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Butchering Rabbits (graphic descriptions)

After being counted, cared for, played with, hand-fed if necessary, given treats, and such, for somewhere around 12 weeks, it’s finally time for the rabbits we raise to be butchered.

This is not an easy task, nor is it a fun one.  And it shouldn’t be.

The fact is, we need meat because of sin.  When Adam sinned, we all gained a sin nature.  That may sound strange, but Shay demonstrated it well one time.  I had a metal measuring cup, and he used it for a lesson.  He took the cup, scooped some damp sand with it, packed it, flipped it over, and it delivered a perfectly round, perfectly perfect mound of sand.  Then he took a hammer, and dented the bottom.  I didn’t know he was going to do this, and this dismayed me quite badly, because the cup was special to me for sentimental reasons.  I’m sure Shay did not know that, though.  Anyway, he scooped more sand with it, packed it, flipped it, and it produced a dented mound.  There was no way for the cup to produce an unflawed mound.  It was such a simple, elegant example, I forgave him for denting my cup.

All you have to do is look at the faults of those around you, and take an honest look at yourself, to see it.  Even small children, who on the surface seem so innocent, are not.  I know I didn’t teach my children to lie, steal, or do what they were told not to.  And yet, before they were three, they were doing these things.

When God destroyed almost all of mankind with a flood, the climate of the earth changed dramatically.  The elements became much more harsh.  Life spans plummeted.  And God told Noah for the first time that animals were to be eaten.  It doesn’t take much figuring to realize that with the even, mellow climate the earth had before, a vegetarian diet was sufficient.  In the post-flood world, it was not.

Some people do manage to get by as vegetarians or vegans, but, unless there is a medical reason (a girl my mom knew was allergic to animal protein), it is not generally the healthiest way to feed your body.  Most of us need meat.

So we have chosen to raise some of our own meat by raising rabbits.  But if you read this blog regularly, you already know that.  I thought I’d go into what we use and how.

A day or two before butchering, I stop giving the rabbits  pelleted feed, and feed them only hay and water.  This reduces the amount of food that will be in the stomach, and also keeps it from stinking almost unbearably if you accidentally puncture the stomach.

The first thing we do is gather everything we use, including a hose for washing and rags for wiping.  Then I take the green milk crate that we use, and load the bottom of it with fresh grass, pony’s foot, dollarweed, and other weeds bunnies love.

(The first several pictures would not load the captions, so I have put the captions separately below the pictures.)


The milk crate works really well, because it’s just the right size for one rabbit, and if the rabbit bleeds in the crate, it and the greens in it can be rinsed easily with the hose. These things can be gotten most anywhere, and they don’t have to be the super-sturdy ones. Just the cheapies at Wal-Mart. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Sterilite-File-Crate-Cactus/17126908

Milk crate in place, it’s time to load the pellet gun.


We use a Remington Air Master .177, Bunny-Wan Kenobi’s pellet rifle. We usually pump it five or six times, rather than ten, since we are shooting at point-blank range. We bought it for Bunny-Wan Kenobi at Wal-Mart. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Remington-Air-Master-.177-Air-Rifle/5913355

While Bunny-Wan Kenobi uses BBs in his air rifle, we use pointed pellets in it for rabbits.  These aren’t the exact same ones, but they’re close. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Crosman-Premier-Super-Point-.177-Caliber-Pellets-7.9-Grain-500-Count/14234824

Once the rifle is loaded and pumped, one of us goes and gets a rabbit.  Shay wants to get some gloves for handling them, since they are not used to him, and he can get scratched up pretty badly.  If the bun is cooperative, it gets held and petted and talked to for a minute.  Then the bun gets put into the milk crate.  He starts sniffing around and munching on the yummy greens.  A few get more curious and stand, looking outside the crate.  But when they’re down and sniffing around, one of us lines up a shot.  At the back of the head, between and a little behind the ears, is the base of the skull.  We aim just below the base of the skull, toward the jaw.  When the rabbit shifts into the right position, we fire.

The rabbit’s muscles immediately seize up, since they are no longer receiving impulses from the brain.  It is at this point that we try to remove the rabbit from the crate, before it really begins to bleed.  If we remove the rabbit quickly, we can place it on the ground before the legs start kicking.  Kicking legs do not mean the rabbit is alive.  This is an autonomic nervous system response, and involves the back legs only.  The front legs and the head do not move on their own once the rabbit has been shot, if it was a clean shot.  Just think of the saying, “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”.  There’s a reason we have this saying.  A chicken with its neck broken or its head cut off will run around helter-skelter, its body trying to connect with its brain.  Moving the rabbit must be done quickly, or not at all, since once the back legs start kicking, you can get quite hurt by them.

