Baaing, mooing, and chirping sounds fill the animal barns at the Clark County Fair. Fans whir as dust swirls and sweat drips down happy faces. These faces belong to youngsters who have worked long and hard to prepare their animals for the Fair, and who have benefitted deeply from caring for animals. Siblings Walter (10), Joe (8) and Emme (7) of Yacolt are three such kids. They have been a part of a rabbit 4-H club, The Hoppy Homesteaders, for about a year as they have learned how to care for their fluffle (or herd) of rabbits.
Walter explains, “We bought our rabbits last year. We just show and breed them, but there are some 4-H kids who raise breeds like Californians or New Zealands as meat rabbits.” Joe explains what goes into caring for his rabbit, “For Wendy, my ruby-eye-white mini lop, I make sure that she is happy and clean. I make sure that she has fresh water, plenty of food and hay, trim her nails, clean her vents, and pet and hold her a lot.” Emme notes that caring for her rabbit has taught her to be more responsible with cleaning out the hutches—and keeping her own room clean!
Mom Tara notes the positive changes that caring for the rabbits and being involved with 4-H has brought about in her family. She says caring for the rabbits has taught her children to be more empathetic and to consider what would make the rabbits happy. At the 4-H meetings, her children have studied body parts, diseases, and care for their rabbits. They have learned about competing and teamwork, and, “to support each other if they do not win. It has been a hard lesson for them to learn that not winning is not [necessarily] losing.”
These children are part of a county-wide network of over 80 4-H clubs, and 1,000 children in Clark County participating.