Homesteading: Fuzzy Bunnies
As my homesteading skills grew, I started to get an itch to learn how to spin my own fibers. After a few visits to some Etsy shops I ordered two different kits to learn how to spin on a drop spindle. Because we were only a wee hobby farm aka a farmette on close to two acres, we couldn't realistically get sheep so we decided to get an angora rabbit. The goal seemed simple enough. We had no idea what we were in for.
Our search was before social media sites like Facebook. We put up wanted ads on Craigslist. We searched on Google. We went to our local livestock auction. We found a Persian cat on Craigslist & adopted it. Funny how these things happen isn't it? The cat was a matted to the skin mess. We had to carefully cut away all of his fur. In the meantime, one of our trips to the livestock auction presented us with a Jersey Wooly bunny. Now we had a tiny fluffy bunny. Not an angora, but closer to my goal than a cat. Like the cat, the Jersey Wooly was matted. It took several days of coming home from work to get him cleaned up. My dad even helped me out one evening! He held the teeny little fluff ball while I gently worked out some of the mats.
I hadn't given up on getting a genuine angora rabbit. However this was proving to be incredibly difficult on Craigslist. We were contacted by someone asking us why we wanted an angora rabbit. We informed them that we wanted it for the wool so we could spin. Next thing we know our post was reported & taken down. We had no idea why this happened & put up a new request. It was reported & taken down yet again. What the heck? We posted yet a third time. When we checked Craigslist that day we saw that someone created a post on Craigslist telling others not to sell us a bunny because we wanted the rabbit for it's wool, that they even had proof. In their mind, we were going to kill any bunny we got our hands on. As you can imagine, we weren't too happy about this. Angora rabbits are not killed for their wool. Killing them for their wool is just plain stupid, never mind the ethical aspect of it. You can think of an angora rabbit as a unique breed of sheep. You sheer sheep for their wool, you don't have to kill them. We couldn't believe we had to defend ourselves on Craigslist. We made a post stating that, "Yes, we wanted an angora rabbit for it's wool. That you don't kill them for their wool." This nightmare went on for several weeks. This well meaning individual just couldn't grasp that you didn't have to kill, nor did we wish to kill an angora rabbit for it's wool.
There is a good lesson in this. Do not assume you know what others motives are & do not assume you know everything. Hint: owning a bunny for less than a year doesn't make you an expert. Also, try to view the situation from the other persons point of view. We have become much to divided as a people. We have more in common with one another than we seem to realize. A little tolerance on all sides can go a long way & if we are really lucky, create a bit of empathy.
Amazingly, even with all the drama over our request, we finally got a bite from someone in Pennsylvania. This crafty lady lived in a castle. Okay, not really a castle, but a huge house that was built like a castle. Stone everything. It was amazing! Sadly, they had this amazing castle-house but hardly any land to speak of. Even so, this fiber loving lady had two of her very own angora goats tied up to graze in the shade along with a huge two story bunny barn. This barn was complete with it's own gravity fed watering system & a raccoon. You read that right, a raccoon. It lived upstairs with the water barrels. It hissed at us & backed into a corner. So not a friendly raccoon. We inquired about the rabbits safety. She reported that she had no issues with the racoon bothering the bunnies. Amazing. Personally, we would never take such a risk with our bunnies, but it seemed to be working for her. Again, amazing.
She had a big beautiful collection of colorful bunnies. They were German Giant angoras. By the way, this is not a recognized breed. While they do still exist, they are far & few in between. There are now for the most part only Giant angoras. The original breeder is who this lady acquired her stock from. She gave us newbies some tips & we left with three bunnies & a fun assortment of fiber "toys" for our learning enjoyment. A proven (this means she has successfully reared young) red doe, a REW (Ruby Eyed White) junior buck, & a black junior buck or doe. Sorry, but I just don't remember the sex for certain. It was too long ago.
A few weeks after bringing these giant lovelies home, we managed to score a REW English Angora buck at the livestock auction on one trip & two junior English Angora does on another trip. Things were looking up! A few months later, I came across an ad for someone near my place of work who had English Angora kits for sale in rural NJ (yes, there is farmland in New Jersey!). This lady had a beautiful little piece of land where she also raised alpacas. She allowed her English Angora bunnies to live in outdoor pens. It was an amazing setup. Her bunnies were protected from predators, but still able to hop & dig about in the soil & grasses as they pleased. These were some happy bunnies. After meeting the bunnies she had for sale, I asked for the price on the whole litter. Yep, I was firmly struck with bunny fever.
As time went on, I decided to sell the German Giant angoras. Aside from being huge, they weren't nearly as friendly (or cute) as my English Angora's. There was just something about the English that really spoke to me.
Our next big moment was when we moved to where we are now. Once living here, I bought some Satin angoras. The red, in a red Satin angora is an irresistible sirens song. Unfortunately, the Satin's produced very little wool & like the German Giants, were not as friendly as the English. Even though I really enjoyed the color they brought to my fiber offerings, I decided I wouldn't keep the Satins. If you are looking for the lowest maintenance angora possible, you can't go wrong with the Satin. Just keep in mind that these were bred for both fiber & meat. They are hardy animals with personalities that are not nearly as docile as the darling English. During this time period I also acquired more Jersey Woolies & Lionheads.
Jersey Wooly baby bunnies are utterly irresistible. Go to a rabbit show, you'll see. Next thing you know you are coming home with the most adorable little ball of fluff you have ever laid hands or eyes on. However, they, like the other rabbit breeds were not as easy to work with as the English. They are a dwarf rabbit & breeding them required additional knowledge so that you would have a quality animal. I didn't enjoy breeding them like I did the English, so once again I eventually decided not to keep them. If you think you might enjoy the Jersey Wooly, please do your research first if you intend to breed them. The dwarf gene is not something to be taken lightly. If you simply want a pet, then by all means, go for it!
I only had a few Lionheads. I kept them until they left this world for green bunny pastures. They were easy enough to care for, not as relaxed as the English, but fun while I had them.
Over more than a decade of working with fluffy bunnies taught me that I am an English Angora type of person. Now I only breed & raise the English Angora. These beautiful animals are more work than all of the other angora breeds. They have wool on every inch of their bodies. They are sweet & easy to handle. The journey was long, & I learned a lot along the way. I am still learning to this very day. I expect I will never stop learning. Or as I like to say, the more I learn, the more I realize I know nothing!
I am a member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association aka ARBA. I more recently became a member of the National Angora Rabbit Breeders Association aka NARBA. I am always striving to improve my bunnies to the best that they can be.
I cannot imagine a life without them.
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