Raising Rabbits in Colony Series
How To Slaughter A Rabbit Part One: The Kill
by guest author Tricia Woolbright
and Cameron Gramarye
I’m Cameron, Trish’s cohort, and I’m taking over this time. Trish is in charge of lifestyle and wellness around here, but death and dismemberment is my department. I used to teach Comparative Anatomy, as well as cadaver labs, and I’ve taken apart a wide variety of other animals in between too.
So here’s how to take your rabbit from kicking to cooking.
Technically, slaughter is when you kill and gut an animal, and butchering is dismantling the body into cuts of meat.
By whatever name, killing rabbits is one of the main things people ask us about, and since the other big reason we have rabbits is a good source of clean meat, we wanted to make sure our process was simple, quick, and as humane as possible.
We do not use as many of the parts as we would like, but in addition to the meat, we also cook hearts and livers, dehydrate feet and ears for other uses, and put skulls into the dermestid beetle colony to be cleaned.
We tried tanning pelts at one point, but the process turned out to be too time- and labor-intensive. We have sold and given away unprocessed skins, and have more in the freezer – let us know if you want some!
The rest of the miscellany go to the vultures in the nearby field, who show up by the dozens on kill day.
Some types of animals need to be off of food for some length of time before slaughter, but not rabbits. While a few turdlets may fall out over the course of the process, they’re the same kind of compact pellets you’re used to seeing, and can simply be washed away. Taking water away will reduce the amount of urine in the bladder, but it’s really not a big deal. Let them have their water.
Preparation and Tools for Slaughtering Rabbits
- Mix the brine and put in the fridge (see Brining and Cooking Rabbit).
- You may want a separate bowl of simple salt water for liver and hearts.
- If you plan on keeping other spare parts, you’ll need a place for those too.
- A bucket, placed below the slaughter station.
- Clean water, preferably a steady trickle from a hose into a basin.
- A knife, the sharper the better.
- A work table is optional, if you don’t like working on the ground.
Killing A Rabbit
We started out using a broomstick.
Stand on the bristles, and put the stick across the back of the rabbit’s neck. Gently press on the other end of the broomstick with your other foot, just enough to hold the rabbit in place. If we can spare a hand, we pet the rabbit and calm it down.
Then the precarious part is keeping your balance like that, while pulling up on the rabbit’s hind feet, hard enough to pop the neck. You will hear and feel the crunch as the neck dislocates and the spinal cord breaks, followed by the flailing and kicking of the death throes.
It seems brutal, but snapping the neck like this is generally considered to be the quickest and most humane way to kill rabbits. It is, however, more than a bit tricky to manage consistently without falling over. One trick is to put the rabbit in a bit of a divot in the ground, so that when the broomstick goes over the back of their neck, you can stand on the other side without crushing them completely.
But we decided to invest in a Hopper Popper.
It’s basically a V-shaped piece of metal with mounting brackets, so that you don’t have to anchor the broomstick with your feet, and generally it works pretty well. The only problem we’ve had with it is that sometimes the head slips out of the angle, and requires an extra foot to keep it securely in place.
Regardless of the method, doing it quickly and confidently is the key. As long as you keep moving, the rabbit won’t have a chance to react, but if you hesitate, it will fight, kick and squirm away.
The other thing that will make it much easier later is to keep pulling, even after you think you’ve pulled far enough. The more you stretch the neck, the more confident you’ll be that it’s really dead (even if the rest of the body hasn’t caught on yet), and the easier it will be to remove the head.