When I first heard about fermented chicken feed, I had no idea what that meant. I had never heard of fermenting before, besides knowing that kimchi was fermented. But chicken feed? Hey, I didn’t have to eat it, so I wanted to try it. Guess what? It works! So you need to know why and how to ferment chicken feed and utilize it with your chickens too.
What is fermentation?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is fermentation? Per Google Dictionary, fermentation is defined as “the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and the giving off of heat.” So what exactly does that mean? To ferment something is to break down the original compound into an alcohol or an acid.
Why am I talking about alcohol or acids? Fermenting is mainly used to produce beer, wine, and liquor, but in foods, can produce bread, yogurt, and cheese. Since we’ve all had at least bread and cheese once in our life, we’ve all eaten a fermented food.
Ferment Chicken Feed
Now for the real reason why you are here: how to ferment chicken feed and why. Fermented chicken feed is great for chickens and it’s so easy to do. Chicken feed that has been fermented lasts longer and keep your chickens fuller for a longer period of time.
Why? Because fermenting chicken feed breaks down the original dry feed compounds into a kind of “mash”. The mash is easier for the chickens to digest.
So, take a grain feed that you typically feed to your chickens. Grains naturally contain a barrier as a protection element before it is germinated. The barriers prevent absorption of all of the grains nutrients. By fermenting grain, you are breaking down the original whole grain compound, breaking the barrier, and releasing the natural nutrients. The grain is then absorbed faster by the chickens because it is easier to digest. The faster absorption means that the chickens stay fuller longer and eat less feed, which reduces your feed costs.
Bonuses of fermenting chicken feed: your chickens will be getting more natural probiotics (like apple cider vinegar), vitamins, and good bacteria. In addition, their poop stays more solid with less of a smell! That in itself is a win for everyone.
How to Ferment Chicken Feed
The process of fermenting chicken feed is so easy that you will ask yourself why you didn’t do this sooner!
Get a clean food-grade bucket. I use a small ice-cream bucket, nothing fancy.
Pour the grain into the bucket. The amount depends on how many chickens that you have. A typical measurement is 1/4 cup of feed per chicken. Since I have 21, I put two very large scoops of feed into the bucket at a time.
Add water to the bucket. There should be at least one inch of standing water over the top of the feed. The feed will expand during the fermentation process and will need the extra water.
Cover the bucket with a lid, but leave a corner open to allow the feed to “breathe”. Let the feed sit for at least 24 hours, but ideally let it sit for 3 days. Store the bucket in a cool, dark place that has a constant temperature. Mine sit in an unused room next to the kitchen.
Stir the feed at least once a day. If you see bubbles, that’s a good thing! It means that fermentation is happening! If you need to add more water after 24 hours, you can add as necessary.
Feed the fermented chicken feed to the chickens. I don’t bother scooping it out of the bucket. Every morning, I put the bucket in the middle of the run. When the chickens are let out, they make a beeline for the bucket. By the end of the day when I come home from work, the bucket has been wiped clean.
Can fermented feed be fed to baby chicks?
I wouldn’t give fermented feed to baby chicks that are newly hatched. When the chicks have reached around 3 weeks of age, I think that would be alright to start feeding the fermented feed, so long as you are fermenting the chick starter feed.
Fermenting chicken feed does not need to be scary. In fact, it’s super easy! I’m amazed I didn’t start fermenting chicken feed way sooner than I did. My chickens love the fermented feed, they are healthier, and are eating less food, which reduces in less cost for me. That’s a winner for the homestead.