How can I reuse or recycle chicken feathers?

On Friday night, we killed, plucked & butchered two chickens. As you do.

To be accurate, the wonderful John B and my John did the killing, then my John’s brother Chris and I joined them in plucking, then John B showed me how to dress the chicken, and then I showed Chris. Chris handreared the chickens from day old chicks but had to give them up a couple of months ago ahead of the arrival of his son, Zachary on Valentine’s Day/Chinese New Year. We weren’t ready to take them on yet so John B, who is wonderful as I’ve said, offered to foster them until we were up and running. Then this week, he discovered the two he thought were boys, were definitely boys, and randy boys at that – and his girls were getting upset/hurt from being constantly jumped on. The boys had to go. (I’ve written up the full story on my personal blog.)

It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t my favourite way to spend a Friday night, but it wasn’t as horrific as I thought it would be. And when we ate our chicken for dinner last night, there was far far less cognitive dissonance than we’d ever had before while eating meat: on Friday evening, the chicken was flapping around in John’s arms, then on Sunday, it was in a wonderfully spicy sauce. (We tried some by itself too and it had a good flavour – they were a laying rather than meat breed so it wasn’t mind-blowing but it was nice.)

Between one thing and another, we used up a lot of the birds – from their livers to their feet – but their feathers didn’t lend themselves so easily kitchen delights. On John B’s recommendation, we just dumped them all in the compost heap but you know me, my mind instantly went to reusing & recycling ideas. Composting is alright as a reuse, but I wonder if there are better things…

Apparently, there are a number of research ideas of things to do with the bajillions of feathers sent to waste by the mass chicken production industry – a diverse selection of things from making circuit boards & biodegradable plant pots to using them to store biofuel and hydrogen fuel – but that’s not exactly stuff we can do at home though.

So any suggestions?

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11 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle chicken feathers?”

  1. Lupa says:

    Clean them really well–stick them in a plastic bag in the freezer for at least two weeks to kill off parasites. Then wash them in water with a gentle soap, rinse well and let dry (you can put them in a pillowcase tied tightly shut and put in the dryer to fluff). They make good pillow stuffing, and a lot of crafters integrate them into their works. ( is a good online community for this sort of thing.)

    • louisa says:

      Can the long big feathers be used for stuffing? Or just the softer pinfeathers?

      That website is fascinating – thanks for the link.

      -l :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Make a Native American warrior’s headdress out of them. (hatchet and hard liquor not included)

  3. sam says:

    Feather dusters- from the tail feathers. They work great, although I don’t know how to make them. I only know how to use them.

  4. Roger Goldsmith says:


    I am a writer, and have written a play entitled ‘White Meat’ which I am producing in Portsmouth January 2011. I am hoping to use real chicken feathers in the final scene of the play. Any idea where I can get hold of some? I could use other animals’ feathers but to make the thing more realistic as the play is about a chicken who is thought to be dead and comes alive it would be goold to have the real thing.

    Thanks in advance to anyone out there.

    Roger Goldsmith
    07951 750165

  5. Abigail says:

    What about making dream catchers and cat toys. Our cat is loving playing with hers, until the dog eats it. Then we just make another

  6. Bala says:

    You could make feather hair extensions and sell them at a craft sale!

  7. Julia says:

    Hello! I just read this and it really intrigued me. Right now I am actually constructing a feather dress. It is a really cool way to make ordinary feathers a lot more stylish. So, if you know anyone that would be into something like that, you should go for it!

  8. Dear Sir / Ma’am,
    I would like to know more about chicken’s feather cleaning process, so please give me a good guide line, which can be implemented shortly in my city Kathmandu. If possible, please send the details about machine’s capacity, price, and where we use chicken’s feather or chicken’s feather products.
    with best regards

  9. ryanlee tulloch says:

    I would like to know more about the feather drying process, am currently raising up to 250 chickens and want to use the feathers to do something constructive rather than throwing them away.

  10. barbara says:

    I bought a small bird Christmas ornament that had a feather for a tail

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