Chirpie Chipmunkz

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Handling a Chipmunk







 Chipmunks can be tamed but it will take alot of patient hard work, it's a slow process but even when tame Chipmunks will rarely like being handled. Of course there are exceptions but most don't enjoy it unless trained to like handling from a very young age. You will be able to get most Chipmunks to take nuts out of your hand and eventually maybe sit on your shoulder with some patience. For some Chipmunks this is as tame as they will get, some Chipmunks can form very close bonds with their owners and will allow being held, being picked up, petted and will want to be with their owners all the time.


 Asriel                                                                   Bailey

 This is alot easier if the Chipmunks are outside in a large enclosure as you will be able to sit inside with them. The best thing to do is to just sit down and let them come to you, if you have nuts or a tasty treat they shouldn't be able to resist they will probably take them out of your hand first and then as they get bolder will probably climb onto you. The whole process should be much quicker than Chipmunks kept indoors. I have found the ignoring method works well with very nervous Chipmunks, I go into the aviary and sit down and just completely ignore them, you could take a book in. This helps the Chipmunk get used to your presence but not feel too threatened. This method needs a lot of patience as some Chipmunks will not be interested at first but after time you should notice a Chipmunk that previously hid or stayed completely out of your reach will slowly start to creep nearer until one day he suddenly jumps onto your lap. When a very nervous Chipmunk does make this huge step it can be quite a surprise but the more the Chipmunk makes small steps like this the less fear it will feel and eventually it should realise that your no threat and actually that you give it nice things so most Chipmunks will tame in the end.



Chipmunks housed indoors can take longer but should eventually become tame. The younger the animals are the easier it will be. The easiest is obviously if they are handled daily from a few days old as once they arrive in their new home they will already be used to climbing on people and being held so it shouldn't take long before they do the same with their new owner.  Hazel and Ginger were handled from a few days old and once their eyes opened they would climb all over me with their siblings until they became too active then they stayed in their cage with their mum. Hermione's babies were handled from a week old and all are very friendly and love to climb on me and take treats from me. Nearly all of my litters have been very tame, there are always a few  babies that hate being touched and won't come near me but by the time they are ready to go to their new homes 99% of the unfriendly ones have tamed to some extent, some have completely turned around. Even if not handled from birth Chipmunks can still be tamed but the older a Chipmunk is the harder this could be especially if it has never had handling from a baby. When you bring your Chipmunk home you should not let it out of it's cage for the first month so it gets used to it's cage as home. Then if you do decide to let it out you need to think of possible hazards. If there is a hole or gap somewhere however small it is a Chipmunk will find it and get inside. Any holes leading to under the floorboards will need to be covered up and also remove any poisonous houseplants as the Chipmunk will be drawn to the plant pots as they love digging or they might eat the leaves which could kill them, nearly all plants are poisonous. House-proof the room like you would for young kittens or babies, keep chemicals, detergents and washing powders other dangerous products safely locked away and wires and cables out of the way as much as possible. However safe you think the room is unfortunately you can never remove all hazards but a good tip I heard on an animal programme once is to get down to the animal's level  on the floor (this gives you a better idea of possible hazards you might miss if your standing up and looking around the room upright).

To prevent risk to your Chipmunk you should confine it to only one room in the house when it is loose. It is much more easy to Chipmunk-proof a single room than the whole house. It should never be the kitchen there are often holes leading to the outside and Chipmunk's have been known to get inside Fridges and Dishwashers and short-circuit them. The best room is one as empty of furniture as possible. Furniture can be a hazard, Chipmunks can get stuck behind wardrobes or may be sat on if they are sleeping behind a cushion on a chair for example. Chipmunks will chew things, avoid having antique or expensive furniture in the room your Chipmunk is loose in. Chipmunks have got inside sofas and chairs before by chewing right through them. They will also chew carpets and curtains, they may chew on plaster or walls. Chipmunk's may chew wires and electrocute themselves or even cause a fire. Remember a Chipmunk is a rodent so needs to graw to keep it's teeth down as they constantly grow. It is very important that someone is always able to supervise the Chipmunk when it is out of the cage as well as damage to your furniture Chipmunks are at risk from falls and these happen quite often especially with babies. Chipmunks love to explore and they don't always realise some places they just can't get to, I have had Chipmunks jump at the walls and of course slip down because they have nothing to grip onto so be aware that there are always risks. If you have cats or dogs never allow them to be in the same room as the Chipmunk, they will chase the poor animal and possibly frighten it or injure or even kill it. Your may think your Cat or Dog isn't a threat because it has never tried to attack the Chipmunk or other Rodents before but no Cat or Dog can ever be trusted to be alone with a Chipmunk. However docile your Cat may be a Chipmunk is prey to a Cat and it only takes one incident and it could be a very sad outcome so you should never risk having a Cat or Dog or other predator like a Ferret for example in the same room when the Chipmunk is out of the cage. Chipmunk's can die of stress, which is what happened to one of mine once. The Chipmunk was very nervous, escaped out of it's cage, ran out the front room and then ran straight under the floorboards (through a small gap by the radiator) and lived under there for a year (despite efforts to recapture) until Minstrel, my only cat at the time cornered him one afternoon. We put him back in his cage but sadly Stripe died a few hours later (we presume of fright/stress). While he lived under the floorboards we provided food and water everyday (he always came out for an hour or two just after dawn. We used to leave a camera recording all night so we could moniter him. He would only come out when everyone was asleep so the only way we saw him was on the recording, until that day he was captured - came out in the afternoon. I suppose we thought we would never catch him and got used to him only coming out when it was dark so didn't think about the Cat being around until we heard sounds in the bathroom and discovered the Cat with the Chipmunk in the corner of the room.

