You may have seen the stern warnings against feeding a chinchilla sunflower seeds.
Or you may have seen articles touting the nutritional value of these seeds.
Which is true?
Both. Sunflower seeds do contain vitamins and minerals that are good for chinchillas.
And they do not contain any harmful toxins like many other seeds.
But we recommend never feeding your chinchilla sunflower seeds.
Why is that?
Keep reading to learn why it is best to avoid these seeds altogether. We’ll also give you some better alternatives to feed as treats.
- 1 Can Chinchillas Eat Sunflower Seeds?
- 1.1 Chinchillas Love Sunflower Seeds
- 1.2 Can Sunflower Seeds Be Toxic For Chinchillas?
- 1.3 Why Chinchillas Should Not Eat Sunflower Seeds
- 1.4 What Nuts And Seeds Can Chinchillas Eat?
- 1.5 What Human Food Can Chinchillas Eat?
- 2 Chinchillas Eating Sunflower Seeds: Final Thoughts
Can Chinchillas Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Yes, chinchillas can eat sunflower seeds. However, many experts advise not to feed sunflower seeds to chinchillas, since they have a high amount of fat and can cause them to gain weight quickly.
If you do want to fed them to your chin, make sure you do so only in very small amounts. But due to the high fat content, you are better off feeding other types of treats.
We will discuss the nutrition value of sunflower seeds below, to help you understand why they aren’t great for chinchillas. But first, let’s look at why they actually love sunflower seeds.
Chinchillas Love Sunflower Seeds
Chinchillas crave sunflower seed for many reasons. They are hard-wired to enjoy the taste of foods that are high in fat. Most chinchillas also enjoy the challenge of getting out the kernel from the seed by digging the shell with their teeth.
It is safe to say that sunflower seeds are a favorite snack for chinchillas. They enjoy it the same way we can enjoy sodas or snacks with high calories. We know they are bad, but ove and eat them anyway.
Chinchillas do not know that sunflower seeds are bad for their health in the long run, so I suppose they have an excuse for loving unhealthy food.
In the wild, chinchillas eat mostly grasses. When they find a food with a high fat content like sunflower seeds, they make the most of the rare opportunity to stock up on fat reserves and eat as much as they can. In captivity, it is up to us to regulate how much junk food they eat.
How Many Sunflower Seeds To Feed
Ideally, you should never feed your pet sunflower seeds. If you choose to do so, do not feed chinchillas sunflower seeds regularly. Limit it to once a week at most and only a seed or two each time.
If you are feeding them specifically to help your chinchilla gain weight, then do so more often. It is best to consult with your vet, if this is the case.
Can Sunflower Seeds Be Toxic For Chinchillas?
Due to the many warnings against feeding chinchillas sunflower seeds, many people believe the seeds contain toxins that are harmful to these animals. There is also the fact that many other seeds are indeed toxic, if enough of them are ingested.
Apples seeds are a good example of this. They contain amygdalin, which turns into cyanide when metabolized in the digestive system.
But sunflower seeds do not contain any cyanide. Neither the inner part (the kernel) nor the outer part (the shell) of the sunflower seed is dangerous for a chinchilla.
Like us humans, chinchillas don’t eat the shell. But they do use their strong teeth (much stronger than ours) to break open the shell. In doing so, they may ingest parts of the shell. But this is nothing to worry about.
There is no problem with a small amount of shell going into their digestive system since no part of the sunflower seed is poisonous. What is worrisome about the seeds is the nutritional value.That is what makes them unsuitable for chinchillas.
Why Chinchillas Should Not Eat Sunflower Seeds
The reason sunflower seeds are not a good snack for your pet is because of their nutritional content. Sunflower seeds are fibrous and high in fat. As a result, they can cause chinchillas to get obese.
The table from NutritionValue.org gives us a clear idea of the nutrients you can get in 100 grams of sunflower seeds. The last column gives you the average nutritional requirements of the chinchilla to make it obvious why sunflower seeds ca be a problem.
|Nutrients||Amount Per 100g||Requirements|
The table clearly shows the difference in the amount of nutrition chinchillas need and how much they get from sunflower seeds. Let’s explore in more detail why this difference holds so much significance.
The usual timothy hay that chinchillas eat has around 190 to 210 calories, making it a suitable food for them. On the other hand, 100 grams of sunflower seeds contain 584 calories. The high amount of fat and protein in these seeds is responsible for most of the calories. It is also what makes them a bad choice for chinchillas.
