Keeping pet chipmunks in the UK

 

Dry food for pet chipmunks

I've made a distinction on this site between dry foods (seeds, nuts) and fresh foods (grapes, apples, avocados). Chipmunks are a little like people, in that they will have their favourite foods, and if you have more then one, each chipmunk could like different things. So when you first get your chipmunk you will probably be trying almost everything to find out what he or she likes. Chipmunks like and sometimes need to store food, but they only store dry food. It's very unlikely you will ever see your chipmunk taking something back to its nest that will rot.

Over feeding

When I got my first chipmunk I was warned not to give her too many peanuts, try to limit her to one a day they said. Now having had chipmunks for quite a long time I can't say I agree with that advice. Yes, it is wrong and cruel to over feed any animal, and for chipmunks food like sunflower seeds and peanuts are high in fat. It can even be dangerous to give your chipmunk loads of worms for example. But watching mine closely over the years, I've found most of the food they take from you, goes for storage. Initially you might think they are eating non stop, but watch yours closely and you will see most of their day is spent filling their cheeks then looking for a place to hide the food. I must be clear here though, giving your chipmunk too much of the same thing will make them ill, so be sparing with foods you know are high in fat, and give them plenty of variety in their diets.

Chipmunk muesli

Chipmunk muesli

Yep, there really is a special food for chipmunks, muesli, but don't soak this muesli in milk. You will come across two types of chipmunk muesli in the shops. The one on the left is from Pets at Home, who have shops spread across the UK, the other is Burgess Supa Chipmunk mix. Both products contain everything a chipmunk needs to stay healthy, apart from water. But chipmunks like a varied diet so you will want to include some fresh fruit, and some supplements.

The muesli comes in 1kg packets, and an adult chipmunk will need around 30g of food a day. If you prefer using a small independent pet shop they will probably order this in for you. But when I tried to use independent pet shops in London they wanted me to take an outer of 12 packets, so I either order from the Internet or go to Pets at Home.

I put mine out in a dog food size bowl about 20cm across. The bowl needs to be heavy as the chippies like to perch on the rim, so they would tip up a lighter bowl. They tend to take the things they like first, so I only put out a fresh bowl every few days to try to make them take the food they don't like so much. It's all good for them, but I bet you find they will leave the little brown dog food type things until last.

Making your own muesli

There maybe times when you run out of the commercial musesli, or you want to try to mix your own blend. muesliI've run out sometimes and as a standby got a bag of Guinea Pig food from the supermarket and topped it up with shelled walnuts & almonds, a few sunflower seeds, dried raisins, oats and pine nuts. You could also see if your garden center has some squirrel feed which can be used as a standby. If you follow the Burgess Supa Chipmunk link further up the page you can read what's in their mix. I've found by chance my chipmunks like mixed canary seed and hemp seed. I'm a bit cautious about the hemp seed, so they can go months without any.

Nuts

I think peanuts are probably their favorite nuts, in their shells. Don't get any salted nuts or roasted ones either. If you're concerned about given them too many you can take the peanuts out of the muesli and use them as a training aid.

Given time, an adult chipmunk can probably get in to most nuts, but when their young you might want to help them out by cracking open the larger tougher nuts. Breaking in to nuts is great for a chipmunks teeth, which are constantly growing. Mine also like shelled almonds and pine nuts. They didn't seem interested in pasticcio nuts or brazil nuts in shells. When in season mine go bonkers for cob nuts, I've only ever seen these for sale in Waitross around october time. If you keep your chipmunks outside you may want to give them more nuts in autumn, as they are high in fat which an outdoor chipmunk will need through the winter.

Seeds and grain

I've mentioned some seeds already, like mixed canary seed, sunflower seeds. Mine also like the seeds from butternut squashes, and the inside of pumpkins. I've noticed that pumpkins are going the way of apples in the UK, they are growing them without seeds in, not much interest for a chipmunk if there are no seeds. Sprigs of millet intended for birds are also worth getting, they can sit for hours striping the seeds out of these. I found packets of hemp seeds in a small pet shop in Somerset, so I brought a couple of packets back for my chipmunks to try, they loved them. But they loved them a bit too much, perhaps someone can let me know if hemp seed is addictive for chipmunks.

Odd stuff

Egg biscuits

If your chipmunks are out and about when you are eating they will not be shy in checking out your food, and nicking anything they fancy off your plate given the chance. That's how I found out they like oats sometimes, and toast even. In the wild it's said that they will pinch eggs from nests, I've tried mine on raw eggs, they weren't interested, and it's very messy. But they do like Egg Biscuits, they would probably like to tuck in to HobNobs, but avoid giving your pet anything with refined sugar in, it's really bad for them. I could be wrong, but I think that's because that can't process the sugar, must ask my vet next time.

Honey

You may notice lots of different types of 'treats' for small rodents, most of them glued together with honey. These look great, but when I tried them on my chipmunks, apart from a quick sniff, they just don't want to know. To be fair to the makers, the one on the left doesn't mention anything about chipmunks, just Hamsters, Guinea Pigs, Gerbils, Rats and Mice.

Rusks are also mentioned in quite a few places, especially when you have an orphaned baby chipmunk to bring up.

Lastly in this section, dried fruits, mine like dry sweet corn which I leave them if I'm going away. Supermarkets and health food shops will have little packets of dried fruit, my chipmunks have gone for dried apricots and that about all.

Supplements.

VitaThese are a must have, here's a couple of photos of the type of supplement you need to have somewhere in their home. Of the two blocks, the Vita Mineral block has proved the popular one. When I first bought a block I thought I wasted my money, it will just sit there ignored for weeks, then one day you will find your chipmunk attacking it like crazy. I guess they know best when they need their minerals, but they are also important in you have a pregnant female.

I've not found the fruity minerals as popular but they are not to expensive, so you might as well have them anyway.

Fruity minerals