Ever wondered, “how many feathers does a chicken have?”
I know I have, and I’m sure many of you reading this also have.
So, I’ve done my best (short of plucking every feather out of a chicken and counting them) to find out how many feathers a chicken has on average.
He is what I was able to find out, along with some other feathery, interesting chicken-related facts!
How Many Feathers Does a Chicken Have?
As I mentioned, I haven’t plucked a chicken and counted every single feather – that’s borderline impossible.
What I have done is asked around, researched deep into the web, and come up with the best guestimate I possibly can.
With that in mind, the average chicken has somewhere in the region of 8,000-10,000 feathers.
Can you believe that? As many as 10,000 feathers!
To put this into perspective, some smaller birds, like songbirds, are said to have around 1,500-3,000 feathers.
While large birds of prey like eagles also have somewhere in the region of 10,000 feathers.
What Types of Feathers Do Chickens Have?
Chickens have three main types of feathers that serve a different purposes in keeping a chicken nice and warm.
These are the feathers that you see when looking at a chicken.
They are long and help to streamline the chicken’s body, making it more aerodynamic (helping most birds to fly).
These are much shorter than contour feathers and grow closer to the chicken’s skin.
They help to insulate the chicken and keep it warm and are particularly useful at keeping fragile chicks warm.
These are the long, pointy feathers that you see on a chicken’s neck. They help to protect the chicken’s head and neck from predators.
A chicken’s plumage is complex and they have a number of other, less distinguished types of feathers, but these are the main types.
How Are Chickens Plucked in Factories?
Now you know that chickens have somewhere in the region of 10,000 feathers, I bet you’re wondering how so many chickens are plucked and processed.
The simple answer is that it’s all done by machines in huge factories.
There are feather plucking machines (that’s right, it’s an actual thing) that are capable of plucking a few chickens at a time and removing all of their feathers in less than a minute.
These machines work by first numbing the chicken’s skin with a spray of water, before quickly and efficiently removing all of the feathers.
Do Chicken Feathers Grow Back?
As you now know, chickens have a whole lot of feathers.
But what happens when they start to shed their feathers or lose them for any other reason?
The good news is that chicken feathers do grow back – usually taking around six weeks to fully regrow.
In fact, chickens go through an annual molt (losing and regrowing their feathers) in order to grow new, stronger feathers.
During this molting process, chickens will often stop laying eggs as their bodies are focused on growing new feathers.
It’s also common for chickens to lose a few feathers when flapping around or if they get into a scuffle with another chicken.
During this time, the chicken will look a little bit scruffy as its new feathers start to come in.
But don’t worry, they’ll be back to their usual feathery selves in no time!
What Are Chicken Feathers Used For?
With Americans eating more than 8 billion chickens every year, that’s an astronomical number of feathers being plucked each year!
So, what happens to all these feathers?
Well, there are a lot of answers. Chicken feathers are used for all kinds of things, from stuffing pillows to making fishing lures.
They are also used in a process called feather meal, which is a high-protein feed for chickens, pigs, and fish.
In addition to these uses, I recently came across this interesting news article published on the BBC.
It appears that it might be possible to turn unwanted feathers into some kind of insulating material that could save on energy costs.
That would be pretty cool!
Which Chicken Breed Has Fluffy Feathers?
If you’ve seen a chicken breed with a fluffy, fuzzy coat of feathers, it was likely a Silkie that you saw.
Your eyes were not deceiving you – Silkies really do have soft, fluffy feathers!
The feathers of a Silkie are more like hair than traditional feathers.
They don’t have the barbicels (tiny hooks) that attach each feather to the chicken’s skin.
This gives them a soft, downy texture that feels a lot like human hair. Silkies are treated as more of an ornamental pet, but they’re still chickens.
You now have some new trivia to show off – chickens have somewhere in the region of 10,000 feathers!
Chickens may not be as fluffy and cuddly as some other pets (silkies aside), but I’m certainly impressed by their feathers.
Image credits – Photo by George Walker on Unsplash