil that plants don't often carry or that have a very short half life (B vitamins). The new things are probably encouraging him to chew more, but it could also be that his teeth have stopped and his roots have started. Have you had xrays done to see where the roots are?
 

ChocolatPocky

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I haven't had any x-rays done, and the vet didn't suggest that they be done.

Before I found out he had molar spurs he was mostly eating pellets, so his diet more pellets and less hay. I've also only had him for 2 months, so it's hard to say what his diet was like before that (at the chin adoption center he was getting unlimited pellets and unlimited hay).

Now that he eats more hay, he barely finishes the 2.5 tbsp of pellets I give him. I think he just has a greater interest in the hay now because it is fresher and tastier than Oxbow was. I also feed him a pinch of Fuzzie's broad spectrum supplement and rose hips for extra nutrients not found in the hay. On most hay/chinchilla food websites I've visited they state that their diet should be 25% pellets and the rest should be hay.. this is the first time I'm hearing they should eat more pellets and that hay does not grind down the molars!

Since the last check up, he has been wearing down his molar spurs, more energetic, drinking more water, and his diet seems more balanced. I'm going to keep bringing him in for periodic check ups to keep an eye on his teeth and weight gain too, but so far so good. - bleh sorry I am just repeating myself now!
 

Amethyst

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Although I do agree that hay may often lack all the nutrients needed, I strongly disagree that it does nothing to wear down teeth, the evidence simply doesn't support that. This is a good example of you can't always trust what people say on the internet, people can say whatever they want so it's best to fact check things.

Pellets do contain all the nutrients needed in the diet, including all the nutrients needed to grow teeth, but do nothing to wear down teeth. In chins the molars and the incisors both grow, chewing on wood and rocks wears down the incisors and chewing hay wears down the molars, since they don't/can't chew toys and ledges with their molars, as well as hay adds additional fiber to the diet to keep things moving properly.

Most adult chins will only eat about 2tb of pellets, some a bit more some a bit less even if given unlimited, and 2 tb, assuming you are feeding a good quality food, should contain the amount of nutrients an adult chin needs for a day. I like to measure so I know they are eating and how much, but if the bowl is empty before the end of the day I do give more. You don't actually need to limit pellets unless you have a chin that only eats pellets and refuses to eat hay.
 

ChocolatPocky

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Thanks for the advice! I'm just gonna keep monitoring him to make sure he's eating his pellets and hay in general. If he's losing weight or his teeth aren't getting worn down I'll tinker with what he's eating. At the moment he's holding pretty steady at 506ish grams for the last few days. C'mon Mr. B, get fatter!! 🤪
 

Spoof

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Pellets do contain all the nutrients needed in the diet, including all the nutrients needed to grow teeth, but do nothing to wear down teeth. In chins the molars and the incisors both grow, chewing on wood and rocks wears down the incisors and chewing hay wears down the molars, since they don't/can't chew toys and ledges with their molars, as well as hay adds additional fiber to the diet to keep things moving properly.
I can't do much about what ya'll read on the internet but I can tell you your statement about tooth wear is unfounded. 21 years this year, if pellets alone didn't wear down teeth my herd would be maloccluding. Haven't had a case in 14 years... I culled the line that was prone to it. My oldest died at 23. He was from 4LL - the Martinez herd and they did not feed hay so for the first five years of his life he had none. He did on and off with me but not consistently. Some breeders feed a pellet only and have for decades. It is the action of the food article passing from the front to the back that wears down the teeth. What the food article is doesn't really matter. Genetics also plays a very strong role.

I'm sorry to hear that you are dealing with teeth issues after only having your guy a few months. You do you, but know that a good vet should have requested xrays. Molar issues in my experience always come with root issues. It is a very rare case (jaw dislocation from a fall or broken jaw) where they are having issues due to misalignment over roots. Good luck! :)
 

ChocolatPocky

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I can't do much about what ya'll read on the internet but I can tell you your statement about tooth wear is unfounded. 21 years this year, if pellets alone didn't wear down teeth my herd would be maloccluding. Haven't had a case in 14 years... I culled the line that was prone to it. My oldest died at 23. He was from 4LL - the Martinez herd and they did not feed hay so for the first five years of his life he had none. He did on and off with me but not consistently. Some breeders feed a pellet only and have for decades. It is the action of the food article passing from the front to the back that wears down the teeth. What the food article is doesn't really matter. Genetics also plays a very strong role.

