Image source: Betty Chu
Angora rabbits can be loyal and loving pets with an added bonus: valuable angora fiber. Angora is highly sought-after by hand spinners and can fetch as much as $10 per ounce. A single rabbit can produce 16-24 ounces of fiber per year ($160-240 per rabbit), which can provide a healthy side income if you keep a few.
To harvest fiber, you must be prepared to take on extra grooming and tending tasks that are not required with most rabbit breeds.
Angoras come in several different breeds, each with their own characteristics. The two main types are English and French angoras.
English angoras have long fir covering every part of their bodies, including their faces, ears and feet. Their hair must be clipped or sheared to harvest, and though it can be cute, the hair on their faces and feet can be quite inconvenient.
French angoras have short fir covering their faces and feet, and their harvestable wool is only on their main body. Their fir naturally sheds, and once it reaches the appropriate length, you brush or pluck it out gently and it’s naturally released by the rabbit without scissors. Spinners tend to appreciate French angora more because the fir doesn’t have the blunt ends associated with cutting, and keepers like the ease of not having to untangle faces and feet.
More recently, two new breeds have been developed through cross breeding. Giant angoras are a cross between Flemish giants and angora rabbits, and they are extremely large and productive. Satin angoras are a cross between satin rabbits and angoras, and their fir has an intense sheen that comes from the satin rabbit genes.
Image source: Betty Chu
Angora rabbits can be kept in much the same way as any pet rabbit. A hutch with a wire floor is ideal, so that the droppings fall through. Solid bottom hutches with bedding tend to be a bit problematic, because the bedding becomes tangled in the long fir.
They’re generally clean animals, and they can be litter box trained easily. Many owners keep them as house rabbits, with a litter box and no cage at all.
While some people keep meat rabbits outdoors year-round successfully, angora rabbits are not quite as hardy in cold climates. Even with the thick coat, they’re not cut out for winter conditions outdoors. In cold climates, they should be protected in an insulated building through the winter. Hot climates also can be problematic, and they should always have access to shade and cool water, or better yet just be kept indoors.
They can eat standard rabbit pellets that are 16 percent protein, but they do a bit better on show rabbit food that’s 18 percent protein. Since angoras self-groom sometimes in the same way that cats do, they can become impacted from their own fir if their diet doesn’t contain enough fiber. It’s essential that they have a constant supply of fresh hay for roughage. Fresh vegetables and fruits such as apples, lettuce and carrots also help to prevent impaction.
The hardest part about keeping angoras is the need for constant grooming to keep their fir in top condition. Ideally, they’re brushed and handled daily to keep them tangle-free and clean of debris. Under worst-case conditions, once a week is required at minimum. That’s easy enough with a single in-home pet rabbit, but keep in mind that it’s a big daily commitment if you have several.
Depending on the type of angora you’re raising, you’ll either be brushing/plucking out the fiber or shearing off the fiber. Whatever the case, an angora needs to be completely plucked or shaved every three months year-round. In areas with a long winter, that means you’ll be clipping them down in the coldest part of the year, which is yet another reason they need to be kept indoors.
Without their fir, angoras are sensitive to sunburn and dry skin until their new coat comes in, so be sure to keep them completely out of the sun until they’re protected.
Using Angora Fiber
The things that make angora desirable, like it’s soft and silky texture, also make it difficult to work with as a hand spinner. It’s one of the most difficult fibers to spin, and if you’re just learning to spin, try starting with a coarser sheep wool until you get the basics down.
Begin by carding your fiber if it’s in a mass, or skip this step if you’ve ever neatly hand-plucked. If hand-spinning with a drop spindle, you’ll need the lightest drop spindle you can find to successfully spin angora. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, experienced spinners turn heads at fairs by spinning directly off the backs of French angoras, plucking as they spin, and incorporating the fiber directly into the yarn on a spinning wheel while their docile pet naps patiently in their lap.
Angora fiber also felts easily, and can be made into felted sweaters, toys and art. Small felted angora handcrafts sell well at fairs and farmers markets.
Angora fiber is valuable, and experienced hand spinners will pay top dollar for high quality angora fiber. Keep in mind that most people who keep angoras are not spinners themselves, but just pet hobbyists who then sell the fiber, meaning that the market is flooded with small-scale sellers.
Still, if you intend to sell your fiber, it’s easy to differentiate yourself from the average hobbyist by grading your fiber, describing its attributes accurately (staple length, carded, sheared or plucked, etc.) and taking quality pictures if you’re selling online.
Have you ever raised angora rabbits? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:
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