Now it will sit in this mixture for one week. Be sure to stir it around every day to make sure the pickle solution can reach all parts of each of the hides. You want a nice thorough pickling. Don't miss any parts!
After one week in this solution, the hides will be removed from the bucket. Be sure to gently squeeze the liquid back into the bucket - it will be used for the second part of the process. Again, remember - never wring or twist hides!
Each hide will be removed and any remaining flesh will be hand peeled from the hides. I'm told this is a tedious process, and where many people struggle or give up. I refuse to waste the pelts. It seems that would be dishonoring the animals that died. Because today is Friday, these pelts will be ready to de-flesh next Friday and over the weekend, which means I can have kids help too.
Once the hides have been fleshed, you'll add one more cup of Alum Sulfate, and one more cup of non-iodized salt to the bucket and mix again until completely dissolved (essentially doubling your pickle solution - but don't add any more water). Add the hides, stir well, and again anchor with a plate to assure all hides are under water. They will stay in this mix for another two weeks (14 days), and you should continue to stir the mix every day to make sure there are no bubbles or places that aren't getting access to the solution.
At the end of the second soak, it's time to start the last part of the process - cleaning and drying! If you have had your hides in tube form, now is the time to cut then open down the belly. If your hides were flat then obviously you can skip that step. Rinse your hides a couple of times in your bathtub to get as much of the alum/salt solution out as you can. There will be a lot of loose hair, so use one of those screen plugs for your drain to prevent hair clogs.
At this point, some people will wash the hides with soap or shampoo. This isn't required, but if you want them to smell nice, you can use a scented body wash. Rinse well.
Squeeze out as much water as you can (remember, never twist or wring), and hang them up somewhere out of the way to start to dry. As they are drying, stretch them a couple times per day. Don't let them dry without stretching or they'll turn into rawhide. Breaking the leather will turn it white and it will be soft and supple. Work around the edges first and then work toward the inside. Be careful around the edges and thinner spots. You can also use the back of a chair to help you break the leather (leather side down).
Once your hides are dry and stretched, brush out the fur. You can add mink oil to the leather side if you desire. I'm not sure if I will do that or not. I have not looked in to the price of mink oil yet.
One video I watched said it's easier to start fleshing from the back to the front. One video suggested doing 3 cups alum and 3 cups salt in three gallons of water and then only soaking for 7-14 days before cleaning and drying. Some people say to cut the pelts flat before tanning, some say to go ahead and tan them still in tube-form.
Another note about the alum/salt pickling. It's not technically an actual tan. It's a pickle. So if your hide gets wet again, you have to start all over with breaking the leather again. This is not a method you should use if you want to use the furs for clothing or something that will potentially get wet or require being washed in the future.
So what do you do with a hide once it's been pickled? I have a few potential ideas. I could sell them. Processed hides usually go for about $3-$5 each on eBay (from my recent search for sold items anyway). There isn't much market here locally as we live in a small farming community and many people also have rabbits. Most commercial fur places have strict requirements for the fur they will buy - how it has to be treated, the age or breed of the rabbit used, and the color of the coat. Since we don't have mass quantities of furs, and most of ours are mixed breeds of random colors, selling commercially isn't really an option for us. Another option I've considered is making a big blanket from the furs. I know there are special ways to sew leather, and that the blanket would not be washable. I'm allergic to rabbit fur, and I'm not sure if the pickle and the processing will make a difference, so I don't know if I'll be able to snuggle up with the finished pelts yet. That and five kids plus pets means pretty much everything in the house has to be washable. We can always give pelts as gifts or trade for things we want or need. Another alternative would be to take some of the furs (particularly ones that are damaged during the breaking process), and cut them into strips to incorporate them into cat toys. Cat toys can be given to our cats, given as gifts to our cat-loving friends, donated to area animal shelters, or sold to make some extra money. There's always a market for humanely raised small-farm supported craft supplies too. We could sell a kit with scraps of old fabric, a couple feathers from our birds, and a few strips of rabbit fur as a "make your own cat toy" kit. I'm sure there are lots of other ideas out there if I scoured Pinterest or asked on some of the rabbit forums. Really, let your imagination lead you. But remember, that by using the whole rabbit, you are honoring their sacrifice. No need to waste what could be used.