Since I’ve made it known that I eat them, the question of “How do you process them?” has come up many times. I recently timed myself and wrote out the entire process when the question of how long it takes me per animal came up on a live chat session with some of the folks at InTheRabbitHole.com. Here is a re-write for my own site.
The question of how long it took to dispatch, skin, dress and process a rabbit. I wasn’t sure just how long it takes me, but I knew it wasn’t THAT long. I consider myself adept at it. However, even though I harvest rabbits about once a month, and about every month, I do not consider myself to be a “pro” at it.
So recently, while harvesting, I decided to time myself. I already had my container for the end products set up (a bowl of water), a water hose with a squeeze spray nozzle, a board with two hanging strings for suspending the animal, and a bag in a bucket for the parts to be discarded.
- Select a “winner” (loser?), carry it across my yard and around my house, about 30 yards
- Dispatch the animal. I alternate between a cervical dislocator, and a sharp blow to the top of the head between the eyes and the ears. Both are quick, and humane.
- Hang it by its hind feet
- Hose it down to prevent hair getting all over the carcass
- Remove the head, placing it in the bucket
- Remove the front feet, placing them in the bucket
- Cut around the hind legs, being sure to only cut the skin
- With the blade facing out, slice the hide from the ringed ankle to the pelvic area
- Remove the hide from the rear legs down to the tail
- Sever the tail, freeing the hide from the rear section of the carcass. This leaves a little tuft of fur around the vent area.
- Pull the hide down, turning it inside out, down across the remaining carcass. With no legs or head, it simply slides off the bottom. The hide is saved for a friend to tan.
- Cut on both sides of the tuft of fut at the vent, then move it up and out of the way.
- Split the pelvic bone.
- Split the belly down to the sternum, being careful to not cut any intestines.
- Holding the tuft of fur, remove the vent area and the bladder, being sure to not spill it(!), by pulling it all towards me and down until the bladder is hanging BELOW the carcass.
- The vent, fur patch, bladder intestines, and stomach are all cut free and dropped into the bucket.
- Remove the kidneys, put them into the bowl.
- Remove the liver, splitting out the gall bladder. Liver in the bowl, gall bladder in the bucket.
- Split the ribs down through the neck.
- Remove the lungs, heart, and esophagus.
- Remove the heart, put it into the bowl, the lungs and esophagus goes into the bucket.
- (At this point, I have an whole carcass, ready for smoking or roasting whole, just be sure to skip to the last step and do the first sentence!)
- Hold a front leg and slice through the armpit, removing the front quarter, there are no bones attaching it. Repeat on other side. Both front quarters go into the bowl.
- Cutting in front of one of the hind quarters, running the knife back along the spine, to separate the hind quarter from the remaining carcass. This leaves a hind quarter hanging from its still furred foot. Repeat for the other hind quarter, and the ribs and back come away in my hand. Ribs go into the bowl.
- Using game shears, cut each of the furred hind feet from the hanging hind quarters. Put both hind quarters int he bowl. Remove the feet from the string and throw them into the bucket.
Total time, seven minutes plus a few seconds. And I wasn’t rushing, and didn’t screw anything up. I processed three rabbits in about thirty minutes, only stopping because I ran out of useful light, otherwise I would have harvested a fourth, we only have room in our fridge to hold four at a time.
This morning, I did four rabbits in just under 30 minutes. I’ll call that consistently under 8 minutes per animal, and includes distractions. For example, this morning, one decided to run off as I set him down to be dispatched. It took me a coupe minutes to corner him to continue with my work.
I will say that practice DOES make perfect, or at least shaves time off the process. And speaking of shaving, a sharp knife is a MUST, (I usually use my stainless Mora) as well as water to rinse throughout to keep the fur off the carcass.
Establish a routine, and it goes faster.
Some times it doesn’t go so well, and takes me twice as long, but not very often.
I started quartering the rabbits as they hang, and this has saved me about an hour for cutting up the carcass the next day, counting setup and cleanup. Now I only need to cut out the “loins” or “chicken tenders” as I call them when feeding them to my wife and kids – the boneless strips pf meat across the back. I also trim any other meat I can get off of the ribs and back, and use it to either make sausage (with the heart, liver and kidneys) or jerky.
Also the following day, I usually put the pieces into bags, vacuum seal them, label each, and then freeze them. Other times, I raw pack in quart jars and pressure can them.
Each yields about two to three pounds of meat.
I need to do some pics and/or a video, however, I can’t seem to get my wife or kids to stay out there and hold a camera while I’m doing it
And for what it’s worth, it took far longer to write than it do to actually do!
And I will close with the fact that I never like the actual killing part. As corny as it sounds, I’ve always thanked any animal I’ve harvested for it’s sacrifice. I know that it is a part of the life cycle, and my family is healthier by consuming meat we raise ourselves. I try to give each animal the best life I can, with only one bad day.
Hope it helps,