Saturday our farmer (and friend) Chip came to pick up the 21 rabbits that he excitingly purchased from us. I cried, a teeny bit, as I watched them drive away on his trailer. I've enjoyed having these rabbits so much more than I ever thought I would. I never realized how many times a day I wandered out to their cages to enjoy their company. Or how many times I watched the little bunnies run around from the dining room window.
But as much as I tried to convince myself otherwise, it really didn't make sense to haul 21 rabbits from Southern Alabama to North Central Washington.
I am thankful the rabbits went to a good home. Chip will continue to raise the kits for meat and obviously, since he is our vegetable farmer, he'll have all sorts of goodies for them from the garden. They're going to be just fine.
But still. A tear slipped.
As a reader reminded me on Facebook though, I must concentrate on Kula and the 15 laying hens currently waiting for me at the new house! There will be more rabbits soon, too. So all is not lost. And even if it was, thanks be to God for this awesome experience thus far.
All that to say, two of the rabbits remained behind. These two kits were from the very first litter born on the homestead. At twelve weeks old, they were ready for butcher.
In a weird sense, I really was eager to butcher them, as it helped to complete the circle of the life that we'd begun as rabbit ‘farmers'. I was also eager to taste the meat – would I like it? Would I be able to handle eating them? What would the butchering process be like?
I've dealt with my share of animal husbandry issues and seen and processed plenty of raw meat, but I'd never actually done the butchering myself. This was new territory.
So after the rabbits left with Chip and the littles were down for a nap, Stuart and I went outside to harvest the kits.
WARNING: I AM NOW GOING TO TALK ABOUT AND SHOW PICTURES OF THE RABBIT HARVEST. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE BLOOD AND GUTS, STOP READING.
Seriously. I'm warning you. Two rabbits were harvested. Fo' real.
To disbatch (that's just a nicer homesteading word for kill) the rabbits, Stuart shot each on in the back of the head with a high-powered pellet gun. We'd contemplated lots of various ways that we could disbatch them (the most popular seems to be snapping the neck), but the idea of that creeped me out. Because it was our first harvest, I didn't want to cause the rabbits any undue harm if we were to screw up and snap the neck wrong. A pellet gun seemed a sure-fire way to ensure an instant and painless death.
Before the rabbits were shot, we gave thanks for them.
For the first rabbit, I hid behind the corner of the house while Stuart disbatched it.
When I heard the *pop* of the pellet gun, I got tears in my eyes. Not necessarily tears of saddness, but rather tears of appreciation. They were gone in an instant though, as I ran over to check on the rabbit. Just as we expected – instant death. The legs continued to reflex for a few seconds, but then the movement quickly subsided.
I petted it's fur a few more times. And said thank you once more.
Now, it was time to harvest the meat.
A quick slip behind each hock allowed us to slip a bungy cord into each leg. The cords were connected to a few nails in a tree. Far from the ideal set up, but all our hardware is packed, so this is the best we could do.
First, we cut around each leg.
Then around the tail and anus.
We used a variety of knives to see which we preferred, but we found that scissors worked the best. Next time, we'll use a sharp knife like this to make sure of clean and easy cuts.
After cutting around the legs and anus, we clipped off the front feet.
The pelt can then be removed like a reverse turtle-neck sweater, gently pulling helps it to easily separate from the flesh.
Until it reaches the head, which must then be removed. We used a sharp knife and scissors to remove the head.
After the head and pelt were removed, we used the scissors to break open the abdominal cavity.
Just like when gutting any animal, extra precaution must be taken to avoid poking the bladder or intestines. A long vertical slit down the belly and all the goods just sort of pour out. We then carefully tore them out with our hands.
Breaking the pelvis open makes removing the anus much easier. (Now there's a sentence you don't say every day).
After all the organs were removed, we clipped off the back feet. And that's it!
Despite the butchering being a very simple process, we still sort of fumbled around a bit. It's not every day we butcher and it was quite obvious in our technique. I assume, as with all skills, the more it's practiced the better and quicker we'd be at it.
Even by the second rabbit, we were already better at it. It went smoother and faster than the first.
