If Notch actually reads these, I ask him to consider this only because I think it would be easy to implement. (Also, first time poster, hi guys.)
Here's a conversation with my girlfriend while playing minecraft:
Me: doo dee dooo *playing minecraft*
Her: Whatcha doin'?
Me: Playin' Minecraft. *I kill a chicken and collect its feathers*
Her: Oh my god! You just killed that poor chicken!
Her: Why did you do that??
Me: I needed its feathers!
Her: Well you didn't have to kill it! How many did you even get?
Her: You killed a poor chicken for two feathers. This game is stupid and mean.
And she's right, Notch.
This game is stupid and mean.
Let me get feathers from chickens without killing them, dammit. I don't have to kill sheep to get their wool. >:|
I agree with this topic, but the most productive way to add this is that feather simply fall off randomly. Trust me, I play on a chicken infested world (by infested think of as many chickens as you can then triple it) and I still collect most of my arrows off of Skeletons. Good job, I hope Notch takes a look at this.
It's part of the game. Chickens are easy enough to generate, by throwing eggs. There's no breeding involved. If you want this for humanitarian reasons, then stay away from Minecraft and all games E or above.
I'm afraid realism trumps niceness here. In real life chickens are killed before they are plucked.
Pulling out a feather isn't like shaving a sheep. It's more like ripping out the sheep's wool by the root. So that wouldn't be kind either.
If you pull out all the feathers then, yeah, it will quite nearly kill the chicken. But pulling out one or two of the looser feathers wouldn't hurt. Or, like Ristray said, they'd drop a feather occasionally, like birds do.