Morning Chores

My husband is gone this week, so I’m doing double duty while he’s away, his work and mine. Along with shipping orders and a number of other things that he normally takes care of, I’m doing the morning chores. I should rephrase this … I get to do the morning chores! There are definitely days I’d trade the time I sit in front of the computer a good share of the day, for the stress relieving, sometimes down and dirty, tasks of caring for our animals.

Alpacas Eating

The squeaky wheel gets the grease is a phrase used to convey the idea that the most noticeable (or loudest) problems are the ones most likely to get attention, and that’s true when it comes to our Angora goats. Quieting the bleating of our three goats, Mike, Ike, and Lola comes first. They act like they are starving, and I can hardly get the feed in the tubs as they push each other out of the way. Not very mannerly.

The chickens are also very near the top of the feeding order. My husband’s automatic chicken coop door will close around 10pm, then re-open around 7am, but it does not open or close the outside people door so I am anxious to get the chickens fed before they are out free ranging and laying eggs who knows where.

If I happen to not get to the chickens before they are out, it’s not the end of the world. They do come eagerly when they see me coming, and I feel like the pied piper as I dish out their feed, and close them back in the coop until later in the day after they’ve had a chance to lay their eggs. They’ll get let outside mid-afternoon hopefully to eat lots of pesky bugs like flies and such, until our beautiful, grey rooster named Beauregard corrals his girls back in at dusk. If all goes well, they are back in their coop and roosting before the automatic door closes. Most nights, this works like clockwork.

Beauregard

Our Angora rabbits are next, especially if we have babies, which we do right now. They get feed free choice until they are about six months old, so I try to get to them early, and feed our rabbit mom, Mrs. Fitz, who can’t seem to get enough to eat. Got to feed mom, so she can feed her babies.

Alpacas are next. They do the least complaining, except for maybe standing at the gate watching, so they are last. My husband and I do this differently, go figure! If you’re going to see alpacas spit, it will be at feeding time, arguing about who will eat out of which feed tub. I choose not to be spit on, so I like to put the alpacas out of the barn, dish out the feed, then let them back in to eat. Less alpaca stress. My husband does not put the alpacas out first, but seems to like the chaos of alpacas practically on top of him trying to get their heads in the bucket, or pushing others out of the way trying to find the tub with the most feed in it. That’s not for me.

I’ll clean up manure next, so that I can just hang out with the alpacas for awhile. I’ll put out hay in various places, or recycle hay from the day before turning it over so the smaller, greener pieces that have fallen to the bottom are at the top and can be eaten a little easier.

Filling water bottles, water buckets, and water troughs is next. From time to time I’ll leave the water running somewhere, so I’ll try not to do that this morning. Check minerals and replenish if necessary. Make note to self that toenails need trimmed on a few of our alpacas next month when we do herd health.

That’s it for the outside animals. I usually will have already fed the cats, Desmond and Priscilla, and our dog Louie as well as carried Louie outside quickly as he has back issues and has become incontinent in his older age.

It feels good to have cared for all the animals, who depend on us to do so, and to be outside in nature, with God’s creations. Unless I leave a gate open somewhere and the alpacas get out, there really is very little stress doing morning chores, but rather something very peaceful, therapeutic, even joyful.

Of course, nothing beats my granddaughter Brylee spending the night, and helping me with morning chores, watching her enjoy the animals, like I do, and happy to be sharing that experience with her.

What I’ve Learned About Angora Rabbits

Several years ago at the Autumn Fiber Festival, I acquired my first Angora rabbit, a French Angora rabbit that we named Fitzgerald. I had thought Angora rabbits would be a nice addition to our farm. After all, we have a herd of alpacas, and three Angora goats (more on them later), and I love working with natural fiber. The Angora breed is very sweet, quite docile, has a calm-nature, and I had been thinking about it for awhile, so it wasn’t all that spontaneous, if you think about it. Convincing my husband wasn’t all that hard. I mean why not?

