Not to spend all of my blogging time on making the fiber animals all naked, but it is spring, and the shearing needs a-doing. Or, well…it does if you’re a rookie rabbit owner who underplucked the poor buns during the winter for fear of them freezing and then found, come spring, that their legs were almost felted in place.
Word to the wise: if you raise Angora rabbits as fluffy as mine, you are NOT doing them or yourself any favors by leaving too much of their undercoat in place over the winter.
My rabbits are a French-German mix, so I don’t technically need to shear them IF I keep up on the plucking. Their undercoats were so bad, however, that trying to trim the mats with scissors was almost impossible. It’s much easier to cut them with clippers, I discovered, so if you’ve got mats to deal with, borrow a pair of dog-grooming clippers. My mom has the Wahl Pet Clipper kit, and it did the job. I won’t say they’re the best tool you can buy for angora, so I would do some research and ask breeders of purebred German angoras about their clipper preferences before investing myself.
If anyone else finds themselves in a similar situation, for what it’s worth, here are the things I picked up in shearing mine and my mom’s rabbits last weekend.
Keep the skin tight.
Wrinkled skin can get caught between blades, which means cut bunnies. Which we all want to avoid.
- If you don’t have a pro rabbit stretching rack or really chill bunnies, get a calm person whom the bunnies know to hold the bunny while you clip.
- DON’T PULL THE WOOL. This causes skin tents. Pull the skin.
- Try to gently pinch the skin between your fingers, just enough to feel where it is, so you know what you’re doing before you cut.
Know your bunny anatomy.
And gender. Trouble areas to be especially careful of include:
- Nipples, especially on nursing does.
- Penis and scrotum. (More the scrotum, those things flop all over the place.)
- Legs. Put pressure on the joint close to the body to help straighten those out.
Maintain your equipment.
Part of this comes down to grooming the rabbit first to get rid of any dirt or hay in the coat, which is important if you have free-range rabbits. But also:
- Oil the clippers before you start. Clean and oil them as needed while you work.
- Make sure you’re working with a sharp blade. (If you can’t easily cut through un-matted fiber, your blade is too dull.)
- Have good, sharp, short-bladed scissors on hand for areas where you find yourself needing more control.
The last trick I found useful is one for dealing with really thick mats. The clippers and scissors both struggled with those. I worked in very slowly by shaving a bit, then gently tugging the pelt a bit to loosen it, which gave me a less dense area to tackle next. It’s slow going, either way, but lesson learned: next year, I will be doing much more thorough plucking during the winter.