Topic: Coat Care 101
Webbing is what coats do just before they are getting ready to mat or molt(fall off). The rabbit is either moving around alot or is scratching and causes the fiber to jumble back on itself. Webbing happens due to daily living and as a result of chemical changes in the shedding breeds. Or, from something that causes bunny to itch and scratch, such as fur mites, and, occasionally, from high humidity.
All breeds will web eventually, but the magic of awn hair in the German angora coat causes this to happen less often. It works like grease...it isolates the other fibers and allows them to resettle in a straight line. It is what allows me to leave an angora coat alone for 4 months and then just clip it off...much like sheep shearing. There is some waste, but not that much. The German lines were bred to not shed, allowing the coat to stay fully intact until one arrives with the scissors. The Giant angora breed has the same awn hair in the line, but can shed, so as long as one keeps an eye on the coat for its internal release time, they are also fabulously easy to care for.
Folks who show their rabbits keep ahead of webbing by brushing and blowing coats out on a regular basis. A healthy percentage of guard hair in an adult coat will keep even that at a minimum, so the French are, as a breed, a little easier to care for than the others. But a good English rabbit with a great percentage of guard hair is a wonder.
Over the years, coat removal has enjoyed a few swings. The predominance of shedding in the earlier lines of English and French led to widespread plucking of shedding wool. This presents a FABULOUS spinning fiber! It is not so fabulous for the animal if the coat is not ready for removal, but the spinner is. OR for the spinner who would like the whole coat, and not just the area around the shoulders, as coats release in stages over a week or so. It takes many, many hours to do it humanely and completely, and wool block is a real issue for these rabbits while the coat loosens over time.
Enter: The Clip. For an hour of your time invested, you can have 8 ounces (or more!) of same length fiber on a fully producing German rabbit. This is a skill worth learning if you are a serious fiber producer or an eager spinner.
Start by learning to control your bunny. This is easier said than done! Rabbits can have a mind of their own but there are a few gems to remember:
1. Towels are your best friend. Wrapping bunny will help settle him down and cause flailing appendages to be controlled.
2. When you have the ears, you have the rabbit. Learn to tuck those ears down his back and pin them there.
3. A rabbit without his weight under him will sit still. Get bunny off his feet and either on his side or back. Tuck his head under your arm and against your side to reach those nether parts under his tail.
4. Rabbits are touchy about their whiskers and their flanks. Do not hold and squeeze these areas (this is also easier said than done).
5. Stretch out his body. Learn to hold both feet and straighten out his back and legs.
6. Perfect the "hang". Sit on a low stool and drape your relaxed bunny over both knees.
7. Take your time. A well clipped left side might be enough for one session in the beginning.
Posted by countrywool
at 7:50 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006 7:54 AM EDT