Though many people keep them as house bunnies (or pets), rabbits also make great livestock. Rabbits are small meat sources that provide quite a bit of protein yet they don’t take up much space.
But one thing that a lot of people don’t think about when keeping meat rabbits is that they also provide a beautiful fur.
So I’d like to share with you how to save their fur (or pelts) and utilize them.
Here is how you get started and tan rabbit hides:
1. Butcher Your Rabbit
Butchering a rabbit is an easy task. It might seem intimidating, but if you can butcher a chicken then you can handle butchering a rabbit.
Now there are many methods to culling a rabbit. The only method I have ever used is the Hopper Popper. It just seems so much more humane to me and much easier too. (Ed – The Hopper Popper is no longer for sale)
So after you cull your rabbit, then you’ll want to take them over to your butchering station so you can start processing them.
After processing them, your rabbit fur should have been gently pulled down around the rabbit’s head. You’ll then cut the head off so the fur will be relinquished with it.
Then you’ll cut the head from the fur in one clean swipe with a sharp knife. It sounds rather traumatic but after you do it a couple of times it really isn’t. For me, it is just important to make sure that I gave that rabbit a great life, I cull it as humanely as possible, and I don’t waste any part of it.
Here's a quick video on how to skin a rabbit:
2. Place the ‘Green Skin’ in Water
‘Green skin’ sounds kind of gross, doesn’t it? Yet, that is what they call the fur when it has first been removed from the rabbit. Don’t worry, it’s just a name. I’ve never actually seen any green on the skin. You just see the membrane attached to the skin and the veins that run through the skin.
So moving on, you’ll need to place the fresh rabbit fur in cold water while you finish dressing your rabbit. This step is just to help keep the skin from turning while you finish what you are doing.
Normally, when we cull rabbits, we have a set-up with an A-frame homemade butcher station. We use the clamps that came with our Hopper Popper to hang the rabbit by its feet.
Then we’ll skin it. I keep a big soup pot with cold water on hand right next to my water hose. The water hose is to help wash the blood and left-over fur off of the rabbit.
However, the soup pot with cold water is to catch the fur or the meat. You will need two separate pots if you are indeed saving the skins of the rabbits.
Finally, you’ll need one more bucket to catch the organs of the rabbit because they make great chicken feed.
3. Clean the Hide
After the butchering process is done, you’ll need to dump the water that your skins have been sitting in and get some fresh cold water.
Now, you are going to rinse the skins in this water. You can use a mild soap if you’d like but it really isn’t necessary. The whole idea is to get all of the blood off of the skin. The reason is because it will show up once the hide has been tanned.
So once you feel like you’ve gotten all of the blood out of the hide, then you’ll need to squeeze the excess water out of the hide.
However, be sure to squeeze and not wring the hide. It is rough on it, and you don’t want to damage it. After you get this done you need to let your hides dry over night.
Now, the way I do this is we loosely nail the hides to the outside of our wood shed. We nail each corner of the hide down. This will keep them stretched out while drying.
Yet, we don’t drive the nails into the side of the wood shed extensively so they can easily be pulled out with a hammer the next day when it is time to treat them.
4. Get the Hide Ready for Treatment
You have to treat the hides so they can be used. But first you have to pull off the excess that is still left on the hide.
Now, when you first butcher a rabbit you’ll notice this slimy layer attached to the hide. This is what you want to remove.
However, don’t be overwhelmed. If you can’t get it all off it isn’t the end of the world. But do get as much of it off as you can.
So you’ll do this by hand, by simply peeling it off. Then you’ll need to decide how you want to treat your hides.
There are treatments that include soaking the hides in water, salt, and borax, but I’m going to tell you the way my husband and I do this. It is non-traditional according to the internet, but it worked for us.
So after we let the hides dry a little over night and peeled the excess off of the hides, we then coated the hides in regular salt. I’m talking, really thick layers of it.
And what this does is pulls out all of the moisture and cures the hides. We let them sit with salt all over them for a few days.
