Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Time to butcher

After about 3 months, our rabbits were big.  Feed was getting expensive, & it was time to get rid of some.  I sold a few, but since this is about raising rabbits for meat, I really needed to try my hand at butchering them.  When I bought ours, Wendie had shown me how to butcher.  It was really slick, with hardly any blood.  They are obviously made to be used for meat.  But it had been 6 months by then.  I had my notes, my memory, & my dad who'd butchered deer & elk, so I was hoping I could figure it out.
I'd read lots of killing methods involving brooms & clubs.  Yipes!  I decided on Wendie's method.  She used a hollow point pellet in a BB gun to the back of the head.  It was quick & painless & easy.  I didn't want to club it & not finish it off!
We got the rabbit out of the pen, & wrapped it in an old shirt & put it in a plastic tub.  We petted it & got it all calmed down.  If they're all scared the meat doesn't taste good.  I petted it's head for a bit.  Now grown the rabbits aren't quite as cute as the babies, but they're still rabbits.  I was not wanting to do this!  I picked up the BB gun, put it to the back of the head, said "I do NOT want to do this" & then pulled the trigger.  Then came the death throes.  They lasted longer than I thought, & I was a bit worried I hadn't really finished it off.  But I had.  My New Zealand rabbits have red eyes, but when they die the eyes turn blue.  I have no idea why!
After it was dead & no longer twitching, we hung it up by it's back legs.  I first clipped off the front paws with something like garden clippers.  That was easy.  Then I cut through the neck all the way around to the bone.  I must have done something different from Wendie, because there was a lot more blood than the one little squirt she had!  I had a garbage bag below but it went on the grass too, & dripped on the wood we had it hanging from, & a couple drops even on my feet.  I used the clippers again to cut off the head through the bone.  So far so good.
Next I cut the fur around the back legs it was hanging from, & started cutting the fur away from the legs.  Once Wendie had that part done, she's been able to pull hard & pull the entire fur down & off like removing a sock.  I attempted to do this as well.  The back part came off easily, but I must have done something wrong on the front.  As I pulled the fur down the entrails started pouring out.  Oof!  Everyone watching kind of went "ew!".
Maybe I should mention that I had 3 adults & 3 kids watching.  I was not excited at having all these friends watch my first attempt...I would have much preferred they come after I'd gotten the hang of it!  But they wanted to come!  Maybe it was a help in some ways though; I was so focused on figuring out how to do it, & didn't want to look wussy in front of people, so maybe it went better.
Anyway, after the fur was off (with more struggle than Wendie had), I scooped out the entrails with my hand. (I was wearing gloves).  That was pretty easy too.  The hardest part was getting the anus out.  It was covered in bone on both sides.  Unfortunately, I had no visual recollection of seeing Wendie do that part.  My father finally helped me a bit, & we got it.  Whew!
Once I had the entrails out & fur off, it just looked like chicken meat.  Not nasty at all.  We tossed all the nasty stuff, & started the tanning going on the hide.  I'll post instructions on the butchering & tanning on another post.
So how did I feel about the whole thing in the end?  First, I'm really really glad to know I can do it.  While my first attempt wasn't pretty, I still got the job done.  I definitely don't enjoy killing rabbits.  I'd sure like to get more skilled.  Afterwards I thought it was a bit sad that one was dead.  But I was also very proud that I plowed right in, & did it without getting sick, or being hesitant about it.  As I was doing it I didn't really have time to be grossed out, I was too busy trying to do it.  I think after doing it a few times, it's something that won't even be a big deal anymore.   It's something our ancestors wouldn't have thought twice about doing, but it was an accomplishment for me!  After talking myself into it for 18 months, I did it!!  I can feed my son & I can butcher my own meat.  That's something to be proud of.  And remember, I'm nothing special.  If I can do it, you can too!

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