General Chinchilla Information:
1. They need to chew continuously because their teeth grow for their whole lives. Always provide your chinchillas with things to chew on. If its gets maloccluded its teeth can literally grow up into its skull and it can die. I like to use the unvarnished wicker baskets that are a dollar at the dollar store and sticks collected from outside, and that works. But it doesn't really matter what you use, as long as it's safe to digest. Keep them chewing.
2. They can only eat hay and pelletized hay. Raisins, nuts, vegetables, excessively feeding all of these things will cause your chinchilla to die around 7 years old instead of its max lifespan of 15 - 20 years.
3. Do not chase your chinchilla. Let it come to you. Use bait. A fresh piece of hay, a crunchy rice puff, etc. If you chase them they will grow to hate you. If you bait them they will grow to love you.
Those are the three cardinal rules to owning a chinchilla. Also, they can die if the temperature gets around 80 F. They like it cold and dry. Hot and wet will kill them (never put neosporin on them or they'll chew it and their flesh off). And give them dust baths (dust is another good thing to use as bait).
I feed my chinchillas Small World Rabbit Feed Complete Rabbit Pet Food, which is $8 for 25 pounds from Walmart. A lot of people recommend Mazuri chinchilla food but I prefer Small World for the following reasons:
Mazuri and Small World Rabbit Feed have very similar ingredients. Here, here's a link to the Small World Rabbit Food http://www.walmart.com/ip/Small-World-Rabbit-Feed-Complete-Rabbit-Pet-Food-25-lb/10323572
Ingredients: "Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Wheat Middling's, Roughage Products, Soybean Meal, Feeding Oatmeal, DL-Methionine, Yucca Schidigera..." and then a whole lot of vitamins.
Small World Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein - Min - 16.00%.
Crude Fat - Min - 2.50%.
Crude Fiber - Min - 15.00%.
Crude Fiber - Max - 20.00%.
Calcium - Min - 0.75%.
Calcium - Max - 1.25%.
Phosphorus - Min - 0.50%.
Salt - Min - 0.25%.
Salt - Max - 0.75%.
Sodium - Max - 0.30%.
Vitamin A - Min - 3,000 Iu/Lb.
Here is a list of Mazuri's ingredients: "Dehydrated alfalfa meal, dehulled soybean meal, wheat middlings, ground soybean hulls, ground oats, wheat germ, dried beet pulp, cane molasses, soybean oil..." and then vitamins. Info from http://www.mazuri.com/tabstemplate-4.aspx
Mazuri Guaranteed Analysis
Crude protein not less than 20.0%
Crude fat not less than 3.0%
Crude fiber not more than 18.0%
Calcium not less than 0.75%
Calcium not more than 1.3%
Phosphorus not less than 0.50%
Sodium not less than 0.10%
Sodium not more than 0.40%
Moisture not more than 11.0%
Ash not more than 9.0%
The Mazuri brand food actually has a lot more sugar (dried beet pulp, cane molasses) and oil (soybean oil) than the Small World Rabbit Food. Remember oil and sugar kills your chinchillas. So at $0.32 a pound, Small World Rabbit Feed Complete Rabbit Pet Food is actually less money and better for your chinchillas than $4 a pound Mazuri chinchilla food.
Suggested chinchilla treats:
1. Quaker rice cakes.
2. Cheerios or the store brand of 'cheerios'.
The above two treats are much cheaper than the ricepuff sticks 'Rice Pops' sold by the pet stores, but the chinchillas do seem to like the sweetened rice pops more. (Of course; they're half sugar). 'Rice Pops' look like this:
You can start with those but they're like $5 a pack and frankly not good for the chinchilla (half sugar!), so after you've got the chinchilla tamed a bit and expecting food to come with your hand, I suggest switching to the Quaker rice cakes. Just make sure to have food in your hand every time you reach towards the chinchilla, and eventually it'll realize to come towards your hand and it won't matter if it's an unhealthy rice pop or a healthy rice cake that you're holding. But yeah, they love those rice pops and they're a good first treat to get your chinchilla to like you initially. Hold the rice pop in one hand, and slowly reach forward and pet the chinchilla with your other hand. Don't let the chinchilla rip the treat out of your hand.
Also, dust is $1 a pound on chinchillas.com instead of the standard $3 a pound at your local pet store. Here is a hyperlink: http://www.chinchillas.com/estore/detail.aspx?ID=33
The easiest cage to clean is one where no level other than the bottom one accumulates urine and poo. You can buy wire mesh from your local hardware store and make new stories for your chinchillas.
I recommend a mesh small enough so their feet can't get stuck in it. One quarter inch mesh is sold at Tractor Supply. One half inch mesh is not appropriate for ledges for baby chinchillas because their feet can get stuck in it when they go to jump off. But it works fine for non-ledge situations and for adult chinchillas; my adults have never had a problem.
An example of an inexpensive cage frame is the $104 delivered to your door cage on ebay.
That makes a good external frame for a cage. Then you can use fleece or mesh to make levels. Make sure at no point can a chinchilla slip and plummet the entire height of the cage. They can die that way :(
If you don't own the tools or don't want to do it yourself, I can make you a custom built five foot tall cage for $200. It will have baby proof external frame, multiple stories with large expanses of liveable space, and soft fleece to cushion their feet.
How to Introduce a New Chinchilla: