Baby Chick Made With Paper Mache Clay

Get a fast start on your next paper mache project or hand-made gift with Jonni’s easy downloadable patterns for masks, animal sculptures and faux trophy mounts. The patterns help you create a beautiful work of art, even if you’ve never sculpted anything before.

I started this project to test a modification to the paper mache clay recipe that was suggested by Ginny in a comment on our paper mache clay page. Her idea of substituting glycerin for the linseed oil in the recipe started a lot of activity in the comments section, so I just had to do some experiments and see if it would work.

I just received my (larger than requested) order of baby chicks, so I’ve got chickens on the brain. That explains my choice of subject matter. I also wanted to create a bird that stands on two feet, since the balance issue has always been slightly intimidating to me. As it turned out, it really wasn’t as hard as I always thought it would be.

Wire Legs for Baby Chick Sculpture
Wire Legs and Feet for Baby Chick Sculpture

I started out by bending some wire into a “U” shape, then adding all four toes. If I did this again, I would not double the wire on the back toes this way – it did make it easy to tape the feet together, but it made the back toe too heavy, as you can see in the photo above.

Baby Chick Legs Covered With Tape
Baby Chick Legs Covered With Tape

The wire was completely covered with masking tape to prevent rust from migrating through the wet clay and ruining the final finish on the bird. If I make another bird I’ll look for some tape that stretches a bit better than masking tape, so the wire legs and toes will be smoother. I’m considering the tape used for bandages, but that’s for another experiment…

I also padded the thigh area at this point. Since I had some aluminum foil on my work table I decided to use it for padding instead of the usual crumpled paper. Of course, the paper would have worked just fine.

Padding the Baby Chick's Body
Padding the Baby Chick’s Body

I started padding the body, building up the separate parts as I worked. The lower tummy was first, fitted inside the wire that connects the two padded thighs. Then I added the chest and neck, and then filled out some more on the back and added the head and wings. Since I was using aluminum foil, it was easy to pinch a bit on the front of the head to make a beak. All of the foil was completely covered with masking tape. When the body was filled out I bent the legs to make sure the bird would stand up without support.

Adding Paper Mache Clay to Baby Chick
Adding Paper Mache Clay to Baby Chick

Now I made up a batch of paper mache clay. Instead of the linseed oil in the recipe I used about two tablespoons of glycerin. (I found the glycerin at Rite Aid, next to the hydrogen peroxide. It’s also used in soap-making, and as a laxative suppository. I think I bought the last bottle in town). The clay worked nicely, and I was able to apply it in a very thin layer over the masking tape. Since we’re having very warm weather this week the clay dried very fast.

To make the clay seem more “fuzzy” than smooth, I first spread the thin layer of clay on the baby chick, then dabbed it with the end of a stiff stencil brush. You can see in the photo that it made tiny bumps all over the chick.

Paper Mache Clay on Baby Chick Sculpture
Paper Mache Clay on Baby Chick Sculpture

I used the edge of a knife to make tiny feathers on the tip of the chick’s wings. I took a ball-point pen apart and used the end of the ink tube to make the eyes perfectly round. I used extra clay to form the cheeks and beak the way I wanted them. The photo above shows the chick after the clay dried, just before I painted her.

Baby Chick
Finished Baby Chick

The photo above is another view of the finished chick. You can clearly see in this photo that the back toe is too thick, as I mentioned earlier. Next time, I’ll do that part differently. Other than that, I think she came out quite well. The body shape and the legs make her a more challenging project than the paper mache bluebirds, but it would be fun to make up a few chicks for Easter decorations.

Naturally, I couldn’t stop myself from setting the “fake” chick in the brooder, just to see what the real chicks would think of her. I don’t think they were fooled:

Baby Chicks
Baby Chicks

27 thoughts on “Baby Chick Made With Paper Mache Clay”

      • Not sure yet Jonnie.
        It’s a scene from my book.
        The watering hoses have sprung a leak and the water is spritzing everywhere! Chicks and mash are going nuts..
        and mommas .well their sitting in there nesting boxes looking on …
        still lots of ideas to think about.

        • You’re illustrating a book with sculptures, and making the sculptures as you write the book? What fun! I hope you’ll let us know when it’s published.

