Chinchillas have specific nutritional needs and sensitive digestive systems, so it’s essential to select an appropriate food to keep them healthy.
“Chinchilla food should be pellet-only, no added ‘extras’ like sunflower seeds, dried vegetables, etc.,” says Dee Bunk-Hatch, owner of Humble Acres Ranch and President of the Northern Atlantic Branch of Empress Chinchilla Breeders Cooperative. “The extras will cause the chinchilla to pick out only those treats and ignore their pellets, which contain the most nutrients.”
Chinchillas should also be given quality grass hay—Timothy hay or orchard grass is preferred—which serves as a source of fiber and helps improve dental health. We researched the best chinchilla foods in consultation with experts, looking in particular for comprehensive nutrition, uniform pellets (to prevent selective eating), and high-quality ingredients.
Here are the best chinchilla foods for your furry friend.
Best Overall Pellets
Oxbow Essentials Deluxe Chinchilla Food
Numerous package sizes
18 percent protein content
Prevents selective eating
Fortified with vitamins C, A and B12
Chinchillas should be given 1-2 tablespoons of pellets per day, and Bunk-Hatch recommends Oxbow Essentials. The deluxe chinchilla food is made from high-fiber alfalfa meal to promote gastrointestinal health, with added fiber, protein, and fat derived from soybeans. Its 18 percent crude protein provides a higher percentage than many other chinchilla options.
Oxbow Essentials is also fortified with vitamins C, A, and B12, providing 100 percent of a chinchilla's daily recommended vitamins intake. The nutritionally-complete pellets also have antioxidants and prebiotics to support your pet’s immune and digestive health, while the uniform shape of the pellets helps to prevent selective eating.
Oxbow recommends that its pellets make up approximately 20 percent of your chinchilla's diet, with the bulk of their daily food intake coming from hay (we have hay recommendations ahead). Oxbow Essentials Deluxe Chinchilla Food is available in 3-, 10-, and 25-pound bags.
Ingredients: Alfalfa meal, soybean hulls, wheat middlings | Package Size(s): 3, 10, or 25 pounds
Best Overall Hay
Kaytee Natural Timothy Hay Small Animal Food
No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
Sealed to preserve nutrient value
Ideal leaf-to-stem ratio
No larger package sizes
Chinchillas should be given an unlimited amount of hay to eat every day, and our favorite option is Kaytee Natural Timothy Hay. The hay comes in several package sizes, and the sole ingredient is sun-cured Timothy hay, which offers lots of fiber and is easy for chinchillas to digest. It's also preferred over alfalfa hay, which can be given as an occasional snack, but has too much calcium to be your chinchilla's staple diet since excess calcium can lead to bladder stones.
The hay in each package is sourced and harvested from the Columbian River basin in the western United States, and it’s low in calcium and protein to support a healthy urinary tract. The product is packaged to preserve the nutrient value and color of the hay, and it’s free from artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Ingredients: Sun-cured timothy hay | Package Size(s): 24, 48, 96 ounces
Best Budget Pellets
Kaytee Timothy Complete Chinchilla Food
Developed by an animal nutrition expert
Contains probiotics and prebiotics to aid in digestive health
No artificial colors or flavors
Not alfalfa based
The Kaytee Timothy Complete Chinchilla Food is a popular option that’s a bit more affordable per package. It comes in 3-pound bags, and the main ingredient in the pellets is sun-cured Timothy hay. The food is developed by an animal nutrition expert to ensure it meets a chinchilla’s nutritional requirements, and the pellets are uniform to prevent selective eating.
These high-fiber pellets contain probiotics and prebiotics to improve your pet’s digestive health, and the formula contains added vitamins and minerals, as well. There are no artificial colors or flavors, and the formula is 16 percent crude protein.
Ingredients: Sun-cured timothy grass hay, wheat middlings, ground wheat | Package Size(s): 3 pounds
Best Premium Pellets
Supreme Science Selective Chinchilla Food
Supports coat and skin health
No added sugar
Low fat levels
If you’re willing to spend a little more on chinchilla food, Bunk-Hatch also recommends Supreme Science. The brand’s Selective Chinchilla Food has an alfalfa base, but it also contains ingredients like parsley, plantains, and linseed to promote a soft coat and healthy skin. Plus, the pellets are highly palatable, making them appealing to your pet.
This chinchilla food has a low-fat formula with no added sugar, which is beneficial for managing your chinchilla’s weight. There are no artificial colors, and the pellets contain 16 percent crude protein.
Ingredients: Lucerne meal (alfalfa), soya hulls, wheat | Package Size(s): 4.4 pounds
Best Orchard Hay
Oxbow Orchard Grass Hay Small Animal Food
Large bales available
No preservatives or additives
Sweet scent attracts animals
Grown in the United States
No way to seal large bags
Orchard hay, such as this product from Oxbow, has a higher protein level than Timothy hay, and it’s often softer and sweeter, as well. The Oxbow Orchard Grass Hay comes in a wide range of package sizes, including 50-pound boxes, and it has a sweet smell your chinchillas will love.
This hay is grown in the United States, and it’s free of preservatives and additives. The leaves of the hay may be green to bluish-green, providing a variety that promotes natural foraging and mental stimulation.
