Gem and Citrine at the new place
The angora rabbits have moved to their housing in the new temporary barn. There was only room for five of the six cages so old grandfather bunny, Jasper, stays in the other barn with the chickens. There is now plenty of space for him and he is out of the part of the barn in danger of collapse. I can hardly believe Jasper still lives. He is an ancient rabbit, eight and one-half years old, getting thin and with a small tumor. The past two winters I thought would be his last, yet he goes on and on and even thrives.
The rabbitry in the temporary barn consists of four does and my young buck, Marble. They live in fairly large cages, requiring lots of room. I wish the rabbits could all live in a large community as some rabbit growers keep their animals.
Mostly, community keeping is done with meat rabbits where production of young is encouraged and rabbit lives in general are short. This arrangement does not seem practical for the high maintenance angora. The coats would be too easily tangled and soiled by contact with other rabbits and the bedding. Adult rabbits tend to fight, rearing up to scratch at each others’ faces. Some nasty injuries can occur. The buck could not live with the does unless I wanted endless litters of fawns. Even the does together could be trouble since females often try to mount one another and the act of mounting causes them to ovulate (rabbits are induced ovulators.) Ovulation without impregnantion can lead to pyrometra, a death sentence for a doe. So, sadly, my bunnies must spend most of the day in a cage. I try to get them out for a few hours in separate runs on the ground for exercise and a change of scene.
Marble, the herd buck
To keep angora rabbits clean, they are best housed in wire cages. I give mine a piece of untreated pine board to rest on and also for chewing. The boards quickly become soiled. I keep a bunch of boards on hand and rotate out the dirty ones for cleaning. Rabbits like to use one spot for their toilet and if the waste builds at all they sit on top of it and mess their fiber. So the cages must be cleaned to prevent manure accumulation. The long fibers that are shed tend to collect on the wire floor, preventing waste from falling through. Cage cleaning is a frequent chore to keep the rabbit’s underside mess free.
Cages are suspended at a comfortable height for the care person. In the winter I use grain bags to close the sides of the cages when it is cold. In very cold temperatures, the rabbits are given hay to sleep on. To protect the walls beneath the cages from urine spray, I use old pieces of plywood. Rabbits produce thick whitish urine rich in minerals, particularly calcium. This urine quickly stains a wall white and is difficult to remove. I keep the cages over a dirt floor, periodically removing the waste piles and sprinkling the floor with lime or stall freshener to keep odors down. Rabbits require good ventilation without drafts, hence the open ends at the ceiling. For a grooming table, I set up a temporary spot using a transport cage and a piece of plywood. Angora rabbit coats need frequent brushing and spraying with compressed air for clean, matt-free maintenance.
The bunnies seem happy in their new spot, no complaints voiced, anyway. They are active, eating well. The new area is warmer than their last two homes, better protected from direct outside blasts of winter. They appear content and I guess that’s the best I can hope to achieve.