Raising Rabbits for FFA – A comprehensive guide to raising rabbits for FFA and show. Filled with FFA Rabbit Project information and resources.
The National FFA Organization gives young men and women a chance to develop their skills in agriculture while earning high school credit. Formerly known as Future Farmers of America, the National FFA Organization also offers leadership opportunities and competitions at local, state, and national levels. One of the projects you can earn FFA credit for is rabbit raising.
What is the difference between FFA and 4-H?
4-H and FFA are very similar programs; the primary difference between them is simply that FFA is sponsored by a high school and 4-H is not. (4-H is governed by the national cooperative extension, often in partnership with state universities.) Not all high schools offer FFA (it’s mostly available in rural and agricultural communities), whereas almost all counties in the United States offer a 4-H club of some type. Unlike FFA, 4-H is not restricted to agriculture, but also offers a variety of projects including homemaking, crafts, community service, and performing arts. 4-H may offer more shows throughout the year, or more contests such as rabbit showmanship. Therefore, there are many more members in 4-H than in FFA. But although involvement in 4-H can look good on scholarship and college applications, it won’t actually earn you school credit like FFA will. The good news is that you can be a member in both FFA and 4-H at the same time, and many FFA students are also 4-H members.
What type of rabbits do you need to show in FFA?
This totally depends on your project focus. If you intend to show your rabbits, you will probably need purebred stock. But if your goal is to provide food for your family and exhibit your success through your project record book, mixed breed rabbits might do well enough. The nice thing about FFA is that it is very structured, so you will have a teacher to answer your questions and make sure you start off right.
If you are raising rabbits for a meat pen project, breeds with “commercial” type work best. These aren’t the largest rabbits that exist, but rather the breeds that mature at 10 to 12 pounds, have a quick rate of growth, and a medium-light bone structure. The Californian and New Zealand breeds are most popular, but other food choices include the American Chinchilla, Champagne d’Argent, and Satin.
If you want “fancy” rabbits for show, popular breeds include Dutch, Mini Rex, Holland Lop, and Polish. The size rabbit cage you should purchase will depend on the size of the rabbit breed that you choose. Your FFA rabbits should probably have pedigrees.
How many rabbits do you need to show in FFA?
Your FFA rabbit project can be large or small; it depends on what your goals are and what your program leader requires. The important thing is that you keep your herd to a size you can manage. If you are trying to produce meat for your family, use the following numbers to help you decide how many does you should purchase:
One female rabbit of a Commercial breed can have about six litters per year and stay in good shape. Each litter will produce six to ten kits on average. Considering that not all kits survive, you can still expect to get at least six fryers out of each litter if your doe is a decent producer, more if she’s a good one. Each kit needs ten weeks to grow to market size of five pounds. A five-pound fryer will dress out at about 55%, or around 2.5 pounds of meat. That means one litter of six kits will produce 15 pounds of meat in ten weeks. A litter of ten kits will produce 25 pounds of meat. If a doe has an average of 8 kits per litter and 6 kits per year, you’re looking at about 120 pounds of meat per doe per year. Of course, it might take a little while for you to learn the ropes before your does produce as well as you want them to.
How many cages do you need to raise rabbits in FFA?
Again, this depends on the scope of your project. But whether you are raising rabbits for “fancy” shows or for meat, you can usually achieve your goals with about 25 cages, or “holes.” If you are raising rabbits for meat, you should have one buck for every eight to ten breeding does. (If you have ten or fewer does total, you may want two breeding bucks for genetic diversity, and as security in case something happens to one of them.) For every doe in production you should have three or four grow out cages for her litters, since you will want to grow some to fryer weight and others to maturity to use as replacement stock.
If you are raising rabbits for showing in FFA, you can be successful with 25 holes without being overwhelmed. It can be difficult for one person to care for more than 25 or 30 cages by themselves.
What equipment do you need to raise rabbits in FFA?
First off, the cages. You should have use all-wire cages when raising rabbits for FFA. These are not only healthier for rabbits than solid-bottomed cages, but they are much easier to care for. In addition, a professional study was presented to the World Rabbit Science Association that shows rabbits prefer wire to solid-bottomed cages! You should use cages that can stack on top of one another, such as the Supreme Rabbit Homes, or use cage shelving units to preserve space.
Tip: If you prefer to build your own rabbit cages for FFA, you can buy welded wire, J-clips, and other supplies on Amazon.
Next, the feeders. Metal J-feeders are typically preferred by FFA students, but others use crocks for food as well. Water bottles are also popular. One of the most important pieces of equipment you will need is a nest box. Each doe needs her own nest box to keep her kits safe. You can buy wood, wire, or metal nest boxes, but many people prefer metal nesting boxes that have removable wood floors. These are easy to sanitize between litters and won’t harbor urine and bacteria like all-wood boxes will. They are less clunky and therefore easier to manage than all wood boxes. Steel rabbit nest boxes last for a very long time – the metal box will probably never wear out, and it’s quick and easy to replace the wooden floor.
How do you keep an FFA rabbit project healthy?
Hard work. That’s the key. Your FFA project will probably be successful if you work at it with dedication, and are willing to give it plenty of time. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t go well at first; it takes a surprisingly long time to get the hang of managing a rabbitry successfully. But that’s the value in FFA. It gives you a chance to learn how to care for rabbits with the help of mentors and peers. A couple of extensive rabbit keeping books, such as The Rabbit-Raising Problem Solver can be of tremendous help also. Good luck!