Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Twinkle, Twinkle, little bunny

Meet Twinkle, the newest *star* of the microfarm. She is an Angora rabbit- a fiber bunny! Here she is on the day of her arrival. I was smitten at first sight, and even more smitten at first touch, when her previous owner handed her off to me. Her wool is incredibly soft. I would love to walk around holding her all day, but I don't think she would appreciate that...

An Angora rabbit was an ideal addition to the microfarm because:
  1. Rabbits are small, so they do not take up much space, and are inexpensive to feed.
  2. They are capable of producing many ounces of soft, airy, luxurious fiber for spinning into yarn.
  3. They are incredibly cute.
Twinkle is an older Doe, being about 4-5 yrs old, which concerned me at first. After all, I didn't want to get attached to a bunny who was nearing the end of her life, and my googling efforts produced conflicting info. on how long a bunny's lifespan is, ranging from anywhere between 5-15 yrs. I figured that if I helped her to stay healthy, she would have at least a few good years with us. Plus she was right up the road, and I didn't exactly want to travel far with my 3 kids to pick up an Angora. I couldn't be happier with her. She seems to know what she is doing, more than I know what I'm doing with her, if that makes any sense. She seems to have some experience under all that fluff.

Twinkle was accustomed to living outside in a wire cage before I got her. Right now she is living in her temporary home- a large plastic dog crate in my unheated mudroom, with access to the room during the day for a little exercise. Nick is finishing up her custom built (from mostly pallets) rabbit hutch, where she will live outside. That angora wool that she so fashionably wears, which is 7 times warmer than sheeps' wool, will keep her warm during the cold winter months. I've read that rabbits can tolerate cold much better than heat. I will also spoil her with blankets over the hutch for extra protection, and plenty of hay and straw. Some Angora owners prefer wire cages without a lot of "stuff" like straw that can get stuck in their fur. After all, that wool is the harvest! It's how she earns her keep around here. I say, let her get some straw in her fur, if that's what she would like. I'll happily pick it out. 

It didn't take long for me to harvest a little sample.

And spin a little sample...

As far as plucking/shearing 3 to 4 times a year, I don't think that will be a problem. I've groomed her twice already, gently coaxing her to trust me. Of course, my efforts were thwarted by all my helpers, some more subtle than others.

If the extra "help" bothered her, she sure didn't let on.

I did, however, notice that her nictitating membrane, or, "third eyelid" became visible, which may or may not have been an indicator of nervousness... not sure on this one because my googling results were inconclusive.

It is quite apparent that Angora rabbits have been bred for hundreds of years for their calm, docile temperaments, which make them very easy to groom. I've seen youtube videos of people holding their fluffballs on their laps, spinning the wool directly from the source as the rabbit just seems to chill out contentedly.  Twinkle did just this on my small counter-height kitchen table which served as a perfect grooming table. MUCH easier and more enjoyable than grooming my Collies, who insist on challenging my attempts by walking around the room as I brush. Using a metal comb, I gently detangled her fluff, and removed any loose fibres, which I later enthusiastically spun. 

Thus far, she is the easiest to care for farm animal, and her size makes her a much better choice of fiber producer than say, an alpaca or a sheep. I still want some alpacas some day, but I honestly don't think I'll ever NOT want an Angora rabbit. Or two. 

Sloooow down... Rachel's Rabbitry is not up for business just yet. My hands are FULL with my 3 children, 2 goats, and 7 chickens and new bunny. The microfarm is closed to any new farmyard friends for a while. 

Thank you, Twinkle, for being so easy to please, and teaching me. And for eating those freakish looking carrots we grew in our rocky soil last summer. I'm glad somebunny appreciates them!