Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Perfect Nanofarm Animal

My granddaughter told me this morning, while I was getting her a snack of my home-grown strawberries (she wanted candy ... we compromised ;) that she told her teacher her grandma "grows all of her things."

While we don't meet 100% of our needs here on our quarter acre, I have long maintained that it is possible to meet a significant number of them - even on as small a space as we have. And I'm always acutely aware that we could do more than we do, if we just had more time.

The key to self-sufficiency on a small space is to learn to take efficiency to a new level. Because there is room for fewer "things" in small spaces, those things have to serve more than one purpose. So, my bicycle is transportation, but it also generates electricity.

In our nanofarm system, our animals also have dual roles. Our recently deceased chow-chow was a family companion, a protector of our farm, and her fur could be used as fiber.

The other animals on our farm have similarly dual roles.

Recently, Deus Ex Machina found this website on handspinning which discusses raising angora rabbits for fiber. We've had an angora bunny before, and so we know how amazing the fiber is, but what was most cool about the site was the fact that it validated my assertions regarding how perfect rabbits are as animals for nanofarms, like mine.

Rabbits only need a small space, they're easy to care for, they have wonderful personalities, they're quiet, and as long as their living quarters are kept clean, they don't create a "farm" odor, like some animals will.

They can provide meat and fiber and fur.

But even if they're kept as just pets, they're still beneficial to the nanofarmer, because they have one of the best manures for use as a garden fertilizer, and unlike some other manures, theirs does not have to be composted before it's added to the garden. The low nitrogen levels will feed the plants without burning them.

Which makes rabbits the perfect animal for nanofarmers.

We've had rabbits for most of the decade and a half that we've lived here, but if we were limited by convenants or ordinances that prohibited other farm animals, rabbits would be the one animal that we'd raise.

We've recently added a new member to our rabbit herd.

This is Gizmo. He's an English Angora and is still just a youngster at only four months.

One angora bunny can produce 8 to 12 ounces of wool per year, and while we don't, yet, have enough experience to speak with certainty about what our rabbit will produce, some preliminary research suggested that one ounce of fiber yields, on average, 100 yards of yarn. The one caveat is that angora fiber is very fine, but it's also very warm.

Sounds like I need to learn to knit socks.


  1. I just read my husband the research numbers you gave here and his only response was, "Wow...that's a lot of socks." heehee

    This is great to see these though - I've not started checking into the stats on it but had planned on getting rabbits again when we are moved. We had a pet rabbit in the past, not for fiber, just for general "the kids saw it at the feed store and we HAD to have it" ;) but I loved the amount of manure for the garden, even just from the one we had.

  2. Funny you should post about this topic. On Thursday, I leave for a two hour drive to Baltimore to get a Silver Fox doe. I've been wanting rabbits, even being fortunate enough to score a huge, three pen hutch from Freecycle last year. They will be meat and fur rabbits, though I have thought about eventually getting an angora rabbit. However, I think the smell of a rabbit in the house would drive my pet beagles mad. :)

  3. You'll need quite a bit more than 100 yards for a pair of socks! And angora will felt something fierce when you wear it as socks. I prefer a more utilitarian wool for my socks. Angora is too precious for something to be worn on the feet. I think it would be better spent on a hat or cowl myself.
    But then again...I've also been known to spin my cat's hair--ha ha!

  4. @ Kaye - Funny you mention spinning your cat's fur. I have a dog fur scarf. It's my favorite conversation piece ;).

  5. Mandi from DelawareJune 28, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    I ended up with a doe and a buck! Woot. Of course, we are having a heat wave for their first day here. 100 degrees with a heat index of 110. sheesh.

  6. Mandi - make sure you keep them in the shade with plenty of water. Rabbits don't really do well in the heat.

  7. Oh, and congratulations! Rabbits are awesome!

  8. They are on the porch with a fan on and I switch out frozen bottles of water.