Farm animals as pets may be a new experience to your family, but children have been involved in animal husbandry through 4-H Clubs for decades. 4-H is a national youth development organization that provides opportunities for nontraditional education for youth from kindergarten through age 19.
The more than two dozen 4-H clubs in Ventura County have been organized to teach children and teens the 4-H ideals of head, heart, hands and health.
The 4-H Rabbit Program teaches care, feeding and management of rabbits raised for pets, market, fur, showing or breeding. Members learn about the care and management of birds raised for pets, egg production, meat, for home use or market, or for breeding or showing.
Nancy Sperry is leader of the Veterinary Science Project of the Miramonte 4-H Club in the Ojai Valley. With more than 100 members, the club is the largest in the county. "We are not teachers, but leaders, encouraging and supporting as the members learn about animals," said Sperry. "We have had veterinarians speak at our meetings, we study and discuss comparative animal anatomy, and learn how to raise healthy animals."
The rabbit project is one of the many that members of the Miramonte Club participate in. Nancy's 14-year-old daughter Cindy has been enthralled with bunnies since she was a small child. Now Cindy's bunnies are 6 weeks old, and over the coming weeks she and the other dozen or so members of the project will learn to care for, feed and show their rabbits. As members of rabbit projects from different clubs attend 4-H activities around the county, they develop friendships with members of other clubs.
This is the fifth year Cindy has been in 4-H. She has participated in such projects as poultry, horses, and community service. Cindy hopes to pursue veterinary science as a career. She says she loves belonging to 4-H because "It brings different kinds of kids together--straight-A students and nonacademic kids, rich and poor, different nationalities. It's not who you are or what you have or what you already know, it's what you can learn to do."
Ventura County 4-H Clubs (through the University of California): (805) 645-1470.