A simple method of preserving bird skins from birds like ducks. If you hunt or know hunters, there's a rich supply of materials, almost for free
This article will teach you how to preserve and get feathers from duck skins, which are often thrown away and therefore often available for free. The feathers make great fly tying materials.
Skinning the ducks: this procedure is very time consuming. Carefully separate the skin of the ducks from the body using a very sharp knife. Some ducks have a very thick layer of greasy fat under the skin layer.
This fat MUST be scraped off. You will need to scrape and cut this as much as you can in order to get down to the skin layer. The more fat you leave on, the more smell the skin will emit.
Once you have gotten the fat layer off as much as you can, slice the remaining fat with the knife in close cross cuts.
You will need to purchase boric acid (AKA hydrogen borate, boracic acid and usually sold as a powder, which is what you want), baking soda, white vinegar, kitty litter and plastic Tupperware containers and covers large enough for the skins to lay flat.
Pour boric acid and baking soda over the remaining fat and into the slices. Let this stand for a couple of weeks. Remove the Boric acid and Baking Soda and bath the skin in Dawn dish soap and white vinegar, repeat the process 4 times.
Place feathers in a large paper envelope or paper bag, and sprinkle enough Boric Acid inside the envelope or bag to surround all the feathers when laid flat.
Hold the envelope or bag and shake for 30 seconds. Lay envelope or bag horizontally on a shelf for three days.
Remove feathers from the envelope or bag and gently shake feathers to remove Boric Acid. Handle each feather and remove Boric Acid with your fingers or a soft paint brush.
Preen the feathers with your fingers by grasping the base of the feathers with your left hand and rubbing the feathers with your right thumb and index fingers. Once the Boric Acid has been removed, stroke the feathers between you thumb and index fingers to gently get the fibers to rejoin the feathers.
Wash the feathers with Dawn dish soap, white vinegar and warm water. Soaking the feathers for 30 minutes in the dawn dish soap, white vinegar and warm water will help to remove the oil from the feathers. This will be the first bath. You will repeat this bath a few more times allowing the feathers to dry in between the baths.
Once the baths have been completed, you will need to pour a layer of Boris Acid, Baking Soda and kitty litter on the bottom of the plastic container. Now lay the feather skin on top of the mixture. Apply the same mixture on top of the feathers and cover fully. Attach the plastic cover and allow everything to sit on a shelf for two weeks.
After two weeks repeat the baths and the drying routine. Store in Tupperware with lid
Where do you get the feathers? I contacted the Duck Hunter's Association in my state. I was fortunate that one of the Association officers lived about 30 miles away, so it was easy to go and pick up the carcasses. The hunter was happy to see the feathers being used for a good purpose. It's a win-win situation. The feathers would have just been discarded in the trash. It helped the hunter to get rid of the carcasses and it gave me a tremendous amount of beautiful feathers that I will get a lot of flies out of for years to come. In fact I gave one skin to my grandson, who I taught how to tie flies. He now has enough feathers to last him many years. The expense of buying these feathers is very high these days and you never get really good feathers. Plus you never get the whole skin. You only get a small cape.