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Harvested my first rabbit today, but questions

 
                
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I hope some of you can celebrate with me since the only other impressed being in the house is the dog.  I'm feeling pretty good about the whole thing since the rabbit was raised in a roomy cage with lots of fresh food and the dispatching went about as peaceful and quick as I could hope for.

I was a little surprised at the strength it took for cervical dislocation with a broomstick.  Does anyone have any tips to make it easier?  Where do you grip the rabbit when you do it?

What do you use to cut off the head?  I tried the pruner method and it didn't work.  I finally used scissors but I suppose I will need to get heavy duty ones.  Any recommendations? 

And, what do you do with the rabbit heads and feet?  The entrails seemed a natural for the compost bin but not the rest of the leftovers.   

 
Rex Nichols
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I don't have a good answer for you hopefully someone else can help the both of us.  I have tried the pellet gun method and the swift chop method and really don't care for either.  I saw something called a rabbit wringer that looked about as humane as you can get.  I'm still deciding whether I should spend the cash on it. 

http://www.therabbitwringer.com/

Does anyone have any experience with it?
 
                
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I was impressed by the wringer as well but the price scared me off.  I chose to try the broomstick method which is basically the same procedure in the end (cervical dislocation) but you use a broom handle or piece of rebar (or anything else about that diameter that won't break) and keep the rabbit on the ground.  It was a very simple but I think it will become even easier as I get the timing down just right (rabbit down, bar, step, step, yank).  To me this seems the surest way to a quick and easy dispatch over the gun or just chopping without doing this first.     

Im fairly new here and not sure about posting links to youtube videos but if you would like a link please just email me.
 
T. Pierce
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i used to burn all the entrails, hide,  legs heads etc in a fire barrel.  lately ive been buring it in the compost pile..

broom stick method is my favorite now. 
 
                                
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Any time I butcher any animal I slice the throat. I thank God for the sacrifice the animal has made while the animal dies, it is not a quick death. By slicing the throat, the heart pumps most of the blood out, a bullet, hammer, or decaputation would shorten the blood pumping period and besides decaputation not alot of blood would flow immediatly. Blood clotting or thickening starts immediately, you want it out.  Im not a professional butcher but have eaten meat killed diffrent ways, IMO it does affect meat quality, and isnt that a big reason why were butchering in the first place? Quality?
 
Brice Moss
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I like a sharp blow with a lead pipe or something equally heavy to stun the bunny before I slice its throat.

meat quality is a few steps behind treating my food as kindly as practice for me though, so I get kinda upset when I hear a rabbit scream
 
                                
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My dad did the same with rabbits for the same reasons. I dont think anyone likes to hear a rabbit squel in pain. I used to think that anyone who eats meat should butcher at least one animal in their life to see that sacrifice first hand. I only eat what ive raised myself 98% of the time and eat vegi when away from home.
 
Casey Halone
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Thanks for posting this topic. I am about to venture into rabbit raising. Never have had any before this.
 
T. Pierce
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i used to use a sharp blow to back of the head, then decapatation.  but i feel the broom stick method then a sliced throat is a more humane way to go.  nothing is actually humane when killing a living soul,  but its the lesser of two evils IMO.  and the carcass has much less bruising and trauma around the neck, shoulder regions using this method over the blunt trauma method.

after butcherring, i prefer soaking the carcasses in a bucket of salt water while sitting in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. it really helps tenderize the meat, and makes the act of cutting up the carcass easier.  i change the water after the first day.
 
                
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Well, if I can work raccoons into my system I might have the solution to what to do with the leftovers.  At least one came through and took the head and four feet out of a paper bag that was in a covered compost bin.  Praying they don't come back for more!
 