Fitzgerald

I liked the fact that I could brush him/her and collect the fiber, which is called Angora, for spinning. No harm to the bunny. It’s therapeutic really to brush a super soft bunny that’s sitting in your lap. I’ve learned that some breeds of Angora rabbits typically go through a shedding cycle called molting a few times per year. The wool will start to release and can easily be removed by “plucking” it off or simply by grooming with a comb. This is the preferred method for people who are harvesting the wool for spinning because when you use shears, the guard hairs get mixed in with the wool, and you have many different lengths of fiber. 

Angora fiber
Angora Fiber

Angora is a fiber so fine, that it’s usually blended with other fibers because by itself it’s considered too fine to hold the dense stitches of knitting. Angora is said to be seven times warmer than sheep’s wool and considered too warm for a garment, another reason for blending. Blending Angora fiber with other fibers such as wool, mohair, silk, and cashmere will add warmth and softness, as well as give a ‘halo’ effect to the yarn.

Fitzgerald A.K.A. Mrs. Fitz

The breeder I bought from told me that Angora is also wonderful blended with Alpaca … that works for me!

This is the Bunny Shed which is right outside my bedroom window! There is a cage inside where I feed and water, and plenty of room for bunnies to romp around. There’s room for me too, to sit and have my morning coffee and brush bunnies, which I do frequently.

The Bunny Shed

A year later, at the same fiber festival, I took home two black bunnies (that later turned a beautiful grey) as companions for Fitzgerald. Do you see that fiber festivals might be my downfall? We named them Simon and Garfunkel. They got along great … three amigos!

Three Amigos

This is some of Simon’s beautiful grey fiber. In the background, be sure to notice his beautiful ears with tufts of fiber at the top!

Fast forward to this Spring. We went on a family vacation and when we came home we found babies … two little white baby bunnies in our bunny shed, already with their fur and their eyes open! Knowing what I know now, I’m guessing they were probably close to three weeks old! Initially, I wasn’t even sure who the mother was, but “Fitz” seemed to be paying more attention to them than the others. Shocking, considering we were told Fitz was a male!

Mrs. Fitz

Later in the day, I took my not-very-happy husband out to see the babies, and I found three more, two black and another white one. We were shocked … and thrilled (at least I was) all at the same time.

Here’s a picture of them when they were a little older in an outdoor play area, where we put them so they can get some exercise.

We changed Fitzgerald’s name to Mrs. Fitz, and remodeled the bunny shed in order to keep boy and girl housed separately, though I’ve since learned they can be rebred within 24 hours of delivering babies, and there was a good chance she was already pregnant again! They had been together for weeks! I started reading about baby bunnies to learn what I could … obviously we were not prepared for this was a very unexpected pregnancy! One thing I learned is that determining gender is difficult, especially when they are young, and it’s not uncommon for rabbits to be sexed incorrectly! For more information on sexing rabbits, click here.

Proud Father – Simon

Soon after learning that Fitzgerald was a female, we learned something else. Rabbits can have lots of babies! There were 11 babies in her second litter!

Second Litter

The gestation period of a rabbit is only 28-32 days! If male and female are not kept separate, there can be another litter born as soon as one month later! So, if you don’t plan on getting into the bunny (funny) business, or you don’t have room for 12+ rabbits, be sure your males and females are kept separate. They are cute, but ….

It was amazing to learn and see first-hand how quickly baby bunnies grow! They are born with their eyes closed and no fur, not really very cute at all. In just a few weeks they have fur, open their eyes, and then begin to crawl out of their nesting box looking for adventure.

baby angora bunny beginning to eat grass

Once they were out of the nesting box, we put the bunnies in a cage leaving the top open so that mom could get in and nurse. Mamas only nurse once, or twice a day. In the wild, if they were to nurse more frequently, they would be apt to draw in predators. Even nursing once a day provides all the nutrients that their kits need for the day.

