Saturday, March 1, 2014

American Chinchilla and Cinnamon Rabbits

We added a beautiful breeding pair of Cinnamon rabbits to our herd over the winter, they are the "spice" of the rabbit world and we are excited to have them join our rabbit family. Cinnamon's are a true American Heritage breed of rabbit, created in Montana in 1972. They're a  larger breed and grow to between 9 and 11 pounds.  With their unique coloring and wonderful temperament these rabbits are very attractive and useful as meat, fur, show, and pet.  The Cinnamon coloring is a gorgeous dusty tan with a bright orange undercolor, dark shaded tips to the guard hair, with the shading gradually increasing down the sides and extremities of the rabbit until the belly of the rabbit is a stormy gray with pearl undercolor.

The mother of the doe in the bottom left picture is the National Champion Best of Breed Cinnamon Rabbit and the buck above and below on the right comes from the same breeder.  I like to start with the best genetics I can find locally, and in this case we have a top breeder in the next town East towards the mountains. By the end of Summer when these rabbits are around 8 months old, they'll be ready for breeding.

A little history about the Cinnamon Rabbit breed.
During the Easter season of 1962 2 kids by the name of Belle and Fred Houseman of Missoula, Montana were given a young Chinchilla doe. Later they received a New Zealand buck. They crossbred these two for babies that their father, Ellis, believed should be used for meat, but young Belle begged her father to let her keep one of the crossbred bucks as a family pet. The children joined the 4-h group and used their crossbred meat rabbits as their project. They were then given an unwanted Checkered Giant and a crossed Californian doe which they mated with Belle’s pet buck and in this litter was a russet shaded 

They again bred the Checkered to the same buck and another rusty colored rabbit appeared, then one day their doe produced two russet colored rabbits. Ellis Houseman told his kids that they needed to be keeping only purebred rabbits to show, but this time Fred, with tears in his eyes, begged his father to let him keep the pair of brownish rabbits from the last litter. Ellis agreed.They mated the pair together and 70 percent of the litter was this russet shaded color, which they began calling Cinnamon.

Dad then began taking notice of these unusual shaded colored rabbits, and also noticed the sheen in the coats. Ellis showed these experimental rabbits to J. Cyril Lowett, Oregon Judge and ARBA board member. He felt they had possibilities and said there was not another breed like them in the U.S.  In 1972 the breed was approved.  Cinnamon's are on the rare breeds rabbit list for the ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy).  

Pictured below is a portion of our rabbitry, with another 3 smaller hutches not visible, we have 8 holes currently and are adding another 7, we plan to stay at 15 holes.  Starting the season we have 5 American Chinchilla's for breeding, 3 does and 2 bucks, along with the Cinnamon breeding pair.  We have found that by having breeding stock of both bucks and does out of non related stock we can double our sales, and often sell 2 or 3 rabbits at a time, rather than just one at a time.

A young American Chinchilla doe I kept from a breeding last year out of Zelpha and Melvin, her name is Diamond and she was just bred to a young buck I kept from last year.  Serendipity below was my first American Chinchilla and is my foundation doe, she has been a wonderful rabbit, and her son Sterling is the mate for the doe Diamond above.

American Chinchilla's are an especially nice breed of rabbit to raise, they are one of the few breeds of rabbit that originated in the United States. Credit for developing this breed cannot be given to one breeder. Several American breeders wanted to produce a larger bodied rabbit than the Standard Chinchilla for larger pelts and more meat. Development began in the 1920’s and was originally known as the Heavyweight Chinchilla. In 1924 the breed was accepted by the ARBA and the name was changed to the American Chinchilla.

The American Chinchilla rabbits are large and hardy but  gentle. Mature bucks weigh 9 to 11 lbs and mature does weigh 10 to 12 lbs. the does are known for producing large litters, averaging 7 to 10 kits per litter. They are known for having good mothering instincts and the kits reach market weight quickly. When you first see this rabbit it appears salt and peppered colored, but when the fur is blown into 4 distinct bands of color appears. They attract a lot of attention at shows because of their large size and their fur is so soft and beautiful.
One reason I raise this breed, aside from the fact that they're beautiful and productive, is that by raising them we're helping bring back a heritage breed that is on the critical list with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and on the “Rare Breed Rabbits” list.  


A breeding trio I sold over the winter, 2 does and one buck, they're all so beautiful, aren't they?  Below is Zelpha and one of her albino daughters.  The first kindling Zelpha ever had last year I went out to peek in the nest box and was shocked to find an all pink kit, I was just thrilled, and ran inside to tell everyone what I found in the nest box! After researching it some more I realized that in the American Chinchilla breed if both the buck and doe that breed have the c- gene they will throw albino kits.  Now, this is not ideal for some, but for me I was excited to know we could consistently get some white rabbits for their fur. She had one albino kit her first litter, 3 the second, and 4 albino kits the 3rd kindling.  I have a buck now with the c+ gene and the two of them will not throw albino kits.  For Spring and Summer kits that I want to sell, I'll breed those two and for the Fall and Winter kits that we  mostly raise for meat and fur I'll breed her with Melvin for a few white ones.

American Chinchilla doe, Zelpha pictured above and below.

My husband is building a new set of hutches for me, now with the addition of the Cinnamon's we need more room.  We're doing an entirely different design, rather than wood that is difficult to clean and sanitize, we're building it out of galvanized metal and wire with a strong roof and removable wood panels for siding.  This is so we can pressure wash and clean thoroughly several times per year.  We're also planning to fence the entire rabbitry to keep the dogs out, and allow the rabbits a nice big exercise paddock. 

Melvin our senior buck above is a total sweetheart and loves attention, he will always give a good greeting and is a pleasure to tend to everyday, well, actually all of my rabbits bring me enjoyment, some are just more personable than others.  If you're wondering what happened to our Champagne d' Argent rabbits, I sold them all to one lady last Summer.  I decided I only needed one breed of silver and gray rabbit, rather than two breeds of the same color. The rabbits have truly been one of my favorite parts of homesteading, they're the perfect small scale permaculture farm animal.  They've provided our family with a fun hobby, along with delicious meat, luxurious furs to make things with, and the best compost for our garden.

No comments: