May 24th, 2012 by

4-H : a year with rabbits

With three out of four kids now owning rabbits, this was a big year for us in 4-H. Alexei and Ibis attended two 4-H rabbit shows, and we had two litters of babies, the first unsuccessful and the second a big old fluffy pile of cuteness. Of all the 4-H animal projects, this one is probably the easiest and most popular, especially with the younger kids!

For the first time last November, our county decided to host a district rabbit and poultry show, meaning it was open to 4-H kids in all 6 counties in our area instead of just our county. A 4-H show is really great because it includes more than just handing over your rabbits to a judge to decide who has the best conformation. Since it’s all about kids and learning, the rabbits themselves are judged one by one against a standard that takes into account the rabbit’s care and condition, and then the best rabbits go on to further rabbit-to-rabbit competition. The kids can also enter showmanship, where they individually go up in front of the judge and demonstrate knowledge of handling and scoring a show rabbit. Finally, they can take the skill-a-thon, which is a written test of rabbit parts, breeds, nutrition, and general knowledge. Lots of learning going on!

At the show, Alexei took his American fuzzy lop buck and doe to the table and won two blues. His buck took Best of Breed. Ibis showed her Netherland dwarf buck and received a blue. Alexei also showed Coral’s Netherland dwarf doe, and she got a blue, then went on to take Reserve Junior and then Reserve Grand Champion. It was really exciting watching the judge go back and forth between Candy and another rabbit trying to decide on that Reserve placing! Coral was grinning ear to ear. She can start showing rabbits in the fall and can hardly wait.

The kids practiced hard for the skill-a-thon, and Alexei surprised us all by winning the first place trophy in the junior age group. See, homeschoolers can take tests, too ;)

Our other big rabbit show was at the fair in February. The fair is super exciting but also means leaving the rabbits on grounds and going to feed them every single day for ten looooong days. I’m never sure who’s happier to have them home afterwards, the rabbits or us! At the fair, Alexei only showed his buck, who took a blue. He also came in second place for junior showmanship. Ibis showed her buck and Coral’s doe to reds. She tried showmanship and was so nervous!

As a brand new class this year, rabbit costume was added. It was so much fun! We thought long and hard about costumes and Ibis finally went with dressing her rabbit as a “buck” (dollar bill) and herself as a banker, and Coral gave Alexei the idea to dress his rabbit as a “lopster” and himself as a fisherman. Alexei took 1st in the junior class and Reserve Grand overall. That was by far the most fun we’ve had showing rabbits!

Finally the fair wound down to skill-a-thon day. The kids had lots of fun practicing at home; I’d ask questions from their study guide and toss marshmallows at them for correct answers. In spite of the sheer mayhem of the rabbit/chicken activities going on around them as they took the test, Ibis massively improved her score from the November test and wound up with the 3rd place junior ribbon! Alexei also did a great job and earned 2nd place. A fellow homeschooler came in 1st. Apparently marshmallows open minds. Who knew?

After the fair we decided to try breeding Ibis’s buck to Coral’s doe in the hopes of some Netherland dwarf babies. Surprisingly in March, Candy had one stillborn baby and 3 little healthy bundles that have quickly grown into adorable little fuzzballs. This baby bunny stuff could be seriously addicting!

The 4-H year wrapped up with the completion of the project books. They finished their 6 activities each on rabbits, looked over photos from their club demonstrations, and shared about their leadership and community service. It was a great reminder of what they had accomplished and they’re already planning out their costumes for the big region-wide show in October!

I wonder if they’d do chores for marshmallows?

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