Once the rabbit has stopped moving, we hang it up by the back legs, using cable clamps attached to a sawhorse.


The cuffs we use were bought for just under $1 each, at a home improvement store.

Here is one of two sets of cuffs screwed to a board, which is clamped into the sawhorse. You do have to be careful screwing them on, as they can crack or break. Once attached, though, they can hold many a rabbit.

We then skin the rabbit.  We used freshly-sharpened Chuppa or Rada knives at first, but my husband wanted something even sharper.  So he had me buy two fish & bone knives.  They do work better, to be sure!


These knives have worked out wonderfully for skinning and cleaning rabbits. I bought these at Bass Pro Shop.

Starting right above the ankles, right below where the rabbit is hung, we begin cutting through the skin.  There is a tendon at the back of the ankle that you’re supposed to be very careful of not cutting, so you don’t have problems when you are skinning, with the rabbit’s feet breaking off at that point.  Unfortunately, I’m very bad at not cutting that tendon, so I stopped worrying about it.  I haven’t had a rabbit foot pull apart on me yet!

Once we’ve cut the skin around the ankles, we make a cut down the inside of each leg, carefully meeting the two cuts in the middle on the belly.  Then, we cut and tug the skin off of the legs, and cut the skin across the back right above the tail (or below, since the rabbit is upside-down).  We then use a pair of garden shears to clip off the front paws.  That done, we begin to pull the skin down like a shirt, being careful to watch the belly at first — there is a bit of tissue connecting the skin to the belly near the back legs, and it can pull the belly open if it does not detach from the skin.

We continue pulling the pelt until the front legs are about half showing.  Then we puncture the clear membrane connecting the skin to the leg at the “elbow”, and then pull the leg out of the pelt like an arm out of a sleeve.  This can take some strong tugging.

We then pull the pelt down some more, revealing the neck.  Using a pair of lopping shears (much larger and more powerful than the garden shears), we cut the head off and discard the pelt with the head.  (Unless, of course, it’s a pelt one of the kids wants to tan.)  Then we pull the skin around the tail and vent area (anus, urine, and reproductive area) away and together, and then cut it off.

Then it is time to get the garden shears again to clip off the back feet, and the skinned rabbit goes into the pan to go inside and be cleaned.

Gutting involves making a careful incision up the belly of the rabbit, taking care not to puncture the bladder.  All of the innards get removed.  We save the kidneys, liver, and heart, unless there is some problem with them.  The kidneys can be easily missed, as they are attached to the inside of the back of the rabbit, and may be surrounded with fat.  The heart and lungs can also be missed, because they are in the upper chest area, and are separated from the rest of the innards by the diaphragm.  We cut the center of the ribs open to allow for easy cleaning.  We wash off the entire carcass thoroughly, and package it into a gallon freezer bag and put it into the refrigerator.

After all the rabbits are done, I clean the giblets.  The liver has the gallbladder attached, and this can be hard to see.  If the gallbladder is punctured, the liver will be ruined.  I carefully slide the point of the blade under the bile duct that leads from the gallbladder, and separate it from the liver for about an inch.  Then I pinch the bile duct, and use it to pull the gallbladder from the liver.  The heart needs only the top cut off.  For the kidneys, I just pull the fat and whatever else up until I have one white string of tissue attached to the kidney.  I cut that off at the opening of the kidney.

If the liver has white spots or squiggles on it, it must be discarded, as this is indicative of a sickness known as coccidiosis.  The remainder of the rabbit is still perfectly safe to eat.

After a few days in the refrigerator (6-7 in my refrigerator, since it is very cold, but 3-4 is usually sufficient), it is time to move the rabbits from the fridge to the freezer.  This time in the refrigerator is essential, because if the rabbit is in rigor when it is cooked, it is very tough.  A few days in the fridge first allow the rabbit to come back out of rigor, at which point it can be cooked or frozen.  You can also cook it immediately after butchering it, as long as you cook it before it goes into rigor.

Rabbits that were over 12 weeks old at butchering get an “R” on their packaging.  This stands for “Roaster”, as opposed to “Fryer”.  Roasters need to be cooked low and slow, just like a roasting chicken, to get it to be tender.

I hope this is helpful to those just starting out with butchering rabbits, as others’ descriptions were helpful to me!


