TANNING RABBIT PELTS
Rabbit pelts have been used for many years as fur, in the manufacture of felt, and for a variety of miscellaneous toys and other items. With the development of many synthetic fibers and imitation furs, the demand for pelts by furriers has decreased. Today there are few if any market for furs in the United States and is considered a waste product in many a commercial slaughter house.
Whether the pelts from meat slaughtering should be saved and prepared for marketing will depend upon the market demand and value, the type and number of rabbits being slaughtered and the time and facilities available for preparing the pelts. It is unlikely that the small homesteader slaughtering his own rabbits will find it worthwhile to process the skins for sale. But for the homesteader this waste product is a value worth more than just monetary gain but a way toward self sufficiency a wide variety of needed items can be made with rabbit pelts
Rabbit pelts vary widely in quality and value. The different types of fur characteristics vary depending on the breed type, such as the Rex, Satins, Silver Foxes and other fur type breeds(also know as dual purpose rabbits- meat and fur) Pelts from the young of any breed are normally of poor quality and of less value than those from adult animals. The young fryers pelts are thin and can tear, but are still usable but the older rabbits make a stronger finished product. Those with dense winter coat that is not easily removed from the pelt, are most the most sought after.
Preparation of pelts for market begins with the removal at slaughter. Exercised care to avoid cuts or tears, and remove body fat that often remains attached to the pelt. As the pelts are removed, turn them inside out while still warm and moist. Place them on wire stretchers or shapers with the front leg casings on one side. Shapers can be made from No. 9 gauge galvanized wire. The shapers extend or expand the pelts to their full length, but do not stretch them out of shape. Fasten the rear legs to the ends of the wire shapers with a clothes pins or some other fastener. Some people split the pelt down the belly. This works great if you are freezing them for later use.(I do this if I am freezing them)
Hang the pelts in a well-ventilated drying area, but not in direct sunlight. After the skins are dry the wire shaper is removed. Do not use salt or other chemicals on skins, but as they are being packed for storage or shipment, naphthalene (moth crystals) or paradichloro-benzene may be placed in the packaging container as an insect repellent.
There are so many ways to tan fur, here is just one of many. Freeze the hides until you have enough to tan (I usally wait till I get 6 or more). I keep them turned inside out. This process is a salt / acid process. This works very well and makes some nice pelts for coats, hats, and my favorite blankets. Wear safety glass and rubber gloves when using this acid mix it is very dilute but will still irritate your eyes.
Tanning Rabbit Pelts
1. After dressing the rabbit, toss the raw hide (split down the belly, not cased) into a Ziploc bag and put it into the freezer. Do not salt or dry out, you don’t even have to flesh them either. When you have 6 or more, you’ll have enough to make it worth your while to tan.
2. Thaw out the frozen hides, run under warm water to remove ice.
3. Rinse well and squeeze out excess water – DO NOT WRING THEM!!! SQUEEZE ONLY!!
4. You will need: 1PLASTIC 5 GALLON BUCKET
2 LBS. ROCK SALT(OR ANY CHEAP SALT)
8OZ . BATTERY ACID (can get at any Automotive store and is cheap)
STICK OR WOODEN SPOON – for stirring
A SCRUBBED BRICK OR ROCK to hold the pelts from rising to the surface of the solution.
There are many other pickle solutions. I have use this method and am happy with it!
5. Run 1 gallon of HOT water into the bucket, add salt and stir to dissolve. Add 1 gallon of cool water (not cold). Water temp. should be about 70 degrees.
6. Slowly add acid by tipping the bucket toward you and allowing the acid to dribble down the inside into the water. Be careful not to splash liquid and stir carefully with a non-metallic spoon or stick till blended. You may want to wear rubber gloves for this. ALWAYS WEAR EYEPROTECTION! Remember the old saying when using acid and water “Water to acid prepare to be blasted” ALWAYS add the acid to water slowly not the other way around!!
7. Lower the completely thawed hides one at a time into the bucket. Submerge in liquid with the stick and slide brick or rock down the bucket upright and allow the rock or brick to settle on top to the hides. At this stage the acid is not strong enough to do any real damage to your skin but you don not want to splash it into your eyes!
8. Put a piece of plywood on top of the bucket and stash away in the garage or closet where no one will disturb it or get into it. Make sure that wherever you put it, it will stay at approx. 70 degrees. Too hot and the hides will be damaged, too cold and the tanning process will be delayed.