Just the other day, we went out to the bunny shed and realized that they could climb out of their cage (at about three weeks old)! It seems like everyday, there is something new they are doing from starting to nibble on hay, then rabbit pellets, then finding it comfortable to lay in the hay rack, and trying out the water bottle!  They really like lettuce!

We try to hold and pet our baby bunnies everyday so that they are used to people and it really does help form their personalities. Once your rabbits trust you and are used to you and your smell, they become quite friendly. Mrs. Fitz will jump right on our laps and is happy to see us. Some people even have their Angora rabbits inside as house pets. 

Something we have discovered about Mrs. Fitz (and probably females in general, maybe rabbits in general) she is protective of her space. She will lay side-by-side with Simon, but if he somehow gets into her space, she becomes fierce! So, it seems motherhood brings out a protective and aggressive side of females. It’s especially interesting because prior to having her babies, she lived in harmony with the males and there was never any fighting.

Our journey “down the rabbit hole” shall we say, has been quite delightful. This breed of rabbit is charming, and their fiber is wonderful. If you’re wanting to dip your toes into the world of fiber, Angora rabbits just might be a good start!

Some Angora Rabbit Facts

  • Angora rabbits originated in Turkey. They were first seen in a Turkish port called Angora, now called Ankara.
  • Angora rabbits are the oldest type of domestic rabbit.
  • Angora rabbits have super soft and long fur, making them look like big and cuddly fluff balls!
  • The five popular breeds of Angora rabbits are French, English, Satin, Giant, and German.
  • Depending on the breed, Angora rabbits weigh from 5-12 pounds, the higher end being the Giant Angora breed.
  • Angora rabbits are enjoyed by fiber enthusiasts, who enjoy caring and maintaining the Angora fiber in order to spin it into yarn.
  • Angora wool is known for its softness, silky texture, thin fibers, and what knitters refer to as a halo (fluffiness).
  • Angora rabbits make great pets. They are docile and sociable. For those wanting Angora rabbits as pets, they must be prepared to brush them 1-3 times weekly. It’s only difficult if you make it so, and can actually be quite enjoyable. Learn How to Groom an Angora Rabbit.
  • The average lifespan of Angora rabbits is about 7-12 years.
  • Angora rabbits can be Black, Blue, Chestnut, Chinchilla, Chocolate, Copper, Fawn, Lilac, Lynx, Opal, Pointed White, Red, Sable, Seal, Tortoiseshell, Blue-Eyed White, and Ruby-Eyed White.
  • Angoras are constantly producing silky soft wool and need a diet higher in protein than your average rabbit. A pellet feed with 18% protein is recommended. Read more about Feeding Wool Rabbits.
  • Angora rabbits need to eat a lot of hay to help them digest the fur they ingest while grooming themselves. If they don’t eat the hay, the fur while get stuck in their digestive tract and they suffer from something called wool block which can kill them.
  • Fresh vegetables (and fruits in moderation) should also be part of an Angora rabbit’s daily diet. Be sure to read What Not to Feed Rabbits.
  • Like alpacas, hot weather is harder for Angora rabbits than cold weather. Frozen water bottles and fans are a must to help keep them cool. For some tips on keeping Angora rabbits cool in the heat, click here.
  • Angora rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk.
  • They use their keen senses to hear or smell if danger is near. Did you know they could move their ears independently of each other? They can, to help them hear if danger is approaching.
  • Angora rabbits range in price from $50 – $250.

Read more:

Interesting Facts About Rabbits
How Fast do Baby Rabbits Grow?
Care Tips for Angora Rabbits
Learn How to Groom an Angora Rabbit
How to Spin Angora

If you’re looking to purchase Angora rabbits in Ohio, contact us to see if or when we might have bunnies for sale.

