July 2017
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: Hare Raising Fun

4-H Rabbit Project is growing in popularity across the state.

 

Alabama Cooperative Extension System is always looking to provide more opportunities for youth in the state. In 2014, the 4-H Rabbit Project began as a pilot program under the recommendation of Director Dr. Gary Lemme.

Carla Elston, Extension coordinator for Bullock County, said the program started in three counties in Alabama.

"The 4-H Rabbit Project began as a pilot program in Butler, Cullman and Geneva counties," Elston said. "Dr. Lemme recognized the need to reach an untapped audience of youth. This is an animal project for both those wanting personal pets and those who are looking to establish a profit-based business."

The 4-H Rabbit Project is similar to other state programs such as Chick Chain in the way it is structured. Before receiving the rabbits, the participant and a parent have to attend a mandatory training session. At this meeting, the members receive valuable facts and advice to assist them in preparing for and raising their rabbits. Participants also learn the date for acquiring the rabbits.

The participants usually receive their rabbits in June. Each member is given three weaned rabbits. They keep and care for the rabbits for approximately 14 weeks. At the end of the 14 weeks, the participants choose two rabbits and bring them to a county 4-H Rabbit Show and Sale.

At the show, each member is judged on showmanship as well as their pen of two rabbits. After the show portion, each pen will be sold in an auction. The members have the option to not participate in the sale.

Dr. Brigid Mccrea, an Alabama Extension 4-H youth and development specialist, said the program has grown since the pilot year and continues to teach members about an industry that isn’t well-known.

These rabbits are ready for distribution to 4-H’ers.

 

 

"Interest in 4-H Rabbit has grown dramatically over the last few years. There are currently 1,550 participants and potential participants in 33 counties across Alabama," Mccrea said. "In the 4-H Rabbit Project, youth are learning about management of rabbits, either for food or fun."

To create the curriculum for the program, a taskforce was formed to ensure the needs and best management practices were included. The curriculum was loosely based on the 4-H National Curriculum, What’s Hoppening.

When creating the program, the taskforce read publications and 4-H project manuals from across the country to get inspiration for the structure. Each publication provided valuable information and assistance to the preparation of the 4-H Rabbit Manual and Project. This curriculum serves as a guide for the youth involved in the project.

Elston said the rabbit project was started to teach 4-H members how to properly raise rabbits.

"In the program, the members are taught recommended management practices for growing and raising rabbits. We hope the youth will learn to produce healthy rabbits, develop recordkeeping skills, develop an awareness for business management and realize the pride of accomplishment," Elston added.

Mccrea said these types of programs also teach life skills to the participants.

"Programs such as the 4-H Rabbit Project open many doors for participating members," Mccrea said. "The main component of all 4-H animal programs is to teach responsibility and other valuable life skills."

For more information on the 4-H Rabbit Project, visit Alabama Cooperative Extension System online at http://www.aces.edu/4-H-youth/AL4-H/resources/animals/science/rabbits.php.

 

Justin Miller is a student writer with Extension communications.