The rabbits were then carefully rinsed, packaged, and cooled. One of them was cut into pieces, lightly floured, and fried in butter with garden potatoes, beer, and rosemary. From the rabbit run to the dinner plate in less than two hours – that's pretty amazing stuff!
As much as we enjoyed the experience of raising, butchering, and eating these rabbits it no doubt comes with a weight as a carnivore. After all, it became very apparent that their blood was shed on our behalf. They ceased to exist so that we could continue to exist.
Even if we were vegetarians, this would still ring true. Life is lost (be it the life of a rabbit or a potato) so that other life can be sustained.
And thankfully, my Christian faith allows me the freedom to enjoy such a wonderful rabbit dish with a clear conscience.
Just as when I harvest homegrown vegetables from the garden, I appreciated this meat more than I ever thought possible. To have been witness to the birth, life, and death of these kits was spectacular and speaks so true of God's design and purpose for His divinely created world over which we've been gifted dominion.
I am thankful.
For further reading on our rabbits:
Thank you for that. I am glad to comment before you got any negativity. It was a thoughtful post. You can tell you really loved the rabbits and were thankful for their life. We often don’t want to look at hard things and I admit I certainly wasn’t gleeful about reading it but I am glad I did. I would like to raise meat rabbits and your post gave me information without sensationalism. Thank you.
I appreciate your post more than you could imagine. We just set up our pens and got our first breeders. I have been fighting myself about this since it was first suggested. Your post gives me hope. I do want to ask about the pellet gun you used. It was suggested to me to “whack it on the back of the head” I like your method better. I do think you have grounded and inspired many of us DIYers with you heartfelt and honest post. Thank you
Hi I raise rabbits. We use the hopper popper, others use broomstick method or chain method. All of which are much better method than the one your talking about. There are to many things that can go wrong with that method. I hope you have much success with your rabbits.:)
I had forgotten that I had commented on this post. Almost 8 years from the first reading, and I am refreshing myself to do my first rabbit harvest today.
Thank you for this post. Going through the food process from start to finish helps everyone involved appreciate every morsel. Food can be fun, but it’s purpose is for fuel. 🙂
As someone who is thinking of raising animals for food in the future, I really appreciated this post. It wasn’t quite as scary as I had imagined. I loved your thankfulness and care for the rabbits, as it should be. So how did they taste? I assume you enjoyed them because you are planning to have them at your new farm. Take care, Shaye!
I recently blogged about our first time butchering chickens so I know how you feel. Wonderful, clear photos, honest helpful wording.
The experience was something else..but I look at the chicken in my freezer and appreciate it all the more.
Kudos to you girl and thanks for your post. We have been thinking about starting meat rabbits next year and this is encouraging.
Teresa Getter Messick
Even though I have been wondering how things went, I was still hesitant about actually reading the post. However, you presented the whole process with such care and respect and I love that you took time to give thanks before ‘dispatching’ the rabbits. I hope you will always do that because I think it made all the difference. Blessings on your move and on your new homestead. Looking forward to reading more of you adventures!
Thank you for this post! I especially like how you stated
“As much as we enjoyed the experience of raising, butchering, and eating these rabbits
it no doubt comes with a weight as a carnivore. After all, it became
very apparent that their blood was shed on our behalf. They ceased to
exist so that we could continue to exist. Even if we were vegetarians, this would still ring true. Life is lost
(be it the life of a rabbit or a potato) so that other life can be
You can tell you cared for these creatures and respected what they gave you. Great writing and very good information!
Humility, I sensed great humility and respect in this post, and I am sure that the butchering was full of it, you can literally feel how thankful you are. It was beautifully and tactfully done, I respect you and your family all the more for it. I had watched a video of a rabbit butchering, and lets just say it was not done with humility and love, and I had reached that “nope, can’t do it” point. Now, after seeing that it doesn’t have to be like that other video, that it can be done from a place of appreciation and gratitude, it really takes away all of that “omword I can’t do this!” Your post literally had me teary eyed, you and your family are pure Shaye, never let that change, this world tries very hard to corrupt that, keep up the good fight and don’t let it.
Linda Marie Finn
Girlfriend you could be Rachel Ray ! Your so pretty ! even holding a dead rabbit ! Its truely hard, but it tastes truely great. Rabbit pot pie, rabbit and rice soup, rabbit stew…. rabbit fried… folks might not like your graphic pics but I say you are one gusty lady…God is so good !
My wife and I were just talking about my grandfather raising rabbits. My parents also had rabbits, 500 floppy eared hoppers. My parents would sell the young ones, after they reached a certain weight, To a fellow who would weigh them and pay cash for them. They were processed else where. My grandfather, had about twenty or so. He sold some of the young bunnies for pets. And others, he processed much like you all did. And with every one that he butchered. He gave thanks. He once told me that. ” Any, and all meat, that you process your self. From rabbits to cows and everything in between, including your wild game. Seems to taste better, when you have done it your self.” And, have asked for a blessing over that that you eat.
You all did a great job.
Hi there! Thanks for writing this. We are thinking about getting meat rabbits. We have two rabbits for pets and we adore them. It has been tough for me to think about actually harvesting rabbits to eat. Especially raising them from kits. I think it would be much easier with a wild rabbit that I don’t know well. We want rabbits though in case we can’t get beef. I am a carnivore and I must eat meat every meal. I eat meat (beef mainly), raw sauerkraut, raw cheese, butter and some eggs. If I don’t eat like this my entire body hurts more than you can imagine and I am literally bedridden. So it is more out of necessity than anything.
Thank you for the informative post! Your photos are very helpful. I don’t have rabbits but would like to someday, and I have a few questions about the process:
1. Did you bleed out the rabbit after shooting it/before butchering, or is that not necessary with rabbits?
2. Did you withhold feed for a day prior to slaughter (to reduce the amount of stuff in the intestines, etc.)?
3. What are you planning on doing with the furs?
Hi Emilie! No, we didn’t bleed them out. They really don’t have much blood at all. Despite the little bit that came out from the pellet gun, we didn’t really see much more. We didn’t without feed either. The furs would be WONDERFUL to tan and keep – we’d like to try this when we have the time to learn the skills involved.
Great post! How did you separate the feet? With scissors as well? I’m trying to find a way of doing it that doesn’t splinter the bone and leave little bits of bone behind. Do you think you’ll be getting rabbits on your new homestead?
We used scissors on the feet. We didn’t have a problem with them splintering at all! We will most definately be having them on our new homestead – they’re WONDERFUL!
What brand of scissors did you use? and what price range? Thanks so much.
Just cheap-o kitchen scissors!
This is a great post! I thought I would be more squeemish reading it, but it was so informative (and I will admit I was curious) that I kept reading. I’m glad I did. What did you do with the pelts?
Oh, you are a far greater woman than I! I have rabbits literally running rampant all over the place (the word Spain comes from the Greek word Hispania, meaning land of rabbits!), and there are hare further up the road. Local hunters would love to hunt on my property, but I myself just can’t do it. But, it is nice to know that we could survive if we needed to. Karen, at http://ladyoflamancha.blogspot.com.es/
I am raising rabbits as well and we have our first butchering session coming up in a couple weeks. At this point in time, I am incredibly thankful to be married to a meat cutter who knows all there is to know about it. We work as a team, and with over 10 rabbits to dispatch at that time, I am nervously awaiting that “finishing line”. Thank you for the honesty and graciousness with which you posted this. 🙂
Blessings to you,
Heather @ The Welcoming House Blog
I think it’s gross and sad to kill rabbits and eat them. Even though you give thanks for them, and you seem to kill them in a humane way, it still bothers me. Rabbits are cute and make great pets. Why eat them when you could eat other meat? This seems just odd and bizarre on so many levels.
Cows and pigs and goats and lambs and deer and elk and ducks and chickens are all cute. Some make great pets. It’s not odd or bizarre to eat them and rabbits are part of that equation. I don’t know if I could “dispatch” a rabbit but I know I could clean it and eat it. Everyone is different on what they’re comfortable with and that’s what this boils down to. To say “Why eat them when you could eat other meat?” is to say that the life of that “other meat” isn’t as valuable as that of the rabbit which isn’t true at all.
My thoughts exactly!
Because Rabbit is healthy low in cholesterol and fat, and some people can not have beef or lamb or pork due to Health issues. They Are cute but They are a food animal. Simple.
I would rather raise my own animals and give them a wonderful life filled with appropriate space and food than eat an animal that is raise in a cage so small that it cannot move and is force-fed until butcher day, which is agonizing and mechanical. These people have their rabbits a far better life and death than any commercial factory ever could. We should be moving towards sustainability to take away the power and abuse of large corporations!
Love, love, love rabbit meat as do my kids. Little fat, tons of protein and with lots of garlic, parsley and a bit of cognac they are delish!!! One of the greatest white meats out there.
So, what did you think of the meat?
Also from the Oxford dictionary, harvest as a verb, section 1-1 “to catch or kill animals for human consumption.”
Great post! Thank you for sharing your experience. I happen to love rabbit. Any favorite ways to prepare it?
I wish everyone here would use proper language. Rabbits (or any other animal) are “slaughtered” and crops are “harvested.” Look it up in the dictionary. Why would you use improper terms to describe a process like this? The only reasons I can come up with is that you are extremely uncomfortable with actually “slaughtering” rabbits or you are just ignorant of the English language.
Kolga, I have no problem with the term slaughter. But I also think that harvest is an appropriate term to use. Let’s keep the comments a little kinder, shall we?
“Harvest” can refer to crops or animals, as per Merriam-Webster, see part 3b
The Oxford dictionary, definition of harvest, part 1-2 “a quantity of animals caught or killed for human use.”
Thanks for this post. I’m trying to get up the nerve to go out and harvest my rabbit today. I’m making a conscious effort to get closer to my food (let’s get to the source!!) and if I want to do that it requires moving outside of my comfort zone. Rabbits were commonplace in grocery stores only a generation (or two) ago and are a highly renewable food source. It would do a whole lot of us some good to move towards growing and harvesting (and sure, slaughtering) our own food.
Love your blog. I will be checking in often to see what new things you’re up to!
Thanks for reading, Kala! Best of luck with your rabbit. Ours were delicious! 😉
So did you like the meat? I’ve been contemplating raising rabbits for meat as well, but we’re just barely getting started with this whole process. Have some chickens and goats first for both this year!
This was awful, showing how to kill and skin an animal. I’m sorry, I beg to differ, a rabbit and potato are 2 different being. The potato is not something that can love you and trust you, a rabbit can. As humans we are meant to be vegetarian’s not meat eaters. Closest living relatives are primates i.e., chimps and gorilla’s. They eat meat very seldom, not on a daily or even weekly basis. OK, that’s my rant about animal slaughter. Thanks for your wonderful blog, minus this post, I love it.
Respectfully, this article was written from a humble, educational standpoint. Reading through the comments, the majority of those moved to respond felt her choice of topic to be both appropriate and helpful. There was also a warning before the graphics included. If you did not desire to learn more about the topic, there was no reason for you to read it, except to intentionally inflame your personal sensibilities.
On the subject of human digestive requirements, gorillas and chimps both have longer digestive tracts (wonderful for breaking down cellulose) and smaller brains (they require less fat to maintain). Some humans have chemistry which thrives on a greater volume of plant material in their diet, but it is a highly individualized chemistry.
Double check your facts with your Physician. The human animal has the digestive tract of a true omnivore, with a digestive track designed to process both meat and vegetation. Also well pointed out by Melinda is the additional fat requirements for proper development and maintenance of the brain. While a proper diet can be achieved on an all plant-based diet, it is more efficiently achieved by adding healthy meats.
I found this blog post to be very helpful, educational, and respectfully written.
The photographs were sufficient to educate, without being overly graphic.
There are certain grim and less-than-pleasant realities involved in killing and cleaning an animal for food, whether it be a deer, cow, pig, rabbit or even a fish.
