By Chesley Oxendine
Fort Gibson fifth-grader Kaylee Williams juggles a lot of responsibility. She plays softball, goes to school, and takes care of 12 rabbits, which she takes to both 4-H and national shows.
While many 4-H students elect to show cattle or hogs, Kaylee said she preferred her smaller animals.
“They’re easier to take care of than a humongous cow or pig,” she said. “They’re little and easy to handle.”
Kaylee’s animals have earned her several awards in local 4-H shows, and she also takes them to American Rabbit Breeders Association events.
Kaylee said the awards made her feel “excited.”
“It’s just fun to have rabbits, but it’s even more fun to show them,” she said. “I used to feel kind of nervous, but you get over it. You don’t get nervous after you do it a few times.”
Kaylee said her favorite part of her hobby remained taking care of her “pets,” as her family calls them.
“I have leashes I put them on, and I take them for five minute walks,” she said. “I really enjoy it.”
The fifth-grader spends at least one hour a day with her rabbits, two of which are scheduled to give birth sometime this week, her mother Tiffany Horn said.
“The rabbits usually have between six to eight babies each,” Horn said. “She’ll keep one or two and sell the rest to people for pets or for them to show.”
Kaylee sells each rabbit for between $15 and $20, and while most of her money goes into buying feed and supplies for her animals, she puts the rest in a savings account for college.
Horn said Kaylee’s biggest challenge remains organizing her time.
“It’s more time consuming than anything else,” Horn said. “You have to work your time around homework and make sure other activities like dance and softball are being attended.”
However, the task of maintaining her rabbits has actually improved Kaylee’s work ethic, Horn said.
“It started out with just the rabbits, but now it's grown more into growing as an individual. It's helped her so much,” she said. “She's more responsible in her schoolwork now. She wants to put in more effort in more areas.”
Horn said Kaylee mostly handles the rabbits on her own.
“It's amazing how she takes care of them on her own with very little interaction from me or her stepfather,” she said. “I usually help her when we deep clean the barn each week. Everyday care, feeding, watering, or grooming — that's all done by her.”
When she does get the chance to step in and help, however, Horn says she enjoys interacting with the animals — and with Kaylee.
“I just love being around animals, and it's brought her and I a lot closer from working with them together,” she said.