Can Gerbils Eat Chestnuts?
Gerbil Food and Hydration

Can Gerbils Eat Chestnuts?

Chestnuts are a kind of nut that’s popular during the winter. Sweet and tasty, you might want to share some chestnuts with your gerbil.

Gerbils can eat chestnuts. They contain the right proportions of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. They contain lots of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, B vitamins, iron, copper, manganese, and phosphorus.

If prepared correctly and fed in tiny amounts, chestnuts aren’t toxic for gerbils. A quarter of a tablespoon is the maximum you can give your gerbil. More than that, and it will become overweight.

Are Chestnuts Safe for Gerbils?

There are two main kinds of chestnuts that grow in the United States, which are the American chestnut (found in the eastern states) and the American chinquapin, also known as the dwarf chestnut. This kind is found in southern and eastern states.

Another kind of chestnut is the horse chestnut, which according to Country Living, is originally from Europe. It has since been imported to Canada and the United States. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental tree, but does grow wild in some places.

Regular chestnuts are edible and not poisonous to gerbils. Horse chestnuts are toxic when eaten raw, but can be cooked and made safe. There are many ways to cook them.

Can Gerbils Eat Sweet Chestnuts?

Once the chestnut is cooked, you peel it to eat it. The inside is sweet and slightly firm. It’s high in fat and protein. The outer layer is exceptionally tough and fibrous. Your gerbil can gnaw on it.

There are different ways to cook a chestnut. You can boil them or roast them. The end result of both ways of cooking is edible.

Are Sweet Chestnuts Poisonous to Gerbils?

All chestnuts can be poisonous. This applies both to sweet chestnuts and horse chestnuts.

Sweet chestnuts don’t contain poison, but they do contain tannic acid. This won’t kill your gerbil, but it will hurt its digestive system. Acidic foods will give your gerbil diarrhea.

You can get rid of the tannic acid in sweet chestnuts by cooking them. This entirely gets rid of the acid, and makes them safe to eat.

can gerbils eat sweet chestnuts?

Can Gerbils Eat Horse Chestnuts?

Horse chestnuts look similar to regular chestnuts. That’s why they’re called the same thing, even though they don’t grow on the same kind of tree. But despite appearing similar, they can’t be eaten.

According to PubChem, horse chestnuts contain a chemical called esculin. Raw chestnuts, chestnut bark, and leaves all contain it.

When ingested, esculin causes severe gastroenteritis. This results in nausea and diarrhea. Large-scale consumption can cause:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Twitching
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis and unconsciousness

This applies to your gerbil, too. You won’t find horse chestnuts for sale in stores, but you will find them growing wild. So, feeding your gerbil store-bought chestnuts will avoid this issue altogether.

Can Gerbils Eat Chestnut Puree?

Chestnut puree is a pureed mix of chestnuts for sale in stores. Like regular chestnuts, it can only be found in the holiday season. The chestnuts are typically roasted and then blended until smooth.

Chestnut puree may or may not be suitable for your gerbil. It depends on what ingredients have been added to it.

In some cases, the puree is pure chestnuts mixed with some water to give them the right consistency. That’s fine for your gerbil.

But if lots of ingredients have been added, that’s not good. Added salt and sugar make a puree less suitable for your gerbil. So, check the ingredients before feeding any to your pet.

Are Chestnuts Good for Gerbils?

Chestnuts contain lots of things that gerbils need, plus high amounts of carbohydrate and fiber. While they shouldn’t be fed as a regular part of a gerbil’s diet, they make a good snack.

Here’s a table explaining the pros and cons of feeding chestnuts:

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Chestnuts have lots of carbohydrates. Gerbils need carbs to function properly.Chestnuts are calorie-dense. If you feed your gerbil chestnuts regularly, it will get fat.
Chestnuts contain lots of fiber. Fiber is necessary for gut function.Chestnuts have to be prepared properly before you feed them to your pet. Otherwise, they could make your gerbil sick or kill it.
Chestnuts have the right proportion of protein and fat to carbohydrates. So, your gerbil won’t get fat from eating reasonable portions.You can easily mistake wild horse chestnuts for regular sweet chestnuts. These are toxic.
Chestnuts are around 40% water. This means that they won’t give your gerbil diarrhea.  
Chestnuts have a variety of vitamins and minerals. For their weight, they also contain lots of nutrients.  

The balance of these points means that chestnuts are healthy for your gerbil. But, they should only be fed irregularly and in small quantities.

Carbohydrates, Fat, and Proteins in Chestnuts

Chestnuts have roughly the right levels of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for a gerbil. Here’s a table with data from Nutrition Value which explains what they contain:

Nutritional InfoAmount per 100g
Carbohydrates (and Sugars)53g (11g)
Fat2.2g
Protein3.2g
Overall Calories245

A gerbil needs 80% of its calories to come from carbs, 15% to come from protein, and 5% to come from fat. In chestnuts, those proportions are 87%, 4%, and 7% respectively. That’s not too far off.

Despite that, chestnuts are still a calorie-dense food. That means they contain lots of calories per gram. So, the fact that they have the right balance means nothing if you still overfeed your pet.

Vitamins and Minerals in Chestnuts

What makes chestnuts a suitable snack, though, is their vitamin and mineral content. Chestnuts contain a wide variety and high quantities of different micronutrients. Most foods only contain one or two.

Here’s another table showing exactly what micronutrients chestnuts contain, again with data from Nutrition Value:

Vitamin/MineralAmount per 100g
Vitamin B31.342mg
Vitamin B50.554mg
Vitamin B20.175mg
Vitamin B10.243mg
Vitamin B60.497mg
Vitamin C26mg
Vitamin K7.8mcg
Copper0.507mg
Iron0.91mg
Magnesium33mg
Manganese1.18mg
Phosphorus107mg
Potassium592mg
Zinc0.57mg

In particular, chestnuts contain high levels of manganese, copper, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin B1. The high concentrations of a wide variety of key micronutrients are good for your gerbil. Magnesium, in particular, is important because it promotes brain health.

Your gerbil should get all it needs from its gerbil food mix. But most snacks don’t have as broad a range of nutrients as this. So, by feeding chestnut, you ensure that your gerbil doesn’t miss out when it has a snack.

How Many chestnuts Should Gerbils Eat?

Gerbils should eat hardly any chestnut, if any at all. That’s because they’re so high in calories that if you feed your pet too many, it will get fat

Most owners feed their gerbils one tablespoon of food per day. With most snacks, you give your pet half a tablespoon of normal food and half a tablespoon of snack.

But chestnuts are so high in calories that you shouldn’t feed that much. A quarter of a tablespoon is as much as you can feed at one time.

How Often Should You Feed Gerbils Chestnuts?

Gerbils snacks should only be fed once every week. Twice a week is the maximum, and any more than that, you’ll make your pet overweight. Again, err on the side of caution because chestnuts are very high in calories.

You don’t need to feed your gerbil any chestnut at all. While it is rich in nutrients, you don’t need to give your gerbil any extra minerals and vitamins. It should get everything it needs from its food mix.