  1. Wonderful work as usual! I am still fuzzy about the glycerine. Is it because you can use less clay and get the same coverage and glycerine is not toxic like linseed oil?
    Also where would you use sculpy or sculpta as opposed to paper macheclay?
    Françoise Léon

    • Some people prefer the glycerine. I’ve tried it in the recipe, and I couldn’t tell the difference. To tell the truth, the recipe works without oil or glycerine, but I do think the addition makes the paper mache clay a little easier to use. The texture while wet is slightly different. I haven’t used sculpy enough to be an expert on the subject. I do use it as a modeling clay sometimes, without firing it. That’s not what it’s meant for, of course, and other modeling clays are much less expensive. Most people who use sculpy seem to use it for fairly small projects. The paper mache clay can be used on any armature of any size.

  2. Hi love this chick your work is so amazing could you make a duckling you don’t have to but it is your choice

  3. I’m fairy new at paper mache art, as I’ve always worked with polymer clay and Creative Paperclay (which I adore!), so I have a couple questions:

    What is the purpose of the linseed oil, glycerin, and Karo syrup?
    Are they for smoothing the clay? Better workability? Making it last longer? A mold preventively? A bonding agent? Other reasons?

    Any info would be most helpful. Thanks!

    • Those ingredients do change the feel of the clay a little, but you can leave them out and you won’t really notice it much. The oil or glycerine is the most expensive ingredient, and boiled linseed oil contains chemical additives, so there may be good reasons for making your clay without them.


  5. Thanks so much for that post – you’ve really got me fired up to return to my earlier days of recycled papier mache on wire armatures! I’m sending a photo of the pig I’m finishing off – this guy made me remember how much I love working with this medium.

    Paper Mache Pig

  6. I just received a comment from Bob, who suggests using Karo syrup in place of the glycerin. It’s cheaper, and easier to find. He says he tried it, and it works. Check out his comment here. Of course, it’s a good excuse to do another experiment, and experiments are fun.

    Be sure to see his comment, because he has several other good suggestions, including a way to prevent mold.

  7. This chick is wonderful! The photo of the fake and real chick is priceless.

    Florist tape is shiny but you could paint over it with a flat paint to reduce the shine. It does come in brown as well as white and green.

    Great job!

  8. Awww, Jonni!
    She’s just adorable! The chicks might not be fooled, but I think she is very realistic. (what do chicks know? heee) What type of chicks did you get? I see at least two varieties in your pic. Have fun with them, I always love the wee little sounds that chicks and chickens make! Makes me wish they would allow them here where I live within the “city” limits. Sounds like a very good experiment to try. Good luck playing mad scientist with the formulas.

    • Hi Ann. Thanks for the kind words about my “fake” chick. My real ones are a mixed-up lot. I ordered three Light Brahma pullet chicks. The hatchery threw in seven “extras” so I ended up with 7 more chicks than my city will allow me to keep. And the extras are probably all cockerels. I’m going to our county fair tomorrow to see if I can find a chicken-loving kid willing to take the extras home. Somebody could have a very interesting flock of heritage breed roosters. Now that could be interesting….

  9. Very cute! That didn’t take long, from inspiration to completion!

    What about using florists’ tape? I think it’s stretchy, and narrow, and fairly close-grained, unlike bandage tape (unless you’re thinking of a different bandage tape than I am), right?

    So, the glycerin performed the job that the linseed oil would as well, differently, or better, would you say?

    • Isn’t florist’s tape shiny? I must be thinking of something else – time to wander around the craft department of my local store, trying to not spend too much money…

      I didn’t make a control batch of clay, using the linseed oil. Since you don’t actually have to put linseed oil in at all, I’d say that the best control would be a batch with neither the oil or the glycerin, and see if it turns out just as good. However, I do think the glycerin helped hold the clay together when I spread it really, really thin, on the baby chick’s legs and toes. But without a control batch, I still can’t tell you if you really need it or not. What I can say is that the clay worked just fine with the glycerin instead of the oil.

      If anybody feels like doing a scientific experiment with three different batches of clay, I sure hope you’ll tell us what you discover. Come to think of it, that might be a good project for a high school business class – develop the “perfect” recipe, get the art students to test it, ask the machine shop kids (do they still have machine shop in HS?) to help design tools to mix up large batches, ask the chemistry class to test the recipe for archive qualities, work with the business teacher to learn about labeling and liability laws, marketing, etc. Do schools ever do this type of interdisciplinary project? I wonder if any local artists would be willing to buy pre-mixed paper mache clay at a reasonable cost at a high school fund-raising event.

      But I digress….

  10. Your baby chick is precious. I have yet to attempt my first paper maché clay project, but this little guy might have given me a kick start :). Thanks for sharing.
    Stay inspired!

Leave a Comment

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.

Heads up! You are attempting to upload a file that's too large. Please try a smaller file smaller than 250KB.

Note that images greater than 250KB will not be uploaded.