Captured on video: a duck-footed mouse, created through the wonders of taxidermy. This is an advanced project; see mouse taxidermy
for the basics and Conjoined Twin Mice
and LED Throwie Rat
for other advanced projects.Warning:
this Instructable contains taxidermy, chimeras, and humor. View at your own risk.
We've come up with two edits of the Duck Mouse video: first, a short guts-free trailer to pique your interest, then a more complete view of all the taxidermy action.Duck Mouse Trailer
The shorter guts-free version:Duck Mouse Full Release
The longer version, including a bit of dissection:
Step 1: Obtain and dry duck feet
Find yourself some fresh duck feet.
If you or your friends hunt or raise ducks, you're all set. Otherwise you could visit your local asian grocery, butcher shop, or live poultry source and ask for the leftovers. These feet came from a green-winged teal I shot myself. I ate the rest of the bird (VERY good) and saved the wings in my chest freezer for a future project.
Cut the feet off just at the bottom of the feathers, and wash them in nice soapy water. The webbed feet will fold up if you let them, so spread out the webbing and pin them on a piece of cardboard to dry. You'll need two pins to keep the toes spread, and a couple of pins to prop the leg in an upright position. Try to make as few holes in the feet as possible.
I left mine on the mantel to dry, and just forgot about them for a couple of days. If you're in an excessively humid area, it may be necessary to put them in an oven set to "keep warm" to dry them out. They'll be stiff and a bit crispy when dry, so handle gently.
Step 2: Prepare mouse skin
Clean and prepare a mouse skin as described in the basic mouse taxidermy
We'll be processing the forelegs as normal, but don't bother cleaning off the hind legs- they'll eventually be cut out and replaced with duck feet. Leave them in as place holders for now.
Step 3: Trim duck feet
Grab your wire cutters or a pair of snips, and trim off the upper part of the duck leg just below the knee.
My mouse's legs were too skinny to possibly pass the knee through, so I trimmed the leg to the thin point. If you use a rat the longer leg and knee joint might work just fine; choose accordingly.
Either way, this is like cutting through a dry chicken bone of equal size. A knife or normal scissors probably won't make a good cut, so you'll actually need the snips to cut through the leg bone without shattering it.
Step 4: Insert duck feet
Pull the mouse leg out through the body cavity, peeling back the skin down to the ankle, then pop it back right-side out. Cut the mouse's hind legs off just above the ankle, liberating the loose skin from the bone. You should now be able to remove the bone from the inside and the paw from the outside. Save and dry the paws; they'd make a nice pair of dangly earrings ala the cursed Monkey's Paw, or could be incorporated into another project.
Push the duck leg up the leg "sleeve" and into the mouse body. Hopefully this will be a rather tight fit, and the skin will stretch a bit to accommodate the leg. If there's not enough room you may need to trim farther up to reach a wider part of the leg. Repeat with the other leg.
Now you should have two duck feet attached to your pelt, the legs sticking up into the back side of the skin with the leg fur pooled around the ankles as shown below.
Step 5: Superglue legs
Apply a ring of superglue around the top of the legs just below the cut. Think of this as a superglue garter belt.
Next pull the skin up like a sock, taking care not to accidentally bring the rest of the pelt into contact with the superglue. Tug the "sock" up the leg to get it into proper position, then pinch it in tight against the superglue at the top. Repeat with the other leg. The superglue will bond almost instantly, but give it another squeeze around and a short time to set just in case. This really is easier than it sounds; check out the video if you're not sure.
You'll have to move quickly and carefully to avoid superglue problems. Superglue loves to stick skin and hair together, so be extra careful with your fingers, the mouse skin, and mouse fur.
I lost a bit of fur that got stuck in a superglue drip, but it wasn't enough to show up as a missing patch on the pelt, and was easily scraped off the leg with an X-acto knife.
Step 6: Wire and insert form
Wire up the mouse forelimbs and insert the voodoo-doll form as described in basic mouse taxidermy
Wire on the tail as normal, but wait on the hind feet. Duck feet require a bit different preparation.
Step 7: Wire duck feet
Bird bones are hollow, a fact we're about to use to our advantage. Wiggle the legs around so the cut ends of the duck legs are sticking up and accessible.
Cut a couple pieces of thin wire, aloop the bottom 1cm into a J shape, and pinch it tight. Check that this doubled piece of wire will slip through one of the holes the duck's leg bone all the way down to the foot. It should slip in relatively easily, but touch the sides of the hole.
Now, the sneaky part: we fill the rest of that hole with glue. I ran superglue along the wire down into the hole, trying not to spill it onto the neighboring skin and fur. Wait for the glue ot settle, then add more. And more.
Superglue may not be the best choice for this part, as it's best joining flat surfaces, but it's what I had on hand and it worked. One of those other shiny new glues the hardware store wants to sell you may work even better; just check the packaging to make sure it's suitable and doesn't take too long to dry.
Step 8: Position hind legs
After the glue is dry, carefully hold the legs in the desired position and twist the wires together behind the mouse's back. If you used superglue be careful not to put too much stress on the wire/leg junction, as superglue isn't great at withstanding shear forces.
You'll want your mouse to stand up nicely on a tripod: the two duck legs and his tail. Manipulate the tail wire as needed, and get your duck legs into proper position, then readjust the wires as necessary. Tuck the twisted wire ends under the foreleg wires, and make sure the pointy ends are stuck into the cotton voodoo doll to avoid accidental skewering or damage to the pelt.
Double-check that you're happy with your mouse's stance, then move along.
Step 10: Primp & dry
Go back and do some touch-up work. Are the duck feet, tail, and forelegs where you want them? If not, wiggle and position as appropriate.
Are the eyes properly positioned within the sockets? Wiggle things around until they work for you.
Bend the head forward into an entertaining posture, and double-check the forelegs.
I found the duck feet wanted to splay a bit wide, making my mouse a bit too... well, duck-footed. I put a piece of wire around his hips as he dried, removing it when the skin was strong/stiff enough to support the feet in their preferred position.
After he's done give your mouse a good combing, as all this manipulation will leave his fur in a state. A toothbrush and a bit of water will do the trick nicely even after he's dry.
Pin the mouth as described in mouse taxidermy
, and leave him alone for a couple of days in a warm dry place. Fluff the ears periodically to prevent them from folding down during drying; you may find it helpful to moisten them for repositioning.
Step 11: Display
Once your duck mouse is dry, he's ready for permanent display. Find him a nice safe spot to sit out of the reach of pets or orally-fixated young children, and wait for the fun. Even those who aren't excited about taxidermy will probably find your duck mouse unbearably cute.
The duck mouse can also be hung from the ceiling, or used as a Christmas tree ornament. Simply add an additional loop to his back while sewing him up, leave his head pointing (mostly) straight up, and maybe make him a snorkel or SCUBA gear to complete the image of a diving mouse. See photos below for hints.
The feet should be slightly large for comic effect; it's a mouse in duck boots!
We found ourselves singing theme songs for the duck mouse, to the tune of the old Batman song (Na na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na na DUCK MOUSE!), the DuckTales cartoon (Duck mouse- whoo-hoo!), and other truly embarrassing things. It's just such a cute little cartoon character, you won't be able to help yourself.
I've still got more fun things in my freezer, so keep your eyes peeled for more neat chimeras!