Letting a Chipmunk out when you have family or friends round is also not a good idea unless you have a especially easy going Chipmunk as it will most likely frighten the Chipmunk and a Chipmunk is a small animal so there is a danger of them stepping on your pet, visitors may be nervous of your Chipmunk, as a lot of people are scared of mice and rats they may be scared of your Chipmunk and then panic if it runs near them and end up injuring your pet. If you have someone over who doesn't like Rodents you should definitely keep the Chipmunk in the cage. Unfortunately Chipmunks do get stepped on accidentally because they have a habit of running under your feet, visitors may not take as much care as you the owner. Many Chipmunk owners have to shuffle along with just socks on when their Chipmunk is loose to make the chance of stepping on the Chipmunk much less likely but even we do sometimes forget to be careful and this is when accidents can happen. When you have visitors there is also more chance the Chipmunk could escape from its Chipmunk-proofed room into the rest of the house or even get outside, they are very quick it only takes one second of someone not closing the door quickly enough and they will be out. Remember when your Chipmunk is out of the cage to have all windows closed.

Some Chipmunks will naturally toilet train themselves (they will go back to the cage when they need to go) but not all will do this, some Chipmunks will just poop and urinate anywhere. Most Chipmunks will choose one or two areas to do this in when they are out of the cage likely a corner somewhere or a shelve, by putting small litter trays in these areas you may be able to train them to use a litter tray. One owner made litter boxes out of old coffee tins or you could try a tissue box. If you have a Chipmunk that isn't toilet trained my best suggestion is to wait until it has been to the toilet in its cage then let it out, don't give it water or food while it is out and return it frequently to the cage so it can go to the toilet if it needs to but Chipmunks do need to go quite frequently and for some owners cleaning up droppings and wiping up wee after the Chipmunk has returned to the cage is just part of letting their Chipmunk out.

If you don't like poop and wee then Rodents may not be the best pets, Chipmunks do at times do their business on you, this is seen as a good thing it is them marking you as part of their territory. They use urine to mark territory and males will sometimes leave small drops on objects.


 Hazel up by the air conditioning, up the curtains

In the first month you bring your Chipmunk home you can start to tame it, it's probably best to leave it alone for the first few days so it can get used to it's new home and also it will be very nervous. Start by going and sitting near the cage and talking to it so it gets used to your voice - use it's name, the Chipmunk will probably hide at first or get very nervous and run around crazy for a few minutes and chirp in alarm but it will soon settle down. You can then offer it a nut through the cage, it may not take it the first few times (i found that with Asriel, but after a week or so he would take it from my fingers). This is where patience is needed because rushing the process will ruin any progress you do make. Once the Chipmunk is ready it will approach slowly towards the cage and sniff the nut and then probably take it. Its best not to look at it directly as this could scare it. If you do this every day, the Chipmunk will soon learn that when you come to visit it's cage you bring a nice treat, say it's name when you come over. Once the Chipmunk is used to taking food out of your hand you can then place your hand in it's cage. This will probably frighten it at first and can also be quite uncomfortable after long periods. Place a nut on your hand and just wait quietly, when the Chipmunk is ready it should come over towards your arm and maybe even climb on it and then down to your hand. It will probably only stay there a split second grab the nut and run off but with patience eventually it will actually come onto your hand and sit there and eat the nut. For Asriel this stage took about a month it was quite quick with him. With Hermione that stage took five months so all Chipmunks are different. The more your Chipmunk has been handled at the breeder the less time it will take to get it used to you and friendly with you. The thing to remember is to never make fast moves infront of a Chipmunk as they natually get very nervous and if you scare it in the process of taming it you could ruin all your progress. The speed your Chipmunk will get tamed depends on the individual and how much it has been handled as a baby - it may take weeks or even months but once you have got it to sit and take food off your hand you can then try letting it out of the cage.