Brice Moss
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coons are higly territorial, you will only see the one unless he is injured and gives up territory. I suggest getting to know the coon you have so long as he's not into breaking into coops he can be a great ally, do bury your critter waste deeper though so he don't get a taste for what you're raising
 
John Polk
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Indeed, coons are very territorial.  We are having coon fights nightly in the tree outside my bedroom.  I think it is the alpha male from this year's litter evicting the runt.  Once "your" coon learns how to get into the chicken coop, it is time to send him to the Happy Hunting Ground in the Sky.  He will be replaced in the territory by another, but hopefully it will take him time to learn how to get in the coop.  If there is an abundance of natural food for him, he may not be pressured into hen house burglary.  Coons are very smart animals.  If you lock your hen house, use a key lock, not a combination lock, as they are clever enough to figure out the combination!  LOL
 
T. Pierce
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well IMO the damage is done. hes found a food source.  and will continue to come back.  becoming braver and more brazen each time. he will wreck havoc on the fowl and the rabbits.  even IF he stays away now, he will remeber this winter when food becomes more scarace
 
Abe Connally
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I kill an average of 7 rabbits a week.  I hit them in the head, right at the base of the ears with a steel pipe, and then I hang them and cut their throats and bleed them out.  Technically speaking, they are still alive when the throat is cut, but they are knocked out, so they don't feel anything.  They are dead within 20 seconds.

I soak the carcasses in cold water until I am done killing, and then we wash them, drop them in freezer bags, and in the freezer they go.  We kill them at 12 weeks or younger, so the meat is always nice and tender.

I cook all the innards/blood and give it to the hogs mixed with ground corn.  They love it, and will knock you over to get to it.  I give the heads and feet to the dogs, and they enjoy the treat, as well.
 
                      
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I also have found that a sharp blow to the back of the head is the easiest and most humane method. I think a broomstick may be a bit light though. I usually just use a piece of firewood. Right after that, I take a hatchet or axe and decapitate them, hang them to bleed etc.

I do not soak or age and have not had any problems with tenderness or taste, but will try soaking to see if/how it improves the result.

You also asked about how this is done... When I started I used to just take them by the hind legs in one had and, while they hang that way, hit them with my other hand, but needless to say, this is stressful for the rabbits. I now carry them over to a second block near the chopping block and set them down, keeping a hold on them, pet them and talk to them for a bit and they quickly visibly relax. I then prove my treacherous nature by quickly grabbing the firewood and...

One draw back is that you do get some bruising (blood) around the site of the blow.

The second is that, IMO, by using something heavier than the broomstick, I believe the rabbit is dead from the blow even before I decapitate him, so the heart will stop beating a bit more quickly, leaving less time for it to pump out the blood after decapitation. By being really quick this has not been a problem, but I think it could be.

As to the by products, we give them raw to the chickens and turkeys.

I'm new to much of this and unsure about this, but I believe I have read that animal waste should not be composted. In addition to potentially attracting predators to your yard/livestock, they also attract rodents, flies, which lay eggs resulting in more flies, all of which feed off of the compost reducing the amount and value of your compost, rather than adding to it.

It is also my understanding that the bacteria involved in decomposing meats (as opposed to aerobic bacteria for vegetation) can contaminate whatever food you grow where you have spread the compost.

Again, I am not sure about this, so do not take my word for it! Maybe someone else knows more about this?

We have been burning the hides, which really bothers me, because I hate wasting any useful part of an animal that I have harvested, but in my area, we can't even give them away. I have read up on bark and brain tanning and will try that this winter.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I use a large (about 15" long) old wrench for hitting the rabbits on the back of the neck.  That works even with an older rabbit that I'm culling. 

Yes, you can compost animal products.  It would be a good idea to have the compost area fenced off so dogs and such can't get into it, but farmers compost even dead newborn calves.  You want to have plenty of 'brown' if you are doing a lot of animal parts composting.

Kathleen
 
Abe Connally
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we often throw whole animals in the humanure pile.  There's plenty of sawdust to keep it covered.  We've composted snakes, skunks, chickens, rabbits, etc.
 
                      
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I have been looking into composting carcasses and butchering wastes some more.

While it clearly is possible, as Velacreations & Kathleen point out, there are some special concerns and handling that should be practiced and in some areas it may not be legal to do so. 

