So what is a safe wood for our pets?

(For a safe range of woods and chew toys available at: www.chinchillas2shop.co.uk)
An idea online store that sells a wonderful and unique selection of chew toys for pets

Woods for Exotics animals and birds can vary
what might be safe for your Parrot to hack away at - may not be safe for your Chinchilla

Woods should be washed in salt and water then thoroughly dried before use
Sun dried or stove dry are good methods (although stove dried is much quicker but you have to
be careful that you do not 'overdo' the drying process and either 'burn' the wood or dry it until the
bark cracks off - burnt wood is okay for munching little teeth - but not as nice as good dry bark!)
Heat branches in an oven at 300F for 30 minutes  - this should kill any living 'unsuitables' that may be living inside the wood
A temperature thatís hot enough to kill microorganisms - but cool enough to avoid combustion

Rule of thumb for safe woods
Organic (not commercially treated in anyway or form)
Untreated - (not like  plywood and commercially 'glued' products)
UNTREATED - no pesticides, chemicals and painted/coloured woods (although vegetable dyed is safe)
If the sap inside 'leaks' - then it could be toxic
Very 'red' looking woods - like redwoods - are toxic

Difference between 'kiln dried' and 'air dried'
Studies are done with the bark of the pine included - so it shows up as 'unsafe wood'
Bark is rich in phenolic acid
Sometimes the whole Pine is kiln dried then the bark is stripped, but the right way is to strip the bark first - then kiln dried

If you remove the bark, kiln dry it, you get a much safer, chewable wood for small pets to enjoy

Many woods with bark contain flora and fauna in the form of insects, pitch, mold and fungus. High kiln temperatures
 sterilize the wood, killing fungus and mold spores, insect eggs and larvae. kiln drying also crystallizes the pitch
so it doesnít ooze out of the log and cause stains when exposed to warm temperatures
Air-dried products make no provision for these natural nuisances. Warmer temperatures encourage mold and fungus growth, awaken dormant insect eggs and larvae and cause sap to seep down the face of the log
Wood that is PRESSURE TREATED - is this safe? NO - there is general use of chemicals with the treatment: http://www.taunton.com/finegardening/pages/g00028.asp

FRUIT TREES- safe or what?
Rose family (Rosaceae) - Prunus - is a no no...BUT...Rubus is a yes yes
All fruit trees that contain a 'stone' - This releases Cyanide into the digestion - these are not safe woods
Plum (prunus family), cherry, apricot, peach - contain cyanogenic glycosides
Alder Buckworth (Bird cherry) is best avoided - fresh bark is purgative - contains anthraquinone glycosides
Although...Apples, quince, and pears are closely related ( although some authorities place them all in the genus Malus)
 They are known as pome fruits because the fruits all have the same structure, five small seeds enclosed in a hard fibrous container inside an edible fruit and are safe fruit woods for your pet
(Peaches are placed in the genus Prunus, along with cherries,
almonds, plums, apricots, & all the other stone fruits which are not safe woods for your pet)

Fruit trees that contain 'seeds' or a 'seed' are classed in the safe category
Apple, Pear, Grape, loquat, medlar, quince, strawberry, hawthorn, Rowanberry, Rose hip, Blackberries
The loquat is comparable to the apple in many aspects, with a high sugar, acid and pectin content. It is eaten as a fresh fruit and mixes well with other fruits in fresh fruit salads or fruit cups. Firm, slightly immature fruits are best for making pies or tarts. The fruits are also commonly used to make jam, jelly and chutney, and are delicious poached in light syrup.

pear and loquat are seed fruits and are in the same family as apples - the Maloideae family - the apple subfamily (Rosaceae)
It's only the seeds (even in apples) that contain cyanogenic glycosides and only in very very small amounts - the wood is safe

WHITE willow - we all know this is used for Aspirin - If willow is to be avpided then it's the white
There are so many varieties and all would be related - but white contains 13% tannin as its chief constituent, also a small quantity of salicin, the other willows (mainly reed and bushes that are used for basket making and such) would contain a lesser amount, and most pets chew and hack through weeping and bush/reed willow products without any harm done

The vine and a safe wood to use in limited quantities - classed as sub- tropical fruits are:
Longan, lychee (30 Tara vine species also known as chinese goosberry), Guava, passion fruit, rambutan and pulasan
(rambutan and pulasan, although related to longan and lychee, their bark is too astringent for animals - human use for sore throats only! They also contains tannin and the fruit (including rind) contains saponin - while with longan and lychee this is different, there are various types of bark (some wild and some cultivated and the bark looks very different on both) but are generally used as a tonic for digestive upset when made into a tea - non toxic in general - make sure the cultivated kind are not sprayed with chemicals that are very well used for such cultivated fruits such as Longan and Lychee - especially as this will make the wood very toxic indeed)

