Although we no longer keep chipmunks (since we decided to
get cats instead) we kept them for about 4 years and they can make very entertaining pets.
One thing is very important for these animals, however, and that is to make sure they have
a sufficiently large enough cage for them to exercise and run around in. It would be cruel
to keep them in a cage designed for smaller animals such as gerbils and mice.
We used to let our Chipmunks run around the house and if you
handle them enough they will come and sit on your shoulder. They are not 'cuddly' pets,
however, and do not like to be held for very long. The best you will get is a chipmunk
sitting on your shoulder and letting you stroke it.
A very good question. The answer is "just about
anything". We used to buy 'Supa Chipmunk' (hey, free advertising for the makers)
which is a mix of maize, peanuts, sunflower seeds, wheat, flaked peas, pine kernels etc.
etc. They also eat: peanut kernels (we enjoyed watching them open them), bird seed, dried
or fresh bananas, carrots, dried apricots, apple, peas, sweetcorn, tomatoes, grapes,
animal treats, dandelion (leaves and flowers), grass, flies (dead ones!), gravy granules
(don't ask how Alex found this out), chicken, cabbage, cucumber and so on. In fact they
seem quite happy to eat just about anything you put in the cage!
They are very cheap to keep as you will be able to give them
left overs from dinner - particularly the vegetables and all the peelings from the veg
before you actually ate it.
Ummm, they run around the cage a lot (we had three large
cages), they eat (well they store more food than they actually eat), they run round their
wheel, they do acrobats on the tree branches they have in their cages, they sleep ....
they make awful noises when ready to mate, and when we used to let them out of their cages
for a run, they dug up all my plants and very kindly buried sunflower seeds in the pots
instead. They also like eating curtains so beware. Did I mention that they sleep! Oh and
they don't like gerbils very much - we found that out when we put our gerbils in with them
- the gerbils took over the cage and the chipmunks were left homeless! Don't worry we soon
moved the gerbils out.
Chipmunks are delightful little animals when you let them
out of the cage as they run up your legs, sit on your head, chew your feet and have a
particular fancy to towels and dressing gowns. If you have a chipmunk let him/her near
your dressing gown - they love the towelling material
We are not going to list the sizes and types of cages that
you can buy for chipmunks as there are so many. What we will say, however, is that the
chipmunk is very active and needs room to be able to run, jump and 'play'. Don't even
consider buying a cage suitable for other small animals such as hamsters, gerbils etc.
Most pet shops/superstores offer a 'chipmunk' starter kit which is a fairly tall wire
cage. We had two of these which cost about £70 each. We also splashed out on a much
larger cage but it set us back £150!!
Originally we intended to keep our chipmunks inside until we
bought a bigger house and then build them an aviary outside. We changed our minds,
however, as we enjoyed watching them and wouldn't be able to see them so much if they were
at the end of our garden.
There are a few essentials that should go in every chipmunk
cage and most are fairly inexpensive to buy.
You should provide a nesting box for each adult. When our
chipmunks were fairly young (we got them at 6 weeks old) they slept in the same nest box.
When they got older, two of them still slept together but the other two chose to occupy
one box each. Ideally the boxes should be off the ground and at the same height in the
cage. This will help prevent one chipmunk from becoming dominant over the other. They will
usually arrange their own nest so all you need to do is provide them with suitable bedding
material and leave them to sort it out. We put a layer of sawdust in each nest box and
provided fresh hay, small animal bedding (there are 2 types; one is like cotton wool and
the other is like shredded J-cloths), paper tissues and empty toilet roll holders.
You should clean the cage out regularly but it is
recommended that you only clean the nest box out twice a year and definitely not if you
suspect the female is expecting a litter. We found that our chipmunks regularly emptied
their nest box and then promptly collected it all up and put it back - kind of like having
a spring clean we suppose.
Always provide fresh water in an animal drinking bottle that
can be attached to the inside of the cage. It is pointless putting a bowl of water in the
cage as it will inevitable get dirty and be knocked over. It doesn't seem to matter where
you hang the water bottle as they always seem to be able to find it - we hang ours next to
the food bowl, a logical place to be really.
The food containers should be fairly sturdy - stainless
steel or pottery - so the chipmunks can sit on the side to eat without tipping it over. We
also hade several plastic food containers that hang on the bars - these are usually sold
in pet shops as bird food containers.
Provide 'toys' of some sort or another. We had branches that
hung between the insides of the cage so the chipmunks can sit on them or climb up them.
Make sure the wood is 'safe' in that there are no sharp edges or the bark isn't poisonous.
They will gnaw at the wood so you need to make sure it won't splinter too easily or cause
them any injury. We also bought rope ladders (again, you will find them in pet shops with
the bird accessories) and last but not least a wheel. Ideally this should be metal and
able to hang off the bars of the cage rather than stand on the floor. This makes it more
stable and also provides a challenge for them to climb the cage to get to it. You will
need a fairly large wheel - not one designed for a hamster or gerbil. Most pet shops sell
them as 'rat wheels' and may give you a strange look if you ask for a chipmunk wheel!
Other than these essentials, you will find other animal
'toys' that probably amuse you more than the chipmunks. One fun thing to put in is a small
plastic window box that can be tied to the cage bars. Fill this with compost or dirt and
stand well back. Chipmunks love to dig and it won't take long before they start. All you
will see is a tail sticking out of the compost as the chipmunk burrows down into the box.
Note: this can get very messy as they throw the compost everywhere!!
When the Chipmunks are young they will live quite happily
with either sex but as they mature into adults there are some rules that you will be well
advised to follow.
Males will generally live together quite happily if they are
introduced an early age (or are from the same litter) unless there is an uneven number of
females in the same cage. If you are going to mix males and females then ensure that the
number of females is either equal to or out-numbers the males. It is not a good idea, for
example, to put 2 males and 1 female together as when the female is ready for breeding,
the males will fight over her. Ideally you should have 2 females and 1 male (that will
keep him happy anyway!)
Females seem happy to live together regardless - I have
introduced a young female to an adult without problem.
If you are not sure how an adult Chipmunk will react to a
stranger then be aware that you may end up having to buy a second cage to keep the new
Chipmunk in! It is preferable to buy 2 Chipmunks (1 male a 1 female) whilst they are still
young so you won't get any problems. Do not, however, buy the Chipmunks from the same
litter if you are intending to breed them.
Chipmunks are not that easy to breed. They do not breed
until they are at least 1 year old and then they only breed twice a year. This is good news
if you do not want loads of Chipmunks running around but bad news if you are desperately
waiting for 'the patter of tiny feet'.
In the 4 years we kept Chipmunks we only had 3 litters - 2
from one female and 1 from another.
Generally you will know when the female is ready to breed as
she 'chirps' continuously and it will probably drive you mad - it did us. From then on in,
you never really know whether the breeding has taken place or not.
this link for some cute pictures of chipmunks - www.aftagley.com