I really like "Natural Rendering: Composting Livestock Mortality and Butcher Waste" @ http://compost.css.cornell.edu/naturalrenderingFS.pdf, which I think takes a very good, complete and clear look at if and how this can be done as well as instances in which it should not be done.
 
T. Pierce
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interesting read.

ive started composting my dead/butchered fowl and rabbits.  ive discovered that a week in the hot compost there is nothing left but some feathers and bones.  it may take less time, but thats all ive checked for.  i was surprised at the expediance of the whole process.  with absolutely no smell.  i cover the carcass or its remains with a couple inches of the composting material and wa-laaaaa.........
 
                
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Yes, great article.    Would you feel okay using this compost on food crops or should it age further to make it safe?
 
T. Pierce
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i myself will use my compost next spring.  but im sure i will be composting dead animals in it up till then.

while growing up all our dead animals got buried in the garden.  the soil was softest there.  and we are all still alive.
 
Brice Moss
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yep granddad taught us that gut buckets went into the garden just dug two foot deep with the post hole digger and dropped em in
 
George Collins
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I'm sure we're doing something wrong but after a rabbit hunt, we always feed the rabbit scraps to our hogs.

One year we killed so many rabbits so regularly that we had to start cleaning them away from the pasture where we had the hogs for they would smell a rabbit cleaning and they would come a running. They would then pace, squeal and root at the fence in such a way as to make us fearful they would tear out. And the WORST place to be on a farm is between a big boar and something he desperately desires.

In all the years that we've kept hogs, there have been only three things I remember them not eating: boiled crawfish left-overs, raw onions and raw peppers.
 
Brian Bales
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Seems like a soldier fly larva composter might be a really good complament to home  butchering of livestock. Do any of you have designated butchering areas? How are they set up?
 
Dave Bennett
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I have a piece of hickory that was once the handle of a shovel.  I whack the rabbit with enough force to render it unconscious and then slit the throat.  I save my hides and tan them so after skinning I remove the head with a meat cleaver.  It is quick and efficient.  I keep the brains for use in tanning and all of the entrails go into a compost pile that is separated.  I use a "saw dust" composting toilet and also keep that compost separated because I allow it to compost for over a year before it gets used. 
 
                        
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Re the waste from butchering I dig a hole with a post hole digger as deep as I can get and toss it in then backfill. The hole is deep and narrow so it reduces the chances of varmints digging it up and it is returned directly to the soil without the complications of composting. Keep track of where the holes are. Vegetables such as tomatos and peppers do great when planted above the ofal.
 
Jay Green
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We give animal left overs to the dog if he cares to have it and, if not, to nature. The wild animals/birds/bugs have a very efficient disposal system.
 
Devon Olsen
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i liked the rabbit wringer as it seems cleaner and more humane
as for what to do with the head and feet, the feet could be proccessed correctly(not sure how cus i dont have xp in the matter) and sold as lucky rabbits feet, you may not have huge local market but you could probably find someone that would be willing to buy a good amount of rabbits feet for them to do the selling

as for the head idk, but you could see if there is any ancient or native knowledge on what to do with it, as these societies likely used every little part of a harvested animal
 
Saybian Morgan
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Did someone say rabbit heads.
Ok so heres what you do, once finished you will have second guesses about feeding it to the dogs because it smells so good.

Collect all your heads in the freezer i usualy wait till I have 10 to 20, stick em in a pressure cooking and let er rip for about an hour at 15psi. I usualy throw in whatever else fits, usually sweet potato and other hour pressure cook items like carrots n dried herbs.

Once done you'l have a nice furry grey mass of jaw meats, n brain meats, n lots of what was once bone but now looks like cartilage. Put em in the food processor if you've got a decent one and let it blend for a minute. The teeth and everything become homoginized and then you can spoon it out onto wax paper and freeze it for doggy meals. I usualy clip off and dry the ears separately for dog chips, but there no pigs ear so they go pretty fast.