High fat and protein make us humans gain weight. The same is true for chinchillas. Eating a lot of protein and fat (especially fat), will lead to weight gain. While sunflower seeds have a good amount of protein for chins, they have far too much fat.
If you feed your pet sunflower seeds regularly, it will gain weight. This can lead to severe problems down the road, like obesity or diabetes, which are likely to cause an early death.
Water And Fiber
Sunflower seeds contain less water than your pet needs. The fiber content is also significantly lower than a chinchilla’s nutritional needs. They can get water from drinking it, but they need to get fiber from their food.
Fiber keeps the digestive system of chinchillas in perfect condition. Their digestive system is perfectly adapted to digest high amounts of fiber. If they do not get enough of it, it will disrupt their entire digestion, leading to issues like diarrhea.
That is why Timothy hay is such a good food. It has the right fiber content. Sunflower seeds do not. Not even close.
Vitamins And Minerals
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals, but that does not make them good for your chinchilla’s diet, due to the high fat and low fiber content. Chinchillas get all the vitamins and minerals the need from fresh hay and food pellets formulated for chinchillas.
A lot of the time, people feed sunflower seeds due to a vitamin deficiency in their pets. There are far better ways to deal with this. It is best to consult with a vet, so they can recommend the best supplemental food to give your pet.
What Nuts And Seeds Can Chinchillas Eat?
There are various other nutritious seeds that you can feed your chinchilla, in lieu of sunflower seeds. These seeds will not do any harm, if fed in moderation, and they provide some type of nutritional benefit.
Overall, sunflower seeds are actually one of the best seeds for chinchillas. Many people also ask about pumpkin seeds. Can chinchillas eat pumpkin seeds? They can, but the same warnings go with those, too. In fact, you are better off with sunflower seeds than pumpkin seeds.
If you prefer to not give any seeds as a snack to your pet, that is completely fine. Chinchillas can survive on hay and pellets. It is all they need.
But some owners like to give their pets treats. If that is the case, you need to make sure you do not feed anything that could be harmful.
Chinchillas are omnivores, so they can eat just about anything. But the list of treats that are actually good for them is quite short. Here are a few healthy snacks you can feed your chin.
Rose hip is also known as rose haw. It is the fruit of the rose plant. You can feed it to your chinchilla if it is dried first. It is easy to find in dried form and makes a great occasional treat. Read our article on rose hips for chinchillas for more.
Oats are another great treat for chinchillas, because they do not cause digestive issues and they contain a lot of nutrients your pet needs. But they are high in calcium and calories, so you should only ever feed a few oats at a time and limit it to twice a week, at most.
You can find a wide range of brands of shredded wheat that have no sugar or additives in them. They are rich in fiber and are ideal for the chinchilla digestive system. Other less sugary cereals like cornflakes and cheerios are fine, too.
What Human Food Can Chinchillas Eat?
As mentioned, chinchillas can eat a lot of things, including pretty much every fruit or vegetable we humans eat. But that does not mean you should feed those things. As long as the food is high in fiber and protein, you can feed them chinchillas.
Their digestive system is sensitive and a lot of fruit and vegetables can cause issues. Even ones that are safe to feed will cause issues if you feed to much of them. Everything in moderation.
Some people also feed their chinchillas food meant for rabbits or other rodents. This won’t harm them, but foods meant specifically for chinchillas have all the nutrients they need.
If your chinchilla eats guinea pig food or rabbit food, for example, it will not get all of the nutrition it needs. This can lead to health issues, in the long run.
Chinchillas Eating Sunflower Seeds: Final Thoughts
I realize there is a lot of different information out there regarding chinchillas and sunflower seeds (and pretty much any other food). But that’s because they offer some health benefits, while also being bad for a chin’s health. As is the case with many foods.
Sunflower seeds are high in fat, which can lead to weight gain. They are also too low in fiber for a chinchilla’s digestive system. For these reasons, we strongly recommend against feeding them to your pet.
That said, they do contain vitamins and minerals chinchillas need (but already get from hay and pellets). Feeding a seed or two once a week is fine, if you really want you chinchilla to have sunflower seeds. They love eating them, so I can understand why you might want to allow your pet this pleasure.