Substantive Education

October 23, 2008

Make a Chicken Mummy

Since we have been studying Ancient Egypt I thought I’d post this activity for those of you who want to try it.  These directions were found in The Story of The World, Activity Book One.  The photos are not mine, but copied from sites that have tried this.  Try looking at this site to see additional things you can do with your mummy, like measuring how many ounces the chicken loses during the process.  Fun stuff.

What you will need:

3 cans of baking powder

3 boxes of baking soda

chicken (whole, uncooked, small is better)  I suppose you could try this with a cornish game hen and it wouldn’t take as long.

Freezer bags…large and lots of them

Plastic gloves

rubbing alcohol, Egyptians used wine, but that would be a bit pricey.

salt, several boxes

If you wish scented oils…recipe below if you want to make your own.

various spices, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, you don’t have to use the spices if the expense is an issue

white glue

white linen type fabric, other fabric you have on hand will work, but won’t look very mummyish


1.  Put on your gloves!  Chicken can harbor nasty bacteria.

2.  Remove the neck and package of liver, heart etc. from the inside of the chicken.  You can mummify these, but they will continue to smell, even after being dried.  If you do mummify them, the heart is usually wrapped in linen, and stuffed back inside the body.  The other parts are put in canopic jars.  Dry them following the same method as for the chicken.

3.  Wash the chicken well in hot running water.  Pat dry with paper towels.  Wash again with alcohol and pat dry.  Don’t forget to wash inside the cavity of the chicken as well.  This helps to reduce the amount of bacteria that will grow on the bird.  Dry as much as possible.

4.  Mis 1/2 box of baking soda with 1/2 can of baking powder and 2 boxes of salt.  The addition of baking powder and baking soda will increase the acidity of the salt mixture reducing the amount of bacteria that can grow.  This will also make the salt mixture more similar to the natron salt used by the ancient Egyptians which consisted of three salts plus sodium sulfate.  If you like, you can also mix spices into the mixture.

5.  Pour some of this mixture into the cavity of the chicken until it is full.  Then, pour some into a large freezer bag.  Put the chicken in the bag, and add the rest of the salt mixture.  The chicken should be completely covered.  Seal the bag.  Put the sealed bag into a second bag and seal.

6.  Check the chicken everyday for a week.  If the salt is wet, put on some gloves, remove the chicken dust off the salt and repeat step 4.  You will likely have to do this several times.

7.  After the first week, you only need to check the chicken once a week.  If the salt is wet proceed as above.

8.  At the end of the 6th week, put on your gloves, remove the chicken from the bag, dust off the salt as completely as you can.  Wet a paper towel and wipe any remaining salt off the bird.  Be sure to dry immediately.

9.  Rub the fragrance oil into the chicken, inside and out.  If you are using unscented oil, you may rub spices into the chicken and then the oil.

10.  Stuff the inside of the bird with fabric, you could also use sawdust and spices.

11.  Dip the strips of linen into the glue and begin wrapping.  Wrap the wings and legs seperately from the body.  Once3 that is complete wrap the body again, without the glue another 2 to 3 times.  You can wrap trinkets in if you wish, like the Egyptians wrapped in amulets.

Making the Scented Oil

Fill a jar to the top with a combination of spices (cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg work well)

Add oil to the jar and close the lid

Set it in a sunny location for a week.  Shake the jar well 2-3 times per day.

Drain the oil to use, or repeat the above steps for another week for stronger oil/perfume.

To make Canopic Jars for your organs

Clean off a small jar with screw top lid (or several jars, generally only one organ was placed in a jar)

Put paper scraps and water into a blender an puree (you can use packaged paper mache if you prefer)

drain water and mix in some glue.

Mould the pulp onto the lid into the shape of the head of one of Horus’s sons.  (Horus had four sons, Imsety was human and his jar protected the liver, Duamutef was a jackal and protected the stomach, Hapy was a baboon and protected the lungs, and Qebhsemuf was a falcon and protected the intenstines.)  Let dry completely.

Paint on details to the sculpture you made on the top, and onto the jars, writing in hieroglyphics if you want.



  1. OK that’s really cool in a really gross way! Good idea on the gloves :0)

    Comment by Ellen — October 23, 2008 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  2. is there a tofu alternative for this?

    Comment by Kristin George — October 24, 2008 @ 4:30 am | Reply

  3. Okay, I’m thankful that my two boys did this project in 2nd grade while still in traditional schooling. I’m the original “mummy chicken” when it comes to something like this. Bravo to those moms who take this on.

    Comment by Elle — October 24, 2008 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

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