Typically life span is about 15 years, but 18-22 years is not uncommon. Body length about 10-14 inches and tail is another 5-6 inches long.
The natural habitat of the chin is different than that of captivity. They live in crevices between rocks and caves. They are very social and live in colonies of about 100. They live in these groups for added protection from natural predators such as owls, foxes, snakes, hawks, and other night predators. Chinchillas have several defense mechanisms to survive in the Andes Mountain region. First, their light color resembles that of the rocks to protect themselves from predators. Second, their tail is stiff and firm and serves as balance when they jump and make quick escapes. Chinchillas also use their hind legs to jump great distances. Their coats dense, it allows for survival in harsh cold weather, protection from immense heat, and avoidance of infestation from fleas and other parasites. Their fur is released into the eyes and mouth of the predator as well, giving them enough time to escape while their enemies stop to wipe the fur from their face. To survive in their arid habitat in the wild, chinchillas satisfy their need for water by drinking the dew and condensation from rocks in the morning hours and bathe in sands or dust. Because they venture out at night when it is much cooler, the eyesight of these animals are undeveloped, and they use their long whiskers as a tool to guide themselves through the dark and through rocks. Also, they develop a “mental map” of their surrounding area for quick escape from an enemy. They are vegetarians and dine on food such as roots, fruits, leaves, bark, and tubers in the wild and alfalfa, pellets, and hay in captivity.
Chinchillas are nocturnal so will be most active in the evening and night. They should be kept in a fairly quiet area during the day. They prefer a consistent routine for handling a feeding times and may be stressed out by changes to their routine. They are very active and playful and need a roomy cage for exercise as well as daily playtime.
Chinchillas require a lot of roughage, and the diet should mainly be made up of a good quality grass hay along with pellets made for chinchillas. Treats should be given in moderation (one teaspoon per day in total) and can include fruits (eg fresh or dried apples, grapes, raisins), vegetables (carrots, celery), sunflower seeds, and rolled oats. The digestive system of chinchillas is fairly sensitive so any diet changes should be gradual.