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15 Responses to “Butchering Rabbits (graphic descriptions)”

  1. ladysown says:

    i thought that was decently written. as always I like having pictures, but sometimes word pictures work well too. :)

    • Miss M says:

      I don’t know why, but I never think to take pictures on butchering day. Maybe I could get my uncle to do it sometime when it cools off. I was kinda kicking myself for my lack of actual butchering photos while I was writing this.

      Was I pretty clear with my descriptions?

  2. ladysown says:

    yes you were. :) just the whole tendon thing and seeing a healthy liver would be good.

    Then again I could take pictures of how “I” do it as well.. just hard to do with keeping hands clean and/or taking gloves off and on. :) But it would be a good thing to do as not everyone does things the same way.

    • Miss M says:

      I’ll ask my uncle if he’d be willing to take pictures next time. He just might be up for it.

      Do you have anybody who could take pictures for you?

  3. anthonyt21 says:

    very informative good job and thanks ^^

  4. anthonyt21 says:

    oh and about the sin part… God promises to cure man and make many changes in the near future in the bible he Promises Rev 21:4 And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” churches don’t teach whats in the bible or gods promises just because there’s no profit in it. if you would like to talk more about Gods promises PM me ill be glad to show you what i can

    • Miss M says:

      Thank you, Anthony, I appreciate you offering to share the Gospel and the promises of God with me. Many, many churches so not teach the Bible. We were thrown out of a church some years ago, when we privately challenged the pastor for deviating from teaching the Bible, and turning to the teachings of men (“The Purpose Driven Life”, among other things).

      We left the next church when the pastor would not remove a tract containing a story that had been proven to be a hoax decades ago. His wife said, “Maybe it’ll make people think.” Bring people to the truth by telling them a lie? Um… no. This wasn’t the only issue we had there. The pastor was also disseminating information he got from emails, without checking it out.

      At that point, we began a Bible study in our own home, studying verse by verse through a book of the Bible. When we finished that one, we did another. We continued for several years, until we moved here. Now we attend a study very much like the one we did ourselves, with the main difference being that, to keep the burden from falling too much on one person, there are several men who teach. Right now, when we attend the first and second Sundays, we will hear the continuation of a very in-depth study of I John (except in December, when we wrap up a study in Philemon by another teacher). The third Sunday, the man who started this class decades ago is teaching through I Corinthians. He doesn’t teach as much as he used to, because he’s getting up in years. The fourth Sunday, another man is now wrapping up a topical study, then he and the man who is teaching Philemon will begin a study in Titus. There’s a link to the website for the study in the sidebar at right, “Radio Bible Courses”.

      We look forward to the day when we are caught up and changed, and the wiping away of the tears, and the leaving behind of sorrow, death, and pain.

      God bless and keep you, and we will see you there someday!

  5. ladysown says:

    Do you have anybody who could take pictures for you?

    - not in my family I don’t. Hubby avoids the whole issue. :)

    You don’t attend services? You attend bible studies? I find that interesting. Do you worship God with fellow believers in singing/praise times at all?

    • Miss M says:

      Yes, Shay and ILoveBunnies took skinning pics for me, and my uncle took cleaning pics. I’ll be getting these up soon, but probably not until after this weekend.

      We don’t attend a regular church. We meet with other believers in a Bible study. Many of the attendees attend a regular church after the study, but not all. Occasionally, we will meet at someone’s house to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We don’t have singing at the Bible study, possibly because many of the people attend church afterward.

      We have seen so little solid Bible teaching… even going back to when I was a kid. I remember as a teen hearing a Sunday school teacher tell my class that Paul was against women, and that, as a Christian, it’s okay every now and then to sin on purpose, knowing that God will forgive you later when you ask him. I knew that was wrong even then.

      Shay and I met at Bible college. Other than the Bible study methods and some other things that we learned there, we’ve had to discard just about everything we were taught. Over the 20 years that we’ve been married, we’ve learned that the Bible can and should be taken seriously, and its words handled with care. At the Bible college we attended, passages were routinely ripped from their context and impressed with meanings they did not have.

      This has been the problem at many churches we’ve attended since then. They think they have to do so many things to make the Word of God “relevant” for today, when if you just read it for what it says, it’s plenty relevant.

      The scarred lives of the men and women in its pages just show that God can work through real, imperfect people, which is good, since I’m certainly not perfect.

