Chirpie Chipmunkz

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Chipmunk Colours

 

 

I will be updating the photos on this page so please bare with me.

Lottie's babies 2011 - all Agouti coloured

 Agouti (Normal/Brown/Natural) 

The main colour of the Chipmunk is the Agouti or Normal. This is the basic colour of the Chipmunk i described on the About Chipmunk page. The body colour is a brown grey (the hairs have black ticking, each hair is tipped with black) and there are five black brown stripes on the back, the middle stripe goes onto the tail and the back of the head while the others are shorter in length. On the body there are also two brown/reddish stripes and two white stripes. The three lowest stripes on the body each get shorter in length. The belly is whitish -grey or white. There are three brown face stripes and two white on each side of the face with a white ring around the eye. The cheeks are a greyish/brown colour, while underneath the chin is white. The tail is brownish grey colour with black edging, black stripe down the middle and a white trim. Underneath the tail can be a ginger-brown, These Chipmunks have brown/grey feet (pink paw pads) a white patch behind the ears, the ears are black and white, the rump can sometimes be a sandy colour or even reddish. Agouti's can vary in colouring and shades  quite a lot which can cause confusion with Cinnamon's, babies can have very ginger-red stripes but Agouti's never have the ginger tails Cinnamon's have or the very brown stripes. Also check the claws Agouti's have a hint of black in the claws, if they are clear they are usually Cinnamon. Also the nose stripe is pale on the Cinnamon, a Agouti normally has a black one it also doesn't usually fade as an adult. Just because a Agouti baby has ginger stripes or rump it doesn't mean it is a Cinnamon carrier you will not know that until it is bred with the same colour as you expect it is carrying and it is normal for Agouti babies to have very ginger-red stripes when they first get their fur, in some cases they will stay very red, in others they will go greyer or browner I had one female who had creamy brown stripes. The top part of these stripes are often ticked with grey or white hairs, as Chipmunks get older they may develop more grey or white hair ticking on the stripes behind the neck. When you really look closely at a Chipmunk's fur you see so much more colour/pattern than you first saw, they really are beautiful animals.The eyes are black with dark brown irises although in babies these are often light blue. Claws and whiskers are white with black tips. Babies are born with a black stripe on the nose and dark eye patches and after a few days their heads start going grey, stripes appear on the skin about a week old. They are fully furred by three weeks. As Agoutis become older they can get more grey on the back of the neck and shoulders and the colours on the body generally fade and the stripes may go a rusty colour. The Agouti colour is a dominant gene because it is the original wild type and all Chipmunks regardless of their colour have Agouti genes. This is the most common colour of Chipmunk and has remained the most popular. It also has the most variations of colour and can appear in any colour litter.