However, we do go back every other day or so and apply more salt to them to make sure they stay coated. It is very inexpensive to do because you can buy regular salt for less than $1 a bottle in our area.
Now, you can nail them on the side of the wood shed again to keep them from shrinking, or you can shove them down in a bucket during this process. We have done both, but my preference is to simply nail them to the side of the building and let them dry.
5. Keep an Eye on Your Pelt and Work it Over When Dry
You’ll want to keep an eye on your pelts. Check to see if they still have moisture in them, check to see if they need more salt applied, and when they feel completely dry then you are ready to work them over.
Now, what I mean by work them over is we just bend them in all sorts of directions with our hands until they are loosened up and pliable. Once you get them flexible and soft then they are ready to be used for most projects.
However, I have to tell you. Be prepared for some of the softest feeling material you have probably ever felt. I was amazed at how soft rabbit fur can be after the animal has been culled. It is truly amazing.
So as you can see, to tan rabbit hides isn’t a difficult process. It just requires a few steps and a lot of waiting. But now that you know how to tan rabbit hides, what do you do with them?
How To Utilize Rabbit Hides
When we first started to tan rabbit hides we made a ton of mistakes. We tried every method on the internet (it felt like), we watched YouTube videos, and then we finally just threw all caution to the wind and did it our own way.
Thankfully, it worked!
Then I got so agitated because we put in the effort to tan rabbit hides because we didn’t want to waste any part of the rabbit only for them to hang around my husband’s workshop because we didn’t know what else to do with them.
Also, this became a problem because we raise rabbits for our consumption. I hated the thought of wasting so many rabbit pelts, but at the same time, we butcher a lot of rabbits every year.
So the search began for how to utilize them and this is what I came up with:
1. Use Them for Sewing
I had really never imagined that you could sew pelts together to make items, but you can. It takes a little getting use to, but if you are good with a needle then you could probably figure out this method.
Not to mention, what better way to utilize something than to make something homemade and look at it day in and day out. Then know that you raised that rabbit from a kit and used it all the way through. That’s a great feeling!
2. A Furry Hat
If you live where it is cold during the winter, then this might interest you. When you skin your rabbits they can be turned into a really warm hat. Since we know rabbits really don’t need heat in the winter because of how well insulated they are, you can only imagine how warm this hat could be.
So if you would like to use your rabbit pelts in an economical fashion, then save yourself some money on purchasing warm hats this winter and make your own.
3. Make a Baby Blanket
One of my nephews would not use a baby blanket when he was little. Instead, he carried a little rabbit pelt with him everywhere he went. It was soft and just his size. So he absolutely loved it.
Well, your kids can do the same. If you have someone around you that has little ones then fix them a few rabbit pelts to carry with them. Or you could even make a full fledge blanket out of them. It would be very soft, I’m sure.
4. Make Some Shoes
As warm as a rabbit hat would be, could you imagine rabbit shoes? So if you like the idea of using them for normal outdoor shoes, or even making some bedroom slippers it would be a great way to utilize your rabbit pelts.
Plus, you should also think about how soft they would feel on your feet. It may sound odd to wear your rabbits on your feet, but I think that they would look and feel amazing. Not to mention the warmth that those slippers could provide you.
5. Make Fur Mittens
Well, we might as well finish out the wardrobe. In case you haven’t realized because rabbits are so soft and so warm their fur is an excellent choice for DIY clothing.
So keep that in mind as you try to stay warm this winter. Rabbit pelts would make a great option for making some wonderful and warm mittens for you or your little ones. The video provided uses coyotes, but I’m sure you could figure out how to make it work with rabbit pelts, too.
Well, there you have it for today guys. I’ve provided our five unique (and easy) steps to tan rabbit hides.
Plus, I didn’t want you to be like us and have a bunch of hides hanging around and nothing to do with them. So with that in mind, I’ve also given you 5 ways to possibly utilize your hides. I hope that you find this information helpful to you.