Sapindaceae (soapberry family) contains 150 genera and about 2000 species (the WESTERN soapberry in the States are poisonous fruits - the eastern fruit (Asia) are generally safe depending on the fruit - as in Lychee and Longan) The soapberry is classified in the division class Magnoliopsida
Certain wood of the related family are to be avoided: (sumac family)
Cashew, mango (although the mango fruit in small amounts is safe) soapberry, pistachio, poison oak and ivy and others

It can get a little confusing which is what can't it?
The easiest way to work it out is to distinguish what are RUBUS and what are PRUNUS fruits
So check out this link for identifying the fruits above in the 'prunus' and 'Rubus' categories:

Fruit trees that have citrus bearing fruits with 'pips' should not be given -  the fruits are also too acidic for chinchillas
Lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit
(There are trees/shrubs that bear seeds/or no fruit but flowers from the Rutaceae family
 - these are not to be mistaken as the 'citrus with the pip' fruits - keep to woods in limited amounts and avoid the fruit)

Tropical fruit like KIWI and STAR fruits are in the 'Magnoliophyta' division of the plant kingdom
A fruit that contain seeds, both woods from these fruits are safe
 (generally more a 'vine' wood similar to that of the grape vines)

are they all the same because they produce a similar type of  shell nut?
Hazelnut wood is safe - but Chestnut and Almond wood are not - (but almond nuts are okay in small amounts only)
Pecan wood is safe - but Walnut wood is not - high resin (the shelled nut is too oily for chinchillas too)
Pine wood is safe - if not treated when dried - the pine cones are okay if dried thoroughly
Resin can be trapped in the core of a pinecone, so not encouraged to use liberally, the best method is to wash
the pines in salt water and dry thoroughly (good to dry in a low burning stove like an Aga/Rayburn oven before use)

Some woods are safe - but the fruit/flowers are poisonous
Locust bean shell is fine for a rodent treat - but the wood of the black lotus is classed as a toxic wood
Almond nuts as a rare occasional treat are okay for chinchillas (a slither once a fortnight) - but avoid the almond wood
Juniper wood - safe in very limited amounts like twigs and not to use as a 'daily' routine - although the berry
of this wood is safe - and is a healthy treat for pets!

Some woods are safe for chinchillas - but can contain 'not so safe' properties
Willow - a very well known and safe wood
All willow contains salicylate (natures aspirin) under the bark - but white willow is mainly used for this and produces the most
(Although you're chinchilla would have to go through a very large tree over a short period of time to relieve a bad headache!)
Elm is Safe - but a lot of Elm can be treated with herbicides that create arsenic in the bark
(some parts more dangerous that others)
injection herbicides are legal (read here for more information about Elm) - so use natural, organically grown elm
and not specifically grown elm in forests for timber yards
(organic in - your back garden type elm!!! - although in the UK this would be very difficult to find because of elm disease)
Handy link to identify some bark wood and their leaves: http://www.hammondindiana.com/trees.htm
another handy link to identify leaves on trees: http://www.steffenhauser.com/en/leaves.htm


There are many families to each wood - some are safe and some not so safe
KEEP to the family shown below in the list
To help further - go to this site: http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/database/commonM.html
Enter the common name of the tree you want to know about
 (example: pine) and it will let you know the families of that tree
Once you find the family name - click on the Latin name - this will give you more information
Below are families that are safe - but in the 'same' family there are
trees that are not so safe - these are indicated in red

 Hawthorn - (Rosaceae)

Magnolia - (Magnoliaceae)

Alderberry - (Rosaceae)  (Betulaceae - white and red alder are safe if thoroughly dried
- but best to avoid unless you know what you are doing


Manzanita - (Ericaceae) - there are even sub categories of Pine - one of which is manzanita
Colours of manzanita bark can range from orange to dark purple
(The colour mainly sold in pet shops would be 'dark purple')

The Manzanita list is massive of it's kind - see here for all species:
History of the Manzanita family:

Ribbonwood - (Malvaceae)


Mulberry - (Moraceae)

Pine (kiln dried - not fresh pine) - (Ericaceae) (Rosaceae) Pine with bark - white pine NOT red pine - MUST be kiln dried
(Pinaceae - although safe - this includes red pine which is toxic - if not sure what variety you have - best avoid)
Avoid 'Pitch pine' (mainly grown in Canada) identifying features are the needles that grow twisted in bundles of three
(Araucariaceae - safe - a family native in the chinchilla world of Chile and China (north)
Chile the homeplace of the chinchilla -  grows a massive range of pine trees)
A great variety of pines, names and descriptions can be seen here:

Chile Pine

Poplar - (Salicaceae) Aspen is of the poplar family

Willow - (Cornaceae) as in dogwood (Bignoniaceae) as in desert willow (Elaeagnaceae) (Rosaceae) (Salicaceae)

Aspen - (Salicaceae) family of poplar tree
also of the American tulip tree (African tulip tree is of a different species - an evergreen)

Safe woods - these are more in the Ribes (soft fruit and vine family)

