Purina® Rabbit Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | The Alexanders: Learning Life Lessons Through 4-H

Morgan and Madison Alexander have only been raising rabbits for a little over a year, but don't think they haven't done much in this short amount of time.

"We have always liked animals, and our mother really loves them," said Morgan, 12, and Madison, 9. "4-H teaches us responsibility and we get to learn about the different animals and how to take care of them and about all the different projects."

Their mom, Gina Alexander, is the rabbit leader for their 4-H club, Monte Vista 4-H, in San Bernadino County, California.

"I was not in 4-H growing up, but I should have been. My parents were never into animals, but I made them get into them. I got horseback riding lessons while in junior high school because of good grades and that started it," said Gina. "4-H is great because it teaches responsibility, leadership and presentation and speaking skills that will help kids later in life. And it isn't just about animals, there are many other projects offered like gardening, sewing, shooting, sports and cooking."

Madison holding a rabbit Morgan and Madison are involved in rabbit, poultry, sheep, goats and arts and crafts projects. Morgan has presented information about rabbits at school and 4-H meetings and has done several educational displays and oral demonstrations on rabbit uses and care. Gina also brings the rabbits to the school where she teaches. Many of these children haven't been around animals and really enjoy it when she brings them in.

Last year, Morgan did an educational display on rabbit care titled "It's Not Just Carrots...Rabbit Care" at the 4-H State Field Day in Davis, California, a project competition and mini fair, and won gold. This year she is doing a demonstration on rabbit showmanship and an educational display on uses for rabbits and is hoping for the same results.

Between the two, Morgan and Madison have 20 rabbits including Mini Rexes, Himalayans, a Netherland Dwarf, a Holland Lop and a Beveran. Three of them are just pets, but most are show rabbits. Morgan's favorites are the 13 pound Beveran named Tiny and a Mini Rex named Snickers. Madison's is a little rabbit named Brooklyn that definitely has an attitude.

"Morgan's Beveran often runs around the backyard, and when she catches him, she dresses him up like a cheerleader. He doesn't appreciate that very much," laughed Gina.

The girls go to about one American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) show a month, but their favorites are the local fairs, and they do quite well at them. Morgan placed first in Showmanship for her age group at the last few fairs they went to, and Madison has placed first several times, too.

"It is surprising how hard it is to show and find just the right rabbits," said Gina, "so we are working on breeding our rabbits and find homes for the babies mostly with our friends."

The rabbit project has led to some great community service opportunities. The girls and their fellow 4-H'ers recently took their rabbits to an assisted living community.

"The residents enjoyed hearing the kids talk about their rabbits and all that they have learned in 4-H," said Gina. "They were able to hold the rabbits as well."

The project has led to some funny stories and life lessons, too.

Morgan holding a rabbit "Morgan and another 4-H member had in mind to breed their rabbits at a 4-H meeting," said Gina. "Instead of putting the rabbits in the back room they put the rabbits together right at the entrance door. There were about 50 kids of all ages coming in the door to sign in—not a very good place to breed rabbits. But that is what 4-H is about, animals and everything about them. The kids sure got a lesson that night."

The Alexanders live on a small farm in Alta Loma, California, that Gina says is urban with a touch of rural and a little piece of heaven.

They feed their rabbits Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Show Formula, and go through a lot. They have to drive about 30 minutes away to America's Country Store in Norco, California, but they don't mind.

"The employees are very friendly and offer a nice 4-H discount to support the kids' projects," said Gina. "And the Show Formula is a complete food that's great for our show rabbits. We don't give them much more, just some occasional black sunflower seeds and oatmeal for a treat."

In addition to their rabbits, the Alexanders have two horses, 25 chickens, two dogs, three goats, one sheep, two birds and a few fish. They also just got five baby chicks this spring.

