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Saving and using feathers: quills, flies, down  RSS feed

 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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We have some geese and turkeys that we will harvest this fall. I'm thinking that I would like to mess around with making a few quill pens. I've searched the internet to exhaustion and can find loads of instructions on how to treat and cut the quill, but nothing about the harvesting of the feathers themselves. The only thing that's mentioned is that the primary flight feathers are preferred.

I'm wondering if anyone has any wisdom about whether the quill feathers can be simply set aside as we do the plucking (after a hot water dip) or if they need to be dry plucked before. And what about the tail feathers?

And if I want to save some of my beautiful turkey feathers for fly-tieing friends, do they need to be dry plucked?

Then there is the goose down...

I don't want to turn harvest day into a nightmare of detail work but I do want to see what we can do. What say you, permies?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
Posts: 2413
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Hello Ann,

We have some geese and turkeys that we will harvest this fall. I'm thinking that I would like to mess around with making a few quill pens.


Natural art and materials to make it are awesome!!! You will love it, I am sure...

This author is an acquaintance of mine and has written one of the best books on it since my mother's work on the subject.

Nick Neddo is one of the best contemporary "organic artist" that I know of. His book, The Organic Artist: Make Your Own Paint, Paper, Pigments, Prints and More from Nature covers so much great information, that I recommend it to anyone try to learn how to make their own art supplies.

I've searched the internet to exhaustion and can find loads of instructions on how to treat and cut the quill, but nothing about the harvesting of the feathers themselves. The only thing that's mentioned is that the primary flight feathers are preferred. I'm wondering if anyone has any wisdom about whether the quill feathers can be simply set aside as we do the plucking (after a hot water dip) or if they need to be dry plucked before. And what about the tail feathers?


Hmmm...I think Nick covers that, but could be incorrect.

They need to be harvested dry if at all possible. I clean with a mild soap and/or just cold water if I must. I prefer "compressed air" from an air compressor to do most cleaning like this if possible. Then fabricate the quill accordingly.

Dry harvest goes for fly tying as well for optimum feathers, fur, and related.

Then there is the goose down...

I don't want to turn harvest day into a nightmare of detail work but I do want to see what we can do. What say you, permies?


As we get deeper into "traditional harvesting" of any type there is a great deal more work...However, there is much more material to be harvested as well. Everything from "gut string" to "heart sack" sinew in larger animals, then the "back strap", and other tendon, bone, fascia, and the list goes on.

Good Luck,

j
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2569
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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For tying flies, my brother typically skins the bird and dries the skin. Then he hangs the skin next to his fly-making station. That keeps the feathers tidy until he uses them.
 
Thomas Vogel
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I spent good money on good results adding feather meal to my October planting of garlic. 8,000 cloves in four backyard this season which turned out roughly 500 pounds. They are generally larger every year now on my fourth year. Studies I've read suggest nitrogen does more for garlic than phosphorus or potassium. Feathers take a season to break down and are an excellent source of nitrogen. Roughly a fourth of my crop weigh in at three to four bulbs per pound-- porcelain hard neck. 50% at 6-7 bulbs per pound and the balance dribble down (grown on the edges,in shade, less water etc.) I've some goose down I intended to make into pillows but time being what it is... it'll serve us better feeding my crop.
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Thomas Vogel
Posts: 36
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More pics thanks to feather meal, rock dust, wood ash, decayed wood mulch compost.
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C. Letellier
Posts: 227
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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Be aware unless you treat skins for fly tying with some sort of preservative/insecticide that moths can quickly ruin them.(one set of hides with feathers was almost completely ruined within a year.)  We used to use a taxidermy product called Calorax.  I tried to find it more recently and couldn't but did find a supposed recipe for it.  It is mostly borax with a couple of other ingredients.  Not finding that right now but a different online source is saying borax with ammonium alum added,

The single biggest money maker for chickens for my mother was feather hat bands.  By using smaller feathers and more of them her bands were far neater than the commercial ones.  She figured even with the labor that it brought the rare breed chickens to nearly break even with the meat chickens for ROI.

As for fly tying a good quality hackle cap properly done in one of the choice colors can bring $25+.  Common colors the cape is still worth $10 usually.  So this can add value to rare breed chickens that are to expensive to raise otherwise.
 
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