9. Leave the bucket alone for 1 week. Put your rubber gloves on then gently remove hides from the acid solution with the stick. Allow them to drip over the bucket then SQUEEZE to remove excess liquid. Do not take to the sink. Run under cool water and add dish detergent to remove the remaining acid mixture. Rinse and squeeze out.
10. At this point the flesh on the underside of the hide should be thickened and somewhat separated from the hide. Grasp a piece on the edge and you should be able to simply peel the flesh off, often all in one piece. Be very careful with junior hides, as they tend to be very thin and easy to tear. If the flesh is very tight on the hide, it isn’t “prime” yet and should be returned to the acid solution for a few more days.
11. After fleshing, return the hides to the acid solution and leave for another week (can be safely left for up to a year).
12. When you pull out the hides after at least a week, remove the pelts and swish them around in soapy water. Squeeze as much water out as possible. Now lay pelts over the porch railing, back step, or make a drying rack to allow the pelts to drip dry. At the first sign of drying (white patches on the flesh side), work the hides gently over the back of a chair, 2X4, fence post, rough rope ect. pulling the pelt back and forth and then pull gently till the flesh side turns white all over. Pelts can be thrown in a very cool clothes dryer and tumbled for a while to help the drying/softening process.
13. Once the hides are worked till soft and completely dry this takes LOTS OF ELBOW GREASE! If you have allowed the pelts to dry stiff without working them, toss them in a pan of water to soften and then start over with the drying/working process. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes each to work the hides to a nice suede like softness. Rub the fur side over the back of a chair also to make the fur soft and natural looking. After you are done with the tanning solution, add a couple cups of baking soda to neutralize the acid. This makes it completely safe to dispose of. Good luck!!! Let me know how you do!
I am currently writing up a post on NATURALLY TANNING RABBIT PELTS so stayed tuned. JOIN THE RABBIT REVOLOUTION! Like us on Facebook and subscribe to our blog to get all the newest post as they are posted!
Posted on January 22, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged acid tanning, brain tanning, fur, pelt, pelts, tan, tanning. Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.
This is very interesting. I will definately try this when I get some rabbits. Will muriatic acid work instead of battery acid? I think the base of both is sulfuric acid, but muriatic acid is readily available from just about any hardware store and it is cheap.
You have to use battery acid as far as i know, It is sulfuric acid were as muriatic acid is hydrochloric acid, battery acid is also cheap and you can get it at most automotive parts stores
Can you go into more detail about the final drying phase?
I added some more detailed info on the post(hope this explains it better) I have some pelts ready to go through the process will add some pics on the facebook page!
Firstly thank you for this thread but lets say I don’t want to use the Alum/Battery Acid route and wanted to do a natural solution like Brain Tanning. Would I simply put Salt/Brain mix and let it soak or is it a different process?
My goal is to do a more “natural ancestor” version of tanning hides (with fur) but there is VERY limited information about it. Think you can help me out good sir?
I have used many other ways to tan rabbit hides, Have been working on a post on Naturally Tanning Rabbit Pelts will try to get it done and up on the site!
I recently listened to a pod cast in which you mentioned “egg tanning”. Have you found more information on this method?
Yes. It is very similar to a brain tan.Using the egg yolk instead of brain, I have a few pelts I am trying it on now and have a post I need to finish. Been really busy on the homestead!
I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s a very easy
on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit
more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?
I would really like to try tanning my own rabbit pelts and I have a couple of questions. When you say 8oz is that US fluid oz? How soft will this method make my pelts? I’d like to make a waistcoat lining will it be suitable for that?
Yes the 8oz is 1 cup, this makes a nice soft pelt!
Thanks for the extremely informative post! This is probably one of the better step-by-step posts I’ve seen on the topic.
We’ve been saving the hides from the rabbits we process, and probably have about 20-30 in the freezer. We never split them down the belly, though. Will that be a problem? Also, will we need to do more than the 2 gallon mixture for all of them, or should we work in small batches?
Also, since we raise our rabbits in tractors on pasture, we sometimes have some dirty hides. The last batch we processed were done during a really rainy/muddy time. We tossed the pelts in a cold, gentle wash cycle in a washing machine and they came out looking spectacular. Hopefully it didn’t affect it too much, but I was wondering if it might be possible to add some bleach to really get that super-white (we raise New Zealand/Californian crosses)? Or would that affect the fleshing/tanning process at all?
