Rabbit Processing Demonstration

Today a teacher and five members of the Urban Livestock management class from Owens Community College in Toledo came to visit the homestead! It was an exciting day, and I was happy to have finished making my house look at least a little presentable in time.

We processed two rabbits today, bucks that decided to be most uncooperative, kicking and trying to run away the whole time, but otherwise the processing went well. After the class left I processed one more for our dinner this evening. The last two will be processed in the evening as it cools down a little.
The flies are desperate with all those organs sitting out, but little do they know their eggs will be bundled up in plastic bags and shipped to the landfill. A thousand less flies in my little corner of the world.
And keeping the furs moist in this heat has been very hard. For that matter doing anything in the heat has been hard.

So anyhow, the visit. The teacher, Joanne, was a great lady that I feel like I could be spectacular friends with, and asked a lot of great questions. She was sweet and enthusiastic. The students were as entirely unrelatable for me as anyone I’ve ever met in college outside of the local nerd and engineering school. They were all around my age but I find that I can’t relate with many people in their early 20’s at all. I’m in such a different point in my life, have such a different mindset, I throw myself into things with unbridled passion that most people don’t, and I never went to a normal school… Besides which I have a sister that bears all the pretences from just such an opposite lifestyle of my own and I have trouble tolerating her. Interestingly the class was all girls, and some of them were clearly a little more OK with getting the dirty work of farming done than others. Some seemed to have real plans for their futures… The rest I am not sure they’ll end up in farming at all.

I struggle to think that the future face of farming could be a (probably bleached) blonde with mascara delicately applied, hair straightened, and short shorts, chattering on a Smartphone behind their sunglasses with an attitude of a diva, but a look at this class could make one think otherwise. (A group description there.) This is not a lucrative career choice, nor one that’s clean or easy or one where you get to hug bunnies all day. It’s certainly not a career where you can maintain your look, act bigger than you are, or step away from the dirty work. Most of the people I know in this “biz” are lucky to brush their hair and put on a clean shirt every day as they humbly beg the earth to provide through blood, sweat and tears.

Two people (other than the teacher) were willing to watch the actual processing of the rabbits and none were willing to try their hand at processing their own, be it the butchering, the skinning or the gutting. After the first rabbit was done the class went to sit on the front porch in the shade. It didn’t help that this could be the hottest day of the year. The teacher stood by as I processed the other rabbit so she could buy a pair to take home.

The lack of participation was disappointing but not surprising. Think on when I processed my first batch of rabbits… How many people showed up? I asked dozens of people and only four showed. But these people are taking a class on livestock management and butchering your animals is an important part of that. What happens when your chickens hit three years and stop laying eggs? What happens when you breed your goats and find yourself with a pair of twin bucklings, useless for milk production and can’t even produce offspring? What happens to all those rabbits you breed and can’t sell to 4Hers or to people who have more guts than you? What about the day your cow gives birth to a deformed offspring that can’t be milked, shown or bred?

Recently urban chicken keeping has become very popular and people who are unwilling to take that step in management are dumping their unwanted chickens on animal shelters. Really? Yeah, really. We’ve seen it before in a smaller scale on farms where rescue workers have to come in and save dozens of starving farm animals. But now as “farming” becomes “popular” animal shelters have no idea what to do with the chickens they’re getting. It’s irresponsible and wasteful. And in theory you could send your animals to a butcher, but that is expensive. Large animals are $0.50/lb live weight, plus the cost to kill it ($80 at most butchers) so for a goat that’s $200 to get your animal processed. That could be $200 that you spend on your next project instead, or $200 to pay off your loans, or $200 to buy your groceries, feed your animals, pay that medical bill…

Life is a full cycle. Death is just a part of it, and one that’s unavoidable. It’s up to us to decide if the life and the death of an animal will impact the world and how it impacts the world. When an animal shelter euthanizes a dozen dogs which are then thrown in the trash, I feel like that’s a negative impact on the world that just makes people unhappy. There’s no benefit to a death like that. When a farmer butchers their turkey for thanksgiving it’s a death that can bring joy to the world! But a death is only positive if we make it happen.

I know which impact I’d rather have on the world. I hope the students figure it out what sort of impact they’ll be having as well. I hope they all make it in farming… And if they don’t I hope they find something more suitable to their own desires in life.