I think Shaye did a wonderful job of presenting what can be, for many of us, difficult subject; and she did it with all due respect and thankfulness that we should all bring to anything we consume, whether we harvest our own, or buy at the store.
Thank you Shaye, for a blog article well done. Many Blessings on you, and on all your future endevors.
Thank you, Dawn!
Hello there.Enjoyed reading your post.I do have a question that you did not covered on this article. What can you do with the rabbit intestine or head? Do process it to became dog food? If you do, can you cover/write up the process. Thanks.
Thank you so much for this post. While I am not at the point in my homesteading journey where I am able to raise animals for meat (I still live in an apartment) it is something I am considering in the future. I have really struggled with the idea of loving and caring for an animal that I intend to use for meat. I spent yesterday at the ranch of a friend of mine and as I sat on a stump feeding the chickens that provide my eggs I seriously asked myself if I could eat one of them. Tonight as I was deboning a chicken from the supermarket I realized how disconnected I was from that particular chicken who gave their life for me even if I didn’t know it or slaughter it myself. Your post really helped me to realize the importance of having that connection to my food. I think if I am going to eat meat, I should be willing to know that animal and end it’s life.
Thank you for writing such a thoughtful post. My husband and I were talking about raising some rabbits for meat, but I was really unsure how to dispatch them, using a pellet gun seems much more humane than a half hearted attempt to break the neck.
I am so glad to find your blog. Thank you so much!
‘From the rabbit run to the dinner plate in less than two hours.’ What about the whole riga-mortise process. I thought the meat was suppose to soak in a brine for 48 hours. I would love to not do that if it is not necessary!
Now that you have had about a year to get to know this well, can you give us an update pls. Had it been worth it?
We don’t have our meat rabbits anymore, sadly. Sold them when we moved to Washington from Alabama. We will be getting new ones here on the farm when time allows – I loved them!
THANK YOU for the clear but tactful post and photos! I respect you and your husband for taking responsibility for your diets and treating your food with dignity. I feel like I should have the courage to kill & clean my own if I am going to continue to eat meat. I’ve been curious about either hunting the wild rabbits in our meadow or raising rabbits for meat, and this was a good look at what I’d be getting myself into.
Thank you for this post. All too often people forget where our food comes from. Having been a hunter for the last ten years I understand giving thanks to our Lord for a successful harvest. My husband and I ventured into homesteading years ago and it is the best think we ever did. I never worked so hard for an employer as I do now but it doesn’t feel like it. Raising rabbits is my next adventure as I finally succeeded with our gardening requirements. Only took 5 years to get it right ha ha. Anyway, I do appreciate your sincerity and realness that more people should embrace. I believe this is an honorable thing to do so don’t slow down. Continue to educate as that is just as important. Were in it together folks!
Potatoes and living animals are completely different and really can’t be compared. What gives me a clear conscience is refraining from slaughtering and eating animals, but that’s just me. To each their own.
Kacey, God created animals for food. He even says that in Genesis.
Shaye, I have never commented on your blog before, but I came across this post and wanted to say thanks for the info! We got our first rabbits back in January and our three does are now pregnant. I had to put down on of my other rabbits at about 8 weeks because she was dying, but we didn’t eat her because we didn’t know why she was dying. I had first tried to break her neck and I just injured her, so then I quickly gave her a bop on the back of the head to finish her off. I felt terrible 🙁 (Not that I had to put her down, but that I made her suffer more.) So anyways, I was wondering if you could tell me about the pellet gun you use. Does it make noise when you shoot it?
It was just one we borrowed from a friend… and no, it doesn’t really make any noise. Works great!
Have you yet figured out tanning/preserving the fur? Also what kind of pellet gun do you use to “dispatch” the rabbits?
We have not done the tanning for rabbit pelts yet but it is something Stuart wants to take on. We used an air pump pellet gun to the back of the head to dispatch the rabbits.
