How to preserve a dead bird?
We can preserve a dead bird by using the technique of taxidermy. Performing taxidermy involves skinning or dehiding the dead bird, and this is the very best and well-known technique to preserve any dead bird specimen with ease.
Taxidermy can be defined as an art or technique of stuffing animals (mostly birds) by removing all of the organs, bones, and tissues of the dead body, while only keeping the skin with the fur or feathers damage-free.
The things we will need are a surgical blade, a cutter, mount framework, and boric acid. The use of boric acid here in this technique is the most prominent.
To preserve a dead bird using the technique of taxidermy, we first need to collect the dead specimen.
Kindly make sure that the bird is not rotten, and it is always best to collect a freshly dead bird or at least a bird that has died 24 hours ago.
Then the collected dead bird is frozen inside a refrigerator for about two to three hours to prevent the growth of any microbes and parasites.
After that, we take out the bird from the freeze, massage it a bit wherever we feel the body has hardened to make it soft and free. This is because dead animals usually harden over time and this will create hurdles while stuffing the bird.
Next, we need to prepare or purchase a ready-made mount for that bird that can be a plaster cast or a wooden mount, or a steel frame.
Then we need to remove the skin along with the feathers or fur of the bird being attached to the skin carefully. For doing so we can make a small cut in the belly of the bird and then peeling out the whole skin off the body.
Remember that skin is the most important organ for such living-like preservation. So, kindly make sure that you don’t damage the skin, and also that the fur or feathers must be there attached to the skin.
While removing the hide you must remember that you need to remove the hide from half part of the bird’s head as you would for the rest of the body, and cut the other half of the skull to take it out with the hide.
Remember to remove the brain, eyes, tongue, other muscles as well from the inside of the half-cut skull that is now attached to the hide. Here, it means that you’ll need to remove the brain, eyes, and tongue and leave the shape of the head intact for preservation.
Cutting half of the skull and taking it out with the hide will ensure that the head portion of the bird is shaped well as the real bird along with its beak and feathers being intact.
So, while removing the hide we need to make sure that the lower legs and the half-cut part of the skull remain attached to the hide. Throw away the other organs left out as we will only need the hide.
Here, we are using the word hide. Hide simply means the skin of an animal or bird along with the feathers, fur, and other external attachments.
Next, after taking out the hide portion of the body, we need to rub a thick layer of boric acid onto the flesh-side of the hide, inside the half-cut skull that is attached to the hide, and in all those regions where we can find pieces of muscle attachments.
This boric acid covered specimen needs to be kept for about a day or two in a cold dry place, and after a day or two days, we scrap the extra flesh from the flesh side of the hide. We need to repeat this process with boric acid at least two to three times.
Boric acid is used to remove water contents from the hide making it dry, stop insect activity, slough off fat and fascia so that the hide gets preserved for more than five to six decades if the specimen is kept in a cool, dry, and pest free region.
Then we mount the hide on a frame, and we fill the skin with the required cotton to make the body of the bird look like a living one.
Then later on using an appropriate colored thread, we stitch together the cut portion of the skin to give the animal its proper real-life standing shape.
In the end, we stick false eyes, any feathers if required, claws by gluing them in place to the body of the stuffed bird.
That’s it! Our dead-bird specimen will be now ready as a stuffed-preserved bird for future display in a living-like form.
How to preserve the skeleton of a dead bird?
Preservation of the skeleton of a dead bird is necessary if we want to preserve the bones for future biological studies, making museum specimens, and for any research purposes in the labs.
In fact, preserved skeletons can be used as valuable biological teaching and learning tools, and these can also be used for interesting decorative displays in homes and offices.
So, to preserve the skeleton of a bird we first need to collect a dead bird and then peel out all of the flesh, organs, feathers, fur, hide, etc., and only leave the pieces of bones for preservation.
The very best way to preserve the skeleton of a dead is by using the Hot Water Maceration technique.
In this technique, the dead body of a bird is boiled in hot water to easily peel off all of the fleshy contents just leaving behind the bones.
