Łapiński, S., Niedbała, P., Markowska, K. et al. 2023. The effects of age, size, and cage complexity on the behaviour of farmed female chinchillas (Chinchilla lanigera). Scientific Reports 13(1), 6108.

Even though chinchillas have been farmed for a century, there are not many studies concerning their behaviour in captivity or their optimal housing conditions, both of which are important factors in the assessment of their welfare. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of different cage types on chinchillas’ behaviour and their reactions towards humans. Female chinchillas (n = 12) were kept in three types of cages: standard with a wire floor (S); standard with a deep litter floor of shavings (SR); and enlarged with a deep litter floor of shavings (LR). Animals spent 11 weeks in each type of cage. The chinchillas’ reactions toward humans were observed via intruder test. Ethograms were prepared based on round-the-clock video recordings. The activity of the chinchillas was compared, taking into account the different cage types and the animals’ varying responses to the hand test. The generalized ordered logistic regression model was used to ascertain whether cage type has an effect on a chinchilla’s behaviour towards humans. To compare the time distribution of various activity between chinchillas, the non-parametric Scheirer-Ray-Hare test was used. Animals kept in LR cages presented significantly less timid reactions in comparison to those kept in S and SR cages. The chinchillas spent most of their time resting (68% of the day), in locomotion (23%), and eating or drinking (8%); they spent only 1% on grooming behaviour. Cage enrichment generally reduced the fear of humans. However, the average chinchilla response to the hand test was classified in each type of cage as “cautious”. Analyses of the ethograms indicated that the chinchillas were active mostly during the dark stage of the day. In conclusion, the larger cage size and its enrichment (particularly litter) reduced the fearfulness and passivity of the animals, which could be evidence of better welfare conditions.

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