Big, soft white bunnies in Newcastle
Robin Ford and her mother, Brenda Sandner, are raising bunnies in Newcastle.
They're not just any bunnies, though. The bunnies being bred and raised at Growing Rabbit Tree are big, white, fluffy German Angoras with red eyes.
German Angoras have been selectively bred in Germany over the last 80 years. They’re known for their soft, luxurious, warm wool. One German Angora rabbit can produce up to 2,000 grams of wool a year, and Sandner and Ford are shearing theirs every three months.
“They ingest their hair, and if they’re not shorn that often, the rabbits won’t be healthy,” said Sandner, who feeds them papaya tablets to prevent hairballs.
The wool is sent out to be spun. Soon, that, too, will be done in Newcastle, as Sandner is learning to spin it.
Raisingrabbits.com states German Angoras are a “high-yield wool breed,” and the easiest to keep mat-free. According to Ford, the wool from their rabbits is the second warmest produced, just behind Muskox, a bison-like mammal on the endangered species list.
Ford and Sandner started with two rabbits a year and a half ago, and we all know what that means. What some don't know is, the gestation period is only 31 days, so there’s no shortage of the fluffy white creatures at the farm.
The two original rabbits were bought at Windsor Fair. “My mom pulled me into the rabbit tent and said, 'We should get a rabbit,’” Ford said. “We got a male, then we got a female, and then we got another female. Mom bred them a week apart from each other, and they each had six babies.”
They started buying more and breeding them.
Currently, there are 20 rabbits. “We'll sell some, and we plan on having more in the spring,” said Ford.
The two business women have shown their brood at the Windsor and Common Ground fairs, where Ford does shearing demonstrations. Last weekend they, and Ford’s son, Jeffrey, took five of their rabbits to the New England Fiber Festival in West Springfield, Massachusetts, where they sold Angora wool and some of the rabbits, which sell for $200 to $400.
Ford said raising her German Angora bunnies is a boon in more ways than one. Besides producing soft, warm wool, the rabbits are loving pets. “They love being held and cuddled. Some will wait by the front of their cages and wait for you to open it, then stick their heads out and wait to be petted.
“When we let Audrey out in the morning she runs around saying hello to everybody and giving them kisses the whole time we're feeding the other rabbits, then she'll hop back into her cage to eat,” said Ford.
See more about the rabbits on the Growing Rabbit Tree Facebook page.