Feathers, a poultry byproduct, are composed of > 90% keratin which is resistant to degradation during anaerobic digestion. In this study, four 42-L anaerobic digesters inoculated with adapted swine manure were used to investigate feather digestion. Ground feathers were added into two anaerobic digesters for biogas production, whereas another two without feathers were used as negative control. Feather degradation and enhanced methane production were recorded. Keratin-hydrolyzing organisms (KHOs) were visualized in the feather bag fluids after boron-dipyrromethene (BODIPY) fluorescence casein staining. Their abundances correlated (R(2) = 0.96) to feather digestion rates. A 16S rRNA clone library was constructed for the bacterial populations attached to the feather particles. Ninety-three clones (> 1300 bp) were retrieved and 57 (61%) belonged to class Clostridia in the phylum Firmicutes, while 34 (37%) belonged to class Bacteroidia in the phylum Bacteroidetes. Four oligonucleotide FISH probes were designed for the major Clostridia clusters and used with other FISH probes to identify the KHOs. Probe FIMs1029 hybridized with most (> 80%) of the KHOs. Its targeted sequence perfectly matches that possessed by 10 Clostridia 16S rRNA gene clones belonging to a previously uncharacterized new genus closely related to Alkaliphilus in the subfamily Clostridiaceae 2 of family Clostridiaceae.