Our family does not make a very big deal out of Halloween. Up until sixth grade, the girls dress up and traipse around the neighborhood in search of candy. We carve pumpkins. And we all eat a little more candy than normal.
That is about it. Except for the two Halloweens when we studied ancient history in our homeschool.
My all time favorite history curriculum for elementary-aged children is Story of the World. There are many high-quality programs out there, but this one works well for us. Susan Wise Bauer, the author of the program, includes several features I like:
- Brief, yet meaningful readings,
- Coloring pages for younger learners,
- Corresponding geography and map activities,
- An optional audio book component, and
Really fun activities. Some are simple, like building blanket forts when studying nomads. Others are a bit more complex. Like chicken mummies. Chicken mummies?!? Yes. Chicken mummies.
The first time we made a chicken mummy, many years ago, we learned a few things and adapted Susan Wise Bauer’s plans to better suit our needs. First of all, she recommends that mummies be made out of your typical whole chicken from the grocery store. But the bigger your chicken is, the more mummification supplies you need. It also takes quite a bit longer to fully dry the carcass.
This time, upon the advice of my genius husband, we opted to use a Cornish game hen. Out of habit, though, I will continue to refer to the bird as a chicken for the rest of the post.
After cleaning the chicken with water and rubbing alcohol, we used a special mixture of baking soda, baking powder, and table salt to dry it. The baking powder and soda altered the table salt so that its chemical consistency was more like the salt used by priests in ancient Egypt when mummifying pharaohs. The two ingredients also reduce bacterial growth.
While drying, the chicken was double bagged in food storage bags. These were placed inside a lidded plastic food container. I knew from previous experience that there really would not be an odor, but it seemed prudent to make sure our extremely curious cat would pay very little attention to the chicken. So I was a bit overzealous.
Every few days, we took the chicken out of his temporary tomb, shook off all the wet, sticky salt, and replaced it with some clean mummification mixture. I want to point out here that while the chicken really had no odor (which likely means the amount of bacteria was not horrifically high), I respected all raw meat rules. We always used gloves when handling the bird. Surfaces were sanitized after he was packed back in his little plastic coffin. We never ate while we worked on the project.
We started the project right before Labor Day. After about six or seven weeks, the chicken no longer had enough moisture left in the carcass to make the salt mixture wet. It was at that point that we were able to make the bird smell nice. The ancient Egyptians had special perfumes and spices they used for their purposes. Our kindergartner wanted her mummy to have a nice, fresh, minty aroma. Like the smell of toothpaste. So I used peppermint essential oil. Also a little bit of lavender. So that he sleeps well.
Today, the bird got his mummy wrap. We stuffed the inside of him with old rags. It will help him maintain his shape. Then we cut strips from an old pillowcase to wrap him. The strips were dipped in a glue/water solution so that they would become rigid upon drying.
Finally, we placed the bird on our front steps. Right next to the pumpkins. It was hard to get a good picture. Too excited about the festivities. This is what you do when you learn about ancient Egypt in your homeschool right before Halloween. And the neighbors think it is a bit odd, but at the same time they are impressed.
Maybe next year they will have a mummy, too.
Have you ever made a chicken mummy? Let us know in an email or comment below!