Down and Feather - What's the Difference?

There’s a common misconception among consumers that down and feathers are the same thing. In fact, they’re quite different. In this post, we break down the main differences between these fill types.

Look and Feel

Down is the soft undercoating of geese and ducks. It consists of clusters of light, fluffy filaments growing from a central quill point. A single down cluster is three dimensional and looks similar to a dandelion pod.

photo of white feather and white down cluster

Feathers are the plumage, or outer growth, of birds. Feathers consist of a hard quill shaft (or stem) with a series of fibres extending from each side. 

Loft

Loft is a measure of the fluffiness of down and is also a great indicator of its overall quality. The loft measurement is not used for feather.

Duvet Warmth and Weight

Down is the best insulator per ounce over any other fill, natural or man-made. Down provides much more warmth per ounce than feathers. For this reason, feather duvets contain significantly more fill and are heavier than down duvets. They require more fill to achieve the same level of insulation and warmth.

Click here for our duvet buying guide.

 

 

 

 



Pillow Support

Down provides minimal head and neck support in pillows. Pillows containing feather provide more resilient support and firmness due to the springy feather quills/stems.

Click here for our pillow buying guide

Scarcity and Price

Down is more expensive than feathers. Due to its luxurious feel and excellent insulating properties, down is more prized than feathers by consumers. Down is also scarcer – each bird yields much more feather than it does down.

Feather and Down piles with price tags and magnifying glass on blue backgroundHave questions about down and feather? We'd love to hear 'em below!

 

Illustrations by Amanda Nguyen

 

40 comments

I have major joint issues (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) and need pillows that can support me yet be soft enough that my joints aren’t at awful angles while I toss about during my sleep. What is your recommendation? (I fall asleep on my front/side, but that all goes out the window once I’m asleep haha) x

Domanique October 10, 2018

Hi Anne,

You’re absolutely right! Our heaviest duvets are White Goose Feather, Microfiber and Gel Microfiber. Perfect for those that like a weighty blanket! :)

Canadian Down & Feather Company September 25, 2018

Just to make sure I am understanding your information properly. I plan to buy a duvet as a gift for my daughter who likes a heavy layer of blankets. It is not warmth that is an issue, (she has a heated mattress pad for that) but the weight of the covers that she likes. Would I be correct to think that a feather duvet would be more likely to suit her than a down one?

Anne September 25, 2018

Hi Carryl,
That depends on the product! For example, our White Goose Feather Duvet is filled with imported feather, where our Hutterite Goose Down Duvet is filled with down farmed by the Hutterites in Alberta, Canada. If you have a question about the fill of a particular product, feel free to email or chat us :)

Canadian Down & Feather Co. September 21, 2018

Do you use domestic Canadian birds or foreign birds?

Carryl September 21, 2018

Hi Jacquie, Thank you so much for asking! All of the down and feather we use is a by-product of the meat industry that would otherwise go to the landfill. We have zero tolerance for live-plucking as well as other inhumane practices, such as force-feeding, over-crowding and neglect. We’re happy to discuss any of this with you in further detail – just shoot us an email! :)

Canadian Down & Feather Company July 30, 2018

Could you please tell me how the down is harvested? I’ve heard some very disturbing things about the process.

Jacquie July 30, 2018

Hi Lynn,

I would recommend the White Goose Down Pillow or the Hutterite Goose Down Pillow in soft or medium. It’s important that front sleepers don’t use too firm a pillow, so these options are soft and sinky. If you sleep only on your front, you may want the soft. If you sleep occasionally on your side or back as well, medium is best! I hope this helps! :)

Canadian Down & Feather Company April 18, 2018

What would be the best down pillow for a front sleeper?

Lynn April 18, 2018

Hi Tom, Great question! While it is normal to see the occasional feather or piece of down come out, down and feather should not leak out. The fabric of the shell must be 233 thread count or higher to retain down and feather, and you’ll notice we don’t use fabric under 233 TC. That being said, if you do find an unexpected amount of down or feather is leaking out, please let us know, and we’ll replace the product for you. I hope this helps! :)

Canadian Down & Feather Company March 12, 2018

will the quills go threw the outer shell

tom w March 11, 2018

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks so much for your comment. Generally, side sleepers need a lot of support. I would recommend the Down Perfect Pillow in Medium. It has a feather core which provides great support, surrounded by soft down. The Medium version should provide enough support for side sleeping, but shouldn’t be too firm for back sleeping. I hope this helps!

Canadian Down & Feather Company December 04, 2017

Hi. I’m a side sleeper and sometimes back . I have bit of arthritis in neck so wondering which pillow would be best . I presently have a feather pillow which has been great but have had it 10 years and think time to replace . Could you recommend which pillow would be best . I’m worried down might be to soft? Maybe I need medium pillow for support for neck ?

Jennifer December 02, 2017

Hi Audrey,

I’m so sorry to hear about your injury. I sent you an email with some duvet recommendations. Let me know what you think.

Canadian Down & Feather Company November 24, 2017

I love your Duvets! I just can’t afford a new one right now. I am a registered nurse for 27 years and was very badly injured and have been off work now for 3&1/2 years,& still doing physiology,& cortisone treatments every 4 months or so. I’m wondering do you have contests? Is that what the voucher # is about.?

Audrey Henderson November 24, 2017

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