Nibs’ first day with us

As all in our household continued to go out to work, we were far from bored during the lockdown of 2020, but we certainly thought more about our hopes and dreams for the future. It started as ‘moving to West Wales and taking on a smallholding’, including a pair of donkeys requested by our son, but reality and finances gradually reshaped the plan to what we could do here and now, in a suburban terraced house in Cardiff. Something that could begin to replace a wage with more satisfying income.

Grow mushrooms, tomatoes, salad leaves, and currently, winter onions and garlic. Done.

A few chickens in the garden. Maybe in a few years.

No room for sheep, but perhaps Angora Rabbits…

Our mental health was greatly improved through researching and learning about the commitment and rewards it would involve. Seeing the treatment of Angoras in China was very upsetting, so we would do this right or not at all. Though showing a rabbit seemed beyond us as novices, the chance to use natural fibre for crafting really appealed.

Nibs’ after brushing

We got in touch with Sally May of the National Angora Club, joined up, and so began our angora adventure. Watching videos on the club website, reading Lesley Hordon’s great book, and The Beginner’s Guide. Finding suppliers of hay, bedding, nuggets and so on without having to buy huge quantities. Collecting cardboard tubes.

Once kits were born in September, we ordered the best hutch our budget would allow, and geared up for December. Delivery delays in distribution networks during these strange days, and ever changing travel restrictions added lots of tension. We were just about able to make a space for the temporary pre-owned indoor hutch, fortunately in the coolest corner of the house. The deliveries of food and bedding arrived just in time.

We were allowed to cross the border in mid December and were able to collect the most adorable chocolate angora doe, who we named Nibs.

Nibs settled in well and found her rhythm more quickly than we have, getting to grips with our part of feeding, cleaning out and brushing. I’m sure we will figure out where to store hay, straw, feed, and all, and manage to keep Nibs’ accommodation clean and tidy without the entire house being covered in bits of straw, and fur! Note to selves – get a decent hoover.

Nibs’ exploring outdoors

The outdoor hutch and run are now arrived, built and in use as often as the wet Welsh weather allows. Though Nibs is determined not to stay within the set up via any and every gap we have not got covered, she is safely within a walled patio so won’t get very far. She is showing a lot of character and wits. It is nice to have another female in the family.

Al, our rather timid rescue cat, has been cautiously interested, and rather protective of his new ‘funny-long-eared-cat’ companion.

The garden is already benefiting from a generous supply of ‘bunny beans’ and used bedding.

Learning to handle and hold Nibs for grooming, and soon, clipping, will take practice. She is usually co-operative, but not keen to stay still for long. Yet.

A massive thank you to Sally, and the Club, for great information, support and encouragement so far. Without knowing that expertise and backup were so generously available, we may have felt this was an adventure too far, but here we are. Angora owners.

2021 is looking fluffy.

The adventure continues.

So 2021 is here. Nibs has had her first haircut. I was a little anxious, and needed the help of several extra hands, but it went well. Nowhere near as skillful as I had hoped, but the wool is off the rabbit and no fingers or paws were harmed!

Nibs after her first haircut

Perhaps only having groomed and upturned Nibs a few times before this was not enough, so we have practised that every day since. It gets easier. So does telling when she is asleep, or just resting, even with eyes open, by nose wiggles.

Identifying plants that appear in the garden, and whether they are good for rabbits to eat, is a challenge. Interacting with a charming and affectionate rabbit has been a joy and a surprise (especially to my husband, who spends far longer than he expected watching and chatting with Nibs!)

Collecting bunny beans for us and the neighbours is becoming a smooth operation, and I am keen to try out the pair of carders I had for Christmas. Small steps. Lots of fun.

The next goals are to develop the patio area and front lawn so Nibs can enjoy outdoor life most of the time, start to learn how to spin different fibres, and make sure Nibs has the best diet and environment we can give her, in return for cuddles and making us smile.

Liz Maloney