Preserving ostrich testicles for a necklace

Submitted by PA on 7/22/06 at 9:31 AM. ( )

I've been gone for 2 1/2 weeks and trying to catch up on these here forums. Seems that Dane needed some information on preserving ostrich testicals for a necklass, so figured to put in my experiences.

First off, you have to find a good source of testicles from which to obtain specimens. Like most birds, the testicles of birds shift in size on an annual basis. For example, a robin, of which I have probably examined gonads of 200+ specimens, has a testis size ranging from about 1 mm x 1 mm as it fledges, but by the next breeding season can grow to close to 12 mm x 15 mm in size, and then shrink down to 2 mm x 3 mm until the next season when it bloats up again. Ostriches may not expand as much on an annual basis, but it would be best to get together with a local ostrich farmer to be sure you can get an even sized group of testes.

Secondly, birds do not have hanging testicles as non-anatomists might think. They are totally internal and lie just ventrally of the anterior portion of the kidneys. In the ostrich slaughterhouse, I would position yourself just prior to the eviceration process and delicatley extract each testis just prior to this phase. In birds there is also bilateral assymetry, so left testis are generally much smaller than the right testis. As you extract them in the line, I would suggest you get a drum of liquid nitrogen and drop each unit into it. The testis of birds are not totally firm, and shape can distort quick. By dropping the testes into the liquid nitrogen they freeze almost instantly without distortion.

The next phase is the exact design of the necklace. I like to make a replication of a pearl necklace form, which for an ostrich might take perhaps 25 or 30 testes if they are mid-sized at perhaps 15 mm x 20 mm in profile. The smaller ones should be towards the back and the very large ones in the very front. Only one of the largest testes set should be on the very front - perhaps the closest to breeding condition.

Having the design in hand, preservation would be best done by either wax inpregnation or the very new plasticization as practiced by that german fellow. I have had luck in the wax impregnation style, the first testis I did circa 1976 were of Plethodon cinereus while in college. They were actually used in my senior thesis. Freeze drying isn't really good for testes of any size since there is NOW no good chemicals available like edolan or mitan-ff. You could freeze dry them, then dip them in a casting plastic type material, but I prefer the natural testes look. Also, without chemicals you wouldn't want your testes eaten by bugs.

I string the necklace on 3 strand babour linen thred imported from Scotland, but some people use fireline. I know linen thread works great because various strung testis necklaces have survived now for close to 160 years and held up well, though they are usually held in temperature and humidity controlled environments because of there value.

Pricing is another concern. You don't want to undercut the professional necklace maker who has spent years developing their trade. If you are just getting into making testis neclaces, I would start with chickens or ducks and go part-time at first before tackling ostriches. But charge as much as a professional because they have the overhead of maintaining large liquid nitrogen tanks and the resultant hazardous waste regulations that go with that venture.

A good ostrich necklace is definitely worth about $450, and some charge as much as $750, but other hackanecklacers work for only $175 and that doesn't even count the basic costs involved. I have had to drive over 300 miles to a good ostrich slaughterhouse at killing time and gas doesn't come free for my brand new Dodge Pickup.

Well Dane, I hope I've answered your questions enough as I now have to unpack my equipment. I was out to Jackson Hole on my vacation and examined a yellow-headed blackbird set of testes and have to unpack my equipment. If you need any other information please contact me at my alternate address -

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This response submitted by Frank on 7/22/06 at 11:31 AM. ( )

Just when I thought I was pretty educated in taxidermy I learn something new.LOL


This response submitted by Ron on 7/22/06 at 8:53 PM. ( )


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