Hot Water Maceration is a bone preparation technique whereby a clean skeleton is obtained from a vertebrate carcass (here in this case from a bird’s carcass) by leaving it in boiling water with enzyme-based laundry detergent mixed inside a closed container at a near-constant temperature of around 32°C.
First, we take the dead bird and peel out the whole hide. To do so we first make a cut in the belly portion of the bird and slowly peel out its whole hide.
Make sure not to cut or break any bones, do it slowly and carefully. The best is to be very careful at the tail bone and the skull region of the bird and peel the hide very carefully.
Next, clean and remove all of the internal organs, eyes, brain carefully from the skull, tongue, etc. from the bird’s body.
Next, take a container and fill 2/3rd of the container with water so that almost the whole bird can get inside the water.
So, after removing most of the flesh, internal organs, etc., and removing the brain tissue as described earlier, simply boil the body in the container by keeping a near-constant temperature of around 32°C for about 1 to 2 hours at least.
Don’t forget to add 2 tablespoons of enzyme-based laundry detergent to the container when the water is boiling. This will help degrease and clean the flesh from the skin much-much faster and easier.
So, the main reason for performing the Hot Water Maceration technique is to soften the muscles, tendons, and cartilages and help these detach from the bones.
Overboiling the carcass can damage the skeleton and even dissolve some of the bones. So, the entire process can take from a few minutes to several hours depending on the size and hardness of the bones.
For example: If you are boiling a chicken’s carcass, then an hour or two will be just enough for boiling in the water. And, if it’s an eagle’s carcass then it may take more than 2 hours or so.
Make sure to check the carcass after every 20 minutes, and try to remove as much flesh as you can each time using the skinning knife, pins, brush, or dental tools until the skeleton is very much clean.
After removing the majority of the flesh, take out the bones and keep it safe somewhere. Also, strain the cooking water using a wire screen to catch any small bones.
The next step is to remove all of the flesh contents and keep the bones in one place.
Then prepare a solution of Hydrogen peroxide and water in a 1:1 ratio. Then we soak the bones in this prepared solution for up to three days (minimum 2 days) to fine bleach any remaining stains.
Then we dry the bones under sun or air for an hour or two, and then finally we glue the bones together using clear-drying glue.
If we want we can also prepare wireframe and glue the bones together with the support of the wire and this can keep the skeleton ready for display in a standing upright position.
Can you freeze a dead bird? Is only freezing a dead bird okay for preservation?
Freezing is not the ultimate way or process to preserve a dead bird. In fact, it is just an initial step that needs to be followed before following the other steps of preservation like taxidermy, etc.
Yes, it’s true that freezing will highly slow down both the dead body decay and the growth of micro-organisms, but this is a destructive process if the dead carcasses are kept under a freezer for a longer time period.
Freezing a dead bird for a much longer time will let the cells and tissues rupture and crystallize over time, and this won’t give a real-like experience to the preserved bird later on.
So, freezing needs to be only done as an initial step for the timing after the death of the bird to its initiation for taxidermy.
Why? Because freezing immediately after death will stop the further decomposition of the body and the growth of pests. So, freezing immediately becomes all the more essential.
Later on, when we are ready for following the other steps like peeling out the hide, removing the internal organs, etc. for doing the taxidermy process, we must take the bird out of the freezer and follow the next mentioned steps.
Remember, here we are only talking about freezing in a refrigerator which is common in everyone’s house.
But, if we are to talk about freeze-drying then yes, we can preserve a dead bird using the freeze-drying process very well.
Unlike freezing in refrigerators, Lyophilisation (Freeze-Drying) is a process used in high-end labs, in which the dead bird is gently frozen, and then dried under a high-pressure vacuum to extract water out of it.
Freeze-Drying involves slowly freezing the specimen and then lowering the pressure in a vacuum, and adding heat to remove the ice crystals by sublimation to remove all the moisture from an animal’s tissue and stop any further decomposition, thus allowing to preserve the animal or bird for a much longer time.