A Moment of Science

Chicken Shirts

It may not be on runways in New York or Paris yet, but could chicken feather fabric become a la mode?

close-up of a chicken

Photo: Tom Woodward

At the moment, the U.S. poultry industry puts out about 1.8 billion kilograms (four billions pounds) of waste material every year, including a whole lot of chicken feathers.

You’ve probably heard of the oil problem we have in this country.

The problem is, we use a lot of it. In fact, we use way more than is safe, given the dangers of global warming.

What you might not know is that we don’t just use oil to drive our cars. Oil is also used to make all sorts of synthetic products, such as petroleum-based fabrics. Which makes you think, maybe there’s something else we could use to make the same kinds of fabrics instead.

A professor of Textile Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, named Yiqi Yang, had the same idea. He came up with a suggestion: why don’t we use chicken feathers?

Now before you laugh, think about it. At the moment, the U.S. poultry industry puts out about 1.8 billion kilograms (four billions pounds) of waste material every year, including a whole lot of chicken feathers. All those feathers generally go into landfills, where they don’t do anybody any good.

After all, chicken feathers have filaments full of tiny air pockets. These allow the feathers to fluff up when they’re on the chicken, which keep it warm. That same microscopic air-pocket quality could make for excellent textiles, that would insulate well without being heavy.

Yang says that people might not think of chicken feathers as useful right now, but that could change. Maybe some day soon we’ll be vying to the latest fashion trend, cool, comfortable chicken shirts.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science