Lansing Bicentennial MinuteQuill pens date from the dark ages when bird feathers replaced hollow reeds the Romans used. To make a quill pen, you first had to catch your bird. Goose feathers were favored. Swan quills were best, but who would approach an angry swan? Crow feathers were unbeatable for drawing fine lines. If you were lucky your quill might last a week. For almost 1500 years people used quill pens to write letters. By the nineteenth century, however, steel nibs were well on their way to ousting the trusty quill.