That's right. We did it. We mummified a stinkin' chicken.
The kids were horrified. Embarrassed. They thought it was too much of a homeschool thing to do and didn't want the neighbors to know. Even now Phoebe is shrieking, "No one wants to hear about a mummified chicken!!"
Well, I'm a homeschool mommy blogger and I'm gonna tell the story. When you kids read this in 10 or 20 years, you'll be glad I documented the process so that you too can embarrass my precious grandchildren with a mummified chicken.
So we are studying Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors for school. And a mummified chicken deal came across my screen at some point and I thought, "Hey, that fits right in with our ancient studies, and it will be a good hands on project for the kids." And I put it somewhere on a schedule to make sure it would get done.
We mostly used the directions from this blogger. I enjoyed her descriptions and pictures. She did say it was by far the stinkiest thing she'd ever done, so I was expecting foul odors. But we never had any. At all. Maybe we're really good at this. I was very impressed with us.
This was after the first changing of the "dressing."
I'll lay out a step-by-step process below, so we'll breeze through the pictures first. (Jon just walked by with a big groan, "Are you blogging all the chicken stuff? Uuuuggghhh.")
These are the ingredients used in the mixture we stuffed the chicken in every week.
Just about there. See how the skin is yellowing? It's doing what it's supposed to. With no odor about it.
Mixed the stuff up in this big bowl.
Put that chicken in a Ziplock and pack it with the mixture. Set it in the garage for another week....
She's finally done!
I got more gag reflex from the kids than from anything else in their young lives that they've had to gag reflex about. My momma taught me how to cut up a chicken when I was young. It was something you learned. There's no gag reflex in chickens! You just do it!
We oiled it, sprinkled generously with cinnamon and wrapped her in cloths.
I told Liz to get me a pan or piece of cardboard or something to display the chicken on.
She got me a box.
I must say we could have done a better job wrapping the thing. I'm sure the professionals of Egypt who spent 40 or 70 days (Google gave me conflicting info) mummifying a pharaoh did a much better job. But they were getting paid. And weren't dealing with gag-reflex children.
The thing is now buried in our back yard. We should be able to dig it up in a few years and it will seem just as fresh and pert as the day we bought her in HEB. Right?
Mummified Chicken Recipe
Alcohol (not that kind. The Isopropyl kind.)
A small whole chicken
Gallon size (or larger) freezer bags
4 boxes of salt (we used boxes of canning and pickling salt because it was cheap and seemed to work just fine)
4 boxes of baking soda
4 containers baking powder
Linen strips (we used cheesecloth)
1. Rinse off the chicken and take out any innards that might be stuck inside (heart, neck, gizzard, etc.). Some people save these innards to mummify separately and put in canopic jars. You can also make a sarcophagus and amulets, but I was only interested in the chicken part.
2. Dry off the chicken (inside and under wings and everywhere). Pour rubbing alcohol all over it and inside it and pat that dry.
3. Mix up in a large bowl: rice (half a cup maybe? it helps soak up moisture), a box of salt, a container of baking soda and baking powder, some spices (cinnamon or cloves or nutmeg). Spoon mixture inside your chicken. Place chicken inside large freezer bag and stuff the mixture all around it. Our gallon size wasn't quite big enough to be able to shut it once we filled the bag with chicken and salt mixture. So I fit another bag on top of the other and it all did fine. Like I said, we never had smells.
4. Do step 3 as often as you see the salt mixture getting wet. A couple of the blogs I read said to change it once a week, but I think we did it about every 5 days. By the way, the Egyptians used Natron instead of salt ~ it's a naturally occurring mixture of soda ash and baking soda.
5. Once the salt mixture is no longer showing signs of moisture, your chicken should be mummified! Ours was a dark yellowish color. I was expecting more of a change in appearance. It was definitely shrunken. I could seal the whole thing with all the salt in one bag toward the end. The legs had the look of a smoked leg of turkey. Anyway, the only way I really knew it was done is because the salt wasn't wet anymore. I believe we took 5 weeks to complete this project.
6. Rub off as much salt mixture as you can. Pour oil on it (we used vegetable oil; I'm actually not sure if that was a good idea or not, but the thing sat in our garage for several days and all I could smell was cinnamon). Shake spices all over; we just used cinnamon since we had quite a bit of it.
7. Cut up linen strips of cloth or white cloth or sheets or whatever you have or can find at the grocery store (which was cheesecloth for me). Lovingly wrap your family chicken (it's like a pet by now, right?) in these strips of cloth. Some people dipped the cloths in a watered down glue so that they would harden. This is more like what the Egyptians did. They wrapped amulets inside the different layers of linen and then poured resin over it to harden and protect the body from moisture. This makes me wonder if our buried chicken will indeed be its fresh self in several years. We'll keep you posted.