Every summer we hear from folks who are concerned about heat with regards to their cold-loving chinCHILLas. So yesterday when the house seemed a bit stuffy, I called my favorite HVAC guy. Doing so reminded me that there are some tips that I really should share with our followers.
First, know that chinchillas have a naturally dense, warm coat. While this is ideal for the cold Andes Mountains, it’s horrible for summers in the US. And unlike dogs and birds, chins can’t pant to help keep cool. They rely completely on their caretakes for food, water, shelter and optimum temperatures. A chinchilla loves cool, dry temps. When the thermostat hits 75 degrees Fahrenheit, a chinchilla really struggles. Death can occur even at a temperature that most people would consider mild.
Running a fan will not cool off a chin. Chinchillas do not sweat, so blowing air can’t cool a dry animal. What a fan does do, however, is stir the air so that there are no hot spots in a room. Let me repeat: A fan will mix the ambient temperature. This is helpful if you have a room with an outside wall that gets full sun. A fan will “help” make the room temperature more consistent. Therefore it “may” lower the room temperature. If using a box fan in your chin space, an added bonus is that if you tape on an intake filter, it acts as a makeshift air purifier. You’re welcome.
Some people recommend using frozen water bottles to cool down a hot chin. This is only helpful if the chin actually snuggles up to this foreign object and doesn’t chew on it!
A chilling stone IS a helpful item. And a cold chilling stone fresh from the fridge or freezer may be a welcome addition when a chinchilla needs to cool down quickly. Marble is naturally cold at room temperature, so this is a fantastic cage accessory regardless. We used to make a Chillout Hangout cage accessory with a built in chilling stone. We’ve found that many chins pee on their chillers. That would soak into the ledge wood and make a horrible, stinky mess after a while. Whimsy believes that when chins pee on their chiller it’s a way to cool off even more quickly. The moisture from the urine acts as a vehicle to wick the cold from the stone. However, this can backfire and give your chin urine scald, so it’s best to simply keep the temps down and leave the chilling stone in the cage for times when the chins are active and need to cool down on their own terms.
So, what do you do when the AC goes out? Good question! I’m glad you asked.
If you are absolutely unable to move the chins to a place that does have air conditioning (friend’s house, family member’s house, motel room, running car, etc.) you can try this nifty idea to make a cheap homemade air conditioner. There are several YouTube videos that show how to make a swamp cooler, redneck air conditioner, or DIY air conditioner. But keep in mind that the cost of materials varies widely. The copper coil box fan designs cost nearly as much as a portable window unit. Why not just use a portable AC, eh? Well, if your power is out too, you can make a battery or solar powered air conditioner. So, if your summer is proving to be slow and uneventful, you may want to try your hand at creating something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaC0dlRENk0
Check out this nifty version Whimsy made this morning while we waited for our repairman to come. It’s made of a plastic tote, box fan, filter, foam cover and multidirectional dryer vent elbows. Total cost was less than $40. We ran that today in tandem with our ridiculously expensive ($400+) portable AC unit. The portable requires an outside vent system. The redneck unit does not. Guess which one worked better. Actually, they both put out about the same “coolness” but the redneck one was far less fussy and used less energy. Of course we needed to feed it ice, but by the time the first batch melted our repairman had already come and fixed the whole house unit. Anyway, all is well here. With our back up air conditioners the temperature in the chin room stayed well below 75 degrees. The chins had no idea there was any problem. Let’s just keep that between ourselves, shall we?