How Are Ostrich Feathers Harvested?

Ostrich Feather Tail Plumes 11-14 (Turquoise)


Ever wondered how ostrich feathers are harvested? In this article, we'll take you on a journey behind the scenes of ostrich farms to discover the fascinating process. You'll learn about the anatomy of an ostrich feather, the delicate art of feather plucking, and the sorting and grading of these luxurious feathers. From fashion to home decor, ostrich feather products have made their mark. Join us as we explore the sustainability, challenges, and economic impact of ostrich feather harvesting.

The Anatomy of an Ostrich Feather

Do you know what makes up the anatomy of an ostrich feather? Well, let me enlighten you. Ostrich feathers are quite fascinating, with a unique structure that sets them apart from other bird feathers.

Firstly, an ostrich feather is made up of two main parts: the quill and the plume. The quill, also known as the shaft, is the sturdy central part of the feather. It is long and hollow, providing support and stability to the feather. The quill is also what attaches the feather to the ostrich's body.

Attached to the quill is the plume, which is the fluffy, feathery part that we often associate with ostrich feathers. The plume is composed of numerous individual barbs that branch out from the quill. These barbs, in turn, have smaller branches called barbules. It is the interlocking structure of these barbules that gives the feather its distinct fluffiness and allows it to trap air, providing insulation and aiding in flight.

What's interesting is that ostrich feathers are unique in their lack of a true aftershaft. Unlike other bird feathers, which often have a smaller secondary shaft branching off the main quill, ostrich feathers lack this secondary structure. Instead, their barbs extend directly from the main quill, giving the feather a more streamlined appearance.

In addition to their structure, ostrich feathers also come in a variety of beautiful colors. From snowy white to deep black, and even shades of gray, brown, and golden, these feathers are a delight to behold.

Now that you know the anatomy of an ostrich feather, you can appreciate the intricate design and beauty of these remarkable creations of nature.

The Role of Ostrich Farms in Feather Harvesting

You may be wondering how ostrich farms play a vital role in the harvesting of feathers. Ostrich farms are specifically designed and managed to ensure the sustainable and ethical production of ostrich feathers. These farms serve as the primary source of feathers, providing a controlled environment for the breeding, raising, and ultimately, the feather harvesting of ostriches.

Ostrich farms play a crucial role in feather harvesting by providing a safe and suitable habitat for the birds. The farms are equipped with spacious enclosures that allow the ostriches to roam freely, ensuring their physical and mental well-being. Ostriches require a specific diet and ample space to thrive, and these farms are designed to meet their needs.

Feather harvesting on ostrich farms is typically carried out through a process called "plucking." This method involves carefully removing the mature feathers from the wings and tail of the ostriches. The birds are not harmed during this process, as the feathers naturally fall out and regrow over time. Ostriches are usually plucked every 9-12 months, ensuring a sustainable and renewable supply of feathers.

Once the feathers are harvested, they undergo a thorough cleaning and sanitization process. This ensures that the feathers are free from any contaminants and are safe for use in various industries, such as fashion, décor, and even fly tying for fishing.

Ostrich farms also contribute to the local economy by creating job opportunities. The maintenance and operation of these farms require a skilled workforce, including veterinarians, caretakers, and farm managers. Additionally, the feathers harvested from ostrich farms are often traded internationally, contributing to the global market and economy.

Caring for Ostriches: Preparing for Feather Harvesting

Before feather harvesting, it's important to properly care for ostriches by providing them with a suitable environment and nutrition. As the caretaker, you need to ensure that the ostriches have enough space to move around and stretch their legs. Ostriches are large birds and need ample room to roam. It's recommended to have at least 1000 square feet of space per ostrich. This will allow them to exercise and prevent any health issues that may arise from lack of movement.

Additionally, it's essential to provide proper nutrition for the ostriches. Their diet should consist of a balanced mix of grains, pellets, and fresh greens. Ostriches also require a high protein diet, so including sources like soybean meal or fish meal in their feed is necessary. It's important to ensure that their diet is rich in vitamins and minerals to support their overall health and feather production.

Furthermore, maintaining a clean and hygienic environment is crucial for the well-being of the ostriches. Regularly clean their living area, removing any waste or debris. Ostriches are prone to certain diseases, so it's important to take preventive measures such as regular disinfection and vaccination.

To prepare the ostriches for feather harvesting, it's recommended to trim their feathers regularly to prevent any damage or breakage. This will also make the harvesting process easier and less stressful for both the ostriches and the caretaker.

The Delicate Art of Feather Plucking

During feather plucking, be gentle and patient as you delicately remove the feathers from the ostrich's body. Feather plucking is a delicate art that requires precision and care. As you embark on this task, keep in mind the following steps:

  • Preparing the Ostrich: Before you begin feather plucking, ensure that the ostrich is calm and comfortable. Gently secure the ostrich in a suitable position, making sure it feels safe and secure. This will help minimize any stress or discomfort for both you and the ostrich.
  • Locating the Feathers: Take your time to carefully identify the feathers you wish to pluck. Ostriches have a variety of feathers, ranging from soft down feathers to larger plumes. Pay attention to the type and quality of feathers you want to harvest, as they will vary in size and texture.
  • The Down Feathers: These are the soft, fluffy feathers closest to the ostrich's skin. They are usually found on the chest and belly. Gently glide your fingers over the ostrich's body, feeling for the down feathers. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to avoid causing any discomfort.
  • The Plumes: The plumes are the long, elegant feathers that are often used for decorative purposes. They are typically located on the wings and tail. Take extra care when plucking these feathers, as they are more delicate and can be easily damaged.

Sorting and Grading Ostrich Feathers

To properly sort and grade ostrich feathers, it is important to have a clear understanding of the various characteristics and qualities that determine their value. When sorting ostrich feathers, you will need to assess their size, color, and overall condition. Feathers of different sizes are sorted into categories such as body feathers, wing feathers, and tail feathers. The size and shape of the feathers will determine their specific use in various industries.

Color is another important factor when it comes to sorting ostrich feathers. Feathers come in a wide range of colors, from natural shades of white, black, and gray to vibrant hues like red, blue, and green. Depending on the market demand, feathers of specific colors may be more valuable than others. Feather color can also be influenced by genetics, nutrition, and environmental factors, so it is essential to carefully assess the color consistency and intensity.

In addition to size and color, the condition of the feathers is crucial in determining their grade. Feathers should be free from damage, such as broken quills or missing barbs. They should also be clean and free from dirt, dust, or debris. Feathers that are in excellent condition with a smooth and glossy appearance are considered higher quality and will fetch a higher price in the market.

Once the feathers are sorted based on their size, color, and condition, they are then graded according to their overall quality. Grading involves evaluating the feathers on a scale that ranges from premium to lower quality. Premium feathers are flawless, have vibrant colors, and are in pristine condition. Lower-quality feathers may have minor imperfections, such as slight discoloration or small blemishes.

Cleaning and Sterilizing Feathers for Market

Before cleaning and sterilizing the feathers for market, you should gather the necessary supplies and equipment. Here's what you'll need:

  • Cleaning Supplies:
  • Mild detergent: Choose a gentle detergent that is suitable for delicate materials.
  • Warm water: Fill a basin or sink with warm water for soaking the feathers.
  • Soft-bristle brush: Use a brush with soft bristles to gently remove any dirt or debris from the feathers.
  • Towels: Prepare clean towels to lay the feathers on for drying.
  • Clothespins or clips: These will come in handy for hanging the feathers to dry.
  • Sterilizing Equipment:
  • Sterilizing solution: Look for a sterilizing solution that is safe for use on feathers. This will help eliminate any bacteria or pests that may be present.
  • Spray bottle: Fill a spray bottle with the sterilizing solution for easy application.
  • Gloves: Wear gloves to protect your hands while handling the sterilizing solution.
  • Plastic bags: Use plastic bags to store the sterilized feathers until they are ready to be sold.

To begin the cleaning process, mix the mild detergent with warm water in the basin or sink. Gently agitate the water to create some suds. Carefully place the feathers in the soapy water and let them soak for a few minutes. Using the soft-bristle brush, lightly brush the feathers in a downward motion to remove any dirt or debris. Once the feathers are clean, rinse them thoroughly with clean water and gently squeeze out any excess water. Lay the feathers on the towels and allow them to air dry completely.

After the feathers are dry, it's time to sterilize them. Put on your gloves and prepare the sterilizing solution in the spray bottle. Hold the feathers by their quills and spray them evenly with the solution, making sure to cover all surfaces. Allow the feathers to air dry once again. Once dry, carefully place the sterilized feathers in plastic bags for storage until they are ready to be sold.

Ostrich Feather Products: From Fashion to Home Decor

If you're looking for unique and luxurious accessories, ostrich feather products can add a touch of elegance to both fashion and home decor. From stunning feather boas to exquisite feather lamps, there are countless ways to incorporate these beautiful plumes into your personal style and living space.

In the world of fashion, ostrich feather products have long been admired for their softness, texture, and eye-catching appearance. Feathered earrings, necklaces, and hair accessories can instantly elevate any outfit, adding a touch of glamour and sophistication. Ostrich feather trimmings on clothing, such as skirts, jackets, and evening gowns, create a dramatic and ethereal effect. They can be dyed in a variety of colors, allowing for endless possibilities in terms of style and design.

In home decor, ostrich feather products are becoming increasingly popular for their ability to create a luxurious and glamorous ambiance. Feathered throw pillows and blankets bring a sense of opulence and comfort to any living room or bedroom. Feathered lampshades and chandeliers provide a soft and diffused light, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. Ostrich feather centerpieces and wall hangings can serve as statement pieces, adding a unique and artistic flair to any space.

When it comes to caring for ostrich feather products, it is important to handle them with care and keep them away from direct sunlight to prevent fading. Regularly fluffing and shaking the feathers will help maintain their fullness and shape. With proper care, ostrich feather products can last for many years, continuing to bring a touch of elegance and luxury to your fashion and home decor.

