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While feathers are often considered a by-product of duck production (and often a waste by-product), some producers raise duck specifically for their feathers.

Feathers are used in a number of decorative products such as boas, feather fans, masks, costume accessories, bird ornaments, and even earrings and flowers. Feathers are also routinely used in the production of fishing flies.

 Research has shown that the keratin in the feathers (a protein also found in hair, hoofs, horns, and wool) can be used in the production of a wide variety of products.

    Pillow stuffing



    Upholstery padding



    Feather meal


Feather fiber has properties in common with cellulose, the starch that forms wood and paper. Feathers are keratin just like wool, but the surface area is much larger because the diameter of the fibers is smaller. As a result, the fiber can absorb more moisture than wool or cellulose fibers. The crystal structure of feather fibers also makes them naturally stable and durable.

More than 16 million diapers, made from wood pulp, are discarded each year. A year's worth of feathers could replace approximately 25% of the wood pulp used annually for diapers.

companies are now working to scale up production of absorbent feather-based products including diapers, filters, insulation, upholstery padding, paper and even clothing.

The orderly structure of keratin helps stabilize the structure of plastics, making them stronger.


Feather meal is produced by a high-pressure, steam-processing method similar to autoclaving, followed by drying. Heat and steam hydrolyze the feathers into a cysteine-rich, high protein product that is 60% digestible.

The two most common types of down & feather used in natural filled products are goose and duck, which are both waterfowl species. Although structurally similar, goose down and feather is more expensive and more sought after than duck down and feather. One of the major reasons for this is that goose down and feather does not have any odour. Duck down and feather may have an odour, however this is less likely the higher the loft/quality and the more thoroughly it is cleaned.  While there may not always be an odour, if exposed to the slightest bit of moisture or humidity, the tendency to have an odour can increase.

Products filled with duck down and feather are a less expensive alternative to goose down and feather products for the value-conscious consumer.

The down of birds is a layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers. Very young birds are clad only in down. Powder down is a specialized type of down found only in a few groups of birds. Down is a fine thermal insulator and padding, used in goods such as jackets, bedding (duvets), pillows and sleeping bags. The discovery of feathers trapped in ancient amber suggests that some species of dinosaur may have possessed down-like feathers.

Is there a difference between down and feathers and does it really matter? Absolutely. The feathers on geese or ducks are the outer covering of the bird. They have quills, repel water, and make it possible for the animal to fly. Down lies beneath this protective covering – usually on the belly of a bird - and is light and fluffy.  It provides the insulation birds need to keep warm.  Rather than quills, a down cluster has a round center called a plumule. Soft and airy, it features thousands of tiny fibers that radiate from its core.

Because of their protective nature, feathers in a fill are a great way to offer support and durability to a product and are ideal for decorative pillows, cushions, etc. However, for basic bedding, one needs to be careful. The use of larger feathers in basic beddings products such as duvets and pillows – while less expensive – can be more uncomfortable as their quills can break through the ticking and poke the user.