This post is about butchering rabbits for meat. If that bothers you, please don't read any further. :-)
We've had meat rabbits for about 2 years now, and I've yet to post about the butchering part. Most of that is due to my procrastination. I finally uploaded the pictures and decided it was time to stop procrastinating and just blog already.
We've raised meat chickens several times, and though we love the chicken meat, the actual butchering of the chickens was a less than pleasant task. It's not that it was too hard, it's just that it was time consuming and annoying. Plucking chickens by hand is not very fun, and we don't have the money to invest in a chicken plucker, especially since we weren't raising a large number of chickens.
I researched meat rabbits as an alternative, and they sounded great. The rabbits themselves are less stinky than chickens, they reproduce easily and I don't have to order them like new chicks from a hatchery. And butchering is WAY easier and less time consuming than butchering chickens.
Many people use the "broomstick" method of killing the rabbit. That's when they set the rabbit on the ground, with a broomstick over the neck. They step on each end of the broomstick, and pull up on the rabbit's legs which breaks the neck. I wasn't crazy about that idea, so instead I use our pellet gun. We've got a Ruger pellet gun, and it works great. David already had it for target shooting, but buying one would be a good investment since it has lots of uses on a farm.
The pellet gun holds one little pellet at a time, and it's very safe to use. Each pellet costs something like $.01, so it's economical.
To kill the rabbit, I put them on the ground in a bottomless wire crate (I use a dog crate). I sprinkle rabbit pellets on the ground, but most times they just start eating the grass. Then, I place the pellet gun right at the back of their head and shoot them. They're dead instantly, and never knew anything was going on except they were eating grass.
Then I hang the rabbits up from a tree branch, using a rope around each hind foot.
I watched a video on Youtube on how to process them. This video was very helpful. I use a sharp pair of scissors and some meat shears (for cutting feet and the head).
I've saved all the hides from the rabbits I have processed, but I haven't done anything with them yet..they're waiting in the freezer. Maybe one day I'll tan them.
Each rabbit takes only minutes to process, and it's very easy for one person to do everything himself/herself. In a few minutes, you have a completely dressed rabbit, ready to be cooked, frozen, canned, etc.
I rinse mine well and bag them up. Then they go in the freezer.
Meat rabbits are definitely my favorite small animal to raise for meat. In my opinion, they're much cleaner than chickens to both raise and process. Rabbits are easy to house and feed, and they're quiet enough they could be raised in someone's backyard. Their manure is perfect for gardens, and it doesn't have to be aged like other animal manures. They're the perfect homesteading meat animal!