Felted Rabbits and Bunnies

In preparation to teach another Bunny Felting Class, I thought I would gather pictures of some of my favorite bunnies.  Pinterest was a great place to do that!  Felted rabbits really do come in all different shapes and sizes, some that are very simple designs that would be great for a beginning felter.  Those that have some experience with felting might want to tackle a bunny with more detail, perhaps even with bunny clothes and accessories!

Follow Alpaca Meadows’s board Felted Rabbits on Pinterest.

When it comes to needle felting, there is more than one way to felt a bunny. The following are some tutorials to help you to decide what your preference might be.

Mama Bunny and Three Bunnies Felting Tutorial
Needle Felting a Bunny: A Photo Tutorial
How to Make a Cute Needle Felted Bunny for Easter

Though I don’t have a Bunny Felting Kit available yet, the House Mouse Kit or Needle Felt an Animal Friend Kit both come with instructional DVD’s to help you learn three dimensional felting.

House Mouse Felting Kit

House Mouse Kit

Needle Felt An Animal Friend Kit

Needle Felt An Animal Friend Kit

If you don’t live too far away, and would like to learn how to needle felt a bunny in The Fiber Studio at Alpaca Meadows, click Bunny Felting Class.  Organize a group of friends to come do a class with you, or join a class already scheduled!

Felted ALPACA Bunnies

Click here to view these pictures larger

Did you know that a group of rabbits, like alpacas, is called a “herd”?  And a herd of rabbits lives in a “warren”.  I didn’t.
Here’s my herd of Needle Felted ALPACA Bunnies.  Meet Bernard, Charlotte, Peter, Beatrice, Debbie, and Liz.
I attempted some French Knots on the faces of my bunnies, without much luck.  They seem to just disappear.  I ended up felting little wisps of fiber instead.

 

Easter Egg and Bunny Felting Class

 
My first “stab” at teaching turned out okay, I think.  I wasn’t sure how I would be at conveying my thoughts to others.  We all got an egg made, first needle felted into an egg shape with embellishments tacked in place, then wet felted to finish.
I do have kits available if you want to try this at home.  It is not hard.  Remember not to squeeze when rinsing the soap out.  Wrap in a towel to absorb the excess moisture and lay in the sun or sunny room to dry.
The group was anxious to move on to bunnies and so we did.
Everyone brought alpaca fiber that they had carded into batts at home. We all were working with Suri Alpaca, so yes you can felt Suri!  Adrienne had a pretty yellow pastel that she had Dyed with Kool-aid, Christie had some gorgeous white Suri to which she added red, also dyed with kool-aid.
I was working with multi-colored rovings that I had dyed with Gaywool Dyes.  What I like about Dyeing With Gaywool is that the mordant and dyebath acidifier is formulated into the dye, which makes it simple, and there are so many pretty colors.
We divided our batts into nine pieces that we used to “build” our bunnies.  We started with the body which took the most fiber, then added legs, arms, head, ears, and tail.  Rolling the fiber tightly into the desired shapes was the “key” first step before starting to needle the fiber.
Diane used a natural color and had the help of her daughter, who found felting in cookie cutters to be much easier!  A Multi-Needle Felting Tool makes the work go much quicker, most of us used a tool with six needles.  A double or single needle was needed to get in the tight spots when adding the head and tail.
My daughter joined us, she is 13, can you tell?  I guess she didn’t want her picture taken?
When we wrapped it up, we all had some felting to do at home to firm up and finish our bunnies.  Each one looked different and had his/her own personality!
We had fun taking the time out to do something fun together, and everyone went home having learned something new to do with Alpaca Fiber!
Meet Beatrice!
And Peter!
They are definitely one-of-a-kind!

Interested in learning to needle felt?  See the Class Schedule and register for a class!  Don’t live nearby or want to try felting on your own?  It is not difficult.  Felting kits are available in The Farm Store online and in The Fiber Studio at Alpaca Meadows.

For inspiration, tutorials, and tips on needle felting bunnies, see Felted Rabbits and Bunnies!

Happy Spring!



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