Ash - (Aceraceae)(Umbelliferae)
 (Rosaceae - although mountain ash is safe - the seeds can produce hydrogen cyanide
in small amounts and the seeds are safe in very small amounts
) (Oleaceae - common ash)

Hazelnut - (Cornaceae) (Betulaceae)
All fruit trees from this family (eg: apple,pear - see fruit trees at top of page) - (Rosaceae)

Birch - (Rosaceae) - (Betulaceae - no know hazard - but avoid: Black, Cherry,
Mahogany and Sweet Birch - keep to: White, grey, broadleaf,silver and common birch)
Leaves and bark contain salicylates and a few substances with hemolytic properties (destroy red blood cells). The low concentration of salicylates in birch BARK is unlikely to cause toxicity

Sickle bush (sekelbos) - (Chenopodiaceae) Generally grown in Africa but also known as the 'chinese lantern'
 or 'kalahari christmas tree' (because of it's spiny appearance) also commonly known as Nuttall's saltbush

The dried powdered bark is directly applied to skin eruptions, sores, blisters and abscesses for both man and animal
The inner bark was once also used as a cord touniquet for snakebites
The bark is tough and pliable and makes strong ropes and string - also used in quite a lot of bird/pet toys

Rosehip branches - from the rose family and safe - Rose hips (Rosa family) are native to Southern Chile
and  so more likely be found in the wild chinchillas diet


Limetree - (Tiliaceae) The lime tree is not in any way related to 'Lime' as in citrus trees
In the Uk it is called 'Lime tree' but in the States they call it 'Linden' and is also known as Basswood
See related link here: http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/lime_tree


Oak - (keep to Fagaceae) do not have oak of the Solanaceae family - this contains narcotics and are very poisonous
Oak family: Chenopodiaceae contains saponins - but is more or less harmless

Juniper - (Cupressaceae) there is a slight chance of toxicity - very small amounts - few twigs are safe
The resin 'Sandarac' is used in the production of a white varnish and the bark is used as tinder

Elm - (Rosaceae) (Ulmaceae)

Sycamore - (Aceraceae- very widespread tree in the UK) (Platanaceae- widespread in the N.America and Texas,
also known as 'Buttonwood' in the States )


Dogwood - (Cornaceae) (Rutaceae) - there are more than 100 dogwood species in Tenessee alone!
The Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa) is a later flowering form of dogwood. This Dogwood flowers for a long time beginning in late May and often lasts into July. These flowers are a creamy white and they arrive shortly after the leaves emerge. Recently some pink varieties of Cornus kousa have been introduced to the market. All varieties of Chinese Dogwood are resistant to Anthracnose and are valued for their fall color, fruit and interesting bark as the plants age.

Bamboo - (Araliaceae) (Gramineae) (Polypodiaceae - fern) (Smilacaceae)
Cottonwood - (Salicaceae) relation to poplar
(strawberry wood - trailing) - (ericaceae)

2 useful links to identify wood and trees:

How can you tell a tree is toxic?
You can't usually - unless you know, read up on it or have been told so!
But one good way of knowing is by looking at a cut piece where the sap shows under the bark
Although all wood contain sap - some practically 'ooze' it from under the bark - example shown here

Note the edges of the inside bark - this one is a bit obvious - you can see the sap easily leaking from underneath
( a yellow/orange sap)
Sap in a tree's live cells contains a natural antifreeze in winter - so does not 'run' as smoothly
Although it will still show under the bark glossy in some cases
Safe woods also contain sap but the wood is 'tighter to the bark' when kiln dried
if the wood leaks quite an amount of sap - it's generally presumed to be toxic

Here is a list of known woods that are not safe for Chinchillas and other 'chewing' pets
Tallow - the sap in all tallow wood is questionable - the Chinese Tallow sap is poisonous
Any Redwoods avoid - although not know toxic to man - certain redwoods are known to be acidic
Any Mahogany - although mountain may be safe - Cherry mahogany is toxic
Blackwood, Boxwood, Box Elder, Beech, Cashew, Cedar, Chestnut, Chinese snake tree (very toxic to humans)
Cypress, Elderberry, Eucalyptus (although safe for birds and no know toxic ever reported), Ebony, Fir, Greenheart,
Ginko, Hemlock, hydrangea, Iroko, Ironwood (also called musclewood or hornbeam in Europe),
Juniper (although okay in small doses) Katon, Laurel, Maple
Myrtle, Obeche, Oak, Ramin, Satinwood, Sandalwood, Spruce, Sneezewood, Teak, Wenge, Walnut, Yew

OAK:The reason we do not recommend oak wood for chinchillas is based upon our assumption that since oak is harmful to horses, and chinchilla GI tracts are like the horse GI tract, that the possibility that it is harmful to chinchillas
Tannin in oak is a combination of pyrogallol and condensed tannins, in the ratio of one to two, but the real nature of
 the tannin is still somewhat obscure. The tanning has a medium pH and moderate salts and acid content.


A description of the tree, the names and species and what it looks like can be found here:


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