      It isn’t that I demand that a church be perfect, either, in order for me to attend. But if the pastor is teaching something blatantly contrary to the Bible (I’m not talking about the minor differences that are disputable), and is confronted with it, but refuses to change, it’s time to go.

      Or, in the one case, time to be kicked out. Believe me, we did nothing to provoke that, and it was done contrary to the church rules. I told about the whole experience here: http://www.freewebs.com/purposedrivenout/

      One church we left was a Calvary Chapel. We didn’t leave it because of its teaching, but because it suddenly started growing so fast, we felt lost in the shuffle. We learned of the death of one of the members way after it happened, and that just really hit Shay hard. The church had just started going into some teachings that bothered us, but we hadn’t figured out why. As we researched what was being done at the church that kicked us out, we recognized some of the new things at the Calvary Chapel as bordering on New Age.

      Sorry for the long reply, not sure why I typed all this, and I don’t even know where you stand in it all. I could be totally freaking you out.

      I guess just with all our church experience, we find it refreshing to just study the Word of God, taking it for what it says, delving into the original languages or consulting trustworthy commentaries when appropriate.

      My uncle is one of the teachers at the study, and it looks like Shay may begin teaching next year.

      As for singing, we can be found singing hymns around the house now and then. That’s pretty much where we are right now.

  6. ladysown says:

    i find it sad listening to all you went through.

    I also feel sad that you miss the joy of praising the Lord with others, and difficult that you have been unable to find a church that is biblically sound where you are living.

    Come move up here… Hubby is a sound biblical preacher! :)

    • Miss M says:

      That is wonderful to hear, Ladysown! :) Sound biblical teaching is just hard to find these days. You know the whole bit about the itching ears. The church is so very infected.

      The Lord has been so sufficient. Shay taught us at home, verse by verse, for some three years. I got a lap harp, and found hymns that could be easily played on it. (I never really learned how to play it, I would just make plucking sheets to slip under the strings.) We would sing hymns, and have memorization for the kids, and also something for them called “Bible Detective”, in which they had a week to locate the answer to a question in the Bible. Bunny-Wan Kenobi was really too young to learn to do it himself, but ILoveBunnies learned how to use the concordance, the Nave’s, Bible dictionaries, and so on, and that was the purpose of the exercise.

      It worked very well, but was exhausting for Shay, who was a full-time maintenance supervisor, and constantly on call, even when he wasn’t. He’s enjoyed being able to sit and learn from someone else teaching since we moved here a year and a half ago.

      From the Gulf coast to Canada… now THAT would be some serious climate shock! :lol: We’re supposed to have our first night below freezing tonight. We’ll see if it happens… and then who knows when it’ll happen again! Probably not this week…

  7. ladysown says:

    did you get freezing weather?

    Do you get snow down your way?

    Yes, pastors and bible teachers often do find it refreshening to listen/participate in studies led by someone else. :)

    I personally would find it difficult to not belong to a body of local believers. Worshipping the Lord together is something God has told us we must do.n (do not forsake … oh man… what’s the scripture reference>>> ) anyways, I ‘m sure you know it.

    Even though the church I attend has excellent preaching, I sometimes find it difficult to attend because of age discrepancies. But the preaching is solid. I’ve been to churches where the preaching isn’t solid, and it taught me SO MUCH about my faith, and helped me to teach others as well.

    I don’t know… I just am saddened by the lack of good community of faith where you are at. Perhaps you could work at starting a new church of believers? :) (yeah, like you need more work on your hands, but your bible study might be a place to start – asking those who don’t attend services if they’d like to have a worship time together). :) just an encouragement.

    • Miss M says:

      I don’t know if it has actually hit or gone below freezing at our house yet. It’s been close, and we have had frost, but I’m not sure it’s actually frozen any night yet.

      We do rarely get snow. It tends to snow about every 10 years, though it actually snowed three winters in a row before we moved here. Since then, nothing. The kids are desperate! LOL

      Hebrews 10:25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” I imagine that’s the one you’re thinking of (I had to look it up). We do assemble for the study of the Word and for exhorting one another, we just don’t have the singing or the greater church involvement. I’m not pooh-poohing that, since that would be nice, and can be of great benefit to the body.

      After everything we’ve been through, though, we’re just so happy to be in this Bible study… maybe we’ll look for more someday, or try to gather for worship outside of the study sometime, like you suggest. I appreciate your encouragement. :)

  8. ladysown says:

    yeah! you took as encouragement. :) sometimes time to just be is exactly what you need to. Love God, worship him, and learn to dig into him deeper… he will lead you. :)