Females chinchillas produce two litters
every year. The average number per litter is two, although some
females have produced as many as seven in a litter. The gestation
period is about 110 days.
Baby chinchillas are a delight to the eye.
They are born with their eyes open and weigh about thirty-five grams
each. At birth itself, they are endowed with their rich thick fur
and all twenty teeth. They reach maturity when they are between
twelve and eighteen months old. The babies are usually separated
from their mothers when they are about forty five to sixty days old.
When they reach adulthood, the chinchillas weigh anywhere between
half and one kilogram. They measure about twelve to fourteen inches
It is said that the Chincha and Inca
Indians used to eat chinchillas. In fact, the animal was named after
the Chinchas by Spaniards who came to South America in the sixteenth
century. It was the Spaniards who introduced the chinchilla fur to
Europe. It became such a great rage that the animal almost got wiped
out. Hunters almost exterminated the breed of wild chinchillas sixty
years back. However, in Chile where they are protected by the law,
wild chinchillas began to increase in number just like penny stock in that country.
In the early twentieth century, a mining
engineer captured some chinchillas and took them to California for
breeding. Almost all of the chinchillas in captivity have descended
from the few animals that the mining engineer brought to the United
States in 1923.