Chinchillas are mammals, and mammals reproduce by mating. So do chinchillas have mating seasons like other animals do? And if so, when are they?
When is chinchilla mating season? Chinchillas mate in the late winter and early spring months. In the southern hemisphere, winter begins in June and ends in September. Spring runs afterwards. When chinchillas live in the northern hemisphere, they instead mate in the winter and early spring months there, so from December onwards to Easter time. Pet chinchillas, though, can mate at any time when kept in temperature- and light-controlled conditions. As such, the idea of a ‘mating season’ isn’t strictly relevant for breeders.
The guide below first looks at when chinchilla mating season is, and why it’s different in the northern hemisphere than in the southern hemisphere. We’ll also look at how chinchillas get pregnant, and whether they can reproduce any time they like, and how this affects breeding guidelines.
Do Chinchillas Have a Mating Season?
Most mammals have a kind of mating season, chinchillas included. That’s because it’s a good idea to have young at certain times, but not at others.
We’re used to living lives of luxury; we’re completely divorced from the realities of living in the wild. In the wild, most animals can only successfully have offspring in the early spring and summer. That’s because during the late spring and early summer, there’s lots of food to go around, which means the mother can stay healthy while it’s pregnant and as she rears her young. It also means there will be lots of food around when the offspring are finally born, which will increase their chance of survival.
When Is Chinchilla Mating Season?
Wild chinchilla mating season is during the winter months through to late spring. This is different to many other animals which only start breeding when spring arrives, and through into the summer. Because the seasons are different in the southern hemisphere, the winter months run from June to September and spring comes after.
Chinchillas breed early because they have a long gestation period. The gestation period is when the offspring are in the womb. While other rodents gestate for as little as a couple of weeks, chinchillas take 110-111 days on average to produce a litter. That means that if the chinchilla mates during the winter months, it will have its offspring just as spring arrives and there is plenty of food to go around.
For some animals, mating season isn’t so strictly defined. That’s because many habitats, like the rainforest, offer food and suitable temperatures year round. But chinchillas live in the dry and desolate Andes Mountains, where food can run scarce and the temperatures can dip very low. It’s therefore especially important for them to have a defined breeding season.
All that being said, the idea of a mating season isn’t relevant if you’re planning on breeding your own chinchillas for reasons we’ll explore in a moment.
Why Is Chinchilla Mating Season Different in the Northern Hemisphere?
The chinchilla’s mating season is different in the U.S. or Europe to when wild chinchillas mate in Chile. That’s because of how the seasons work.
Seasons are different in the north and south because the earth’s axis tilts towards and away from the sun. In January, the north pole points away from the sun. That’s why it’s colder and darker in the north, while it’s summer in the southern hemisphere. In July, the height of the northern hemisphere’s summer, the north pole points towards the sun. This makes the days longer, the sun higher in the sky, and the temperature hotter.
This means that chins mate December through spring in the northern hemisphere, and June through September in the southern hemisphere. The chinchillas don’t care what month it is—they care how warm it is, and how warm it will be when their kits are born.
Is There a Chinchilla Mating Call?
Chins don’t have a loud and obvious mating call like some other animals do. But they do have noises they make that specifically relate to being in heat/interested in reproducing, and certain behaviors you’ll notice when they are.
When a male or female is interested in mating, it will make a series of squeaks. These don’t sound too dissimilar to the squeaks that chinchillas normally make, so they’re not immediately recognizable unless you’re familiar with them. Your chins will accompany them with something owners call the swishy tail dance, which is exactly what it sounds like. The male will swish its tail to try and get the female’s attention. If she’s interested, she will show him her backside and he will mount her.
Can Chinchillas Get Pregnant Any Time?
Wild chinchillas can’t get pregnant any time they like. There are two main reasons why:
- Female chinchillas that aren’t in heat will reject males instantly.
- If the female had offspring out of season, the offspring would die, and caring for them could even kill her. Any chinchillas that did this didn’t successfully have more offspring, while in-season breeders did. Natural selection therefore means females refuse to have offspring out of season.