Dogs go insane for this, and if you saved the offal you'll have even more grey misc to feed out. I gave some to two dogs who were visiting that have lived a long life of kibble and they knew right away what was up.
If you have a bigger dog I suppose you could skip the food processor and just hand out a soft head a day defrosted, but I dunno how you'd freeze it without it becoming a mass hence why i blend up n spoon off. Plus i can sneak loads of things the dogs wouldn't eat if they could isolate it like fennugreek n blackberry leaves.
 
Jon Paddy
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I used to use the broomstick method, but I am pretty sure there is a moment after the neck is broken where the rabbit is still alert - and I didn't like that. I switched to smacking them on the back of the head (not the top, that doesn't work) with a large blacksmith hammer. I bring them from the cage, pet them so they relax, then position them with their head down on a concrete slab, then deal the blow. They pass peacefully, and there is no bruising of the shoulder meat.

Regarding blood in the meat, blood in meat effects shelf life. Blood is a great incubator for bacteria, so it is best to get as much out as you can. After slaughter, I hang and cut off the rabbit's head with a short-bladed combat knife (so it has a thicker blade than a kitchen knife). This takes a little effort, but works fine for me. A chopping block would work as well, but I like to do all the processes while the rabbit is hanging over my gut bucket.

I immediately put the dressed rabbit in a bucket of cold salt water, then rinse any hair off and cut apart after I get all the rabbits slaughtered for the day. After the rabbit is cut up, the pieces go into a fresh pot of cold salt water until they are chilled, then they are immediately frozen. No chance for bad bacteria to really get a foothold.
 
Kari North
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I don't have rabbits, yet, still exploring if it's viable for me. But I saw a video on YouTube where a guy cut a "V" into the end of a board, smoothed off the edges, and screwed it ovehead. Used the same principle as the Wringer, only much cheaper. I liked it and will use it if I decide that rabbits are doable for me.
 
Devon Olsen
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Kari North
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Ugh, I watched just about every video on YouTube about raising meat rabbits, I'd have to go back and hunt for it. Don't have time this morning, I'll see if I have time later. It was pretty simplistic, but effective. I don't bend very well, so over head is better for me than trying a broomstick on the floor.
 
                            
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Kari North wrote:Ugh, I watched just about every video on YouTube about raising meat rabbits, I'd have to go back and hunt for it. Don't have time this morning, I'll see if I have time later. It was pretty simplistic, but effective. I don't bend very well, so over head is better for me than trying a broomstick on the floor.


Is it this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXAhzfqhMNE

It is fairly simple and quick. Definetly something to consider.

d.
 
Kari North
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Yup, that's it. Seems to do the job.
 
Gail Farquhar
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I have always used the rebar across the neck just behind the ears and then pull up on both hind legs cervical dislocation method of dispatching rabbits and have never had a failure. Then I hang them on a horizontally mounted piece of rebar from two twine loops around the legs below the hocks, and remove the head with a good sharp knife. I use the same bar and loops for butchering poultry too. As for the entrails, my dogs, ducks and chickens all gather around at butchering time and wait for those to be tossed to them and the dogs LOVE rabbit feet as chews. Since my dogs are fed raw food, as much as possible, I do NOT cook 'clean' domestic offal before I feed it to them, but I do freeze wild meat, which might be infected with parasites before they get that.
I put heads and hides into a fly factory, a plastic bucket with holes drilled into it and a tight top then hung where the ducks and chickens hang out, high enough so they can't get to the bucket. When the fly larvae get ready to pupate they crawl out of the holes and fall to the ground where the birds snatch them up. After a few months all that will be left is some composted fur, and bones if you also put road kill and other 'waste' meats/bones into the fly farm.
That way you get rid of the excess organic material and provide high protein feed for your poultry at the same time.

I do agree that most carcasses are best aged for at least a few days, either in cold salt water or dry before cutting. I age older poultry and venison for at least a week before eating or freezing. About the only carcasses we don't age are hogs, domestic OR (our much preferred over domestic) wild hogs, which we have in great abundance here in Texas.
 
Le Sellers
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I've used cervical dislocation methods (sticks or karate chop) for decades. However, I'm getting too old to do that successfully every time, partly because I'm just getting weaker, but partially because hitting the poor thing two or three times "to be sure" gets a lot blood in the neck meat. I'm working on a guillotine: heavy blade, spring-loaded, with a hole just about large enough to get bunny's head through.

Swift and clean. That's what I'm looking for.

As for the head and feet, I have the same quandary: no good solution. However, if my experiments with black soldier flies go well, that may be a problem solved. We'll see.

I hold the rabbit for a minute to calm him down, stroke him a bit and then, still stroking, I hold him by the hind feet, and then deal the blow. As I said, it's been successful for a long time. The rabbit rarely gets agitated. I haven't heard the rabbit in distress cry more than a half dozen times since I started raising them 35+ years ago while stationed in Italy.

Meat and meat-like stuff does not belong in a compost bin. It takes 'way too long to decompose, worms don't like it much, and it stinks. That's one of the three biggest reasons we're doing the BSF experiments. I'll pass along what I learn, but, from what I've read, they leave nothing but bone and hair. (We don't use the skins, too much work when they are that young.)

I am interested in what people are raising. I have Florida Whites now. Smaller and more dense. Faster maturing: better feed-to-food ratio. Smaller hutches, and fairly good litter size. We've only had a few die at kindling, and rarely afterward.

Anyway, breeds of rabbits are like breeds of dogs: everyone has a favorite, and, like sex, religion and politics, it may not be a topic for polite conversation.
 
Madeline Aldred
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there is a lot of information on you tube, on type, how to catch, kill, etc.
one thing you can do with the leftover bits, if you don't have dogs or cats, you can put them through the shredder and into the compost, works well and breaks down quickly.

one species that is recommended is the new zealand white.
make sure you soak the rabbit in a salt solution over night, then prepare.
we eat a lot of wild rabbit, partner head shoots them then guts them in the field, we have dogs and cats that eat any bits that we dont.
then all the left overs either go to pigs or in the compost.
other than shooting, breaking the neck then bleeding straight away is the best.
one way is to put your foot across the back of the neck and give a good pull. easiest way for me as Im only small.
 
Andrew Pongratz
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I have been harvesting rabbits for a couple of years now and cervical dislocation is by far the way to go. Rabbits are stronger than you think and need to be held with two hands, scruff of the neck and back legs with gloves (they can give a nasty scratch with sharp claws).
I have seen the wringer videos and found them to be a wealth of knowlege when it comes to how hard to pull and when to stop. I happen to have a hay feeder with bars that are welded together, the opening is large enough for the bunny head to fit in and I then slide the animal down the V till the bars on its neck are very snug, at that point, one hand on front shoulders one holding both back legs and pull till the neck streches a couple inches, you will hear and see it break. You need to pull enough for the neck bones to pull apart, ( watch a Wringer vid and you will see the point at the neck bones come apart) it may give a few kicks but it will be mostly limp. Once pulled apart the head comes right off with a sharp knife no chopping needed. If you can't cut the head off easily with a sharp knife you did not pull enough. Bleed into bucket, skin, gut, remove feet then cold water bath to get body temp down fast and keep bugs off, takes about 5 min. Feet and fur to the compost pile everything else to the pigs. They are great on the grill.
 
Benjamin Bouchard
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My lady and I raise Californians and the way I dispatch them is with the conk to the head. I use the handle from a short axe and the oval shape concentrates the force of the blow nicely. I set the rabbit down on the ground and give it a quick face rub to calm it down. The I grab them gently but firmly just in front of the hips and lift their hind end off the ground, which presents the back of their head cleanly. A firm rolling snap of the arm and wrist delivers the blow and you know you did it right if blood comes out their nose. At that point they are instantly DEAD. Not stunned or knocked unconscious, but dead, as the force essentially scrambled their brain. You're then free to hang and dress at your leisure. I suggest hosing them down first, as the fur will be less likely to stick to the meat during skinning. I use a stiff curved 5" boning knife from Friedrich Dick to do all the cleaning. Feet fur and guts go in the a bucket and then to the manure pile. Any trimmed bits of meat and/or smaller bones go to the chickens. They love fighting over the scraps.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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