how to decompose a dead bird

I am sorry for the loss of your cockatiel. I believe that you can either salvage the skeleton or dispose of the body in the compost, but not both. Because bird bones are hollow inside, they would probably decompose in the ground rather quickly. Online permaculture discussion groups advise against burying birds and in favor of freezing them until active ant nests are present, at which point they should be left exposed so the ants can clean them. I asked Dennis Paulson, the Director Emeritus of the Slater Museum of Natural History at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, for advice because I wasn’t sure if this would work.

In general, dead animals that are not pets and weigh over fifteen pounds must be collected by Seattle Animal Control, but smaller animals that show no signs of disease may be double-bagged and put in the garbage. King County has similar guidelines. Dead wild birds (particularly crows and jays) that may have been affected by West Nile virus should be reported to the Public Health department at 206-205-4394.

He says that “putting something as small as a cockatiel in the ground isn’t the best idea, as their smaller bones would probably suffer. Putting it near an ant nest might not be much better, as the ants could carry off those small smaller bones. To make a good skeleton, you need to skin the bird and remove a lot of the bigger muscles (in particular, the flight muscles on the breast) as well as the intestines and other organs from the body cavity.” The Slater Museum of Natural History can skeletonize small birds by using their colony of dermestid beetles that eat all the soft tissues, which is the best way to skeletonize something of that size. The museum accepts donations of specimens, but they may also be willing to assist someone who wants to commemorate their pet bird in this way.

Introduction: How to Preserve Bird Wings, Legs, and Heads…the Native Way!

how to decompose a dead bird

For many thousands of years, indigenous peoples have preserved the body parts of a diverse range of animals. Using bird parts is one simple method that yields good results. All the birds Ive used have been found already dead. No animals were harmed. The unneeded parts were returned to the Earth with respect. Since I don’t currently have any dead birds to work on, I will be posting drawings and pictures of the completed projects along with this instructable. Because birds can carry salmonella and other parasites, please wear gloves for your own protection and make sure to thoroughly wash your hands and all tools after using them.

***NOTE: Hello everyone, before we continue with this instructable, let me just say this: Since I published it, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about your personal preservations. I’ve noticed that a lot of the questions that have been asked recently can be answered by reading through some of my responses to other people, so instead of typing out the same responses repeatedly, I’ve created a FAQ. Please ask me a question if you’re certain that these don’t address it. You can assume the answer to your query is in the FAQ if I don’t respond to it in a few days. Q: I found a bird that has some insects/maggots. Will it still preserve properly? A: No. Even if you are successful in eliminating every bug, there’s a good chance that they have left behind eggs that will eventually hatch and continue to contaminate the parts even after they have dried. Furthermore, their digestive enzymes will contribute to the persistent deterioration of the flesh and an unpleasant smell. Q My bird parts smell bad, like they’re rotting, but they don’t have any bugs. A: It won’t go away, not even with preservation. Once allowed to form, the decomposition’s acids and gases will never go. The portions will always smell bad, even if the smell gradually fades. Your parts should not smell like they are decaying; rather, they should smell like warm, fresh poultry before, during, and after preservation. Found carcasses should ideally be no older than a day. After my parts were placed in the box a few days ago, the box has started to smell bad. A: The box should never smell at any point. If this is occurring, a problem has arisen and the part is not being preserved correctly. In this case I recommend discarding the part. When the parts are fully preserved, they should feel completely stiff and dry. The cutting edges must be totally solid and dry—not gummy or wet. If they don’t fit these requirements, bury them once more for a month. Legs and wings typically take at least a month to develop. Heads can take longer, two or more. I want feathers, not the parts that hold them. A: You can just pluck them to get them off and clean them. Use your hands as any tools may damage the quills. It will take a lot of time, so be patient. Feathers can be cleaned by immersing them in a mixture of five parts warm water, one part vinegar, and one part witch hazel. Let them soak for 24 hours. The astringents will assist in killing any potential feather mites and sanitizing the feathers. Remove and spread out flat on a towel to dry. A blow dryer can be used to expedite this process. Q: I’ve spotted a hawk, eagle, owl, or other predatory bird. A: Before claiming it, confirm that doing so is permitted in your nation or area of residence. Even if you’ve just found a single feather in the woods, it is unlawful to possess parts or feathers from migratory birds or birds of prey in the US and Canada without a special permit. If feathers or parts are discovered, there is a steep fine or possible jail term. What is the ideal temperature for parts preservation? A: Parts should be kept dry and stored indoors at room temperature. Avoid preserving outside as fluctuating humidity levels and high or low temperatures can cause the parts to freeze or absorb too much moisture. Does the species of bird I own have an impact on how it will be preserved? A: No, all birds will be preserved using the same technique. Q: I wish to hold onto a wing or foot so that I can adopt a specific posture. Can I do this? A: Sure, but to do this, you’ll need to attach the part with nails to a thin plywood or particle board piece, which will then need to be put inside the box with the cornmeal. Otherwise, since the muscles and tissues will naturally contract as the part dries, simply arranging it in the desired shape before covering it up won’t work. A: Other than cornmeal, what else can I use to preserve feathers? Borax and rock salt will also work, but Borax tends to form a crust on the severed ends and is very difficult to brush out of feathers completely due to its dustiness. There is a chance that salt will leave some mineral stains on the feathers. Q: I want to remove the feathers from a section that is already dry. Can I do this? A: It is very difficult to remove feathers from dry pieces without causing damage to them. Feather quills are essentially cemented into the skin as it shrinks and dries. To bring back the moisture in the skin, you can re-soak the area; however, doing so will cause permanent damage, so you shouldn’t dry it again. Will this technique work on rodents or other small animals? A: It will, but the final result may appear somewhat patchy and emaciated because fur does not have the same coverage as feathers. Now back to the instructable!.

Step 2: Tools & Materials

how to decompose a dead bird

A dead bird, protective gloves, an old shoebox (or other cardboard box; any size will work as long as it has a lid), a hacksaw (optional for larger birds), an X-Acto knife or box cutter, wire cutters, and a large bag of cornmeal are all necessary.