But what applies to wild chinchillas doesn’t always apply to pet chinchillas. Pet chinchillas live in completely different conditions so can mate at any time of year.
Do Female Chinchillas Go Into Heat?
Chinchillas go into a kind of heat called ‘estrous‘. This is a period of a few days in which the female is sexually receptive, i.e. it wants to breed. If she is approached when she’s not in estrous, she will repel the male by standing up and spraying urine at him. That’s a pretty clear ‘no’ in anybody’s books!
The female’s reproductive system works differently to that of a person. Women have eggs in their ovaries that only become available for reproduction during the menstrual cycle. The egg makes its way up the fallopian tube towards the uterus at a set pace. But in chinchillas, the act of mating will cause the ovaries to release an egg or eggs. This means chinchillas are highly likely to reproduce each time they mate.
How Long Are Chinchillas In Heat?
Estrous begins and ends during mating season. The female will get ‘in heat’ for a few days, before going out of heat for a few days. This cycle continues until the end of the mating season. Chinchillas will go through these cycles every year until they pass away there’s no such thing as menopause in chinchillas.
Do Male Chinchillas Go Into Heat?
Male chinchillas don’t go through estrous like females do. They can breed at any time of year. This helps them raise as much young as possible, which males are free to do, but females aren’t.
However, male chinchillas are most interested in mating when females are in heat. So, in a way, when the female is in heat it makes the male ‘in heat’ too—not in an anatomical sense, as in females, but in a practical sense.
How Come Pet Chinchillas Don’t Have a Mating Season?
Even many experienced owners don’t realize that chinchillas have a mating season. That’s because pet chinchillas don’t bother sticking to it. They will mate and can successfully raise young at any time of year. There are many reasons why.
The first is that wild chinchillas, and in fact all animals, tell when mating season begins by looking for environmental clues. For example:
- When the days start getting longer
- When the weather starts getting warmer, or it stops/starts raining, or stops snowing
- When there are certain plants and other animals around that weren’t before
…It indicates that spring is arriving. The animal subconsciously recognizes these signs and its body responds by getting ready to breed. But pet chinchillas cannot notice these signs, or at least not so easily, because they live in cages indoors. You keep your chinchilla’s room at a constant temperature all year long; you keep lights on in your home. Your chin’s mating season biological changes therefore aren’t triggered.
And even if your chinchilla were in tune with the seasons, it may not respond to them in the same way. That’s because it’s not in its natural habitat, and the seasons are different in the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, it’s winter when it’s summer in the northern hemisphere. So, while January is the depth of winter in New York, it’s the height of summer in southern hemisphere cities. This means that the chinchilla’s mating season wouldn’t be in the same months.
When to Breed Chinchillas
If you want to breed chinchillas, you can try doing so at any time of year. You have to do so in a specific way, though, to ensure that the pair don’t fight:
- Introduce them using the split cage method. This is where each chinchilla is in its own cage, but the cages are put very close together. This means the chins can smell and see each other, but not fight.
- Monitor the reaction of both chinchillas when in separate cages. Gauge their response to each other. Does the female not want to be around the male, made obvious when it stands up and even sprays at it? Or do the pair seem to want to be closer?
- Monitor the chinchillas when you put them in the same cage. Once breeding is over, you can separate them.
If the pair don’t seem interested in mating, then it may be best to wait until breeding season. Despite being capable of reproducing year round, your chinchillas may still prefer doing so during their typical breeding season; it’s possible that they can still tell what season it is from the light outside. So, wait until it’s late winter/early spring and try again.
All that being said, we don’t recommend breeding chinchillas unless you really know what you’re doing. Chinchilla kits can be difficult to take care of, and if you make mistakes, they can pass away. This is sad both for you as the owner and the chinchillas as parents. And if you plan on breeding chinchillas for profit, you must know that it’s far more difficult than people make it out to be. As such, talk with experienced breeders in your area before purposefully breeding chinchillas for any reason.