I'm squeamish about killing mine. Not that I have an ethical objection (quite the opposite, actually), but it's simply that killing just wears me out quickly. I love hunting and have done it for years, but the same thing...the killing is hard. But anyway, you see where I'm going...lol!
I have a very small enclosure - more of a topless and bottomless cage that I put the rabbit into along with some alfalfa or other favorite treat. While bunny is all excited and distracted, I locate the spot on the skull between the ears and just 1/4 to 1/2 inch back, and shoot with a CO2 powered pellet gun. Bunny never experiences any adrenaline-producing stress, and it's a very reliable way to kill quickly without bruising. Immediately afterwards, I cut the throat and hang him to bleed out. Truthfully, if I had the intestinal fortitude to do it, I'd probably give a stunning blow instead to keep the heart pumping to bleed him out, but again...squeamish. This is what works for me.
Once the rabbit has been un-traumatically killed, to remove the head, I cut the hide, muscle and tendons around the neck right down to the spine. Then, a quick twist cleanly removes the head. Also, when butchering and skinning anything from rabbits to deer, I use a scalpel instead of a knife. You can buy the handle and disposable blades (avoid the concave blades used for castration, they are impossible to deal with!) at any farm supply place. They are small, but insanely sharp, which makes the job precise, clean, and fast. Just make sure you have a "sharps container" to dispose of the blades...those can be dangerous!
I don't soak mine, I just do a thorough rinse of the carcass in clean water and pat dry with paper towels before bagging. However, they all spend 24 hours in the fridge regardless of whether they'll be later frozen or cooked fresh the next day. From what I understand, it lets the meat come out of rigor mortis before freezing or cooking, and keeps everything tender. It seems to work pretty well. And, I find it highly entertaining to have my husband open a fridge full of rabbits...baby butts pointed right at him, when he least expects it.
A side story... Years ago, I would use my clothesline to hang rabbits to bleed, and when I was doing more than one or two at a time, it could look..weird. Troubling, even. I was butchering one morning and had a few on the line, when it occurred to me that it was about time for the mail to arrive. Now, our mailbox had been knocked down by the snowplow a couple days prior, and I'd not fixed it yet. I realized, with much dread, that when the sweet, lil' old mail lady drove up to the house, she'd be greeted with my freakish display of dead rabbits hanging on the clothesline! I looked up in a panic, and sure enough, she was coming up the drive. I plastered on the best non-psychotic smile I could manage when she drove up, and said, "Hi, you kind of caught me in the middle of butchering."
I expected a look of terror, mail thrown out the car window, and a cloud of dust as she tore out of the drive. Instead, she took a considering look at my "handiwork", and said "You know, when we butcher, we just cut around the feet and tail, and pull the hide off like a sock instead of cutting down the middle."
Whew. For the next ten minutes, we talked shop, I got lots of tips, and made a really cool friend. I still skin and butcher my rabbits like I do deer, but some habits die hard.
Huzzah! Congrats! My husband and I started keeping rabbits in February. We aren't great at mating them yet (at least I'd say that considering how many does we've had and how many litters we've had compared to the number of does), but we have bought rabbits at auction and "harvested" them.
We use the broomstick method, too, though not with a broomstick - we've read several things recommending rebar or rods similar in strength. We just grab the back feet and put our weight on the broomstick in one fell swoop. The only person I've seen unable to make that happen was a 9 year old who learned how to slaughter a rabbit and she didn't seem to have the upper body strength to pull hard enough.
As far as the pruner, we upgraded to a pair of heavy kitchen shears that have a groove in one of the blades. I think they came from Home Depot, but they're nice because they come apart for cleaning. We sometimes have to destroy the head since we have been saving brains to try braintanning the hides later, but we have been burying the entrails rather than putting them in the compost bin. We figure it'll break down and fertilize wherever it is, so we just end up dumping the entrails we don't save for neighbors' appreciative dogs into the ground in various places.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.
-Henry David Thoreau
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