Sustainability in Ostrich Feather Harvesting

For a sustainable approach to ostrich feather harvesting, you can ensure that the process is carried out with careful consideration for the well-being of the ostriches and the surrounding environment. Here are some ways in which sustainability can be achieved:

  • Responsible Breeding
  • Implementing responsible breeding practices can help maintain the population of ostriches and prevent overexploitation. Breeding programs should focus on genetic diversity and the overall health of the birds.
  • By breeding ostriches in a controlled environment, their natural habitats can be preserved, minimizing the impact on the surrounding ecosystems.
  • Humane Harvesting Techniques
  • Adopting humane harvesting techniques is crucial to safeguard the welfare of the ostriches. Feather plucking should be done in a gentle and non-invasive manner, ensuring that the birds are not harmed or stressed during the process.
  • Regular health checks and proper nutrition should be provided to the ostriches to maintain their well-being and prevent any adverse effects caused by feather harvesting.

Challenges and Innovations in the Feather Harvesting Industry

To address the challenges and foster innovation in the feather harvesting industry, you can explore new technologies and practices that improve efficiency and minimize environmental impact. One of the main challenges in the industry is the manual labor involved in plucking feathers from live birds. This process is time-consuming and can cause stress and discomfort to the birds. However, there have been recent innovations that aim to address this issue.

One such innovation is the development of automated feather plucking machines. These machines use robotics and advanced technology to gently and efficiently remove feathers from ostriches without causing them any harm. By automating the process, it not only saves time and labor but also ensures a more humane approach to feather harvesting.

Another challenge in the industry is the environmental impact of feather harvesting. Feathers are often treated with chemicals to enhance their appearance and durability. However, these chemicals can be harmful to the environment if not properly managed. To overcome this challenge, researchers are exploring eco-friendly alternatives to the chemicals used in feather treatment. For example, natural dyes and organic compounds are being tested as substitutes to reduce the environmental footprint of the industry.

Furthermore, efforts are being made to improve the traceability and transparency in the feather supply chain. This ensures that feathers are sourced ethically and sustainably. By implementing systems that track the origin of feathers and verify their authenticity, consumers can have confidence in the products they purchase.

The Economic Impact of Ostrich Feather Harvesting

When considering the economic impact of ostrich feather harvesting, you'll find that it plays a significant role in both local and global markets. Here's a closer look at how this industry affects economies:

  • Local Markets
  • Ostrich feather harvesting provides employment opportunities for local communities. In areas where ostrich farming is prevalent, it creates jobs for farmers, ranchers, and workers involved in the harvesting process.
  • The sale of ostrich feathers contributes to the local economy by generating income for farmers and traders. This income, in turn, supports the growth and development of these communities.
  • Global Markets
  • Ostrich feathers are highly sought after in the global fashion industry. They are used in the creation of luxurious accessories, such as hats, boas, and costume pieces, which are in demand worldwide.
  • The international trade of ostrich feathers promotes economic growth by creating export opportunities. Countries that have a thriving ostrich farming industry can benefit from increased revenue through the sale of these feathers to fashion houses and manufacturers around the world.

The economic impact of ostrich feather harvesting extends beyond the direct revenue generated from their sale. It stimulates ancillary industries, such as transportation, packaging, and marketing, creating a ripple effect throughout the supply chain. Additionally, the economic benefits of this industry translate into improved infrastructure, education, and healthcare in ostrich farming regions.


In conclusion, harvesting ostrich feathers involves a careful and delicate process. Ostrich farms play a crucial role in providing a sustainable source of feathers for various industries, from fashion to home decor. The feathers are meticulously plucked, sorted, and graded to ensure quality. Despite challenges, the feather harvesting industry continues to innovate and contribute to the economy. By promoting sustainability and responsible practices, ostrich feather harvesting can thrive while preserving the welfare of these magnificent birds.

About BuyOstrichFeathers.Com is family owned and operated, located in Los Angeles California U.S.A. with an inventory of more than 1 Million Ostrich feathers. We are one of the LARGEST importers of Ostrich Feathers in North America. Unlike others we source our feathers directly from the Ostrich Farms of Africa. Your order is processed and shipped directly from our Los Angeles location. Our Feathers DO NOT come from china.

Robert Schirtz, creative artist and President of / Exotic Feathers LA was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles. He regularly travels to Africa to work with the Ostrich Farmers and members of the African farming community. Rob came from an exciting and successful career as an aviation executive, it was only natural that he ventured into the Ostrich Feather industry and he is thrilled to offer this beautiful luxurious product to our customers. Our customers include the Hollywood film industry, well known fashion designers and numerous event planners of the world.

At we utilize these majestic ostrich feathers for fashion and design, such as dresses, costumes, and spectacular feather centerpieces. You have seen them in your favorite Hollywood Movies and music videos "they likely came from us." Ostrich Feathers are used all over the world. In New Orleans they celebrate Mardi Gras, Brazil has a carnival which will leave you speechless, Throughout the Caribbean Islands Carnival is celebrated with beautiful ornate feather costumes. Whether plain or dyed, they are also extremely popular as feather dusters. Africa manufactures over two million ostrich feather dusters per year. Contact us here for more information.

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