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Rabbits and chickens added to 4-H livestock program

4-H, one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, has a long history of teaching youth about animal science and showing livestock.

Animal science and showmanship teaches youth life skills including public speaking, patience, financial management, responsibility, and record keeping.

Often, youth raise an animal from a young age and work with them daily to not only ensure that they are comfortable being handled but that they also have all medical and physical (food, shelter, exercise, etc.) needs met. Youth keep track of their time with their animal, the animal’s growth and development, skills learned, the costs of care, and photos of them and their animal in a Project Record Book that is then judged along with their animal.

“There’s an old saying in livestock showing, that people think the project is the animal, when the project is really the child,” said Danny Lough, Davie County 4-H agent. “Although youth might go into an animal project wanting to have a pet or win a ribbon, they end up learning crucial life skills from public speaking and animal care to financial management and patience, skills that can be applied later in life.”

Davie 4-H and Yadkin 4-H partner each year to host the Yadkin-Davie 4-H Youth Livestock Show where youth get the opportunity to show their record book and either their goat, sheep, and/or beef cattle. Last year was the first year that dairy goats and cows were a part of the show. Although they had a record number of participants and animals, few families came from Davie County.

“A big reason why I think we are down in Davie County participants is because we are seeing a shift in our population,” Lough said. “We are seeing a shift from large family farms to subdivisions or houses with a few acres. Many of our new 4-H families don’t have the land to raise large livestock.”

To meet the needs of families in Davie County who may lack the land or finances to raise larger livestock, Davie 4-H along with Davidson, Forsyth, and Yadkin 4-H offices are going to host a Regional 4-H Poultry and Rabbit Show. Youth will get the chance to raise either laying hens, meat chickens, and/or rabbits to show at the regional show slated for Saturday, May 7 at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds. By offering this poultry and rabbit show, the 4-H offices hope to include more urban youth in livestock shows while still welcoming many of the families that show at the Yadkin-Davie 4-H Livestock Show.

“This is going to be new for many families across Davie, Davidson, Forsyth, and Yadkin counties and will hopefully bring a lot of renewed interest in 4-H livestock shows,” Lough said. “Chickens and rabbits are much more accessible for most families in these counties and still teach youth the important animal science and husbandry skills that larger livestock teach.”

To standardize the chicken breeds and to make sure all families will have access to chicks at around the same time, families will be able to purchase and raise either Rhode Island Red or Barred Rock chicks starting in January. Each family will receive 4 sexed chicks after paying a $20 fee. These hens can be used to add to an existing backyard flock or be a start of a new flock. Both breeds are great additions, easy to work with, hardy, and lay brown eggs. For meat chickens, families will be able to purchase and raise 3 sexed chicks for a $20 fee starting in February. These birds will be brought back to Davie County 4-H to be processed after the show and sold back to families at a discounted price. Rabbits will not have set breeds and families are welcome to bring their own rabbit to the show.

“For most families, this may be their first-time raising chicks or rabbits. There’s a lot of time, money, and research to ensure proper housing, veterinary vaccinations, feeding, and other care needs,” he said. To help families plan to welcome some feathered or furry family members, the N.C. Cooperative Extension offices will be hosting a series of free virtual workshops on Poultry care and housing.

• Chick Brooding, Nov. 4, 6:30-7:30 p.m.;

• Poultry Housing, Dec. 9, 6:30-7:30 p.m.; and

• Poultry Nutrition and Health, Jan. 6, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

In-person showmanship workshops for poultry and rabbits will take place in the winter and spring ahead of the show. For families that may not be able to house poultry or rabbits but still want to participate, there will be a Decorated Egg Contest as well. This show is open to all youth enrolled in 4-H, reside in the mentioned counties, and are 5-18 years old as of Jan. 1, 2022.

If interested in participating in the 4-H Poultry and Rabbit Show, contact Lough at danny_lough@ncsu.edu or (336) 753-6100.