Tanning Rabbit Hides

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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I smeared the egg yolks on the hide, trying to avoid the fur as much as possible.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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See how clean it is now? It’s still really wet though.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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21 thoughts on “Tanning Rabbit Hides

    • I did use the rolling pin until dry. I have bad wrists, so it’s easy to roll it a lot than it is to work it with my hands. I didn’t smoke it when it was damp, but I did smoke it for about 45 minutes once it dried. Have you had success smoking it when it’s damp? I’d love to see some pictures of your hides using the egg method.

      • No, I haven’t smoked any when damp. I only egg tan animals as big as a small white tail deer (about 50-80 lbs). The leather comes out white and sometimes with a creamy color. I would be happy to send you the pictures of mine if you want, what’s your email? I also have a YouTube channel you could check out if you want, it’s called survivorman1213.

    • Hi Emily. The pelt that I used in this pictorial is still just as nice now as the day I tanned it. I did have a little fur loss at the very edges of the hide, but it wasn’t noticeable to anyone but me. I ended up smoking it for about 45 minutes, which helped to keep it soft and pliable.

      I’ve used the same process multiple times now and I’ve always had great success. The one thing I do different now is I add a little water (About a TBSP) to the egg yolk mixture before spreading it on the hide. It seems to help the mixture set easier.

      If you end up trying it, please post your results! I’d love to see how it turns out for others.

  1. hi, could you please tell me how do you smoke the pelt? i will be doing it for the first time and would like to do it right. Do you just hang it over bonfire outside or you use a fireplace inside your house? (how exactly do you smoke a pelt over a fireplace inside your house?) thank you for the reply:-)

    • Hey, you don’t want to heat it up- u will cook it… Get a fire with much pinky wood and damp wood to make the smoke, you do not want any heat on the pelt, just cold smoke it. Do their for about 10-30 minutes till you get the color of your desire. Good luck!

  2. I have also just started tanning rabbit skins. I use a salt and alum method but I do not believe that the salt/alum method create a nice waterproof piece. Someone asked earlier about how to smoke a skin and the answer was helpful in some ways but I am still confused as to how to actually hold the skin over a smouldering piece of wood…

  3. Hey I’m working on a deer hide tight now and originally I wanted to brain tan it, but can’t find any brain, so im gonna use your method, do you have any ideas of how many eggs i need? its about the size of a white tail 😀

  4. Hi I would like to try the egg& water method as I air dry my hides which are rabbit-squirll&fox but I’m not sure about the smoklng part of the process as I use my hides for fishing lures and would require them to sink rather than float as you have stated smoking waterproofs the hide can I do without the smoking I would appreciate your thoughts on this klnd regards.

  5. interesting methods! thank you for sharing, I have just purchases a wringer washer to tan my hinds, truly believing that it would do the job, now that you have mentioned a rolling pin, I am convinced it will work like a charm 🙂 I have never heard of using egg….I have lots too!!! how many eggs for your 1 hide? and what did you use to smoke it? What were your steps?

    • Hi Kim,

      I think the wringer washer is a great idea! Please let me know how it works.

      I use about 4 or 5 yolks for each rabbit hide. I only use the yolks.

      For smoking it, I just add wet wood to my burn barrel and hang it nearby. It seems to work well, but I’m sure there are more efficient ways.

      I’d love to see your results!

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