cute wild chinchilla

What Do Chinchillas Eat In the Wild?

Many chinchilla pet owners forget that chinchillas still exist in the wild. Pet chinchillas are notorious for needing a specific diet, so it is understandable that many people wonder what exactly wild chinchillas eat.

Chinchillas eat a dry diet in the wild because their digestive systems and teeth require a lot of fibrous foods. Wild chinchillas are able to extract large amounts of nutrients from the dry plant material they eat in their natural cold, dry habitat.

Chinchillas that live in the wild have to eat a diet full of fibrous plant material to maintain proper food and nutrient digestion.

The more you know about chinchillas and their dietary requirements, the better you will understand why wild chinchillas eat what they eat.

Cute wild chinchilla

15 Food Chinchillas Eat In the Wild

Chinchillas eat a variety of plant materials in the wild, most of which are rather dry. Here are some of the most common foods they eat.

  1. Leaves
  2. Grass
  3. Insects
  4. Herbs
  5. Bushes
  6. Shrubs
  7. Flowers
  8. Bark
  9. Small Twigs
  10. Fruit
  11. Seeds
  12. Plant Stems
  13. Roots
  14. Nuts
  15. Berries

Why Do Chinchillas In the Wild Eat High-Fiber Food?

Chinchillas in the wild have the same dietary needs as those in captivity.

Wild chinchillas eat high-fiber foods in the wild because they need the extra fiber to help their digestive systems.

Without enough fiber in their diets, chinchillas in the wild suffer from gastric upset and constipation. Their roughage-based diets also helps chinchillas keep their continuously growing teeth worn down.  

What Kind of Digestive Process Do Chinchillas Have?

Chinchillas have a very interesting digestive process called caecotrophy. This just means that they have to eat their own droppings because chinchillas need them to aid in their digestion!

Even though it is unappealing, chinchillas have to eat their excrement so their digestive systems work properly. This applies to both domesticated pet chinchillas and chinchillas in the wild.

Fiber is essential to this process because it keeps everything moving along smoothly through their gastric system.

 If a chinchilla becomes constipated, it cannot eat its droppings and it severely disrupts the whole process.

Where Do Wild Chinchillas Live Today?

Wild chinchillas live in mainly in Chile and a small amount can still be found in Bolivia. Chinchillas do not live in the wild in North America at all.

Chinchillas once inhabited Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, and Bolivia. Overhunting led to countless millions of chinchillas being killed for their fur.

Today wild chinchillas are primarily limited to specific foothills regions and mountainous regions of Chile.

Chinchillas in the wild like to live in burrows and tunnels to hide from possible predators. They prefer cold, dry habitats because of their thick fur.

Is It Okay to Feed Wild Chinchillas?

If you are ever able to find a wild chinchilla, you should not feed it any foods that are not found in their natural environment. In fact, it is best to avoid feeding them at all.

Chinchillas in the wild are very equipped at finding the right food for their dietary needs. Human food and foods they are unfamiliar with can be dangerous for them to eat.

Do Chinchillas Eat Other Animals In the Wild?

Chinchillas are prey animals and typically do not eat other animals, even in the wild. They do eat small insects, but another animal is not a part of their normal diet.

If they were starving, it is possible for them to eat another animal to survive, however, it is not the norm. Eating an animal could lead to digestion issues in a wild chinchilla since they are not used to eating meat.

Rarely, chinchillas in the wild may eat bird eggs that they discover while foraging in a tree. Most wild chinchillas do not actively look for bird nests to ravage, however, they may eat a bird egg if they are hungry enough.

Two chinchilla sleep in cage

Are Wild Chinchillas Herbivores, Omnivores, or Carnivores?

Wild chinchillas are categorized as omnivores because they primarily eat vegetation and plant materials, but occasionally they eat bugs and eggs.

Omnivores like chinchillas are able to digest the nutrients from both plant and meat sources.

What Animals Eat Chinchillas In the Wild?

Chinchillas are prey animals in the wild so there are many predatory animals out there that want to eat them. Hawks, eagles, mountain lions, snakes, skunks, and foxes are all natural predators of chinchillas.

Chinchillas in the wild prefer to eat during dawn and dusk, probably in an attempt to avoid predators. This is also why chinchillas in the wild like to live in burrows and tunnels, to try and stay safe from these relentless predators.

Final Thoughts

Chinchillas in the wild like to eat a variety of plant materials to maintain a high fiber diet so that they keep their digestive systems working at an optimum level.

They also have to eat their own droppings to keep everything working correctly in the digestion department. It is extremely important that wild chinchillas eat dry, roughage-type foods regularly so that they do not become constipated.


Researching the eating habits of chinchillas in the wild is an interesting learning experience. These are sources that were used to craft this article about a wild chinchilla’s diet.

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