How to Clean a Bird Feather: A Detailed Guide

As pet owners know, shedding and molting are very normal occurrences in the lives of our pets. While fur is something that cannot be stored or repurposed, bird feathers can. Beautiful wing feathers can be used for endless decorative and utilitarian uses. How do you clean a feather, though? 

Did you know that during the roaring 20s, the trend of wearing feathers on hats was so intense that it is estimated that perhaps 200 million birds were killed per year just to supply those feathers? During the end of the 19th century, Britain’s feather trade was worth £20 million a year. Obviously people have an interest in collecting something so beautiful.

Thankfully, a large section of the fashion industry is turning to ethical feather sourcing as awareness of extinction rises.

In light of that, let’s look at how to clean and take care of the feathers available at home, thanks to your pet parrot. You may think that washing the oiled feathers in clean water is enough, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

How to clean a bird feather

black bird feather
  1. Safety First

This comes before any other step, especially when dealing with migratory birds. There has to be a protective layer between you and the feather to avoid direct contact. Wear good quality rubber gloves and protective eyewear, and cover your nose and mouth with a mask to prevent air-borne infections from birds.

  1. Use mothballs

Since mothballs act as pesticides, they can kill harmful microscopic parasites, including many feather mite species. This is due to the naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene content in them. Put the feather with a few mothballs in a container that you no longer need to use. Let them sit for an entire day before taking the feather out. You can also dust them in flea powder as a cautionary step.

  1. Hydrogen Peroxide and rubbing alcohol

Now that the mites are gone from the feathers, remove them from the container and soak them for half an hour in a 50-50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. Both of these compounds have virucidal, bactericidal, and mycobactericidal properties that can be very useful in getting rid of most microbial organisms. Another way is to use bleach or chlorine, but that is likely to make the feathers brittle and their colors muted. 

  1. The soap and water method

This step is very useful when dealing with oiled feathers. In a clean bowl, add a bit of warm water with some mild soap or cleaning solution. This is crucial in getting clean white feathers and removing loose fluff and seed husks attached to the feather.

  1. Let them dry

Once you’re done washing the feathers in soap, take them out of the water, pat them down using paper towels, and put them under the sunlight for a few hours. Watch them fluff up! Additionally, you can also spray them with a sanitizer to render all the viruses inactive.

It should be noted that the steps above won’t work for peacock or ostrich feathers. This is because our pet birds have different types of feathers from those of their exotic cousins. Due to the different composition of the fibers, the feathers of some more exotic birds do not “fluff up” as much. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Parrot Feather:

1. Does plucking a feather hurt the parrot?

All bird feathers are made of keratin, which is a protein that also forms human fingernails and hair. Just like cutting your hair or clipping your nails doesn’t hurt, nor does clipping a feather. 

2. Can you get any diseases from parrot feathers?

Although there is ongoing research on this, all zoologists can attest to the fact that almost all bird species carry several diseases. For instance, ‘Parrot Fever’ or psittacosis occurs due to a germ that is principally carried by the parrot family. Domesticated birds can carry this bacterium. Humans usually catch the disease from infected birds through the bacteria from shed feathers and droppings.  

Similarly, Cryptococcosis, feather mites, avian influenza, etc., can also occur from the feathers of infected birds.

This is why proper cleaning is vital. Use your hands with rubber gloves, and wear protective eyes when handling feathers, especially when handling dead birds. 

3. How frequently do parrots shed their feathers?

Birds from the parrot family can molt up to three times yearly, usually during the spring and fall seasons. The entire process of molting can take up to a month. Remember to pick up the delicate feathers for use later on.

4. Can you make the feathers fluffy again?

Pink Flamingo Feathers

The best way to make feathers fluffy again is by using steam. Simply hold the feather above a pot of water for a few seconds. The gentle vapor from the hot water will gently loosen the strands. Finally, blow dry them at a very low setting or towel dry them. Then you’ll have beautiful fluffy feathers!

Conclusion:

This article explained everything about how to clean a bird feather. While our parents might have simply used a paint brush to clean feathers they may have found, we know more effective ways to do so today. With news of more and more contagious diseases being on the rise globally, especially in a post-pandemic world, safety is of utmost importance. This is why when picking, buying, and using decorative feathers, we must follow proper procedures to prevent cross-contamination so that the kids, immunocompromised individuals, and pets in our families do not fall ill due to the diseases that birds may carry. Now, clean off those feathers and start crafting!

Harlan Derricks
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