Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How to Mummify Your Chicken

Otherwise Entitled: Because Everyone Needs More Embalmed Fowl in Their Life

My sister, Carinne, has been homeschooling two of her children this year and as part of their study of ancient Egypt they decided to (get this) make their own mummies.

But as full-fledged bodies are a little scarce (even at Halloween) they opted for the more legal and safe method of learning about embalming by mummifying chickens.

Or rather, they used cornish game hens (smaller and easier to manage). When you're dealing with dead animals, smaller is usually better.

You'll need:
1 small chicken (or game hen)
3 boxes baking soda
3 cans baking powder
lots of cans of salt
paper towels
2 large plastic Ziploc bags
protective gloves
rubbing alcohol
scented oil
spices of your choosing
white glue
linen strips

Step 1
Put on those gloves. No one wants mad chicken disease. Remove the neck and whatever organs may be included.  You can mummify them separately if you wish but unfortunately the organs will continue to smell even after being treated so you may want to think twice before including those in the project.  Traditionally the heart was mummified then returned to the body cavity while the other organs were put into canopic jars.  Lovely.

Step 2
Wash the bird under hot running water, patting dry with paper towels afterward.  Once dry, wash again using the rubbing alcohol (including inside the body cavity) and pat dry with towels.  This helps decrease bacteria.

Step 3
Combine 1/2 can of baking soda, 1/2 can of baking powder and 2 cans of salt and spices.  The spices are used to cut the rotting smell--I'm sure that was a joy in all that desert heat way back then.  My sister used cinnamon and cloves and said it worked nicely.  Putting baking soda and baking powder with the salt increases the acidity of the mix to more closely resemble the natron salt that the Egyptians used for preservation.

Step 4
Fill the body completely with this salt mixture then dump the rest into a plastic Ziploc bag and stick in that chicken.  The mixture should cover the bird completely--if it doesn't, just add more salt.  Then seal up the bag and double bag it inside another plastic Ziploc bag and seal it. We don't want any chicken stink getting through.

Step 5
Check your chicken every day to see if it's wet.  If it is, dust it off and repeat steps 3 and 4.  You'll probably have to do it after a day or two anyway, then in another couple days after that. It's just life. Or death as the case may be. After the first week you only have to check it every week, taking the same precautions to see that it isn't wet. If it is, repeat steps 3 and 4 just like before. This is why you're going to need so much baking soda, powder and salt.

Step 6
After six whole weeks (it took them less time to hatch than it did to embalm them!) take out the bird and dust it off as much as you can. Then, wet some more paper towels and brush off any remaining powder mixture.  But be sure to dry it again afterward. No wet birds.

Step 7
Rub your scented oils on the chicken, inside and out. You can always add spices to plain oil if you don't want to spend the money on fancy essential oils.

Step 8
Stuff the body cavity with linen or with sawdust. You can add spices to the linen if you'd like.

Step 9
Now you wrap. Tear your linen into 1" strips and dip into a mixture of 2 parts water and 1 part white glue as you wrap your chicken.  Wrap limbs separately then wrap the whole bird together. You'll want 2-3 layers overall. Let it dry.  Apparently in the top photo my nephew didn't have much faith in his water and glue job so he added some Scotch tape.  Very resourceful.  I imagine the Egyptians would have been grateful for some of the stuff themselves.

Step 10
Make a sarcophagus and any amulets you'd care to include. Then bury the beast.


Janel said...

We homeschool. Actually we're second generation so I've been in the thick of things for a really long time. But there are lines I draw and refuse to cross. Embalming chickens is on the other side of one of them. Thanks but no thanks.

cndymkr / jean said...

Now this was funny. Only a homeschooler could do this. Could you imagine the uproar this would cause in a public school? LOL I can hear them now - germs! smells! animal cruelty! Kids may get a good education in school but they miss out on a lot of cool things.

Scribbit said...

I totally laughed when she told me she was going to do it and I made her swear she'd take lots of pictures :) She's great!

Shannon said...

I am homeschooling for the first time but I draw the line at mummifying chickens, ain't gonna happen! Your sister is my hero!

L said...

I think it was the ladies at Sugar City Journal that first exposed me to mummified chickens. It didn't work out well for them. Something about being on the back porch and rain and neighbourhood animals. lol Anywho, when my boys are bigger I will probably need to do this.... if I can get J to go along with it. He thinks its gross! LOL

Patricia L said...

That has to be one of the wackiest things I've ever seen. My kids would think it was pretty cool...good for your sister!

Anonymous said...

I've heard of a lot of sonlighters doing this- very cool.

Peruby said...

You have got to be kidding me! Nuts! My niece went to mortician school and now is a nanny for two wild boys. I would have to be she would love this.

Suzie B. said...

Interesting. I'm thinkin' YEARS ahead now... What happens when someone discovers this buried thing? What will they think?!

Lori said...

Such a weird post, but of course we'll have to give it a go!

The Petersen Family said...


JoeyfromSC said...

That's so ironic I saw this post on accident..Someone at a twitter party earlier today was discussing how to do this haha!!

NotaSupermom said...

We skipped this project, but I love seeing such good pictures of the process.
Love you blog and I am enjoying working my way through your e-book.

America Jane said...

Okay, that is the coolest thing ever! And I'm still laughing at the idea of someone discovering that box years from now. LOL!

P.S. I read Travels With Charley on your recommendation and loved it. Thanks! :)

page2 said...

That is so cool! And kinda gross. Now I know how to embalm a dead body. If the need ever came up it's nice to feel prepared. Thanks Carinne!

The Source said...

You cannot imagine how awesome my two thirteen year old boys found this post. Guess what we'll be doing over the holidays while we don't have to attent homeschool co-op??