This week we’re going to have a look at one of our non-food intolerances that we test for in our Intolerance Test: Feathers.
More specifically: Goose, Chicken, Duck and Turkey Feathers.
For centuries, humans across the globe have used down feathers for insulation. Russian documents from the 1600s list “bird down” among the goods sold to Dutch merchants, and communities in northern Norway began protecting the nests of eider ducks as early as 1890. Eiders are still “farmed” by people in Iceland, Scandinavia and Siberia. The birds are provided with nest sites and protected from predators, and down is collected intermittently during the nesting season without harming the nests or female ducks. In general, 50–60 nests will produce about one kilo (2.2 pounds) of down feathers. This means that only a few thousand pounds of eider down is collected from wild nests each year which puts the prices up for their by-products.
So, what if you have, or suspect that you have an intolerance to feathers?
Well, firstly the most obvious place where we might find these feathers in our homes is in the bedroom with our mattresses, pillows and duvets. These luxurious items usually contain goose feathers. If they are called “Goose Down” duvets or pillows, by law they must contain at least 90% goose feathers, so that could be the source of your feather intolerance.The down of birds is a layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers. Very young birds are clad only in down. Down is a fine thermal insulator and padding and is used in goods such as jackets, bedding, pillows and sleeping bags.
Feathers have also been discovered trapped in ancient amber which would suggest that even some species of dinosaur may have possessed down-like feathers! Not that we would encounter any of those in our day to day lives!
Also, we must also be aware that touching feathers like that of chickens and ducks can also provoke a reaction. We would advise you to never stroke any of these animals, even in controlled environments. If it is essential to your daily life (for example as a feather remover/farmer) we would always advise you to make sure that you are wearing thick, protective, elbow length gloves before touching the birds.