THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT KEEPING CHIPMUNKS
Chipmunks are members of the squirrel family. Being a diurnal rodent the chipmunk
is active during the day and a well designed enclosure can make an interesting
and enjoyable feature both for chipmunks and the humans keeping them!
A wild creature!
Although chipmunks can be tamed and become friendly, they are still wild.
This means that although you can handle them with care, they are not cuddly
and can bite extremely hard! To cope best with living in captivity chipmunks
need an environment which mimic, as closely as possible, their wild habitat.
Housing for your chipmunk
In the wild chipmunks are mostly solitary, living in earth burrows or tree
holes. They spend much of their time foraging for food over a wide area. If
kept in a small cage they will develop stereotyped behavior patterns which are
as disturbing to watch as they must be for the rodents performing them. Chipmunks
need as large an enclosure as you can provide, either outdoors with nestboxes
for rest in dry and draught-free conditions or indoors, again with hideaways.
They need plenty of branches to climb and opportunity to dig burrows, since
this is a major activity in the wild.
Do be careful not to let chipmunks escape from the enclosure, as they
can move extremely fast. In some countries it is illegal to release any non-indigenous
species into the countryside. If your animals are inside, ensure that they
are well away from television sets as the high pitch background noise, which
is above our hearing threshold, can cause stress and even death to chipmunks.
In the wild chipmunks forage for a wide range of different foodstuffs from
fruits, nuts and green vegetables to carrion. Food in captivity should be as
wide ranging as possible in an attempt to mirror this natural variety. Giving
nuts in their shells will encourage the wearing down of teeth and provide a
good activity to prevent boredom. Providing hard wood to chew also helps in
both these areas.
Breeding chipmunks is not difficult and during the two breeding seasons, around
March to April and September to October, females may have litters of up to eight
young. The gestation period is about 30 days and the young leave the nest at
about seven weeks old. While the female should not be disturbed during gestation
and when the young are in the nest she should be provided with plenty of food
As the teeth of chipmunks, like those of other rodents and rabbits, grow continually,
overgrowth is a common problem. As mentioned, this can be prevented by giving
nuts in their shells and plenty of hard wood to chew on.
Pneumonia can be a problem if animals are kept in a draughty outside enclosure.
Ensure that nest boxes and rest areas are draught free and dry.
Stress can be a problem if chipmunks are kept in close confinement. They are
essentially solitary, so housing them without an opportunity to maintain their
own 'personal space' will cause problems, especially if one particularly aggressive
male is dominating the group. Chipmunks can live up to 8 or 9 years, although
3 to 5 is more usual. Females outlive males.
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