In order to understand quality selection, you need to understand what makes a quality chinchilla. Picking a quality chinchilla for breeding is not as simple as ensuring they have the right parts, a nice disposition, and appear healthy and bright eyed. Many factors are taken into consideration for choosing a quality chinchilla. Breeding for a quality chinchilla is breeding according to guidelines set forth by the national and international organizations for chinchilla breeding, much like the American Kennel Club does for dogs or ARBA does for rabbit breeders. These guidelines are commonly referred to as the "breeding standards" of chinchilla and you will hear them mentioned by reputable breeders. These standards have been in use for nearly 100 years in the breeding of domesticated chinchilla and have given us a healthier, more robust, and beautiful looking animal. Some may call these standards "outdated," but they have changed and evolved over the years to support breeding of healthy animals.
Before purchasing an animal for breeding, I strongly recommend any passionate, potential breeder attend a chinchilla show to see different levels of quality for easy comparison. These shows are typically free to attend, though travel is necessary to attend these events. Many breeders travel upwards of 18hrs in each direction to attend some of the most prestigious shows. If this is not feasible or not something you are ready to start with, below are some guidelines for picking quality breeding stock.
1. KNOW YOUR SOURCE! Who is the breeder you are purchasing from? Do they attend chinchilla shows with their animals and place well on the table consistently? Top breeders will have trophy shelves displaying their many awards and ribbons through the years. Is the breeder you are purchasing from a member of a national or international chinchilla breeding organization with a registered ranch brand? You can always contact either organization to verify a breeder's membership and activity level. Each organization is a registered non-profit and as such their records are publicly available.
2. DO NOT BUY BABIES FOR BREEDING! Never purchase a chinchilla kit for breeding. Breeding quality cannot be accurately assessed until 6-12 months of age in chinchillas and it is best to wait and purchase a mature animal. Also, purchasing of mature animals will mean that you can put them into breeding after a shorter duration which will speed up your breeding program.
3. START SIMPLE! Don't go crazy trying to purchase every color chinchilla under the rainbow. Pick one or two colors you really love and feel passionate about and make sure to always have room for standards. Standards are the foundation of any good, quality herd and are needed for keeping lines healthy and thriving. Too many mutations bred together over too many generations will result in congenital heart weakness as well as many other ailments that cause the babies to fail to thrive and they will die before 18 months of age. It's important to keep in mind that working with a recessive mutation requires 3-4 times the amount of space for breeding than working with a dominant mutation.
4. LOOK UNDER BRIGHT LIGHTS OR NATURAL LIGHTS! Look at the chinchilla's fur under natural or very bright lights (preferrably white lights, not yellow). The chinchilla's coat should have eye appeal and be shiny. Dull coats are an indication of poor nutrition or a muddy bar, which is an undesirable trait for breeding for quality. The coat should also not reflect any red or yellow colors when you look under bright lights.
5. ASSESS MORE THAN COLOR AND PERSONALITY! The animals you should choose for your breeding program should be well rounded, robust, high quality animals. Picking an animal based on personality or the color of the coat is much more of a "pet" thing and should not be considered when purchasing quality breeding animals. Overall, the animal should be good sized (700-800g for females and 600-700g for males) with wide shoulders that are the same or close to the same width as the hips. The fur should be thick enough that your fingers do not easily crush it, and it should be strong enough to bounce back after displacement from touching. The coat should be shiny, not dull, and it should shine with a blue hue, not red or yellow. Depending on the color, there are other factors to consider which will be listed further down on this page.
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