One of the most frustrating things to happen when raising English Angora rabbits is when you have a beautiful show rabbit that decides to chew off it’s wool. There are several things that can cause chewing in a healthy rabbit, but it can be difficult to prevent. Here are some causes of chewing and tips for prevention in an otherwise healthy English Angora Rabbit. This article does not address any physical health issues that could cause the issue, only psychological issues.
Wool Chewing to Relieve Boredom.
When a rabbit is bored, it will find things to do. For a wool breed, that often means giving itself a haircut. To prevent chewing from boredom, make sure that the rabbit has other things to keep busy. Toys, hay, or giving them a rag to chew on can help offer the rabbit alternatives to chewing up its coat.
Wool Chewing Due To Hormones.
Sometimes wool chewing happens when a rabbit is getting to the age that it wants to breed. This is not something that can be stopped of course, but their frustration may be relieved with offering them the same items as you would for reliving boredom – hay, toys, or a rag. Also, try not to have males and females, or two males in sight of each other. Solid cage dividers can help keep their love interest out of sight!
Angora Wool Chewing Due To Stress
Stress is difficult on rabbits and on occasion a rabbit may relieve its anxiety by chewing wool. Last year, I had some four month olds whose cages were placed temporarily by my horse pens – they did not like the horses or the change of location and all three chewed their wool in protest. Try to keep stressful situations at a minimum to avoid stress chewing.
Lack of Food or Water.
When a rabbit is hungry, it sometimes will try to eat it’s wool. Typically, people feed rabbits once per day, but if you typically feed in the morning but do not get out to the barn to feed until night, the rabbit might decide that it’s wool is a tasty treat! To prevent this, try supplementing with hay so that the rabbit has a snack when it’s feed is gone. Also, I will sometimes free feed young stock up until they hit the maximum junior weight because when they are growing, the rabbit may get hungry for more food then you would typically feed during a growth spurt and may turn to it’s wool to fill up its belly.
In winter, it is often necessary to refill water frequently throughout the day if the rabbits live in an unheated barn. However, even if you are diligent, an English Angora may express its frustration for lack of constant water access by giving itself a haircut. To prevent this, you can water as frequently as possible. To be on the safe side, I try to put my best rabbits that are growing show coats in a heated barn or give them heated water bottles if they need to be out in the barn.
Wool Chewing Caused by Genetics.
While I do not think that wool chewing is necessarily genetic, I have found that sensitivity to the stressor that causes the wool chewing seems to run in family groups. I often can identify which might chew from stress or from not having constant access to food and make sure to address that rabbits need prior to issues arising. I can also try to breed sensitivities to a certain stressor out of the line. For instance, if I have a really nice stress chewer doe, I will pair her with an easygoing buck so that the does tendency towards anxiety might be lessened in the babies.
Separation to Prevent Wool Chewing by Others.
Even if an English Angora does not chew itself, they LOVE to chew on others! Because of this, each show English Angora needs its own cage and needs to have a solid divider between itself and another rabbit. When it is time to wean babies, separating each one into its own cage will prevent unwanted haircuts from siblings.