It is time for your angora bunny lesson.
Isn’t this blog riviting?
This is one of my new bunnies. Cute, isn’t he? Excuse my work clothes. I am wearing my Christmas gift sweatshirt that says “Yes, I was born in a barn.” Perfect attire for the project, I’m thinking. I’d been out in the rain, setting up cages before Neva was kind enough to take thess pictures. E-gad. But you are supposed to be looking at the rabbit, not the chick holding her, so as the wizard said, “ignor that man behind the curtain” and stay focused. The second picture is of my rabbit already plucked – you can just imagine how fluffy he was when we began!
Angora bunnies fall into 4 basic types. Mine happen to be French Angoras. They have a face like a regular rabbit, but long, wool-like hair that continues to grow about the body. Silkies have long fine hair that is striking, but not so good for spinning. English Angoras have tuffs about the feet and ears and they are a bit less hardy to raise and handle. Giant Angoras are huge rabbits, as the name suggests. They are primarily for show. There is a huge sub-culture for every kind of special interest, as you know, and tons of people show angora rabbits. I actually joined the Angora Society of America, but only because I want the magazine. Might have some usefully information and I’m interested in breeding and other information regarding angora parafanilia now. Who knows, I may end up writing for the publication later. I am always on the lookout for places to send material in the future.
Angora hair must be removed every 10-12 weeks or it will become all matted and felt (which is the process that takes place when wool gets wet and overworked, creating the thick, course fabric you know as felt). You brush angoras every week to keep the hair fine and whispy. This is rather delightful, because they are sweet, snuggly, and oh so cute to primp over. When the hair is ready to be removed, it starts brushing off naturally and can be found about the cage, a nice reminder if you are slacking in the bunny fur harvest department. The bunnies tend to scratch and groom themselves to help this happen. You can remove the overgrown hair by shearing close to the skin, but this results in shorter fibers that make it hard to spin. So, instead, you can just pinch sections in your fingers and pull. The hair comes out naturally, leaving behind the new growth. After spending a half an hour or more de-hairing your angora, it looks much like a normal rabbit – at least for a week or two until it puffs out again.
Angoras should only be fed lightly, or their hair will become course and will cease to grow well. They like carrots as a treat – nothing green, and they need lots of hay fiber to combat fur balls in the intestines (which can kill them). Papaya enzimes also help – and these can be purchased at any health store. Go figure. I can shop for us both at a GNC.
Angora bunnies are loving, docile and very, very snuggly. I adore my two. They look like clouds, so I named the white one (female)Cumulus, and the gray one, (male) Nimbus (which is a storm cloud, in case you didn’t know.) I plan to mate them in March for an April litter. Happy Birthday to me. Angoras sell for 50-150 dollars. Since mine do not have papers (I never plan to show them – they are just for fun) they were only 50$ each. That is high for a bunny, but not for a full bred angora. I plan to keep the offspring I raise for wool gathering, but if I end up with more bunnies then I can handle, I’ll sell a few. I will be selective of homes, or course. Letting go of loved ones has never come easy to me.
This week, I de-haired Nimbus for the first time. Not his first time. Mine. Cumulus already had her hair harvested just before I picked her up. That was fine, because it was a bit unnerving tackling this project for the first time. I was so worried about hurting the rabbits as I man-handled them. Concern over two bunnies would have done
Nimbus lay quietly in my lap as I plucked away. I took short breaks to allow Neva to brush out the rabbit’s soft hair with a dog brush. If I would have let her, she would have braided it, I know. Neva thought it was one big hair styling party, rather than a wool collection chore. Ha. We had fun. The bunny was like a little baby, cradled in my arms. The hair just kept coming off. Tons! I filled two big shoe boxes before stopping, and frankly, I think I left quite a bit on. I didn’t want to stress the rabbit too much the first time, and it is cold this time of year. I didn’t want to send him back to his cage naked and shivering.
I felt like quite the rabbit afficiando when finished. I had angora hair, a happy rabbit, and since it was a bunny-bonding experience, it didn’t seem like work. Now, I will brush this angora wool into hanks of raw sheep wool with carders to prepare it for spinning. All angora is really a mix, because angora is too fine to keep shape alone. This will give me the basis for some very soft, fine homespun yarn that I will knit into a scarf or something. Nothing warmer than wrapping yourself up in someone you love, and if a pair of masculine arms aren’t available to do the job, a nice scarf made from your pet is the next best thing.
Perhaps I should mention here that some angora comes from angora goats, but not much. 90% of it comes from rabbits. Wouldn’t want you to purchase an angora sweater, go to a party, and start conversations about it armed with partial information. I’m a better teacher than that!
Anyway, I accomplished something new this week and stretched my horizons. I broke in my new sweatshirt, filled a lint brush to capacity cleaning the couch afterwards, and I can boast that I have a big overflowing box of fur in the dining room as inspiration to make something novel (but I am preparing for my residency, so I have no time to actually do anything with it. Sigh.)
Try something new everyday. This is proof that you can and you won’t get bit.
An Angora Lesson
It is time for your angora bunny lesson.