(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
There is a lot of controversy in different ways to handle and raise rabbits. Ask ten breeders what the best way is, and you're likely to get twelve answers.
I've included several questionable method of handling and/or treating rabbits below as well as some better, more humane alternatives.
Scruffing Rabbits/Carrying and/or Picking up by the Scruff and/or Ears
Picking up a rabbit by the scruff (the fur at the back of the neck) and/or ears is dangerous for the rabbit and to be frank- for you! The scruff may safely be used to grasp a rabbit to hold it still against the ground before scooping up his hindquarters.
MYTH: Rabbit mothers carry or move their kits by the scruff. Unlike dogs and cats, rabbit mothers do not carry or move their kits by the scruff.
Even if you don't have a heart and don't care about humane treatment, picking up a rabbit by the scruff separates the connecting tissue between the pelt and the meat. Rabbit skin is made up of three layers- the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous. Rabbit skin- just like our skin- is plentiful with nerves which allow them to feel touch, pressure, temperature, and pain. The subcutaneous layer consists of fat, connective tissue, blood vessels and nerves. This layer helps hold the skin to the muscle tissue. When you scruff, that skin is torn loose from the muscle tissue. This separation can be permanent and will result in a loosely-attached pelt which lowers the quality of your rabbit and its pelt. For a pet rabbit, it may mean that they just have baggy skin, but for a show rabbit or a rabbit raised for its pelt, it means they will not be in peak condition. Cats and puppies have loose skin that is designed to be gathered without damaging the skin; however, rabbits have skin that is well attached to the muscle of their backs. When you scruff them, you separate that attachment. For Himalayan or Californian colored rabbits, they can even have discoloration where the pelt is not well attached.
Rabbits are also ridiculously delicate, and one wrong kick or twist while being scruffed can result in serious injury- sometimes fatally. Injuries such as broken limbs or a broken back can be lethal to a rabbit, and if not lethal at least ridiculously painful. As prey animals, they are very stoic when in pain and are not even likely to show any indication that they are in pain- showing indicators of pain equals vulnerable. As prey animals, they are also more likely to lean towards flight than fight when frightened, and picking up a rabbit by the scruff is certainly likely to make them feel threatened since it is not a natural pose for them; as a matter of fact, predators often grab rabbits by the back or the neck.
Finally, a kicking rabbit is nothing to sneeze at as far as injury or damage to yourself! If you've been around rabbits for any length of time, odds are good you've managed to pick up a couple of scratches. A frightened rabbit is more likely to scramble and scratch in an attempt to escape.
I don't really have any say in what age you wean your kits at, but selling before they are 8 weeks old is inhumane in my opinion. Digestive systems in rabbits do not close until about 12 weeks of age, so selling at such a young age is opening both the rabbit(s) and the buyer to a lot of risk of things like weaning enteritis. Just don't do it. In some areas, it is actually illegal to sell rabbits before 8 weeks.
Bludgeoning to Stun/Kill
This method involves a sharp heavy blow to the head from a sturdy club, hand or similar instrument. The animal is rendered unconscious immediately with death following quickly from severe brain trauma. The suffering of the animal is dependent on the skill of the person wielding the instrument. Doing this incorrectly can cause severe pain to the animal in question and is not recommended as a method of culling.
Drowning to Kill
The animal is held underwater until dead. This form of death produces high stress and anxiety and pain as water enters the lungs. This is very, very inhumane.
Asphyxiation/Freezing to Kill
The animal is either strangled, smothered or placed into a freezer. Some people believe that the rabbit just goes to sleep and feels no pain. This is not the case. Rabbits will rarely lay quietly while being strangled or smothered. Rabbits placed into a freezing environment will suffer immense pain and anxiety. Their blood literally crystallizes in the freezing process and is agonizing.