Spike the Angora Rabbit visits Jockey Hollow Weavers

Last night at Jockey Hollow Weavers, we had a grand Show and Tell meeting. The members were also encouraged to tell how they became handweavers. I learned a few new things about some women I have know for years! It was fun!

It’s safe here under Aunt Vicky’s chair

My show and tell was Spike, one of my Angora rabbits.  He is a good-natured docile guy. Meaning he, of all my rabbits, has never bitten or scratched me.  He travels well, and has been the star attraction at the Jockey Hollow Weavers annual sale for 3 years, and has even made the Newark Star Ledger newspaper.

Although I let him have the run of the room while others were sharing , you can see he felt safest under Aunt Vicky’s chair.  That is a great place to start telling you about rabbits; at least the rabbits who live at the IndigoRabbittree, and what I have learned about having Angoras for about 9 years.  As I like to say, WATJ, the world according to Jerri 🙂

My rabbits live outside on a covered porch, year round. Each has his or her own cage, 36x30x18″. That’s a big cage, and I know how big it is, because I clean them all.  Some people think that the rabbit needs exercise, but not really. They don’t mind getting out and hopping around a bit ,but they usually head for the nearest corner or object to hide under, ,and then just hang out there and observe the goings-on.  That is because in the wild, rabbits avoid open spaces, as that makes them easier prey. If a rabbit is running, it’s not exercising, it’s running for it’s life.

I was asked if the rabbits get cold in the winter. No, not really. Angora rabbit wool is 7 times warmer than sheep’s wool, so they stay toasty. I do have tarps over their cages that can be pulled over if it’s a very cold bitter night, but generally, the tarp covers that top, back and sides of the cages so they have “hiding” places and feel safe, and that will also provide a corner to huddle in.

In the summer, I just have the tarp over one side, the top and back of the cage.  They still need the hide-y place, and I have a fan or two out there, and make sure their water is full and cool.

Which leads into how I get the fiber off the rabbits: Dog grooming scissors. I actually took a class with Leslie Samson when I first started collecting rabbits, and it was invaluable. I am not to quickest shearer, but I am much faster than I was years ago. I did invest in a really expensive electric clipper that scares me and probably the rabbits too. Someday, I’ll figure it out.

The rabbits are sheared about every 4 months; in the summer, if it’s brutally hot and my timing is off, I may shear them just to keep them cooler and sacrifice the wool that is not the ideal length for spinning. In the winter, if they need to be sheared because they are getting long and starting to get matted, I then make them little sweaters from the arms of old sweatshirts with 2 hold cut out for their front legs. This will usually stay on them for a few days until they wriggle out of them or chew them off, but that is long enough for them to acclimate and for the wool to grow in a bit.

You may have seen a handspinner at a fair who has a bunny on her lap and is spinning yarn right from the rabbit. These rabbits can be sheared, but are plucked instead. This is the ultimate in fancy spinning fiber. They are not plucked like you would your eyebrows, but their fur essentially molts and easily comes off when they are brushed.

We have 3 basic types of Angora rabbits in the handspinning world: English, French and German. They names are different in Europe. You may also hear about Satin and Giant Angoras. I won’t discuss them there, but there is some difference in the size of the rabbits and some qualities of the wool.   The English Angoras are the smallest, and they have very little to no guard hair, so they are soft and matt so easily, but their wool molts. The French tend to be larger and they, and the English come in a variety of colors. The pure German
Angoras are all albinos, with pink eyes and while wool.  Mine are French-German hybrids, so they have the colored wool and are on the larger size.

Angora rabbits do not exist in the wild, they really can’t, as they are dependent on us to manage all that wool. They would get so matted and tangled, they would be unable to move, or take care of their elimination needs. If they didn’t just get caught in brambles and bushes and weeds and die and sad and painful death of starving.

Yes, I could go on and on, but I won’t. I will tell you more about Angoras in the next post.

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