"We now have about 62 or so animals, which is a lot more than when I was growing up," said Gina. "I have a wonderful husband who loves animals, too, although he won't admit it, but he does a lot to help. We hope Morgan and Madison's younger sister McKinnley, 6, learns to like the animals, too."

Although taking care of that many animals is a time commitment, for Gina and her family, it's well worth it.

"Our family supports each other, and it has given us, as parents, some great one on one time with each of our children. The best times are time spent with my kids either on a quiet horseback ride or raking a stall," said Gina. "Animals are the best way to teach responsibility and compassion. Morgan and Madison have chores and are expected to help out at home. They are learning all about animals and how to care for them. Both girls know how to clean, feed, care and much, much more."

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RABBIT TIPS | Keeping Cool in the Heat of Summer

Summer is finally here, which means outdoor barbecues, lounging around at the pool and, of course, air conditioning. Things like jumping in the water and spending time in the cooler indoors are ways that we help beat the heat during the warm summer months, but don't forget to help your rabbit do the same. The warm weather can be tough on animals, sometimes causing them to overheat, which can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or even death. Following these tips will help them enjoy the summer months as much as you do.

Fresh, cool air: Proper ventilation is important for rabbits throughout the year, but that can be a little more difficult to maintain in the warm summer months. Replace stale air with natural ventilation or, if needed, use a fan.

H2O: Provide cool, clean, fresh water at least twice a day during the summer. The use of electrolytes in the water will guard against dehydration and heat stress. Though it may seem like a frozen water bottle would help keep water cold, they're not worth the trouble and cause extremes in temperatures.

Food: Feeding smaller amounts of feed multiple times during the day will reduce the amount of heat generated during the digestive process. This process will also help to condition your show rabbits coming out of the summer in preparation for the fall show season.

Summer Babies: Does and their new litters born during the summer are extra vulnerable to heat exhaustion. To keep them comfortable in the heat, remove excess hair from the nest, use larger nest boxes with wire floors, and consider removing the nest box when the kits are 14 days old to nursery boxes to provide a cooler, more open environment. Weaning bunnies earlier, at four to five weeks of age versus six to eight weeks of age, will reduce the number of rabbits in one cage and make it more comfortable.

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GET TO KNOW | Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Professional Natural AdvantEdge®

Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Professional Natural AdvantEdge® rabbit food is a completely balanced food specially formulated to produce shiny fur, rapid growth, and excellent reproduction. This nutrient dense formula is high protein and high energy food, making it the perfect choice for those who desire accelerated breeding and/or lustrous fur growth, all while feeding less per day.

  • The Natural AdvantagEdge® Formula—superior, consistent, natural* nutrition FREE from all fillers, preservatives, and artificial colors
  • Formulated for excellent fur quality—Vitamin A, essential vegetable oils and high protein for excellent growth and fur quality
  • High-protein formula—high protein and energy food for accelerated breeding programs and optimal wool production
  • Added lactobacillus, yeast and balanced fiber—supports digestive health with added yucca shidigera to aid in odor control
  • Complete, natural nutrition—no additional supplements necessary and great for rabbits of all ages
  • High-quality plant proteins—loaded with natural nutrients found only in plants that optimize vitality and support immune function
  • Nutrient dense—feed less per day, to help save you money
  • Highly palatable—for proper intake and growth
  • Purina FeedGuard® Nutrition System—stringent quality standards help ensure many of the industry's highest quality ingredients available are used, provides greater nutritional consistency bag after bag, and considers all key nutrients and their interactions with each other to better support overall rabbit health
As always, when changing your rabbits from one feeding program to another, make the change gradually, over a five to seven day period. Mix the new feed with the old, gradually increasing the amount of the new feed (it's always important to allow time for the rabbits' intestinal flora to adjust to any new feed). Continue to feed at the same time each day—evening is best. Clean the feeding dish daily so uneaten food does not become stale and moldy. And always provide plenty of clean, fresh, cool water to rabbits at all times.

*with added vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients

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