Ingredients: 100 percent orchard grass | Package Size(s): 15 or 40 ounce; 9, 25, or 50 pounds
Best Organic Hay
Oxbow Organic Meadow Hay Small Animal Food
USDA Organic certified
Hand-sorted for quality
Grown in the United States
No larger package sizes
The Oxbow Organic Meadow Hay has earned the USDA Organic Seal, meaning over 95 percent of the ingredients are produced by certified organic farmers. Each package contains sweet-smelling organic meadow hay that’s been grown in the United States, and it often includes a blend of hay varieties that have been grown and harvested together.
This hay is a great source of fiber for your chinchilla, and its enticing smell is ideal for picky eaters. The hay that goes into each bag is hand-selected and hand-sorted for quality, but it is slightly pricey and comes in smaller packages than other hay brands.
Ingredients: 100 percent organic meadow hay | Package Size(s): 15 or 40 ounce
Exotic Nutrition Dried Rose Hips
Good source of dietary fiber and vitamins
No added sugars, flavors, or preservatives
Can be used in foraging toys
Expensive for package size
Hay and pellets should make up the bulk of your chinchilla’s diet, but for an occasional treat, try the Exotic Nutrition Dried Rose Hips. These little pieces of dried fruit are a good source of dietary fiber, as well as vitamins C and E, and they make a delicious treat for small animals. These chinchilla treats don’t contain any added sugars, flavors, or preservatives, and you can put the chunks into foraging toys to keep your chinchilla entertained.
Ingredients: Dried whole rose hips | Package Size(s): 3 ounces
Best Chew Toys
Oxbow Enriched Life Apple Stick Bundle
Perfect size for small animals
Encourages mental and physical enrichment
May have to break sticks in half
To you, it may just look like a stick, but to your chinchilla, the Oxbow Apple Sticks are the ultimate chew toy. These small sticks are the perfect size for chinchillas and other small pets, and they’re simply untreated apple wood. The material is all-natural and safe for your pet to chew on, and the toy encourages mental and physical enrichment while improving dental health.
Ingredients: Untreated apple sticks | Package Size(s): 6.4 ounces
The Oxbow Essentials Deluxe Chinchilla Food is a top choice for your pet’s daily pellets, as it contains 18 percent protein and has a consistent size to prevent selective eating. For your chinchilla’s hay, we recommend the Kaytee Natural Timothy Hay, which is free from artificial flavors and preservatives and packaged to preserve nutrients.
What to Look for When Choosing Chinchilla Food
When shopping for chinchilla food—whether it’s hay or pellets—it’s important to find a product made from high-quality ingredients. “I like an alfalfa base for chinchilla pellets,” says Dee Bunk-Hatch, owner of Humble Acres Ranch and President of the Northern Atlantic Branch of Empress Chinchilla Breeders Cooperative.
Many pellets are also fortified with vitamins and minerals to help promote digestive and immune health. For hay, you’ll want to look at what type of grass is in the product, where it was harvested, and whether there are any added colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Chinchillas have specific nutritional needs; they need a diet that’s high in fiber but low in fat and sugar, as these animals are prone to being overweight. Bunk-Hatch recommends looking for pellets with 17–18 percent protein, and you’ll want to choose low-calcium hay, such as Timothy hay, orchard grass, oat hay, or meadow hay to prevent bladder stones.
Chinchillas are prone to selective eating, meaning they pick out pieces they like and leave the rest behind. For this reason, it’s best to select chinchilla pellets with a uniform shape and size and no add-ins, such as nuts or dried fruits.
Can chinchillas eat food formulated for other pets, like rabbits, hamsters, or guinea pigs?
If you don’t have access to chinchilla food, it’s possible to feed them rabbit food.
“Chinchillas can safely eat high-quality show or breeding rabbit feeds, but feeds for other rodents tend to be too low in protein and a lot of them contain additives that chinchillas do not need,” explains Bunk-Hatch.
Are there any human foods that are safe to feed to a chinchilla?
“The only human foods that can be given to chinchillas are plain cereals like Cheerios and shredded wheat, or basic rolled oats,” says Bunk-Hatch. “They should never have fresh fruits, vegetables, or other human snacks."
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
This article was researched and written by Camryn Rabideau. She spoke with chinchilla breeder Dee Bunk-Hatch, owner of Humble Acres Ranch and President of the Northern Atlantic Branch of Empress Chinchilla Breeders Cooperative for guidance on selecting the best chinchilla food. She evaluated each product for its ingredients, nutritional makeup, and consistency.
Adrienne Kruzer is a registered and licensed veterinary technician in three states and has been writing on pet and vet topics for over a decade. She is also Fear Free Certified, has a special interest in exotic and pocket pets and pet nutrition, and she loves researching, learning, and problem-solving in order to better help pet owners. Her years of working in various animal hospitals with dogs, cats, wildlife, and exotic pets like chinchillas, alongside her formal college education and elective continuing education classes, have provided her with a wealth of experience and knowledge to help chinchilla owners select the best food for their pets.
Dr. Beth Bystrom is a veterinarian at Sea Island Animal Hospital in Beaufort, SC. She enjoys treating dogs, cats, and exotic pets, including snakes, and also earned her certificate for small animal abdominal ultrasound and echocardiology to continue her education. She has a passion for all things scaly, feathery, and furry and loves helping pet owners care for their pets.