Signs that your chinchilla is about to give birth include behavioral changes. Your chin is nocturnal, so unless you stay up until the wee hours of the morning, you're unlikely to witness the actual birth. Since chins want to deliver privately, don't hover outside the cage. You might want to install a camera so you can observe your pet via your computer and come to her aid if there's a problem.
For a relatively small rodent, chinchilla pregnancies last a long time -- an average of 111 days, or approximately 3.5 months. Chins give birth to between one and four babies, called kits. In nature, chinchillas might have up to three litters annually. Babies are born fully furred and with eyes open. About an hour after entering the world, they're walking. Kits stay with their mothers until weaning, between the ages of 6 to 8 weeks.
As labor draws near, you'll notice behavioral changes in your chinchilla. She might stop eating and become lethargic. If housed with other chinchillas, she might act aggressively toward the other chins. Outgoing female chinchillas might become more passive. When you see signs that your chinchilla will soon deliver, remove her dust bath. Put a nesting box in the cage so she has a clean, draft-free place to deliver her babies.
When your chin's labor starts, her "water" -- the amniotic fluid -- will burst and you might notice her wet behind. In addition to her genitals, her nose and mouth becomes wet. During labor, she'll make noise, and appear to stretch. Normal labor lasts about half an hour before the first kit's birth. Your chin actually removes the baby as it emerges from the birth canal. She'll eat each kit's placenta, which is a good thing. Once the kits are born, the new mother cleans them and herself. If she gives them gentle bites and they squeal, don't panic. That's the mother's way of ensuring her kits have no amniotic fluid in their lungs.
If your chinchilla is several days past her due date, or her labor goes on for more than four hours, it's time to get your pet to the vet. Birth problems, formally known as dystocia, generally occur in young chins giving birth to their first litter or if the fetuses are larger than normal. Your veterinarian can give your chin oxytocin, a hormone that strengthens contractions. If the oxytocin isn't sufficient to bring about delivery, your vet might perform a cesarean section.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.