Have you given any thought to how fermenting chicken feed can benefit your flock of backyard chickens? Fermenting is all the rage nowadays, both in people foods (think yogurt, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, buttermilk, kimchi, apple cider vinegar, even beer and wine!) and chicken diets as well, although the process has been used for hundreds of years as a food preservation method.
What is Fermenting?
Basically fermentation is the process of covering foods in liquid and allowing them to sit, which creates probiotics that assist in digestion and gut health. If you’re raising chickens for eggs, numerous studies have shown that fermenting chicken feed to give to your chickens can increase egg weight and eggshell thickness, and boost the chickens’ intestinal health and immune system, increasing their resistance to diseases including Salmonella and E.coli.
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Fill your container about 1/3 full with chicken feed. Cover with water so the chicken feed is completely submerged. Cover your container and let it sit for three days. Strain the liquid and give the solid chicken feed to your birds. Only feed your chickens what they will eat at one sitting to prevent moldy feed.
Here are some easy fermenting tips to help you through the process of fermenting chicken feed that will help you add fermented feeds to your chicken’s diet.
How Does Fermenting Chicken Feed Save Money?
Because the nutrients are more readily absorbed in fermented foods, feed requirements lessen, and there is also less waste since the chickens love it. It’s believed that chickens will eat 1/3 to 1/2 less fermented feed than regular dry feed. This increased nutritional absorption leads to reduced food intake since nutritional requirements are met faster with less feed. Additionally, fermentation increases enzymes in the feed and actually introduces vitamins, specifically the B vitamins (folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin), not present before fermentation. This all leads to your chickens requiring less feed to achieve the same nutritional intake.
10 Tips For Successful Fermenting
1. DO use a mix of grains, oats, seeds, legumes, crumble or pellets. You can make your own poultry feed formulation, or use a commercially available brand.
2. DO use a loosely covered glass container (or BPA-free plastic or food-grade stoneware).
3. DO use de-chlorinated water – use either well water, purchased filtered water or let tap water sit out for 24 hours.
4. DO cover grains with several inches of water and add water as needed to ensure they remain covered.
5. DO stir several times a day.
6. DO wait until you see bubbles forming on the surface to feed (usually after about 3 days).
7. DO store in a dark, cool place, not outside and not in the sunlight.
8. DO feed fermented feed to chicks and ducklings as well. Be sure they have grit to help them digest the feed or limit them to fermented chick starter.
9. DO realize that your fermented feed will have a smell. That’s okay. It should smell sort of tangy-sweet, like sourdough bread.
10. DO keep the liquid after you’ve strained out your grains to start a new batch.
A Few Don’ts For Fermenting Chicken Feed
1. DON’T add any yeast or apple cider vinegar to your ferment. That will encourage the creation of alcohol which you don’t want.
2. DON’T store your fermented chicken feed in the sun.
3. DON’T allow the water level to drop below the level of the solids.
4. DON’T feed if you smell a sour, rancid or yeasty smell.
5. DON’T feed if you see any mold. Toss it all out and start over.
There are numerous scientific studies done on the topic. I have listed the links below for further reading if you’re interested, but suffice it to say, fermenting is good for your chickens’ health and your pocketbook. If you’re wondering what to feed chickens for improved eggs, you can begin by trying your hand at fermenting chicken feed.
The Science and Benefits of Fermentation
How to Ferment Chicken Feed:
Originally published in 2015 and regularly vetted for accuracy.