Last Monday, one of our rabbits Bandit-doe, was acting lethargic and not eating. She died later than night. We were all sad that she died, she was a great rabbit. RIP little buddy.
We decided that before we disposed of her body, we would skin her. It might sound a little morbid, but she died of natural causes, she is livestock, and it’s silly to waste her fur because I’m feeling a little squeamish. So, DH (dear hubby) skinned her and I did my best to tan the hide and make it useable for us in the future.
Here is how I did it.
First, I obtained the hide, laid it fur side down outside, and covered it in salt.
The next day, I started peeling off the dried skin, meat, and fat from the hide. It sounds much more gross than it was. It was sort of like peeling off a layer of old glue. Every now and then I had to use a knife, but I mostly just peeled pieces off, little by little.
After I got as much meat, fat, and skin off of the hide as I could, I took it inside and laid it out. I also prepared a tanning mixture, using 4 egg yolks. You could also use an animal brain instead of egg yolks, but… yuck.
I smeared the egg yolks on the hide, trying to avoid the fur as much as possible.
Then you cover it with a wet towel and let it sit overnight. The purpose of the wet towel is to keep the egg yolk mixture moist. Make sure you don’t use hot water, you don’t want to scramble your eggs.
The next morning, I washed off the hide really well to remove all of the dirt from the fur as well as the egg yolks from the hide. It took me about 3 washes to get it really clean.
See how clean it is now? It’s still really wet though.
Then I hacked it with my scissors. No really, I did. I cut off all of the raggidy bits. Make small cuts or you will end up chopping the whole thing to pieces. You can use the smaller pieces as cat toys. Cats l.o.v.e them.
Then I got out my trusty tanning helper (aka the rolling pin). This looks like I’m rolling out the weirdest cookies ever. I rolled over the hide for 5-10 minutes every hour until I got it nice and soft. If it started to dry, I just got it a little wet again and kept going.
At this point, you need to smoke it for 15 – 30 minutes to waterproof it. Otherwise, it will get hard again every time it gets wet. I haven’t done this part yet. That’s okay though, now that it’s tanned, I can store it and finish it the next time I have the fireplace going.
I’m trying to decide what I’m going to do with it. It’s so soft. I’m sad that Bandit died, but I’m glad that we were able to honor her death in this small way and keep a part of her that will be useful to us, even in her death.