In the meantime, I’ll just be here on my homestead, eating some delicious rabbit, with fresh garlic and onions from my gardens. Mmmm~~!

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6 thoughts on “Rabbit Processing Demonstration

  1. do you think you will be able to post the class you did so some one like me knows what im doing when it comes to butchering time? I know how to butcher the chickens, my grandma and I butcherd 25 chickens one time and 35 the next. she was my teacher for that. I was a single mom of 6 kids and that put food on the table. I do not know how to clean a rabbit for table.. I also have quail as well have not butcherd any of them as they are still laying good. there eggs are good for salads and pickling. If you cann show how I would like to see..
    oh and saving the fur too..dont know anything about that ither..

    • I actually may post a complete demonstration online sometime. I have been wanting to for a while. However, you should know that I learned from a video on Youtube (Butchering a Rabbit Fryer by Donnamariecan). It’s a very easy process. I made a post on it the first time I harvested rabbits. For the furs, put them in a bucket of cold water and freeze them until you have enough to tan a batch of hides (10ish). You can tan hides either using Alum and rock salt or Battery acid and rock salt… Or you can brain tan the hides, though that requires mashing up rabbit brains into liquid and rubbing it into the skin which has to be stretched out on a frame. The brain tan is the cheapest followed by the battery acid which is also easier. I suggest googling them!

  2. It is hard to process animals for the first time and I’ll bet it was the first time for all of those girls. They were probably taking a huge step just in coming at all. So many young people are completely divorced from the reality of killing your own meat. People like you and I would see the class as a wonderful opportunity for hands on experience, but we are in the minority on such things. Maybe they’ll just be vegetable farmers.

    I am disgusted by chickens going to an animal shelter. There are hundreds of people on Craigslist who would take a good laying hen for eggs or a rooster to slaughter. Unfortunately I sometimes see adds that insist these animals be taken as pets only, not for slaughter, which is really not a good way to try to give away livestock you are too lazy to take care of.

    • Apparently for one of them they had actually skinned a squirrel before. For another they were going to raise goats and knew that the butchering of bucks and unsold does was going to be important for their future and they bothered to watch the process… So I will give them credit for that. But they’re all in a livestock management course and they’re raising a group of turkeys on the school farm… That they actively have no intention of butchering themselves. Most of the class didn’t come to the demonstration at all, and yet they’re all in this course for livestock management… We’ll just have to wait and see! I hope they succeed.

      I am also disgusted by that. Most shelters do not have the means to care for abandoned chickens, and if everyone that raised chickens kept roos and unlaying hens as “pets” you’d be looking at 3-4 times the cost for eggs. *sigh*

  3. I have a 28 yr. old son now living with me, who was wanting to watch me process a chicken in the event he chooses the farming side of life. It is a choice in our life, and I am glad he wants to learn.
    I once received a magazine that glamourized farming with girlie dress and such, I did not buy the subscription, I did not see it as glamour but a hard way of life that I happen to love as well as others in our daily farming struggles.
    I am not a know it all but find watching u-tube on processing gives different ways of processing and then formulating our own way as a good way. I find there is no one way of doing things but many, with one intent, putting food on the table or at market. Mine is mostly on the table even though I have a few egg buyers.
    I do one thing different with the remains, I burying the remains feeding the earth creatures as they decompose. I take the hide/fur and put in plastic bag putting in refrigerator for a period of time, then I take fur off adding it to compost, and dry the hide for my dog. I haven’t yet gotten into tanning hide.
    Appreciate your blog, thanks.

    • I am glad you appreciate the blog! I leaned from youtube the most common ways to process a rabbit and broomsticking is easy and hard to screw up with no special equipment. It seemed like the right call and it’s worked for me thus far!
      I can’t understand people putting a glamor to farming. I went into this with no high expectations. I grew up with stories of my mom barely having enough to eat on her farm many times even though everyone got up at 4AM and worked hard all day. There’s nothing glamorous about that. It’s a very hard job, whether you do it small or big.
      I would normally have composted the remains except we have many predators around and city predators are the worst because they will come right up to your doorstep. I try to attract as few as possible and so I lay down newspaper to catch the blood and bits and I wash the post with bleach water when I’m done and I wash the drained blood into the ground too. Local predators are rough.

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