Rabbits

Plucking, Shearing, or Combing

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If you own fiber rabbits you know that keeping their coats clean and mat free can be a very time consuming job.   For the most part, there are three ways of harvesting the fibers – plucking, shearing & combing.  They can all be done humanely and above all, none should cause the rabbit any harm or even any distress and can be relaxing for you and the bunny.  So which one is best?

Plucking

Yes, this one sounds horrible, but done correctly it is actually the gentlest (but most time consuming) of the three options.  “Plucking” the fiber does not actually mean you are pulling the rabbit’s hair out of the skin.

Every four months, Angora rabbits will naturally shed their coats.  When a rabbit is molting, the fur is literally falling off their body and is no longer attached to their skin.  When you “pluck” the rabbit, you are simply running your fingers through their coat and collecting the loose hairs.  You might use a little “plucking” motion to separate the molted fur from the newly growing fur but you should never be pulling fur out of the skin. It should not hurt the rabbit at all.

Of all the methods, you will get the best fiber harvest from plucking, because all the fibers will be long, full grown hairs with no short new hair or guard hairs mixed in.

This method unfortunately leaves a bad impression because some unscrupulous commercial fiber farmers have been caught restraining animals and literally ripping the fur off their bodies when they aren’t molting, leaving them a bloody mess.  This is NOT at all how plucking is done or should EVER be done.  Because of these “farmers” many people think it is not possible to have humanely harvested Angora and that is just 100% untrue – you just have to know your source.

Plucking, Shearing or Combing

Shearing

Shearing is giving the bunny a haircut.  It can be done with scissors or with electric shears and should cause the rabbit no more pain than a haircut causes you.  The main advantage of shearing is the speed, this is by far the fastest method for removing fur from your rabbit.

The disadvantage is the quality of fiber will be impacted.  When you shear off the fur, you are removing long full grown fur, short new fur and the course guard hairs.  When you try to spin the fiber, the short fibers will shed out of the yarn.  Some breeds of Angora (like Germans and some Giants) never shed their fur, so shearing is the only option with these rabbits.

Plucking, Shearing or Combing

Combing

Combing is really just a faster version of plucking.  Instead of your fingers, you use a shedding comb to brush the molted hairs off the bunny.  More time consuming than shearing, but faster than plucking and still a good quality fiber harvest, combing is a great middle ground.   Sitting down and grooming your rabbit can be a relaxing part of your day for both you and your bunny friend.

So which method is best?

For most rabbit owners, the answer is a combination of all three depending on the fur quality and how you will use it.  Obviously, if you have no interest in using the Angora fiber and your rabbits are strictly pets, shearing is the way to go to save the most time.  Most people raising Angoras not only enjoy their company, but also enjoy using their fibers for spinning or craft projects.  The method of removal usually corresponds with the fur you are removing:

First quality fur – this is the longest, cleanest and most valuable fur.  This fiber is taken from the back and upper sides and should ideally be plucked

Second quality fur – this is from the neck, belly & lower sides.  This fur tends to be a little shorter and slightly courser, but is still good for spinning.  It might be a littler dirtier and have vegetable matter (hay, debris) in it.  Plucking or combing are both fine for these areas

Third quality fur – this is the shortest fur, from the bum & leg areas.  This fur is not great for spinning because of it’s short length, but it may still work for some craft projects like felting or needle felting.  Plucking, combing, or shearing are fine here

Fourth quality fur – this is the fur from any part of the body that is unusable, usually because it is matted, felted or stained.  The only real option for removing this fur is shearing.  Regular brushing can really minimize the amount of fourth quality fur on your rabbit, but mats happen to everyone,  even with regular grooming.  Some ideas for this fur is stuffing for pillows/stuffed animals or you can leave it out for the wild animals to build nests with.

Plucking, Shearing or Combing


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12 Comments

  1. Oh they are so cute! Great information! Thanks for being on the Homesteading Blog Hop! Hope to see you next Wednesday!

  2. It needs to be mentioned that not all Angoras natually molt (shed their coats).
    Some show lines within a breed have to be sheared and can’t be plucked.

    My line of French Angoras all hold their coats and gave to be shorn. It’s important for any Angora rabbit owner to know (or ask the previous owner) which type their rabbit is to avoid hurting an unpluckabke rabbit.

    1. That is a great point. I know most German Angoras and some lines of Giant Angoras do not naturally shed their coats also

  3. Mary says:

    Which method do you recommend for needle felting?

    1. Needle felting can use long or short pieces so really any of the methods would be fine. I have made some needle felted rabbits where I hand tied the angora to the body and for that I needed really long fibers from combing, but if you are doing small areas like spots or furry paws or tails, the short fibers might be fine.

  4. Mary says:

    Alright thanks, I’ve been thinking about getting an angora rabbit for needle felting and i thought it would be best to shear it since i live in Arizona.

  5. Hi Liz,
    My German Angora is having some trouble passing his wool, in spite of regular grooming. I think it’s time for shearing, but I’m concerned he might be cold if I do it now. He lives indoors in the coolest room in the house. At night and when I’m not home I set the heat at 62 degrees, so his room is probably around 58-60 degrees. Will he be comfortable if I shear him soon? Thanks for your help.

  6. Luna’s Mom says:

    Hi I have an English angora and I find it easiest to pluck her. It comes out very easily and she doesn’t mind the process, but it leaves red patches of skin that look dry and irritated for a few days. Is this normal, and should I treat the dry areas with anything?

    1. Plucking her fur shouldn’t cause any irritation because the fur has already released from the skin. It could just be that with the loose fur removed you are now seeing more of her skin. Rabbit’s skin usually has a pinkish hue to it, but it sounds like your bun might just have dry skin. I notice this on my rabbits sometimes in the winter when there is less humidity in the air.

  7. Luna’s Mom says:

    Oh good 🙂 thank you, Liz!

  8. I like how you explained that shearing is basically when we give the bunny a haircut. My brother is looking into buying a bunny for his daughter as a surprise for the holidays. He’s trying to do as much research as he can beforehand, so the info you shared here about rabbit grooming should be really helpful for him!

    1. Glad I could help! 🙂

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