A general name for the natural covering of birds. Chemically examined they are found to differ but little from hair or bristles. Mr. Hatchet boiled some feathers for a long time in water, but discovered no traces of gelatine; the quill is chiefly albumen. Feathers form a considerable article of commerce, particularly those of the ostrich, heron, swan, peacock, goose, etc. for plumes, ornaments, beds, pens, etc. Geese are plucked in some parts of England five times a year, and in cold seasons many of them die by this barbarous custom. Those from Somersetshire are esteemed the best, while those from Ireland the worst; but there are exceptions to this rule, for we have seen some Irish feathers equal to those imported from Dantzic and Hamburg, which attain the highest price in the market from their superior strength, that is, durable elasticity in the making of beds. Goose feathers are usually sorted into white and grey. The latter make equally good beds with the white, but their colour diminishes their value for sale to the extent of sixpence the pound in the best qualities.
Those feathers denominated "poultry," which are from turkeys, ducks, and fowls, are of very inferior value; for although they are soft to the touch, they are too deficient in elasticity to make light or good beds. Wild duck feathers are soft and elastic, but the difficulty of curing them from the odour of the oil they contain, renders them less suitable than those of the goose. Irish feathers have obtained a bad character from the large quantity of foreign matter, particularly lime, with which they are usually mixed. A small portion of lime sprinkled amongst fresh feathers tends to their preservation, by combining with the oil they contain, while it also prevents the putrefaction of the small portions of animal fibre that occasionally adhere to them; but the Irish peasantry, or the small dealers in Ireland, with the view of imposition, load them to an injurious extent, which renders the cleaning of* such feathers a work of time and difficulty. The following process of clearing feathers from their oil, and preparing them for use in making beds, was communicated to the Society of Arts several years ago by Mrs.
Jane Richardson, whom the Society rewarded in consequence with the sum of twenty guineas. "Take, for every gallon of clean water, one pound of quicklime; mix them well together, and when the undissolved lime is precipitated in fine powder, pour off the clear lime water for use. Put the feathers to be cleaned into another tub, and add to them a quantity of clear lime water, sufficient to cover them about three inches, after they have been well immersed and stirred about therein. The feathers when thoroughly moistened will sink down, and should remain in the lime water three or four days, after which the foul liquor should be separated from them by laying them on a sieve. The feathers should be afterwards well washed in clean water, and dried upon nets, the meshes of which may be about the fineness of cabbage nets. The feathers must be from time to time shaken upon the nets, and as they dry will fall through the meshes, and are to be collected for use. The admission of air will be serviceable in the drying. The whole process will be completed in about three weeks.
After being prepared as above mentioned, they will only require beating, to get rid of the dust, previous to use.
Feather. A term applied by engineers to narrow ribs, placed edgewise, to strengthen framing and other parts of machines.
FEATHER-EDGED signifies any piece of work in which the edge of it is materially reduced in its thickness.