  Hermione's babies 2nd litter - All Dilute Whites

Dilute White - sometimes just known as White or Dilute

The next colour of chipmunk i bought, this chipmunk is white with five creamish stripes on the back, these may be dark or pale so they can hardly be seen. The tail is white with cream edge and the skin/bone part can clearly be seen down the centre. Dilutes don't have a stripe down the centre of the tail, the face may have cream markings but sometimes these are very faint. The eyes are a ruby red colour that looks black from a distance (not pink like in Albinos), the irises are a light blue the whiskers and claws are always white. The feet have white fur with the toes and pads being pink. Babies are born pink with no nose stripe and take time to develop white fur, they stay pink while Agouti get stripes. Dilute's stripes come though after about 2 weeks and at first the stripes look shiny and are almost transparent. Young Dilutes tend to have more prominent stripes and also tend to look whiter than adult Dilutes. As Dilutes reach old age they can go a more creamy colour overall and the stripes can become quite pale. This colour is a recessive gene. Dilute White bred with Dilute White will always result in Dilute babies. Dilute with Agouti (Dilute Carrier) will have some Dilute and some Agouti. Dilute and Agouti (not carrying Dilute) will result in Agouti babies (this proves that Dilute White is recessive, the colour doesn't appear in the young but the gene is carried in the young and they will if bred to a Dilute or Dilute Carrier (any colour gene can carry Dilute) have Dilute babies themselves). It has been said that Dilute chipmunks are often calmer and more docile than other colours although i've not found this to be true they are just as capable as being aggressive to each other as any other colour. Some Dilutes can be a bit neurotic or a bit wild but that may be more due to not having much handling as babies. I have had plenty of really friendly Dilutes so they can be just as tame as Agoutis. They are not as hardy as they can easily get sunburnt and can be prone to more illness, some have been inbred although responsible breeders do not do this but due to previous inbreeding health issues still arise in some Dilute lines like The Lean and occasional epilepsy. Dilute's appeared by accident when Chipmunks first were bred as there wasn't many at the time to breed many would have been inbred which made these whites appear. The white siblings were bred together to ensure more white babies which meant more inbreeding. Many Dilute's suffered from epilesy as a result of inbreeding and there is something breeders call a Lean where the Dilutes sort of tilt their head to one side (see Health page for more details). Some Chipmunks with the Lean walk or run round in circles this is the worst affected, the more minor Lean is less obvious but still quite noticable, usually when the Chip is sitting or standing still its most apparent. Chipmunks can live quite a normal life if the Lean isn't too bad, but they shouldn't be bred from as its unfortunately genetic and will be inherited by the future generations. Out - crossing back to Agoutis now means that most of the health issues have gone or much reduced and the Lean is seen less and is not as bad as before but still babies with this trait should not be bred and those parents should not be bred again.  I don't know how common the Lean is in Dilutes in other countries but in the U.K. it is quite apparent, breeders hope that the condition will be bred out in future but for now we need to breed carefully especially if pairing two Dilutes together. Thankfully they are not inbred anymore by responisble breeders. Many Dilutes actually come from Agouti lines now. It is quite common for a Dilute or several Dilutes to appear in Agouti litters. Dilutes can also appear in the same litter as Cinnamons provided the Dilute parent carries Cinnamon and the Cinnamon parent carries the Dilute gene. If both parents are Agouti but carry both Dilute White and Cinnnamon you can get all three colours in the same litter but this is rare in the U.K. because the Cinnamon gene is not widely in the Dilute gene pool and is still not very common in the Agouti gene pool. Dilutes are now the second most common/popular colour variety after Agouti.

 

 Cinnamon (Red/Ginger)

