What is soft, fluffy, makes very little noise and is a workhorse on the homestead? What is an easy pet to care for, even for smaller children and can be done by nearly any homesteader, including those in small areas? What will provide you crafting wool once a year, and cause you to smile when you see them?
There are a couple fiber rabbit breeds. The French Angora, the English Angora, the Satin Angora, and the German Angora. Many believe that the French Angora is great for beginners, because the guard hairs make up the coat instead of being more undercoat. This makes the fiber easier to really get to. Pound for pound, however, the German Angora produces the most wool each year.
How much wool does an angora rabbit produce each year? Anywhere from 8 ounces to over 4 pounds, depending on specific fiber rabbit breed. Angora rabbit wool price can be anywhere from $15-$45 a pound, making this a small money making venture.
Learning to raise fiber rabbits, such as French Angoras can bring you lots of wool for making hats, scarves, mittens and even blankets. Angora rabbit care is easy, but will need some extra steps over a meat or pet rabbit.
Fiber rabbits are primarily raised for their hair, and hair can get long or matted. Brushing it at the minimum of bi-weekly will help keep loose hair and mats off the rabbit. When the hair gets matted, their poop and urine can get stuck to it. It will also build up in the cage. Both cases can be very harmful to the rabbit and can be difficult to clean. Bathing the rabbit usually isn’t necessary, especially in cold weather. They can get very cold quickly, taking a long time to warm up. It’s better to keep the rabbit brushed and wash the wool as you clip it.
When raising fiber rabbits, you will want to collect their hair fiber, or give them a hair cut at least once a year. We have found the best time is late Spring, before it gets too hot. To cut the fiber, you will simply take a very sharp scissors and follow along the rabbit’s body line. Don’t cut too close, or you risk cutting the rabbit. Sometimes, it’s helpful to have a second person hold the rabbit and cover their eyes when you are doing this. That will help to calm the rabbit and keep them more still.
Keeping nails trimmed on a fiber rabbit is the same as any pet rabbit. If nails get too long, they can get stuck on the cages, risking getting ripped off the hocks. Rabbits can bleed profusely if that happens. When trimming, carefully clip just the tip a bit at a time. This is usually the “curve” in the nail. If you nip the hock when trimming, apply gentle pressure to help stop bleeding. Adding plantain, or yarrow in a gauze pad will also aid in stopping the bleeding.
Food requirements for fiber rabbits will be the same as other rabbits. High quality feed, timothy hay weekly for added fiber and a small treat once in a while will keep your rabbit happy. Treats like apple or carrot slices should be kept to a minimum to keep the rabbit’s blood sugar in check. If blood sugar gets too high, they will get sick. Fresh water daily in a clean crock or bottle is also crucial to their health.
Toys such as wooden chew toys, or small stuffed animals can provide plenty of entertainment. They need the wooden toys to keep their teeth ground down, and many fiber rabbits like to “cuddle” with the small stuffed toys. Surprisingly, they do not chew up the toys, either. Our rabbits always seemed to have a favorite teddy bear they played with, and even mothered.
Getting the fiber rabbits off the wire cages is important to keeping their hocks healthy. Due to their large size, time resting on something solid will prevent sore hocks. A plastic resting board sold in farm supply stores is great, but a piece of old carpet, or even a scrap of wood will suffice. Rabbits will chew on the wood, so make sure it’s non treated.
As you can see, taking care of fiber rabbits isn’t difficult at all. They are fun, friendly, and can be a great source of yarn for the knitter/crafter in your family.