Cruelty Free Feathers began in 2011 as a result of all the chicken and guinea feathers that I began to amass. We had moved to the country and got a few chickens, which soon became more than just a few chickens and some guinea fowl for tick control. The birds molt their feathers every fall and I found I just could not walk passed a feather on the ground and leave it there. After just one season I had many containers full of feathers. I discovered a way of cleaning and sterilizing them and started making a few crafts out of them. I started calling them cruelty free feathers as I am aware of the cruelties subjected unto birds for their feathers that are sold in arts and crafts stores. Soon I realized that I just might have a niche market for cruelty free feathers considering that there are other artists and crafts people concerned about the welfare of the birds from which store bought feathers are from.
Now we have about thirty chickens and four guineas who provide almost all of our feathers. Some of my friends donate their molted feathers periodically as well. The birds are well cared for and live in secure coops with fenced in chicken yards for free range roaming. They are fed a diet of quality locally milled feed to supplement their foraging and they get treats of leftovers from our table. They start molting in late summer/early fall and continue until nearly Christmas. As their old feathers drop off, new feathers begin to grow in their place. I clean the coops daily so that I can collect feathers that are as clean as possible. The chickens are kept according to colors to simplify the collection process.
Currently we have brown chickens, black chickens, "blue" chickens (actually a light silvery gray), white chickens and pearl guineas (the polka dotted fowl). Friends have donated turkey feathers, a variety of parrot feathers and pheasant feathers, most of which sell out quickly. We only have two roosters with the popular "beetle green" long tail feathers and one white rooster. You cannot have a lot of roosters living together, they will fight and damage each other for competition of the attentions of the hens. The guineas live with the brown and black chickens but are able to fly over the chicken yard fence and provide bug control for our garden in addition to providing those lovely feathers of theirs.
A typical day of taking care of the chickens starts at the crack of dawn when I take food to them and open their coops. In the smaller yards I leave one feeder full of food and several piles of cracked corn as a wake up treat. The large yard gets a feeder full of feed and several ground feeding stations so that everyone is not trying to get food from just one source. They also get several piles of cracked corn. I check on all their waterers and make sure they are full. Between 2:00 and 3:00 I bring additional food to the large yard of birds and then I clean the coops and collect eggs - a wonderful by product of raising chickens and guineas. At dusk after all the birds have gone inside their coops I close and secure all their doors to keep them safe from nocturnal predators. Each time I go out to take care of the birds I collect any of the better feathers I find on the ground and in their coops, putting them in containers according to color.
After I have several containers full of feathers I wash them, dry them and sterilize them. Then comes the sorting out of the different sizes and types of feathers. I store them in a wall full of plastic drawers and in large plastic tubs. Next I package the feathers in bags; when I have a box full of packaged feathers I have a photography session day and photograph the feathers for posting on the website which my husband and I built from scratch. I then upload the photos describing each package and bestowing a special number to each package for organization. The packages of feathers are then stored until they are purchased and mailed to my customers.
I offer free shipping to all continental United States customers. People wishing to purchase from overseas are instructed to contact to see if their country allows the importation of feathers. If so, they are charged a shipping and handling fee. I try to be as fair as possible in pricing the feathers. There are only a couple of people on the internet offering cruelty free feathers so I base my prices on theirs and on the rarity of the feathers I have to offer. Obviously the chicken feathers are my most economical feathers, especially the ones that I have the most colors of such as the black feathers.