Shearing Ollie – Our English Angora Rabbit

After many attempts at finding clippers that would work to shear our angora rabbit, Oliver, we have finally just settled on using scissors.  The cut isn’t as smooth, nor as closely cut, but it still works very well.  Over time we are perfecting our technique so as to not have as many second cuts (short unusable pieces of wool) and to have a smoother finish.  Oliver does great and even seems to enjoy the process, except for when we clip near his whiskers, which is understandable.  This last time he spent part of the time with his eyes closed half asleep.

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Oliver is ready for clipping every 10 weeks.  Once, we went 12 weeks because of busy-ness around the farm and it was definitely too late.  We were only able to keep about half of what he produced because of matting.  So we are now being careful to do it every ten weeks.

We have tried to shear him both on a counter or table, and in our laps.  He seems much calmer and more comfortable in our laps, although it is harder on our backs and necks to do it this way.  So we do it with him in our lap, but we do several shorter sessions over the day instead of one long session completing it all at once.  I think Oliver prefers the shorter sessions as well.

 

1We start by doing an overall brushing.  We brush him usually about once a week to keep the fiber neat and clean.  Despite the regular brushing, mats still form right behind his ears on his neck, behind his legs, and around the underside of his tail.  So after the overall brushing we focus on cutting all the mats out from behind his ears (and a few on his ears).

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Next, we trim the top of his head and the side of his face that is exposed in our lap.  He does not like having the side of his face trimmed, probably because his whiskers are sensitive.

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Then, to give him a break from the face work we begin working on the side of his body that is exposed.

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Usually by this point it is time for a break and he goes back to his cage for a few hours.

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We continue to get his back and sides complete.  We also trim his ears.  Lastly, we flip him onto his back and do his belly, legs, and tail area.  I don’t have pictures of this because it takes two of us to accomplish it, one holding him and one cutting.  We take it slow and careful on the legs and underside because there is looser skin there and we don’t want to cut him.

Here he is when we are finished:

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I know, he looks pretty scraggly.  Luckily, it only lasts a week or two and then it is grown enough to look even and nice.

Because we live in a cold climate, it is important to be careful when he is first shorn that he not get chilled.  He lives in our mud room, which is not heated.  So if it is chilly out we either put an electric heater in the mud room for a couple weeks or we move his cage indoors for a couple of weeks.  Just enough time for him to get a thicker coat on and not stress his system.

I am sure that over time with more practice we will all get quicker at this process.  But we are very happy with how well he does with it due to a lot of handling when we first got him.  I am saving away the fiber, excited to blend it with our sheep wool in the future for some super-soft yarn.

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