The differences between down and feathers are subtle, no doubt, but they’re worth knowing if you’re planning on paying for either when you buy a pillow, a comforter or anything else stuffed with bird fluff.Birds of a feather may indeed flock together, but knowing how to tell those feathers apart will be a feather in your cap more feather-brained folk will envy.1. Down tufts are like new feathers.
Full-grown feathers the likes of which are found on the “outside” of a bird have stiff quills and protective oils that make them strong and resistant to water. By contrast, down tufts don’t have long, tough quills; they have plumules
.Plumules grow out of a bird like feathers (usually on its belly), but they burst into fuzzy little balls that keep the bird warm instead of growing out into an aerodynamic shape. They’re super soft compared to feathers and provide great insulation.2. Down and feathers look, and feel, different.
You have down, feathers and down feathers, and all are a little different. Down feathers are not down, but are often mistaken for down because they’re still super soft.Down tufts – or clusters – are little clumps of fiber. When lumped together as fill, it looks like a big cotton ball, only way softer. Feathers look … well … like feathers; even if they’re very small, very soft down feathers.3. The type of bird matters.
Goose down enjoys better PR than duck down, and the best goose down is always better than the best duck down, but as consumers we don’t always get to pick between the two. Sometimes, we’re comparing okay goose down to really nice duck down, in which case the duck wins.The best goose down is better, though, because its plumules are bigger, which leads to more fill power. Fill power measures the fluffiness and insulating power of down (but not feathers), and the higher the number the better.4. Feathers are pokier.
Fill power is a hard thing to gauge by hand, but it’s not hard to feel a feather quill when it pokes you in the face through your pillow
. This is another reason why people prefer down.Down doesn’t really have quills, which is why your down comforter isn’t as stiff or poky as your feather pillow.5. Feathers are more plentiful, and therefore almost always cheaper.
Even so, feathers are a great option because they’re less expensive and still provide a unique feel that's hard to find in synthetic fills. And, since you get more feathers than down from every bird, you can usually find feather-filled products for far less than their down counterparts.Now you know what you need to make the finest feather choice for your flock – enjoy!