With all the excitement of goat kids, we’ve all but forgotten to mention the other animals on here (and the newly started garden – more on that later.) Today, we’ll talk about our French Angora Rabbits.
Frequently, people ask us if we shear our rabbits to get wool from them. You could shear them with scissors or clippers, but that leaves a blunt end on the fibers that makes it just a little more difficult to spin. We employ a different method that I always hesitate to say, because it’s a ghastly term for a truly benign practice. We ‘pluck’ the wool from our rabbits.*
Now, see me through on this one before you curl your nose in disgust over the cruelty of plucking, because ‘plucking’ really is a misnomer. Those who raise Shetland Sheep call the exact same practice ‘rooing,’ which is what I would much rather call it. Essentially, the rabbit will shed its wool 3-4 times yearly and the wool is collected with a brush as it naturally releases. Any wool that is gathered is no longer attached, so the process is painless for the rabbit.
And today, we have Agatha here with us to demonstrate:
Everyone say ‘Hi Agatha.’
Agatha is a black tortoiseshell French Angora who will be turning 1 in May. These images are from the second time she was ‘plucked.’
First, determine when the rabbit has released their coat. You will notice that fibers are starting to slip out in your hands when handling the animal, and you may find bits of released wool building up in their hutch more so than normal. It’s time to harvest the wool!
Use a brush with stiff tines in order to get the wool out, like so:
If you’re using the wool to spin, it’s beneficial to have all the individual fibers facing in the same direction as you’re plucking. Some people will brush once, remove the few fibers from that one swipe (as you see above), lay them flat and then brush again, repeating the process. This is highly time consuming, and around here, as the saying goes, ain’t nobody got time for that! We make use of a far easier technique.
What I’ll do is flick my wrist backwards after each swipe to get all the fibers facing backwards and then go in for another swipe. After just a few seconds, I get a whole swath of wool like this:
It is important to remember to flick your wrist each time, because otherwise you’d wind up with this:
And the hand spinner that you love will not be happy with you.
Once the comb is full I gently remove the wool from the brush, set it into a container and resume. Frankly, I do not know how people have the time, patience or dexterity to align the wool swipe by swipe. When I tried it that way, that tiny bit of wool was so light that it would float away with the slightest breeze. The mere motion from my hand when trying to put it down was too much disturbance; this process is far faster and easier.
Anyway, you may want to repeat this across a few sessions as the coat is released over the course of a couple of days. Eventually, you’ll see the rabbit’s undercoat and know that there is no more wool left:
Some things to remember:
1. Always brush in the same direction that the wool lies, which is a head-tail direction. Brushing opposite this way will cause for the wool to tangle in with the undercoat and pull that out as well. Not only do you not want guard hair in your wool, but leaving behind bald patches on your rabbit will leave you feeling terrible. So, just don’t do it.
2. Brush in small swipes. It may sound funny to say, but this is actually more efficient. Smaller swipes come through quicker than having to tug out huge swaths of wool, and again this can cause guard hairs to be pulled. As we’ve already established, this is not good. Remember, this is a painless practice when done right!
3. Mats can usually be worked out with your fingers. If not, they can be cut out with scissors. Supposedly you can use mats for felting. We save them to add lining to nest boxes for mother does.
So there you have it! I’m working on inventing some kind of salad spinner to put the rabbit in and get all the released wool to just fly right off by centrifugal force. Until that’s complete this is how we do it.**
*Some Angora rabbits do not release their wool and must be shorn with scissors or clippers. I have rabbits from 4 different family lines and they all release their coats. But, people talk about rabbits that hold onto their wool, so apparently they do exist.
**This is a joke.