This information generally applies to most Angoras, although there are different varieties (English, German, etc) that may require slightly different grooming regimens than my Frenchies.
It is important that your bunny have access to copious amounts of hay at all times. The most widely recommended type is Timothy hay, but I have used locally sourced meadow hay with great success (just make sure it hasn't been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides). Alfalfa is acceptable on occasion for a treat, but shouldn't be the main type of hay your bunnies have. I've found it helpful to have the hay in a “crib” attached to the side of their enclosures to keep hay off the floor of their pen and from getting into their wool. Vegetable matter can create mats in their coats, and encourage them to clean themselves with more frequency, thus increasing the chance of wool block.
Commercial pellets are a fine choice for rabbits, and if you can find a pellet that has timothy hay as its primary ingredient, as opposed to grain, all the better!
It is a good idea to provide your bunnies with fresh greens or vegetables every day. When introducing new foods, easy does it! Give your bun a little bit to start, and see how they react. Too much of a new food too quickly can cause digestive issues.
There are many websites and resources out there to guide you on exactly what plants are acceptable, and what to avoid, but here are some basics:
Water should be available at ALL times to your rabbit. Nothing leads to wool block faster than dehydration. Make sure that your rabbit has a large water bottle, at least 32 ounces, and that it is regularly cleaned. Rabbits will drink out of a crock or dish, but they will easily overturn it, soil it, or get wool in it. Bottles are by far the better option. If your rabbit lives outside in cold conditions, make sure that they bottles never freeze—reasonably priced, electrically heated bottles are commercially available.
Rabbits, like people, need their nails trimmed occasionally. A nail trimmer especially made for pets is the best option, since their nails are very thick and round (these trimmers are not expensive, though). Rabbits can develop some serious and uncomfortable nail deformities if left unattended. Like human nails, rabbit nails have a “dead zone” and a “quick”. You can see where the nail goes from white to pink, or dead to quick. Don't cut into the quick, and leave a little extra nail before the pink area.
The most important aspect of grooming an Angora is brushing and plucking. A little daily maintenance goes a LONG way in keeping your rabbit healthy and happy. Angora fiber is very fine and extremely susceptible to matting; they also grow multiple coats at one time. However, the fiber makes the most luxurious, warm yarn out there, so it's worth a little work.
I like to use a small dog brush when grooming my rabbits. The dog brush, or slicker brush, has metal tines and helps to open up the coat and remove small surface mats and debris. Be careful not to push on the rabbit when grooming with this brush—the tines shouldn't ever touch their skin, but rather glide on the coat. Angoras have coats in multiple stages at once—when you start to see extra fluff in the cage, catching onto things, it's time to remove that shedding coat. Some owners comb out the coat, but I prefer to pluck it (remember, the coat is already loose from the skin, so the bunnies don't feel anything). Plucking is advantageous for spinning because it keeps the fiber from being bunched up in a brush or comb. Shearing is an option, but not the best for spinning or fiber work because the staple length ends very abruptly, and multiple coats are being cut at various lengths and stages. Thus, sheared fiber tends to shed a lot and make very jagged looking yarn.
You may find that your bunnies need to be trimmed a bit around their tail and back feet, as this fiber can easily become soiled and matted. Be very careful when trimming your Angora's coat—blunt end scissors are the safest, and only make very small snips at a time. Don't stretch or pull the fur while you trim, as Angora skin is very elastic and thin—a small nick means a large wound!
Provide your rabbit with some run-around time on a regular basis, whether in an indoor pen or an outside one. If you have your rabbits run around outside, be sure they are not able to burrow out or otherwise escape. They also need to be protected from natural predators! Routine exercise keeps your bunny happy and healthy.
Angora rabbits are a human-engineered breed. No, they didn't come from test tube laboratory experiments, but over generations of selective breeding centuries ago. They cannot survive in the wild, and will succumb to wool block quickly if neglected. As an Angora owner, it is your responsibility to keep your rabbit healthy and well-groomed, and to be watchful for changes in their behavior. Droppings linked by fur strands are a sign of ingesting too much wool. If you notice your rabbit not eating or drinking as much, or stopping completely, it's time to go to the vet immediately.
It may sound silly to some, but rabbits are very intelligent animals who need loving. They flourish with attention and interaction with their humans, but will become scared, timid, and territorial if ignored. Each rabbit has a unique personality, and will enjoy different things. Some of my rabbits love to have their noses petted, others like to be cuddled. Take the time to bond and get to know your bunny!
Copyright © 2016 Kelly Bohling & Three Rabbit Yarns