Have you ever tried the tanning method that uses alum and salt? We’re a bit wary of working with battery acid, but I’m willing to give this a shot if it’ll work. Right now we use nearly every part of the rabbit — since we can’t sell for human consumption, we make a ground raw pet food out of it (that sells ridiculously well) — meat, bones, organs go into the raw mix; heads go to our big dogs; feet to our small dogs; and since we withhold feed the last day they eat only grass, so we save the stomach for tripe (also for pet food). Being able to use the pelts would mean our only trash is the rest of the intestines, which we’re considering composting.
Again, THANK YOU!
I split the hides because it is easier to work the hides to soften them, But if you work them cased you will get the same result. I have been tanning hides for a long time and I think the battery acid process is the easiest and cheapest, it has always worked for me. I have tried many different processes but this is the best I have found. I lot of people are wary of the battery acid tan but alum and some of the other chemicals are just as toxic, and the mix I use is dilute. I do wash my hides in soap and water to clean before the tanning process but have never used bleach (It my affect the chemical tan It may not, try it with one and see what happens that way you only loose one pelt. I have doubled up the mix and made up a few buckets at a time to do more. Sounds like you guys got the rabbit thing down pat!! Glad you use all of the rabbit. Thanks for reading. I have a few more post on tanning in the works.
Washing in soap and water would be perfect — we just weren’t sure what kind of cleaning we could do without affecting the final pelt. Excellent to hear!
We’re working on expanding our rabbits a bit. Going from 2 does, 1 buck to 4 does, 2 bucks (half of them Californians, half New Zealands), but I think we might need to add even some more does. We can’t keep up with the pet food demand as it is (funny you mentioned someone else with the same issue in another post!), and if our local slaughterhouse can get things straight with the state we may be able to have some processed for human consumption, but I doubt we could meet THAT need raising them the way we do (on pasture). Thanks again for the site — I’m sure I’ll lots more questions for you! 🙂
When I raised rabbits, I tanned using a mix of 2 oz alum, 2 lbs non-iodized salt, 8 oz battery acid, and 2 gallons distilled water. Other than that, I did much the same as you. One suggestion, though- add a tablespoon of baking soda to your dish soap & warm water rinse. It will chemically neutralize the acid remaining in the pelt. 🙂
Your site is a go-to for everything regarding natural rabbit raising. Love it. I’m happy to see you have a post here about tanning hides, but I’m looking forward to seeing the one you mentioned you’re working on about tanning them naturally without harsh chemicals.
I made numerous attempts to buy sulphuric acid in Australia – at automotive parts stores, hardware stores, even Battery World. All had the same response – it is illegal to sell to the public. Given this, can you please detail an alternate method for tanning rabbit pelts without using any acid? Many thanks.
Will do, have been tanning some pelts numerous ways and working on a post with results!
Salt/Alum is the cheapest route and it SHOULD be legal in your country….Alum is used in food and for flowers. I can buy 1 pound for $8 USD in the US and it can do 30+ pelts easily.
Here is a great link to a wonderful site that explains both processes.
I’ve been looking for some advice. In the drying phase I find if I work the pelt before it is dry I get the fur falling out! Any ideas what I am doing wrong? I have either dry cardboard pelts or bald one?
That’s not good, how old are the rabbits when they were butchered? What pickle solution did you use?
Hi thanks for getting back to me so quickly. Im using wild rabbits so Im not sure though it does seem to be with the younger rabbits. And Im trying to be as natural as i can so only salt solution for around a week? Thank you
Any new word on a natural ancestral way to tanning?? Ive read lots on info online and would love to see first hand how and what process you choose..
I have it written up just need to edit it, this winter has been brutal and spending most of my time moving snow. Will work on it as soon as possible.
can it be used battery acid?
No, must be fresh and new acid.
and by rock salt you mean the type used for melting ice?
Yes, as long as it is just the rock salt and not a melting mix.
So I am going to be using this process, but I won’t be around a week after I start to peel the gunk off, is it okay to let that first soak sit longer than a week?
Yes, you can.
have you tried this recipe on any other species (e.g., deer)? I’ve seen other tanning solutions using battery acid for tanning deer hides. But the big difference is that they only let the hide soak for 40 minutes in the solution and they rinse and drip dry and break it until pliable. Do you have any idea how the soak time affects the end product?
I know this is an older article, but I’ve been looking for an answer and yet to find it.
can you freeze the brains to use for later? If so about how long would you say they will keep?
Thanks for any information you can provide, love the article, it has helped us out a lot.
I have brain tanned buckskin with frozen pig brains it worked great.