By: Gavin Guyette
When I first joined 4-H, I found it difficult to know where to start or how to even get involved. Now, I have been in 4-H for 5 years and I am ready to share what I have learned!
The first step in joining rabbit 4-H is signing up with your county. To join 4-H, you must be between the ages of 9-18. In counties with 4-H, there will be an extension office where new members can go in and sign up for whatever projects in 4-H that you would like. You may be required to pay a signup fee but from my experience, it’s not more than $50. Most counties are now implementing options to sign up for 4-H online instead of going to an extension office which can make the process much easier.
Once you have signed up and are in 4-H, it is important to get in touch with the leader of the rabbit club you decided to join. The leader will be able to tell you important things like when and where the fair is among other important information. Good 4-H rabbit clubs will hold meetings relatively often and meeting topics could include planning for rabbit fair, practicing showmanship, fundraising, and more. I have found that it is very beneficial especially for new members to attend as many meetings as possible.
Getting Your 4-H Rabbits
When you find someone that you would like to buy a rabbit from, there are a couple of things to do in order to ensure it will be good for 4-H. The first thing is that for 4-H in order to complete the rabbit must be an ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) accepted breed. There are many different breeds of rabbits but the ARBA only accepts 50 different breeds and within those breeds, there are accepted colors. Once you have found someone to buy rabbit(s) from, ask them questions to see if it will work for you. Things like- “Is this rabbit good for 4-H?” “Is this rabbit nice?” “Does this rabbit have any disqualifications that would prevent it from competing?” are all good questions to ask. In 4-H you also have the option to do a “Meat Pen” which is a group of rabbits that will compete and be auctioned to be sold for meat. Meat rabbit breeds are different from fancy rabbit breeds. It is also important to ensure that you are able to keep rabbit(s) and understand they are a commitment so it’s important to plan for them.
Preparing Your Rabbits For a 4-H Fair
To do well in 4-H, you must keep your rabbits clean and healthy; if it is found that they are not, you will be disqualified. Depending on the rabbit breed you choose they will need different care. Trimming your rabbit’s nails is important to do before a show. For participating in 4-H showmanship you should train your rabbit to stay still and pose as it should at the show table.
Preparing Yourself For a 4-H Fair
Throughout my years in 4-H, I have found that there are a few important things to do to prepare yourself to succeed in rabbit 4-H. For showmanship, you must not only prepare your rabbits but also yourself. During showmanship you may be asked to health check your rabbit; if you want to do well, you should learn the process ahead of time and get used to the motions. You may also be asked a variety of questions by the judge that you should know the answer to. Things like “what is the gestation period of a rabbit?” “ “What is the breed, age variety, sex, and class of your rabbit?” “What is a common disease in rabbits?” are just a few of the questions you may be asked. 4-H showmanship typically requires some sort of formal clothing. I have found that typically a white long-sleeve button-up shirt and khaki or black pants are enough. You want to look very clean and presentable to the judge. The goal in showmanship is always to get Grand Champion which means you were the best in knowledge and handling of your rabbit and typically gets you a big shiny ribbon (and bragging rights).
The goal of 4-H is to always have fun and if you ask me it is very fun! There are a few key things to take away: make sure to sign up for 4-H as soon as possible, buy rabbits from a good breeder, practice with yourself and your rabbit, and be willing to learn and have fun!