Community Portrait

At home with wife, two cats and 91 chinchillas

By: Michael Kirby
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What started as the adoption of a unique pet turned into an interesting part-time business for Danny Miller. In 2000, Miller and his wife, Robin, adopted a pet chinchilla from a friend who could no longer keep the furry little animal. Miller had raised hamsters, rabbits and mice throughout his life. “I was a huge hamster breeder in grammar school,” said Miller. He moved on to other interests, but thought having a chinchilla was interesting, so he and his wife came home with the furry animal. “I didn’t really want to get back into it but when we got the chinchilla I kind of fell in love with it again,” Miller said. Chinchillas are part of the rodent family. “Some people say they are like the mix of a mouse and a rabbit or a small rabbit with a long tail and shorter ears,” said Miller. Chinchillas are native to South America and live in the high desert regions of the Andes Mountains. Trapped for their soft fur in South America, fur that was exported for use in the United States, Chinchillas were first introduced in America in the 1920s. “Chinchillas have the softest fur in the world,” Miller said. Chinchillas weigh between one and two pounds, are active, almost odorless and live 10 to 15 years. Chinchillas make great pets and are very clean because they bathe in crushed volcanic rock. They are parasite and dander free, gentle, curious and easy-to-feed animals. Though that first pet chinchilla adopted in 2000 by the Millers died soon, Miller’s interest in raising animals was rekindled and he purchased a breeding pair at a pet expo. Chinchillas have between one and four babies in each litter and Miller now has 91 chinchillas — about his limit for the barn he built to house the animals. Chinchillas like cooler temperatures and his barn needs to be kept at 80 degrees or lower by an air conditioner that runs during summer. Though still bred for fur in the United States, Chinchillas have made an impact on the pet market. Miller raises his chinchillas strictly as pets and he also shows his animals. “Generally a pet will start at about $75 depending on the color. Some animals have been known to sell for $1,500 or $2,000,” said Miller. Show chinchillas are judged by fur quality, fur color and their genetic excellence. Miller markets his animals through a few pet stores, sells at shows, and does some advertising locally. Born and raised in Auburn (he attended Alta Vista and E.V. Cain and graduated from Placer High School in 1992), Miller works as a small engine service technician at Sierra Saw, a local business that his parents once owned. Miller lives in Colfax with his wife, Robin, two cats and almost 100 chinchillas. “There are a couple of the chinchillas that are special and have become family pets,” Miller said. “But I try not to give them names. It’s hard to part with them.” More information about chinchillas can be found at Miller’s Web site,