For many years, I have had the idea to eventually raise angora rabbits as part of our family and farm. I imagined that I would wait until all our building projects were done, when I might have more space in my time to learn and manage another project. However, it seemed evident that our home schooling journey needed more long term and interactive projects, and I realized that the things I wanted to do were also things that my kids were interested in, and besides, home schooling for us is all about living, creating, and doing- just learning through life. So I promptly gave my twelve year old daughter the task of taking on some research to find out what we need to know and do, and where to acquire some rabbits. In her process, she herself fell in love with the possibilities of these cozy cute creatures, and began to be a major motivation to our moving forwards.
We decided to find some French Angora rabbits, since that seemed to be the breed that was an easier level of management for first time bunny owners. They have a clear face, free of long hair, and a thick coat of soft hair that doesn’t tangle as quickly as some other breeds. We weren’t too keen on the rabbits that had a face hidden behind so much hair! Their fibre can be gently pulled off their bodies every 3 months, when the new undercoat grows in, so no shearing required. We looked at a space to give them, the food they needed, the protection they needed, and the management of their poop. We also found that they are hypo-allergenic, which was just what we needed, since my mother with whom we live is seriously allergic to cats. French angora’s seemed to be a lovely pet, (they generally have a good temperament and are playful and clean), they can live outside, (great for our small space), they produce beautiful fibre for all my weaving and spinning projects, and we obtain a constant supply of rich rabbit manure that can be applied fresh right to the garden.
We didn’t find any breeders in our area, or even distant area, but we did find an owner who was no longer able to look after her two french angora’s, and one french/satin x. The two french’s, one male and one female, both young, are a breeding pair so we can grow our numbers if we like. The other is an older male who has a beautiful, finer coat, and was the last one she was left with. We decided to take them all. They are all pedigree.
There was a lot of different types of housing offered for rabbits. We were given a double long wooden hutch, so we started with that for Gustav, the young french angora male.
We built a 6 foot square enclosure for him to run around in when we are out in the yard with him. I haven’t seen any signs that he might want to dig his way out. It is shaded and covered from over head predators. We added two enclosures underneath the wooden one, on the deck of our old trailer, which both open to two separate 4 foot square runs, with wire floors and a roof to keep the area dry and shaded. We supplied a litter tray with a drop pan underneath, which they seem to be using after we placed them in the corners that the bunnies had decided were their bathroom areas. Gustav’s hutch came with slatted floors and drop pans, which are so easy to empty and keep clean.
We have already collected quite a bit of fibre from them. It has taken a few times of grooming to get them used to us, but mostly they have all been very patient while we brush and pluck and generally pick through their fibre, checking for any bugs, tangles, cuts or signs of needed care. The previous owner of these rabbits generously supplied me with many books to read through, and I read that observation and time with the bunnies is the best way to know what they need. (The Nervous New Owner’s Guide To Angora Rabbits, by Suzie Sugrue was the best!) Between myself, my husband, my mother, and my two kids, we are constantly looking to see how they are doing and if they are happy. My daughter goes to feed them as soon as she gets up in the morning, and we brush each of them in rotation every few days, and clean out their living areas thoroughly once a week, with daily litter pan emptying. We feed them some greens and vegetables everyday, with a constant supply of timothy hay that is locally grown on the Saanich Peninsula. They eat pellets, and a small amount of dried papaya to help their stomachs digest any of the long hair they swallow while grooming themselves.
All of this doesn’t take too long, but it certainly is a reminder of the commitment to have small creatures in our care. It has been wonderful to witness the connections that the kids have made with the rabbits, and the level of responsibility that they have shown to keeping them healthy and loved. My daughter put together a presentation for our home schooling group on angora rabbits.
I have yet to spin any of the fibre, but as I have collected it, I have been dreaming of the the super soft and warm scarves, hats, or shawls it could become. Every thing happens in it’s own time, and eventually I will understand the inticacies of the art of using the fibre, just as I am beginning to understand the procedures of care for our new family fluff balls!