Is this the 4-H project for me? – Rabbits and cavies

There are several factors to consider when choosing rabbits and cavies as a 4-H animal science project.

The 4-H rabbit and cavy project is an awesome 4-H animal science project for youth who may not live on a farm, but have space in a garage or small outbuilding that can house rabbit or cavy cages and hutches.

Housing

Rabbits and cavies do not require much space. Housing for rabbits and cavies should:

  • Be big enough for your rabbit to lie down and stretch out comfortably in all directions.
  • Be high enough for your rabbit to stand up on its back legs without its ears touching the top.
  • Be long enough so your rabbit can move around, feed and drink.

There are different types of housing commonly used for rabbits and cavies; wire bottom cages and hutches are standard. The American Rabbit Breeders Association has published space requirements for rabbits and cavies based on the size (in pounds) and developmental stage.

Budget

The amount of money you have to spend on your project is another factor that should be considered. Some of the expenses that should be factored into your budget are any housing needs or improvements that may need to be made; the purchase price of the animal; feed and bedding; and any medical costs.

Let’s break it down.

  • Housing costs. Wire cages range in price from $30-$200 depending on size, construction material and vendors. There are a few cage dealers in Michigan that can help you determine what you need. Water bottles or crocks and feeders will run about $15, depending on the source.
  • Rabbits and cavies typically start off at $25 for a fully registered rabbit.
  • A medium-sized rabbit will eat about a cup, or 8 ounces, of feed per day. Most rabbit feed is sold in pre-packaged, 50-pound bags. At a feeding rate of 8 ounces per day, 50 pounds of feed will last approximately 100 days. A 50-pound bag of feed costs about $20 at your local farm supply store.
  • Bedding. How you set your cage or hutch up will determine if you need to use bedding. If you do utilize bedding, a bag of fine shavings is roughly $8 from your local farm supply store.

Time commitment

Rabbits and cavies are small animals, which means their cleanup and feeding time is rather short. Feed and water rabbits and cavies twice per day. Daily observation is critical to creating a base line for what the animal’s normal behavior is.

Depending on your housing system, you may need to clean cages out regularly and provide clean, fresh bedding. Additionally, rabbits and cavies need to be handled regularly so they become used to performing the showmanship steps and learn how to be properly posed for show.

To learn more about rabbit and cavy management, check out the Michigan 4-H Rabbit Tracks series and the Michigan 4-H Rabbit Project Snapshot.

There are many factors to consider when choosing an animal science project. This series of Michigan State University Extension articles is geared to help families determine if a certain project area is a good fit. For more information on other 4-H animal science projects, see the articles below or visit the Michigan 4-H Animal Science webpage.

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