Preserving and/or Distributing Feathers

I’ve been saving some of Kili & Truman’s molted feathers for myself but now I wonder if you need to do anything beyond hanging on to it or putting it in a zip lock bag? For the most part I’ve avoided washing or cleaning them in anyway because that just messes them up and without a bird to preen them, they’ll never get fixed. On the other hand, I don’t want my birds preening old feathers. So what I want to know is if there is anything dangerous, infectious, or toxic about old feathers? Do they deteriorate much over time? And can foreign bird feathers prove infectious to our parrots?I have considered giving out some of my birds’ old feathers to kids or even parrot owners as Kili/Truman memorabilia but have avoided doing this to this day for fear of any kind of danger. Is there any concern about giving them to non bird people? Any concern about giving to bird people? Are there any measures that need to be taken to sterilize them without ruining them? Perhaps boiling them? Suggestions/ideas?

Well, without having encountered this situation before, my own concerns on the subject of handing out feathers would be…a) Allergies. There are people who are allergic to bird dander (whether they know it or not), and would probably react to the individual feathers too.b) Contagions to Humans. I’m sure your birds are probably as healthy as can be. But for in-general distribution of feathers; there are bird illnesses/diseases that can infect humansc) Contagions to birds. Same as above, only with the potential of infecting other birds.d) Laws. Some countries have laws against distributing feathers, depending on the species. Canada’s Migratory Bird Act forbids the sale of feathers from any wild bird species that migrates in and out of Canada (and any other part of the bird). Oddly enough, it is actually illegal to possess any part of a migratory bird in Canada as well. There is a huge black market for eagle feathers for Native American rituals/ceremonies. They DO sell feathers commercially. You get down in pillows, coats, gloves, and attached to dream catchers, pet toys, earrings, etc. So there IS a way to make them ‘safe’. What that is; I don’t know. Would autoclaving ruin them? Probably…

I’ve been planning to work out a way to incorporate them into jewelry so I could offer custom pieces for bird owners (I have a side business that’s all but deceased at the moment). They do seem to fade over time and I expect commercial ones are treated in some way to keep them colorfast. I imagine they could be baked out or alcohol dipped to sterilize but I haven’t tried that and my application would involve sealing them up. I’ve never thought about the legalities Nevermore, I’ll have to look in to that.My thought was to embed them in resin, but my resin artist friends tell me that they tend to wind up looking like wet feathers when you do that, so they might need to be laminated or otherwise sealed and then embedded. There are dry lamination pouches that would probably work pretty well.

The only way i’ve found to preserve them is with moth balls and a zip lock bag.

I’ve not heard of any need to sterilize or clean them, but I know of someone you could ask. He’s the Curator of Anthropology at the Illinois State Museum Research and Collections Center, and founder of Wingwise: The Feather Distribution Project, a group that collects molted feathers and donates them to the Pueblo Indians (and other Native American tribes) for use in traditional religious ceremonies. Here’s a link to their website: http://www.wingwise.com/feather.htm I suppose if he’s collecting and redistributing feathers, he would be a good person to direct your question to. It’s funny you posted this today. I just found out about the FDP this week, and received an email from Mr. Reyman today. I’ll be posting more information on the project as a new topic. I’d like people who are interested to have an opportunity to participate, or at least spread the word.

http://www.wingwise.com/feather.htm