Chinchillas need to roll around in special dust to keep their fur in good shape. Be sure to use chinchilla dust, not sand. Dust should be provided 2-3 times per week; if the fur appears greasy increase the frequency however if you notice dry skin decrease the frequency. How often your chinchilla needs to dust is determined by how much you handle him, how dense his fur is, and the climate in which you live. I’ve had to increase dusting during the summers and decrease during winter.
Any type of container can be used for dusting, so long as it is large enough for your chinchilla to roll around in. Some ideas are specialty dust houses, a glass cookie jar, large fishbowl, or storage container. It is a good idea to wear a mask or leave the room while your chinchilla is dusting as inhaling the dust is not good for your lungs.
You can reuse the dust several times if it has not been urinated in. Scoop out any droppings and add more dust as needed. After several uses, when the dust starts to get coarse or has been urinated in, it’s time to change it. Also remember to periodically wash your dust container. If you have chinchillas that live in separate cages, you should provide separate dust containers as dust is breeding grounds for bacteria and you do not want to share it between pets.
You should not use a brush on your chinchilla, however if you’d like to comb your chin, you can do so every few weeks. You can buy a specialty chinchilla comb for about $30 or you can use another fine long tooth comb; I’ve heard of greyhound combs being used. You will want to comb from the base of the tail towards the head; gently working the comb through the fur. If you have a very densely furred chin it will take some time. Warning: most chins do not like to be combed!
Here is a video of a professional show breeder grooming a chinchilla. I’ve heard of, but never seen, anyone hold the chin by the ear before, however that would probably keep you from getting bit by a uncooperative chin. I would advise against holding the ears until someone has shown you or advised you on this technique.
You do not need to, and should not, clip your chinchilla’s nails. Usually chins keep their nails short on their own. Providing wooden surfaces in the cage will also help to wear the nails down. Should the nails get too long, you could gently file them.
Hair Rings in Males
Males will usually take care of this themselves however, gone unchecked, a nasty hair ring can cause pain, damage, or even death. Hair rings are more often found in breeding males (these males should be checked frequently, especially if you have witness mating) but if you notice your male chinchilla cleaning himself more than usual, it’s time to check for hair rings.
This video shows best how to do a hair ring check:
This video, is not as great quality but this chinchilla has a hair ring:
Oh and if you are trying to do a hair ring check but can’t get anything to come out of the sheath, then you have a female 😛