I'm sorry to hear that you are dealing with teeth issues after only having your guy a few months. You do you, but know that a good vet should have requested xrays. Molar issues in my experience always come with root issues. It is a very rare case (jaw dislocation from a fall or broken jaw) where they are having issues due to misalignment over roots. Good luck! :)
Mr. B's past and genetics are a mystery, but I'm pretty sure he's just a regular ol' chin tho, nothin fancy!

You culled the ones in your herd who had malo/prone to bad teeth in their genetics? I wonder if Mr. B just has bad teeth. :/

I'm going to keep monitoring his teeth, we have another check up in 2 weeks. If he gets molar spurs again I'll ask to get an x-ray. He is at least 3 years old tho so the molar spurs that were found after I adopted him have been with him for who knows how long. They do seem to grow quite quickly tho? A few popped up shortly after getting them removed, but those were worn down a few weeks after that check up. What happens to chins who have bad teeth/genetics? Are they just doomed to getting malo and dying shortly? :(
 

Spoof

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You culled the ones in your herd who had malo/prone to bad teeth in their genetics? I wonder if Mr. B just has bad teeth. :/

I'm going to keep monitoring his teeth, we have another check up in 2 weeks. If he gets molar spurs again I'll ask to get an x-ray. He is at least 3 years old tho so the molar spurs that were found after I adopted him have been with him for who knows how long. They do seem to grow quite quickly tho? A few popped up shortly after getting them removed, but those were worn down a few weeks after that check up. What happens to chins who have bad teeth/genetics? Are they just doomed to getting malo and dying shortly? :(
Yes, I did what is called a hard cull (PTS) because I couldn't stand to put anyone else through raising and loosing chins in just a few months to a couple years. That is the only way to get rid of this genetic disease. I am now much more careful about who I purchase breeding males from.

You are doing the right thing by keeping an eye on them frequently. His molar spurs were probably not around too long, they grow very quickly. The studies they did in the past claim that chinchillas teeth grow 5.5-6.5cm per year. I've had a few missing front teeth (from being dropped or hitting something head first) and the opposing tooth will grow at least 3cm a month and needs monthly trims because it has nothing to wear down against.

Yes, chins who have bad teeth/genetics have a guaranteed painful and early death. It can happen quickly over a few months or take a year or more. This is a great article showing some xrays and progression of the disease. If you google chinchilla malocclusion photos you will see what happens as it advances. There are also a ton of older articles on this platform you can search for where people have tried many different ways to attempt to treat this. Thank you for rescuing him and being diligent on his health. :)
 

ChocolatPocky

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Yes, I did what is called a hard cull (PTS) because I couldn't stand to put anyone else through raising and loosing chins in just a few months to a couple years. That is the only way to get rid of this genetic disease. I am now much more careful about who I purchase breeding males from.

You are doing the right thing by keeping an eye on them frequently. His molar spurs were probably not around too long, they grow very quickly. The studies they did in the past claim that chinchillas teeth grow 5.5-6.5cm per year. I've had a few missing front teeth (from being dropped or hitting something head first) and the opposing tooth will grow at least 3cm a month and needs monthly trims because it has nothing to wear down against.

Yes, chins who have bad teeth/genetics have a guaranteed painful and early death. It can happen quickly over a few months or take a year or more. This is a great article showing some xrays and progression of the disease. If you google chinchilla malocclusion photos you will see what happens as it advances. There are also a ton of older articles on this platform you can search for where people have tried many different ways to attempt to treat this. Thank you for rescuing him and being diligent on his health. :)
Yeah I've seen photos of bad malo... poor little chins. :( I'm hoping Mr. B's teeth aren't TOO bad, but I have no idea if he's had to have molar spurs removed before my adoption, or if this is something that's happening as he's getting older. I kind of figure I'll bring him in for a check up maybe twice a year if he clears the next one? He's a real trooper about car rides and vet visits!

I found an article about the benefits of having enough vitamin C and calcium in their diet (posted in the health/diet forum) bc I figured I'm not the first or last person to deal with malo/molar spurs, there has to be a way of managing it somehow! If he keeps getting molar spurs, I might try supplementing a bit and see if that makes a difference (he's my chinnie pig now..). Mr. B might not make it to 20 years, but I'd like to see him live a decently long and healthy chinchilla life if I can help it!
 
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