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Choosing Quality Chinchillas

Whether you're adding to your breeding herd or simply looking for a pet, quality should be at the top of your priority list. Buying only quality chins helps to improve the gene pool should you choose to breed, and helps to discourage irresponsible breeding by not supporting those who breed for 'the quick buck' rather than to improve the species.

Health

Health is of utmost importance. You want your chinchilla to come from a well maintained, clean environment. A constant smell of ammonia in the air is a good indicator that cages aren't clean - that's the buildup of urine in the bedding. This is hard on the chinchilla respiratory system as well as bad for the fur. Eyes should be clear of debris or discharge and bright. Nose should be clean and dry. Stools should be formed and hard, not sticking to anything in the cage. A chinchilla should be active and alert, particularly in the evening hours.

Genetic diseases should not be present in the lines at all. These include malocclusion, fur chewing and any other condition determined to be genetic, such as heart disease. Be sure to ask about any potential genetic disorders.


Fur Quality

Fur quality is a big determining factor in the overall appeal of a chinchilla. There are many different aspects of the fur that are graded. A great glossary of terms used to grade chinchilla fur is located here.

Color should be true to the color of the chinchilla, known as clarity, or a distinct shade of the desired color. Ebonies and beiges in particular tend to have a red cast to them - this is not desireable. You want a blue cast to any chinchilla. (There is no true blue in the fur itself, but the tones of the fur can blend and create a blue hue under show lights.) The fur should also appear bright, rather than dull.

Density defines the thickness of the fur. Thick fur is what is looked for on the show table. More hairs in a given area create a higher density. A degree of this is fixed at birth via the follicle number, but the number of hairs per follicle can depend upon environmental as well as genetic factors. You can demonstrate density by gently blowing into the fur; the less skin you see, the better. You can also see into the fur from above on an animal with less density. This is especially noticeable when compared to an animal with excellent density.

Fur pattern means the flow of the fur - you want a nice even flow, creating a finished appearance. The fur should all be the same length with no disturbance of flow. This is greatly visible when an animal is in prime or its best condition. Priming is a shedding cycle that chinchillas go through to replace old fur with new. 'Prime' occurs at the end of a full cycle, which takes about 13 weeks.

Texture describes the coarseness of the individual hairs on the chinchilla. Good texture creates an overall appearance of silkiness. A 'wooly' appearance would be the opposite.

Length should be the same all over the chinchilla, between 3/4 and 1 1/4 inches long. Fur that is too long tends to lay down, while fur that is too short tends to not give as full of an appearance to the chinchilla.

Veiling refers to the tips of the hairs on a chinchilla. Dark tips create an overall veil, which you want to appear even from head to butt. Weakness of the veil in the neck is often seen and not desireable. You want a nice uniform veil all over the top of the chinchilla. This veiling is especially evident on a black velvet chinchilla. Keep in mind that great veiling can look off when a chinchilla is out of prime.

Fur strength is defined as the ability to go back into place after being disturbed. We want the fur to stand up as much as possible, rather than lie down. Longer fur can have the tendency to lay down, especially on the hips and rump. You want to avoid this lay down appearance. You can test fur strength by gently blowing into the fur. Strong fur will quickly snap right back into place.

Body

Conformation refers to the shape of the chinchilla. Put simply, you want a rectangle for a chin when viewed from the top. A large, rounded head with a wide neck and shoulder area is most desireable. The neck should have no visible dip, but instead appear as a straight or better yet, raised line when viewed from the side.

Size is greatly looked at on the show table, which stems back to the pelting industry. A bigger pelt means a higher profit. A chinchilla should be good sized, but not overly sized. Large animals are said to be slower breeders, while small animals are not wanted in a breeding herd. It's a delicate balance.