Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grooming the Giant Bunny

     The Giant Bunny is loosing her fur. Spring is here.

     Sapphire is a French Angora. French Angoras (along with English) shed their fiber about every three months. The fiber then needs "plucked" from the rabbit.

     When I first brought her home, someone asked how I could possibly, being an animal lover, pluck an angora rabbit. A common misconception is that the fiber needs "ripped" off the bunny, that the hair is pulled out by the roots. This is not true at all, the fiber naturally sheds 3-4 times a year, with new hair growing in behind it.

     If you've ever groomed a dog, especially a long haired dog like a Collie or Siberian, you've dealt with undercoat. That fluffy (usually white) stuff that falls out in clumps every spring all over your furniture. Angoras have been bred for years to produce massive amounts of undercoat, and shed it out all at once. They produce minimal guard hair (dogs produce relatively small amounts of undercoat, compared to their guard hair). Some breeds like English, will shed out almost bald! There is one breed, Germans (and their crosses), that don't shed their fiber, but need sheared. 

     When Angoras begin to shed, the fiber needs removed. If not it will matt and tangle, and the rabbit will try to remove it by grooming himself. If the rabbit eats the hair, it can cause a deadly condition known as wool block, because rabbits can't vomit. So plucking is not only for fiber production, but very necessary for the health of the rabbit.

     Sapphire enjoys grooming. I handle her every day, and brush her weekly (daily while she is shedding!). Usually I put in a movie and she sits on my bed with a movie and treat (carrot or broccoli) and gets her hair done. She thinks it's a great time.

     I groom her with a cat slicker brush, and my fingers. Plucking is gently teasing out the loose fiber from the guard hair (like removing hay from your own hair). You can easily pluck a handful in moments, because almost all the hair is falling out!

     Here you can see a plucked area with the guard hair pulled back. The white is new undercoat already growing in. After I pluck an area, I use the cat brush to brush all the guard hair back down and remove any loose fibers. Sapphire loses the most hair around her rump, and loses very little around her face and belly. This is common of French Angoras, who require less grooming then English who loose hair all over their bellies and chests too.

     Sapphire sniffing her bag of fiber. All that in one day off one bunny! You can clearly see the "line" where she has been groomed above, and the rest of her "skirt" below. She'll produce another bag that size in the next grooming.

     Angora fiber, about 4-5" long and sooooofffffttt.

     Right now I am spinning Angora laceweight. That is 2-ply across the dime. The black is regular worsted weight alpaca yarn.

     A better picture showing the color, which is a light grey. This is all spun on a drop spindle, my beautiful turquoise spindle I got from Etsy. It is very lightweight, great for spinning lace.


  1. Felicia, This is so cool.

  2. Ha! I was reading about how to pluck my bunny-buns and then saw your Etsy store. I got a drop spindle that looks soo similar, but I guess it was from Wild Car Fiber. Haven't tried it out yet, my friend helped me through the major part of plucking today. I have a bit left to try on my own to finnish cleaning him up.

    Just curious, can some of the hybrid (german/french) pluck well? My friend has 25 english and french, and she was happy with how my Loki plucked. I guess I'd like to keep plucking him as long as it doesn't hurt. He's pretty much bald on his sides now. But he was shedding profusely and ready to be cleaned up one way or the other.