Ginger watching fish screensaver


 Asriel climbing down from the curtains


Now when you let the Chipmunk out of it's cage it should instead of wanting to hide come up to you and explore around. It will want to explore everywhere and will probably go up the curtains, there will be little out of it's reach (if it can grip onto it with it's claws it will try and climb up it). If you give the Chipmunk treats it will look forward to coming out of it's cage. It might decide to climb on you, aslong as you stay still and don't rush it. It will probably start to use you as it's climbing frame and will like running up your legs and up your back and onto your shoulder- it may even stay there. Mine love to raid my pockets, i put nuts and different treats in my pockets and its not long before they have found them all. You will soon find the Chipmunk will start storing its nuts on you as well as all around the room. This is when they often do damage when they try and stuff nuts into carpets or chew into something to store nuts. A tame Chipmunk will be much easier to get into it's cage, it might even go back in itself when it is hungry or thirsty, Ginger and Hazel did but Hazel was difficult at times to get back in and it did sometimes take hours before she was ready, Ginger went in regularly to run on his wheel. If your chipmunk does not go in itself you can use a tube to return it with a blocked end, just place it on the floor and wait for the Chipmunk to go inside and then just place it in the cage or what i used to use were cardboard Hamster carriers you used to get from pet shops for transporting Hamsters, Mice and Rats in. This method can also be used if ever the Chipmunk escapes it's cage or you can use a soft butterfly net but when picking the Chipmunk up you may need gloves as it may bite, if you don't want to use a net then the tube method or cardboard carrier one will be best. Be careful when using the net that you don't hit the Chipmunk, a Chipmunk was once killed in a pet shop when it was hit by a net when trying to catch it. If your Chipmunk escapes never chase it or panic as this will cause it to hide.

Some tips for getting a Chipmunk back into its cage:

1. Don't feed your Chipmunk or give it water when it is out of the cage, a few treats are ok but if it is well fed when out of the cage it won't have much incentive to return by itself. I find Chipmunks when they get thirsty will usually go back in the cage on their own.

2. For Chipmunks that won't willingly return, bribery is your best chance. I have used the tube method but also find if I throw some tasty treats into their carrier they will jump in then I can just place the carrier in the cage. Some Chipmunks will get wise to this though.

3: I use a net as a last resort because it is often quite stressful to trap them in a net, sometimes though its the only thing that works. I recommend a butterfly net that you can completely enclose the Chipmunk in. Once it is in the net quickly return it to the cage. As soon as it is back in the cage give it a tasty treat, this should help it associate returning to the cage with good things.

If your Chipmunk gets outside or you really have exhausted all other methods of capture inside then the best thing to use is a Humane small Rat trap, smear something like peanut butter on the plate that trips the door as well as hang up monkey nuts near the back. If your Chipmunk is in the area it should be tempted however these traps can be hit and miss. Some Chipmunks are not heavy enough to trip the door (do ensure the trap is not too big) and some are far too clever they are so quick they have grabbed the food and got out of the trap before the door has closed. Chipmunks can even pull food out of the trap by putting their paws through the mesh sides from outside the trap these are very intelligent animals. Make sure the food is not too near the sides of the trap.


                               Asriel in my pocket

Bailey on my head


If the Chipmunk is in a large outside enclosure then it doesn't need to come out of it's cage and you can interact with it inside. If the Chipmunk escaped you would have real trouble in getting it back, if it lives on it's own then leave the aviary open and it may if your lucky return before nightfall to sleep but if there are more than one Chipmunk in the aviary then this obviously isn't an option as they will all escape and if a pair or colony escaped then you will probably never get them back and if they breed and establish a wild colony they could affect our native british animals and it's against the law to release Chipmunks into the wild and you could be prosecuted. This is why having a second door on the enclosure is essential.

There are a colony of Siberian Chipmunks living wild in the U.K., and a few in Europe too most likely from escaped pets which happens frequently or maybe released pets. Its not known what affect these Chipmunks will have on the environment or native species. Its likely they could become an established species as Chipmunks adjust well to our climate which isn't as harsh as their native country Siberia.


Asriel showing how acrobatic Chipmunks are

Never pick a Chipmunk up by it's tail as it might come off, if the Chipmunk is pinned down by a predator by it's tail it will come off, this gives the Chipmunk a second chance at life as it can escape.

Updated 4th December 2013