Fine Feathers

by Kate

I don’t usually mind fads. In fact, I often enjoy them. Huge earrings, bright ethnic prints, flats, heels, pearls, wooden bangles- I am generally ready to jump on the bandwagon and take a ride. However, the recent feather hair extension trend has me a bit, um, fluttered.

Suddenly, they are everywhere. After seeing several people sporting tufts I realized that seeing people with tufts of feathers in their hair left me feeling a sense of deep unease. Why was that? I wondered. I like feather earrings. I love feather pillows and down comforters. No, there was something specific bothering me. And then, gazing at a beautiful girl with a white tuft in her hair, it hit me.

I don’t like feather hair extensions because they vividly remind me of chicken butchering. Between the hot water and steam and heat and blood and downy tufts of feathers everywhere, getting feathers in your hair is pretty much inevitable. Now, the free range chickens on Sweet Ridge Farm have a good life.

Even as a teenaged vegetarian, I helped my parents butcher chickens. They are healthy birds fed lots of greens and good food, cared for well and killed quickly and without cruelty. Even so, it is not a process for the faint of heart, as my amazing friends discovered when they helped butcher 100 chickens to prepare for my wedding two years ago.

Downy feathers! Just like the hair extensions! That is, they are downy until the are soaked and tossed in the plucker…

And even then, tufts of feathers remain. I have to say, it was the most beautiful butchering crew I have ever seen, though it was not our most stylish moment.

I am fairly certain that by the end of the day, we all had feathers in our hair.

What really bothers me about feather hair extensions, though, is the factory farming of exotic feathered birds. After doing some research on the issue, I discovered that the feathers popularly used for extensions were originally marketed to fly fisherman. The roosters raised for their tailfeather plumage live about a year before the feathers are harvested- a process that the bird does not survive. In many cases the rest of the bird is simply tossed out, which seems grossly wasteful to me. With the explosion of demand for feather extensions, it disturbs me to think of the possible farming practices used for production of cosmetic feathers. It reminds me again of the importance of understanding the path a product takes before it ends up in your mouth or on your body. It is important to understand where our food and our clothing and our household goods come from, so that we can make conscious decisions to support ethical farming, marketing, and labor practices.

And that is why you will never catch me with a feather in my hair- unless you happen to be around before the next wedding, on butchering day.

5 thoughts on “Fine Feathers

  1. Rachel

    while my reasons for not liking them are still unknown to me and certainly NOT for the same reasons as yours….i get you on this one. I don’t know, but I just can’t like or get into this whole feather fad. It seems a bit rediculous is some way to me. not sure what my deal is with it yet but you won’t catch me with feathers hanging from my hair or my ears. 😉

  2. Veronica

    I know I couldn’t pull it off, but I admire the feathers in others’ hair. However, you have a good point about being aware of their origins. Most people realize where a fur coat comes from and steer clear of them so as to keep from supporting an inhumane industry, but this new feathers fad didn’t even phase me until I read this. I do my best not to support the inhumane treatment of animals, but I just didn’t relate the feathers in hair to living creatures. Actually, I guess didn’t think they were real! The ones I’ve been seeing don’t actually look like feathers, they look like hair that has been colored with a pattern to resemble feathers. Have you seen those? If I ever went with this fad, that’s what I would want because it’s more subtle.

  3. Amanda

    Hear hear! (Or is it here here?) I only heard of this recent feather fad this past weekend. I live on a farm myself and have a flock of free range chickens (though I’m vegetarian), and just last night I was discussing the art of fly tying with my father, who has recently taken up the hobby. I had no sooner finished expressing my concerns to my husband about the implications these trends could have for roosters when I came across your blog. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one thinking about the darker side of fashion.

    1. sweetridgesisters Post author

      What does your fly-tying father think? I always wonder what dedicated fly fishers think of their feathers flying off the shelves to land tied into the hair of a teenager down the street. It is interesting- as I said, I’m not against all feather jewelry. My sister in law Aurora makes beautiful feather earrings, many of which she gathered from free range chickens that are alive and well. What really bothers me is the thought of a whole bird raised solely for tail feathers and then tossed aside. It reminds me of the colossal waste of sperm whales somehow.

  4. Amanda

    My father has just recently gotten in to fly fishing and fly tying, and I’m pretty sure he has no idea what the current hair fashions are. 🙂 He’s a little bit turned off by the high price of fly tying supplies and is looking to be creative in scrounging his own materials. He is eyeballing some feathers on his own rooster. I agree that it seems like a huge waste to raise a bird only for a few feathers, especially when they are dropping feathers all the time. I have some guineas as well, and I’ve often collected their dropped feathers for my grandmother-in-law, a member of the Cherokee tribe, to use in various crafts. No death or waste required.


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