Robert K Martin
Thank you so very much for such a deep hearted article. As a Louisiana CoonAss running with friends who as myself loved hunting. After Katrina hit us,our second time around cause we we’re also flooded out in the 60’s by Betsey. Anyway we’re out West now in Utah & are considering homesteading several acres in Montana and rabbits for harvest was one of my first consideration. But, my biggest problem is that we are “Animal Rescuers” and lovers! What really impressed me was your faith and thankfulness for our Father & Creator. Thanks again for lifting the spirit of a old sinner Saved by HIS Grace. May The Lord our GOD Bless you and yours as you remain a willing tool for The Masters Hand. Robert & Judy Martin
Thanks so much. One added tool we use is a stiff bottle brush to wash out the body cavity. Thanks again.
No pictures? I don’t need tem, but others new to truly feeding themselves may have found them useful.
You make it look soooooooooo easy. . .lol. My grandfather (who I lived with) raised rabbits so I was around rabbits all the time. I watched him do everything from feeding, watering, cleaning up after them. But he would never allow me to watch him kill or dress a rabbit, mainly because he was worried about it scaring me. My grandfather passed well over 20 years ago and for a long time, I wished I had asked him to show me how, I was 11 when he died and the thought didn’t cross my mind until I was 30. . .hee hee hee, hopefully one day I’ll have the guts to raise my own rabbits for meat and learn who to successfully dress them.
Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to see people still raising rabbits for meat.
Shaye, I would greatly appreciate reading more recipes/preparation methods. We’re new to raising rabbits for meat and I could use some guidance on cooking them!
Do the rabbits need dewormed before they are dispatched and processed? This is our first time raising them and we ended up with 13 rabbits before we knew it so we have to sell or eat them. They weight around 3 pounds. Is that too small to eat?
Thank you for the information. I truly enjoyed the post. It wasn’t gross like I thought it might be.
Do you have to deworm the rabbits before dispatching them? We have 12 rabbits, which has gotten to be too many so we either have to sell or eat them. It’s our first attempt at raising meat rabbits and they are around 4 pounds. Is that big enough to eat?
Thank you for the information. I truly enjoyed the post. It was a big help.
Did your family move to montana and continue to raise rabbits? We are new homesteaders in MT and want to raise meat rabbits for ourselves and sell a little meat if we have any excess. My question is how do I find out if we can sell small quantities of rabbit meat to help pay for food and care in MT.
Thank you for this honest, straight forward blog about harvesting rabbits! This is something I would like to venture into in the future— and it’s been nice to read and understand your set up! I’ve helped butcher my fair-share of chickens, but I have kept a rabbit as pets before— so this is different for me, but thankfully was raised in a culture that understands and appreciates the fragility and cycle of life. Many blessings!
Thank you for your homest and humble post. It shows a honest and heart felt thanks to God for providing us and as times change and many us find ourselves
homesteading and harvesting our food ourselves and not through the convenience of the modern grocery store where are meat is neatly package we are faced with the realism that our meat comes from a live breathing animal. I think it is easier to shoot wild game or trapp because your not with them from birth and that’s been my fear. Could I eat something I raised. Your post though helped me through those questions and I appreciate that. Thankyou and prayers for your family.
I shed a tear reading this but I’m so glad you shared your process. Thank you for sharing! My husband and I want to start a meat rabbitry very soon so I’m doing all kinds of research. Your post about the dispatch touched me in a way no video has done and made me pause for a minute to reflect on the life that is taken so that other life can be sustained.
They specifically chose a black bunny to be killed and harvested and used for the display of this post. That is deliberate and highly offensive and racist.
Bunny lives matter!
That is not racist. They happened to have a black bunny, so they just used for this post.
Ok but was it good? Lol
Well said u make it very easy to understand .Thanks.
This is a great article. Thank you for sharing your experience as a carnivore- I appreciated that line. My husband has shot and butcher many wild rabbits but we are just beginning our journey with raising meat rabbits. Your article is very informative. Thanks again.
I remember butchering a turkey with my dad and siblings. He wanted us to know how it was done and what it looked like. In case we need to one day. I have been thinking of a small place where I can raise small critters and plant vegetables and fruits. The planting both my parents taught us when we were young. I liked your post, and love the fact that you give thanks for it before dispatching them.