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Another feather theory
A reader's letter in the May 22nd Science News suggests the following
(paraphrased) in regards to a Sid Perkins article on feather development:
When foxes and dogs try to catch chickens they get a mouth (or paw) full
of feathers. So, the feathers make for a fluffy target and aid in the
feathered one's escape.
I could see that might be an aid smaller birds but possibly not larger