Pixel the chinchilla lost her cagemate in late Dec. 2019. Before the loss, she was a happy, healthy chin, with a preference for hay over pellets, but would gladly eat both.
After the loss, she became very depressed, refused pellets, lost significant weight, went through many veterinary treatments, disliked the other chins I tried to bond her with, suffered a moderate injury, and refused to let her fur ever grow back. This was all roughly by April 2020.
Every return to the exotics vet yields another course treatment, gains some fur, 30g, and returns to baseline (400g, very chewed fur) after treatment is over. After many trials, I found Critical Care alone yields the exact same result. (Her teeth are fine).
Critical Care is not suited for long term use. And she needs to gain more than 30g. She will eventually eat pellets, but her poos are tiny without hay. Add hay, and she'll have normal poos again. My other chins do not have this level of disparity between hay vs non-hay poos.
I have always tried to make Timothy available, but I wasn't always able to do so consistently. Orchard Grass was a huge hit when Timothy wasn't available.
Oct. 2020ish, I picked up multiple hay varieties (timothy, orchard grass, botanical, +1 other) and mixed them up to create a custom blend. I also picked up some Alfalfa to try for Pixel (approved by vet).
I've been haphazardly mixing layers of Alfalfa + Custom Blend in her hay bowl for several months now. She adores it, and recently just figured out her flying saucer wheel (an activity!). Her weight hasn't improved much, especially if I can't refill her bowl quickly enough. The Alfalfa hay is lovely quality, but must be cut every time to fit in her bowl. I end up putting off refills which doesn't help anything.
My vet is always willing to put her in treatment again, but goes mum when I ask about hay ratios, quantities, types, etc. So, I'm here now.
- I should reasonably be able to store a premixed portion of this blend, preprepped, in a airtight container. (Min 1 week)
- The hays involved must be able to be purchased in small enough quantities to be stored in an airtight 50lb dog food container (each hay can have its own container, but I can't store a whole bale, let alone several).
- The hay blend should be wholly or nearly nutritionally complete. (Minimal pellet supplementation)
- The blend has some sort of ratio so it can be recreated.
- The blend to be capable of bringing up weight again (possibly different ratios for malnourished vs healthy chins).
- Any recommendations to increase weight whatsoever.
- Any recommendations that will decrease chronic fur-chewing.
- Bonus points if 2 or 3 can be related to hay blend/custom diet in some way.
- Extra bonus points if the blend/hays can fit into as few 25/50lb airtight dog food containers as possible.
No, I'm not dead set on diet as the answer, it just seems to be the only mechanism that improves her condition thus far. My other chins are 2x her size, so reintroduction (again) will probably need weight/fur gain first.
Given the numerous treatments, she eats beautifully from a syringe. I'm not opposed to syringe-fed options, but it would be ideal if she could eat on her own.
Given I haven't seen any other hay-only diet posts on this SE, I hope this can also serve as a reference to anyone who has a similarly picky chinchilla.