- Brockett Elementary School
AHS Student Builds Confidence With Rabbit Business
If you want to get Rachel Wills talking, ask her about rabbits.
The Aubrey High School senior and FFA member loves to talk about rabbits, and she is just as knowledgeable about rabbits as many adults in the profession. Rabbitry is not just a passion for Rachel, it’s also a business. For the last seven years, the AHS student has devoted much of her free time to breeding and showing rabbits. She can be found most afternoons in her rabbit barn.
“It’s my happy place,” Rachel said.
Rachel recently returned from the American Rabbit Breeders National Convention in Reno, Nev., one of the most prestigious events for rabbit showing. For the second year in a row, she was a member of Team Texas, one of four high school students representing their state at the national event.
She came home with a slew of honors, including her first scholarship. As a member of Team Texas, she finished in the top 10 nationally in the breed identification contest and placed in the top 20 nationally in hands-on judging.
Despite the big event, Rachel felt quite at home at the Reno show. The quiet teenager credits the rabbit community for helping her break out of her shell.
“I really just found my group of people that I can relate to,” Rachel said. “They don’t judge me.”
Rachel recalls times when she was a little girl that she would break into tears if she had to ask for a to-go container at a restaurant because she was scared to talk. Now, she is a poised teenager who can impress judges with her knowledge about her rabbits.
“If it’s about rabbits, I can pretty much talk to anyone about it,” Rachel said. “If it’s about something else, I’m going to have to work up to it.”
AHS agriculture science teacher and FFA sponsor Tracy Yarbrough has seen Rachel’s growth.
“Her rabbit business has really changed her as a person,” Yarbrough said. “She was a real quiet, hard to talk to individual. You get her talking about rabbits, she can talk all day.”
Mr. Yarbrough has had Rachel in class and has seen her confidence cross over to other areas.
“She has always done well with class presentations. When she gets knowledgeable about something, she is really comfortable talking about it.”
Working with rabbits, however, was not Rachel’s first choice when her family moved to a new house when she was in 6th grade. She really wanted to work with goats, but the Wills family didn’t have the facilities for large animals.
Rachel started with a market rabbit and did that for two years. Working with market rabbits is a short-term project, and the rabbits are raised to sell.
In 8th grade, she bought her first breeding rabbit, which involved showing the rabbit and also keeping the rabbit for breeding. Rachel decided on a smaller breed of rabbit called the Dwarf Hotot, mostly because a friend had them and was able to mentor Rachel.
“I wasn’t planning on getting this involved in rabbits,” Rachel said. “It happened by chance and I fell in love with it.”
The following year, Rachel became more involved and introduced a few more breeds to her growing rabbit family, including Californians and Holland Lops. Rachel’s father converted an old workshop into a rabbit barn.
That one market rabbit slowly turned into 60-70 rabbits and a business called Rachel’s Rabbitry, which focuses on the breeding, selling and showing of quality rabbits and getting them into the hands of youth.
She sells to FFA members, other breeders, 4H members and any one that wants rabbits as pets. For every two or three she sells, she will keep one for breeding and showing.
Rachel travels to 10-20 shows a year, showing between 5-15 of her rabbits. At the shows is where Rachel would practice talking to the judges and also gathering pieces of information from other participants. In the past few years, people began to go to her with their rabbit questions.
“She is my go-to-person for rabbits,” AHS agriculture science teacher and FFA sponsor Jennifer Gilbreath said.
“She’s a professional,” Mr. Yarbrough said. “She’s as knowledgeable as any adult in the rabbitry field.”
Rachel has given presentations at Guyer High School and Denton County 4H, talking about the various breeds and differences between market and breeding rabbits. People will message her questions on social media. She also serves as the District 4 National Director of the American Dwarf Hotot Rabbit Club and writes quarterly articles for the club’s newsletter.
On her own, she researches and studies genetics of rabbits and has gotten to a point where a whole pedigree of rabbits is filled up with just her rabbits.
“I’m a nerd when it comes to rabbits,” Rachel said.
Rachel plans to cut back a little bit with her business when she heads to college next year. She has decided to stay close to home and do the equine program at NCTC.
Her long-term goals are to become a licensed ARBA rabbit judge and also attend vet school, but she always plans on having rabbits.