(photo:English Angora, tortoiseshell color)
More rabbitgeek notes:
From Woolrabbits group July 1 2006
Hi Joan and Marna,
We have French and Satin Angoras. My lovely wife Tracy is the Angora wrangler in the family. It's my job to be sort of helpful.
Actually, my lovely wife started with Jersey Wooleys, then decided she wanted to move up the "big kid's" fluffy rabbits. We spoke to the Angora rabbit breeders and they pointed us to the French Angoras.
After we started getting used to working with French Angoras, I talked my lovely wife into getting some Satin Angoras, which is a Rare Breed Rabbit.
French and Satin Angora wool can be blended with other wools like sheep, or alpaca. I use a couple of dog grooming slicker brushes to comb out the alpaca and the angora. You do not have to card the angora, but I found it works a little better for me to card it first.
Rather than blending the angora by carding, we have been combining the angora with other fibers by plying an angora single with a single of other fiber.
But I have spun a LOT of angora without carding at all, and my lovely wife does not card at all.
[NOTE: Later we bought a Schacht Petite Drum Carder with fine tooth carding cloth and my lovely wife carded and blending many pounds of fiber. We did find that carding improved our spinning of angora wool.]
I started spinning with a toy wheel drop spindle. I have also made CD spindles to take to 4H meetings to use when I take Angora rabbits for the members to see. I even made a cardboard spinning wheel just as an experiment. It's kind of like a cardboard charkha with a supported drop spindle driven by an elastic band. Very low tech.
Anyway, now we have a Babe Fiber Garden Electric Spinner which is fairly portable and once you get used to the quirky drive band, you can spin and ply at a blazing pace.
As for grooming, you need a blower, sometimes called a "force air dryer" by animal groomers. We currently have one of those orange professional model air blowers that is about the size of big round oatmeal box and blows enough air to dry off a minivan.
We bought it used on ebay for $120, about half of the new price.
Before that we used a small shopvac that has a blower option.
When you get your blower ready, get into the habit of blowing out the rabbits every week or two. If you are going to show your rabbits, think about blowing your show bunnies every one or two days.
Use the blower to blow out the tangles in the wool. If you let the air flow linger over the spot you will see the web start to seperate. Avoid the urge to pull on snarls will your fingers since you are trying to leave as much wool on the rabbit as possible.
With Satin Angoras it is more important to use more blower and less comb since the wool is finer than on a French. You want to leave as much wool on the rabbit as possible.
Many people use the pet grooming combs with rotating teeth that do not pull out as much wool. We also use the little wire slicker brushes for grooming out messes, especially under the rabbit and round the hindquarters. It is common for rabbits to make a mess of their bottoms just after or just before being shown. All you can do is sit down, clean up the mess with a slicker brush and some paper towels so you can get them back on the show table.
As you blow the rabbits you will learn to see which rabbits are starting to grow a new coat, skin discoloration as the hair cells crank up the production of a hair shaft. You will notice how the wool starts to grow in one area and proceeds in stages around the rabbit.
As the new coat comes in, it is time to remove the old coat as soon as is practical to avoid wool block. The rabbits groom themselves and swallow a lot of wool. This wool can get wrapped up with other things in the stomach and cause a blockage.
This wool block can take down a healthy animal in 24 hours.
Watch the rabbits to be sure they are eating their pellets every day and drinking water. Watch the rabbit droppings which should be of good size and fairly moist. Wool block causes the droppings to become small and dry.
Providing hay every day is good for cleaning the system. We also have a "hay day" where we feed hay and water only, no pellets, to give them a day to flush their systems out, preventing the wool block.
Here is a copy of a report I posted on another group about the blowers and grooming tables I saw at a National Show.
From April 16, 2005 on French Angora Group
Okay, here is a report on grooming tables and blowers seen at Angora Nationals in Orland, Calif. With all those experienced rabbiteers I thought that would be a good place to take an informal visual survey.
On grooming tables, the most common feature is a FLAT TOP with no box around the sides, allowing for the blower to get down and around the sides of the rabbit. Picture a folding snack table and you have the right idea. In fact, one of the tables WAS a folding snack table.
If you want drawers for your gear, put the drawers under the table top.
The most common turntable seen was RECTANGULAR and covered with carpet. Lazy susan bearings are mounted underneath. Half of the turntables seem to have been home made. A nice feature I saw on Charlie Lacey's turntable was one inch PVC pipe slit lengthwise down one side then slid over the edge of the turntable and carpet to hold the carpet down and provide a nice smooth edge on each side of the turntable.
This turntable is set on top of the flat grooming table. I didn't see any round turntables. I asked my lovely wife Tracy what happened to her round turntable and she told me she doesn't use her round one anymore because the rabbits kept jumping off. She just grooms them on the table and turns the rabbit as needed.
(I have since found that rabbits step off the round turntable onto the rectangular table top because they can!)
On blowers. The most commonly seen blower was those orange force air blowers. Second most common was the little 2 HP shop-vac blowers.
Funny story about the blower. It was early Saturday and my lovely wife Tracy and her skinny associate Danielle were getting ready to go over to the fairgrounds to groom rabbits for the show.
During the rush to load a minivan and a pickup truck with 20 plus rabbits and all the gear for two days of rabbit shows plus six people, I forgot to bring the blower!!!
Thank goodness for Orchard Supply Hardware in Chico Calif. They open at 7 a.m. and had a 2 HP Craftsman shopvac type blower for $29.99. A 50 ft extension cord cost us $9.99
This one was actually a good deal quieter than the one we previously used for blowing rabbits. This one was also small enough to be hung under the grooming table with zip ties.
So there's a report of grooming equipment for you. Don't forget the comfy folding chair so you can sit down and groom the rabbit on your lap.
Have a good day!
Franco & Tracy Rios
MFO Rabbitry, Sacramento, Calif.