Several years ago at the Autumn Fiber Festival, I acquired my first Angora rabbit, a French Angora rabbit that we named Fitzgerald. I had been thinking that 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? I am by no means an expert, but thought I’d share what I’ve learned about angora rabbits as well as share some information from those who know more about them than I do.
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 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.
This is the Bunny Shed which is right outside my bedroom window! There are cages 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. Some people house their bunnies indoors, and get quite creative with their housing. It’s important to understand that angora rabbits should not be kept in the hot sun and in the outdoors if you have temperatures that go above 75 degrees F. The ideal temperature range for angora rabbits is 50 to 75 degrees F.
Though spacious and comfortable, it does get hot in our bunny shed, so we know have summer quarters under a huge shade tree for our furry friends. They really need cool, shady and consistent temperatures year-round.
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 think that fiber festivals might be my downfall? We named them Simon and Garfunkel. They got along great … 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 so we determined she was the mother. Shocking, considering we were told Fitz was a male!
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.
Remodeling the Bunny Shed
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.
Large Litters Often
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!
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 ….
Bunnies Develop Quickly
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.
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.
A Beginner’s Guide to Angora Rabbit Care
Interesting Facts About Rabbits
How Fast do Baby Rabbits Grow?
Learn How to Groom an Angora Rabbit
How to Wash Raw Angora Rabbit Fiber
How to Spin Angora
The Jersey Wooly Rabbit
Know Your Fiber