Similar to an agouti but the brown/grey body colour has changed to an orangey colour i call ginger, same with the feet and tail. The body colour can completely lack the normal black ticking of the Agouti but many I find do still have ticking especially on the tail which often has black banding. The overall colour of the Chipmunk can vary from a bright orange to a more browny orange colour. The cheek area is a creamish colour, the top of the head is a ginger colour but not as orange as the stripes or rump. They often have a greyish colour on the back of the neck or shoulders (where there is some grey or white ticking) although this can vary, the best animals have no grey. The five black brown stripes are a chestnut brown but this also varies some Cinnamons still have black in the brown stripes. The two brown stripes normally on an Agouti around the centre stripe are orange on the Cinnamon these should be bright even on otherwise poorly coloured Cinns and the white grey stripes are usually pure white although this varies depending on the overall quality of the Cinnamon. The tummy is also pure white. The tail is orange with brown or often brown-black edging and a white trim, the centre stripe is missing on the Cinnamon but the skin/bone part is not usually as noticable as with Dilutes because Cinnamon's tend to have thicker tail fur. Underneath the tail is also a gingery colour. The tail is usually brightly coloured.There are chestnut brown stripes on the face and the two white stripes and white ring around the eye. There is a white patch behind the ears, and the rump is orange. The eyes are black with light blue irises, the whiskers are either black or white or a mixture. The claws always are white in true Cinnamons. The nose is pink, there is no stripe down it as adults but as babies they do have a stripe which gradually fades.  Babies are often born with a light stripe on the nose (not always) and light grey eye patches (other than that there is no difference between them and Agouti newborns) and it is very difficult to tell Dilute newborns apart from Cinnamon ones. After about 4 days their heads start going brown and stripes appear about a week old and then as they get fur they start going a golden colour. Babies are usually a more subtle colour they don't get the more deeper ginger colour until they are nearing a year old. The best bred animals have a very bright colour even from very young babies but quality varies in the U.K. Like Agouti the Cinnamon can be different shades there are the really ginger ones with proper brown stripes and no black in the fur or black ticking, which look the colour of a Red Squirrel. There is a deep-red shade with brown-black stripes. The darkest shade which is a brown-red I call chestnut and they often have quite black stripes or there is paler caramel/Fawn shades which can have some black in the stripes but mostly brown. I have even had one that was a greyish ginger and he had quite black stripes. I have found several shades of colour in the same litter. Cinnamons bred from Agoutis quite often are a duller colour or go through a very dark stage I call 'Agouti stage'. I guess that Cinnamons bred from Dilutes will likely be a lighter shade than those bred from Agoutis. The Cinnamon colour gene is also recessive and is very rare at least here in the U.K. Cinnamon bred with Cinnamon will always have Cinnamon babies. Cinnamon with Agouti (Cinnamon Carrier) will have some Cinnamon and some Agouti. Cinnamon with Agouti not carrying Cinnamon will result in 100% Agouti babies (this is how we know the Cinnamon is recessive the colour doesn't appear in the young but the gene is carried in the young and they will if bred to a Cinnamon or Cinnamon carrier have Cinnamons's themselves). When breeding with a Dilute White I have found that the Dilute must also carry the Cinnamon gene or again you get 100% Agouti babies in the litter. To get both Dilute and Cinnamon in the same litter you must have a Cinnamon carrying the Dilute gene and a Dilute carrying the Cinnamon gene. To get Agouti in the litter as well, the parents need to be Agouti's both carrying Cinnamon and Dilute.  It is not known just how rare Cinnamon's are but from the lack of them on the Chipmunk forum compared to Agoutis and Dilutes it does look like they are very rare. I have also searched the internet extensively for these Chipmunks and have only ever come across a small handful of them in the U.K. You also need to be prepared to wait a long time sometimes it can be a year or longer before babies become available and even then the demand is high and there is usually only a few at a time.  As i have a particular love for these Chipmunks i have set up a special breeding programme to help preserve them but am also working with other breeders to improve their colour. 

 There are 3 Cinnamon in the above photo and one Agouti. This is a picture of the two Daughters born 2011 with their Dad Nugget and Mum Willow (Agouti Cinnamon carrier). Dad is a pale caramel shade while the daughters are chestnut shades.

 

 Above is a close-up of a Cinnamon and an Agouti. This is Bailey (R.I.P.) who was Nugget's Brother and Willow. Bailey was a lot brighter ginger than his Brother Nugget and I would describe him as the Red Squirrel shade, this shade is rarer in U.K. bred Cinnamons. He was completely without black in the coat.

These are the main three colours but you can also get:

Ruby-Eyed White - white with ruby red eyes (Dilute White but without the cream stripes, probably originated from the Dilute variety, seems to be rare and I've never had one). Seen in the Siberian Chipmunk.

Albino - pure white with pink eyes, very rare in Chipmunks. Has appeared in the Eastern American Chipmunk a few times has even survived in the wild. I don't think it has been seen in the Siberian. Many people mistake Dilute Whites for Albinos but they are not albino since they have pigment in the cream stripes and the eyes are a dark red not the pink that is usual with albino.

