In all of our 4H and homesteading days, we have raised over 20 rabbits. Most were “dual duty” as pets and working animals, meaning for compost and fiber. Our French Angoras are the perfect example of a double duty animal. They have lots of long hair that is great for learning how to spin and knit or crochet with. This is the main reason we started our Angora herd, to be honest. My daughter loves to knit, crochet, and all things yarn related. Taking care of the fiber rabbits requires a bit more than just regular rabbits, however.
Managing Angora Hair
The first thing you should know is that their long hair can, and will, get matted in their cages. Our cages need to be completely emptied and cleaned at least weekly, especially during the winter. The rabbits will pull their hair out or it will shed, and then they will poop or pee on it, creating a huge matted, smelly mess. One way to avoid this is keeping their hair trimmed on a regular basis. We also brush their hair out each week during a spa day.
We normally will “shear” or cut their hair very short each spring and in the late summer, garnering about 1⁄2 pound of wool from each adult rabbit each time. It’s cooling to them and useful for us. Win-win. To cut their hair, we simply cut it as any human hair. Brush it out, then hold it about 1 inch from the rabbit’s body and trim carefully. We save all the wool we can in a bag to be washed and spun later, and take out the wool that is too matted to use.
Next thing to know is that during a spa day, monthly, we give them a pseudo-bath. This helps control some of the matting and shedding, keeping their wool nice and clean when we shear them. It’s a quick process, gently dry shampooing them by sprinkling with some cornstarch and brushing it out. We don’t water bathe them because they can get skittish and scared. If the weather gets chilly and they are wet, it could be disastrous for them. In the wild, a wet rabbit can get into a warm den or under leaves. In the barn, they don’t have that option. They are stuck in their cages.
Angora Nail Care
You should know is that their nails need to be trimmed often. This is true for all rabbits, but our experience has led us to follow the thinking that our Angora’s nails grow faster than our Lionhead rabbits. We have experienced Angoras pulling their hair, and getting stuck in their nails. Hence, we trim them weekly on their spa day. To trim the nails, use an animal nail clipper that is set aside for them. Trim carefully just the tips, being careful not to cut past the quick and into a vein. If you let them grow too long, you will need to trim every two to three days to get them cut down gently.
Since they are typically larger rabbits, sore hocks are something to be careful of. This is where they can develop sores on the bottoms of their feet and it can be very painful for them. To minimize the risk, make sure the pen is cleaned often and they have a resting board. This can be a wooden board or an old scrap of carpet that gives them a place off the wire to sit. If you find they develop sore hocks anyway, applying a smidgen of coconut oil on the sore spots 2-3 times daily has helped us in the past with healing.
Feeding an Angora Rabbit
Finally, since most fiber rabbits are considered meat rabbits as well, you should know that they will eat a lot. Our Angoras could eat us out of house and home, truly. They get 1⁄2 cup of food and a treat twice a day, every day. They will eat any food you set in front of them, so you need to be careful to not overfeed them. Quality hay, a handful at a time at least 3 times a week, is also essential for helping them with digestion.
As you can see, raising fiber rabbits isn’t much different than raising any other rabbit, really. They are a special kind that will steal your heart and make you glad you have them.