My grandchildren have been raising 4-H pet rabbits for several years now. 4-H is a great program for kids aged 9 to 18. This year they allowed my 7 year old granddaughter to show my REW Neatherland Dwarf doe in the fur class, which she won. She was excited and wanted to take the rabbit home with her even though they already have lots of rabbits at the farm.
Eventually, her mother did let her take this bunny home with her.
One of the many options a child can choose is the 4-H pet rabbits program. Kids learn how to care for a rabbit; health care, nutrition, physiology and housing. As they get older and progress in the program, they learn about breeding, management, genetics, rabbit behavior and record keeping.
They learn confidence and poise as they present themselves and their rabbits to the public and to the judge.
Your child can choose the pet rabbit option, the show rabbit option or the meat and fur option. At 4-H fairs, participants can do demonstrations about rabbits, participate in showmanship competitions and show their animals.
My grand-kids raise meat pens (a group of three young rabbits that are similar in age, weight and looks) and sell them at the 4-H auction to raise money for college or other endeavors.
The most popular breeds for the meat pens are the Californian and the New Zealand white rabbits. A white pelt is the most desirable for the commercial market, so the meat pens are usually required to be white. While the Californian has black ears, nose and feet, those are not used as part of the pelt, so the Californian is essentially a white rabbit.
Your meat pen rabbits are usually required to be between 3 and 5 pounds. These are the most desired weights out in the commercial world.
Each state has a 4-H program set up through the state Extension service, which is usually connected to one or more universities.
When a child joins the 4-H pet rabbits project, they must be allowed to have a pet rabbit. They learn to care for their rabbit and keep records of everything they do.
The 4-H club will have club meetings where new information is introduced. They may have events planned where the members learn how to trim toenails or judge rabbits. They will learn about grooming, training and cleaning up after their pet.
Your child can get a rabbit from other 4-H members, from a breeder at a rabbit show, or from an ad in the local paper. While 4-H rabbits don't have to be purebred, if your child also wants to show in ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) shows, the animal must be purebred.
Pedigrees are not important to show at the fair, but they are required if your child wants to show or register the rabbit with ARBA. They are also important if your child will be breeding rabbits as part of their project.
Good breeds for a 4-H pet rabbits project include Dutch, Himalayan, and Holland Lops. They are each pretty gentle and easy for children to care for. My own grand-kids showed Mini-Rex and 3 of my Neatherland Dwarfs this year, in addition to Californians for the meat pen class.
Of course, you can use any breed for a 4-H project. If your child really enjoys 4-H and gets involved with ARBA, they can qualify for scholarships when they are older and it is time to go to college.
Besides these benefits, 4-H teaches children how to care for another living creature. It teaches them responsibility and confidence. They learn how to keep records of costs and income from their project, which will help them later in life.
4-H helps students excel in science, agriculture, engineering and technology by providing hands on learning experiences for kids all over the country. Kids learn public speaking and how to be a good citizen. They get new friends and have access to a wholesome activity after school.
The 4-H Youth Development Program has helped shape the lives of countless numbers of children over the past few generations. Most rabbit raisers today got their start by showing in 4-H, or their children did, then left the parents to care for the rabbits when they left for college or employment.
It is easy to find out about the 4-H pet rabbits program in your area. Contact your local Extension office; the number is listed in the front of the phone book. You can also look up 4-H online and find email addresses to your state programs for more information.
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