Black - pure black all over with black eyes. Another very rare colour. A beautiful shiny black with black eyes. It is not known how many of these chipmunks are out there. I have never seen them in person and never seen babies for sale. This is another colour which like the Cinnamon needs a special breeding programme before they are lost forever but it may already be too late because there isn't much evidence of Black Siberian Chipmunks in captivity. This colour is still seen in Eastern American Chipmunks occasionally even known in the wild. Sometimes Black Eastern Chipmunks can even be a all over chocolate colour or have flecks of white or chocolate in the black.

Piebald - This is a pattern, it is half Leuistic. Pied's can be Agouti, Grey or Cinnamon, they could probably come in any colour though since they can with other animals. At the moment Pied's are very new and rare. The Piebald Chipmunk has black eyes and usually has white cheeks and a white stripe down the face but can have any combination of pattern. There can also be white patches on the body, sometimes the Chipmunk is almost completely white with just a small bit of colour/pattern which has been seen in a wild Eastern Chipmunk. The white patches are where pigment doesn't appear in the coat which is like what happens with a true albino, the skin also will be unpigmented under the white fur. Babies are not born with the pattern but develop it about a week old. The pattern is very similar to the same pattern in Rats, Mice and Gerbils. I have seen this pattern in both Siberian and Eastern American Chipmunks.

 

 My two Pied babies born March 2013. They even have white toes and multi-coloured claws.

Silver - This is a beautiful colour, it is a light cream varying to a apricot colour with silver-grey stripes on the back and silver-grey on the tail. It has the usual stripe on the nose and the eyes are a dark red. This colour has been seen in the Siberian Chipmunk but one case is also known in a wild American Eastern Chipmunk which says to me it must be a natural mutation. This colour is very rare and new.

Grey - This colour from what I have found out is very rare and new. I have seen and heard of several variations of this variety - grey-brown body colour with charcoal brown stripes, the tail is still a Agouti colour same as the face so not a grey all over colour. I have also heard of one like this but with no stripes at all so a Grey self Chipmunk and a proper Grey Chipmunk with no brown tarnishing and charcoal stripes. Tarnishing appears to be a problem with the Grey Chipmunk like it often is with the Silver colour in Cats, tarnishing can spoil the look of the variety. I have bred a Grey though that is quite a nice colour - she was very grey when she first got her fur but also ginger-red and as she gets older she is more red than before but still has some grey so she is tarnished but it a nicer tarnish than I have seen with some Greys. One breeder I have spoken too also likes the colour and would like me to breed red-greys like her as well as good quality Greys that stay grey without tarnish their whole life. I do not know though whether Grey is a natural mutation or a man-made colour from breeding. This Chipmunk has black eyes. This colour is only known in the Siberian Chipmunk as far as I have found. 

I give credit to this fellow Chipmunk breeder for letting me know about the Piebald and the Silver Chipmunks. Another Chipmunk breeder in the U.K had a Grey one in a litter born in 2012 and I also heard from another breeder that years ago she had a Grey one. 

As Chipmunks get bred more and colours are bred together it is likely in the future we could get more colours appearing which when bred together could possibily produce more colours. This has already happened with Hamsters there are now a great variety of colours, coat patterns and coat lengths even bald varieties but with Chippies i think it is only just beginning and any new colours are very rare currently. It may be several years before they become readily available. We will have to be careful as with Hamsters and Guineapigs some colours have genetic issues and cannot be mated together for example the Roan Gene in Guinea pigs and Hamsters is a Semi-Lethal Gene, if two Roan's are bred together the babies will be blind (born without eyes) so Roan's must never be mated together. There are other genes too that cause similar issues like the White-Bellied Gene in Hamsters, some actually called Lethal Genes even cause death in the womb or the babies are born without teeth so don't survive - in Hamsters Light Grey is a Lethal one. This is a different Grey gene to the normal grey colour, in Hamsters there is also a Dark Grey gene and that one as far as I have read isn't affected by the genetic problems. We have to be aware that these defective genes may at some point turn up in the Chipmunk.

I have more about Chipmunk colour genetics on the breeding chippies page.

Updated 19th October 2014

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