Sunday, April 29, 2012

How To Butcher Meat Rabbits

*WARNING: This post is VERY graphic.  It does show very detailed pictures of the complete process of butchering a rabbit. *

Our little farm has grown in the last year and I love it!  It's growing daily!

One of the things that we have ventured in to is raising meat rabbits.  We chose New Zealands for 2 reasons.

1.  They are a bigger rabbit.  Adults weighing anywhere from 9-12 pounds.

2.  They are white, so I find it easier to see mites, wounds, etc.  I know that may seem silly to some, but I find it a good reason :)

I find that you can cook rabbit the same way you would cook chicken. I won't say it tastes exactly like chicken, but it is very similar.

Ok, so lets get down to business.

The best age is 8-12 weeks.  You can butcher an older rabbit, but it's like with anything, the younger the better.

You can withhold food for 24 hours to make sure there is nothing in the digestive track.  We have withheld food and also done it without withholding food.  

There is much controversy about "how" to actually kill the rabbit.  But we keep it simple.  My husband grabs them by the back legs and whacks them on the back of the head.  One blow and it's over.  

(Ok, it might be a little bit redneck, but the actual butchering is done on the back of the truck :)

Now, some slit the throat and hang them to bleed out.  We have done that before, but not always.  I always soak them afterwards which seems to do fine in either case.  I'll post more on the soak later.  

Next, you take a very sharp knife and poke a hole in the skin.  

Then you just pull the jacket right off.  If you can't pull it easily, you can cut.  My husband finds it easier to just pull it.

Once you have removed all the skin, this is what you will have.  

Then you take a small hatchet and cut the head and legs off.

And of course, you must remove the tail.

Yes, you will have some hair stuck here and there, but it will wash off.  I promise!

Next you are going to start from the bottom of the rabbit's stomach and cut very carefully and not too deep.  

Continue cutting all the way up the rabbit.

Once you have made your cut all the way up, you can start to remove the guts.  As you can see in the picture below, our guy had a full bladder.  You will want to take special care that you don't bust that.  Like with a deer, the urine is very strong in odor.  And while I don't think it would ruin the meat...why chance it?  So carefully, very carefully cut and remove the bladder.

Now, I ALWAYS soak my rabbits in a sink full of very cold water, salt, and vinegar.  The salt and vinegar will draw out any blood.  And vinegar is a natural disinfectant, so it makes me feel better about the fact that it was cleaned on the tailgate of a pick up :)

I usually let it soak for a couple of hours then rise and repeat.  But I'm a little bit anal.  My husband says it's over kill but I'd rather be safe than sorry.  

And lastly, you cut your rabbit up for freezing or cooking.  I cut these up for the freezer. 

Isn't it beautiful, white meat!

So, I hope you find this helpful.  We don't claim to be experts...not even a little bit.  We have learned a little each time.  And our method may not be the best way for you.  But it works for us.

Stay tuned...I will be posting in the future on the best way to cut your rabbit up and on how to save the hides.


*I dedicate this post to my wonderful homesteading buddies Bobbi and Stephanie!  You gals ROCK!*


  1. Fabulous post Maranda!!! How much vinegar do you use in the water? I remember my mom telling us it tasted like chicken when we were kids, but you are right...sort of. Great job!

  2. Thank you so much Stephanie!! I usually add about a cup, sometimes more if I feel it's needed. I realize more is overkill, but again...I'm OCD like that! lol

  3. EXCELLENT post Maranda! Thank you for sharing this with us. I will certainly be referring to it when we finally get to this point!

    Question--when you harvest a chicken you can have some moving around after you have done the deed. Do you find this with rabbits or is it just the hit on the back of the head and it's done and over?

    And thanks for dedicating this to Steph and I!

  4. Thank you Bobbi!

    That's a great question!! Usually, one hit (if done right) and they are done for. The muscles will sometimes contract and then release a few minutes later, but even that is rare.

  5. Maranda, that's a wonderful post.
    When we butcher pork we use a sheet of plywood and we did the Chickens on the grass - very technical and sanitary.

    Love the poodle dog stage.

  6. Thank you so much Donna! I would love to do our own pork!! We have pigs, but we always take them to a butcher:/ But that is next on the agenda. Do you have any posts on how you do your pork and chicken?

    I thought the poodle shot was funny :)

  7. how do you get from hole to jacket being removed? Need a bit more info on that part please.

    1. I'm sorry that the directions weren't more clear. You should make a slit or hole at the nap of the neck. You can either lightly cut the skin away (much like skinning out a deer) or once you have your hole you can just pull the skin. It will come right off. There will be some resistance of course, but if you pull hard enough it will come off. I would probably have to do it like a deer and lightly cut the skin/fur away, but my husband is a large man and he easily pulls it off. I hope this was a little more clear. Thank you for stopping by.

  8. Thank you Maranda. I thought the directions were excellent and the pictures helped out a lot. Looking forward to more posts from you.

  9. How much salt do you add? Thank you for the post!