It all started when Dan Moulton’s parents purchased six chinchillas for $1,500 in 1966. Ever since then, Moulton has been raising and selling the soft, furry animals.
Chinchillas are originally from Peru and Chile. When they’re full-grown, they weigh between one and one-and-a-half pounds. Their fur is extremely soft and full, and they can live up to 20 years. The most common color of fur is gray, but the adorable rodents can also be black, white, or beige.
“My favorite are the black ones,” remarked Moulton.
Chinchillas are sociable animals and can grow very attached to their owners. They don’t make much noise, but have about five different sounds that they make occasionally.
Female chinchillas can have up to six babies in their lifetime. Unlike other members of the rodent family, chinchillas are born with their eyes open and a full coat of fur.
In 1988, Moulton bought the property where the USDA certified Moulton Chinchilla Ranch is now located, on the outskirts of Chatfield. For a time, he tried raising the chinchillas in semi trailers, as a friend of his had had success with that method, but found that it didn’t work out as well for him. The chinchillas are now housed in cages in a climate controlled shed. He still owns the trailers, though, and rents them out to truck drivers as a side business.
In addition to raising chinchillas and renting out his trailers, Moulton also works full-time in his Rochester law office, Moulton Law Office. When asked how he has enough time to do it all, he laughed and replied that automation had really cut down on the amount of time he has to spend caring for the chinchillas each day. Once a day, he cleans out the gutter that runs underneath the suspended line of cages. He feeds and checks on the chinchillas in the morning before work and then again when he gets home later in the day. The watering system is automated, so all he has to do is drain it on the weekends and fill it with fresh water.
Moulton markets and sell his chinchillas in various ways. He sells them as pets and breeding stock to individuals, pet shops, and other associations. His chinchillas have also been used for hearing research in the Navy, Army, at Johns Hopkins, the National Institute of Health, University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, and other facilities. He used to sell them for pelts as well, but hasn’t done that for about 15 years.
Moulton regularly ships chinchillas from his ranch all over the world. He was told that several of them were even sent up into space by NASA, but hasn’t been able to confirm that yet.
At one time, Moulton’s chinchilla ranch held 6,000 animals, but he’s sold so many recently that he’s down to 750 right now. However, he’s expecting a shipment of 300 more and is experimenting with new breeding techniques to raise the number back up to 6,000. He’d heard that increasing the time the animals were exposed to light would help them to breed at greater numbers, but was hesitant to give it a try until he’d spoken with the owner of a ferret facility who had had great success with it.
Students from the RCTC Vet Tech program have visited the Moulton Chinchilla Ranch, as well as classes from Chatfield Public School. Moulton enjoys having visitors and educating them about chinchillas.
Moulton is very passionate and knowledgeable about chinchillas and enjoys working with them very much. He plans to continue running the Moulton Chinchilla Ranch for years to come.