16 October 2014

Weaving chicken feathers into Maori cloaks

My dearest, oldest and most beautiful hen died last weekend. A black Orpington, she was the size of a smallish dog, with iridescent black feathers. You can see her in the header to this blog.

Black Orpington hen
The deceased hen, a few months before her death.
What to do with a dead chicken? There was more to think about than the practicalities this time around, because I loved her, that magnificent Victorian lady of a hen, who was adoptive grandmother to the flock. Still, I wanted her body to be well-used.

Fortunately the weekend before I'd met a woman who weaves Maori cloaks, and she told me how chicken feathers are desirable for weaving. Therefore, my daughter and I plucked those stunning feathers, pleased that someone else would enjoy them. Never before will the weavers have used such gorgeous feathers, I believe!

Korowai (feathered cloak) made with chicken feathers
A korowai (Maori feathered cloak) made with chicken feathers

I was intrigued by the different types of feathers.

Black orpington hen exterior vaned feathers
Contour, or vaned feathers
Insulating feathers black Orpington hen
The insulating down feathers
filoplumes of black Orpington hen
Filoplumes (hair-like feathers)
The filoplumes are, I've read, mainly to allow the bird to sense the position of the contour feathers. You need to know if your feathers are ruffled!

To ensure thorough use of the carcass, I fed some of the large maggots that were on her undercarriage to the other hens. I hope that wasn't making cannibals of them. They do love maggots.

Then I dug a hole in the garden and buried my dear old friend. I planted poppies above her, and plan to put in a passionfruit plant, too, to soak up all that Orpington goodness.

For more about this grand old chicken lady, and the circumstances surrounding her death, you can read this post on the Peaceful Green blog.

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