Fermented chicken feed is easy to make for your flock. The fermented whole grains provide good gut health, requires less feed per serving, and is a way to extend the nutrients of the grains. Not to mention, fermented feed can also be fed to water fowl, guineas, turkeys, and quail.
A Quick Rundown on Fermentation
What makes fermentation awesome for poultry? In a nutshell, when fermented feed is consumed, it provides natural probiotics to the body, packed full of good bacteria and yeast. Lacto-fermentated foods and feed are able to be consumed by all living creatures; including dogs, cats, and even ruminants.
Feed ferments when allowed to soak in water for a period of time, typically within three days. Temperature plays an important factor on how quickly, and safely, food ferments. Fermentation occurs between the range of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything over can cause the item to spoil, whereas anything under can cause the item to not ferment and spoil.
Fermenting feed can be done any time of the year. During winter months, a secondary heat source may be needed for homes which maintain a steady temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. LED Christmas lights or a heat pad for starting seeds are excellent options for providing heat without overheating the fermenting vessel.
Lactic acid bacteria begins forming on the second day of the fermentation process. The beneficial bacteria consumes the sugars found in the grain and begins to multiply. The lactic acid makes the environment unsuitable for bad bacteria to thrive. What remains in fermented chicken feed are beneficial microbes.
Fermented Chicken Feed – Why bother?
Feeding fermented feed daily to poultry, fowl, or water fowl is an excellent way to provide a natural probiotic option to your flock. Unlike natural options, a synthetic probiotic should not be offered daily.
By providing fermented feed to chickens and other poultry, healthy good things can happen:
Increase in egg weight, providing thicker shells.
Boost in intestinal health, forming a natural barrier to pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella.
Lower feed consumption - digesting and absorbing fermented feed more effectively.
Providing and preserving vitamins and minerals found in fermented whole grains: B vitamins such as folic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin.
Something as simple as fermenting chicken feed leads to an overall better egg and a healthier hen. This is a win for both the chicken keeper and the flock.
Two Additional Benefits of Fermented Feed
If the above information has not convinced you to begin fermenting the feed, what will?
Fermented feed is more nutritious and filling than dry feed. With the decrease of feed comes a decrease in the overall feed bill.
Fermented feed allows the chicken to utilize most of the feed. Keep in mind, the more feed utilized, the less the chicken poops. Another win!
Fermented Chicken Feed Supplies
The following steps to fermenting chicken feed is extremely easy. Prior to beginning the process, gather the necessary materials.
Fermenting Vessels – For larger flocks, three food-grade buckets (2 or 5 gallon) work best. For smaller urban flocks, 3 Mason glass jars can be used. This allows for multiple batches of fermented grains to be in progress at all times.
Whole Grain Feed – Whole grain feed is an overall healthier option when it comes to fermenting. Scratch and Peck Organic Feeds or Modesto Milling Organic Feed's whole grains are great options.
Feed Container – Chicken feeder troughs are the best option for fermented feeds. In addition to the needed supplies select the best location to store fermenting vessels.
Fermenting vessels should be kept away from direct sunlight and spots which are drafty.
Fermented Chicken Feed – The Process
A chicken will consume around 1/4 of a cup of feed per day. With that said, chickens will consume less than that amount daily once the feed is fermented.
Begin by fermenting 1/4 cup per bird. Discard any fermented feed at the end of the day and reduce the amount by 1/4 cup.
Do not allow a fermented chicken feed to go past 3 days. The ferment can become too sour, turning unappealing for many poultry.
By day three, fermented chicken feed will take on a yeasty, slightly sour scent. Again, no mold should be present in the fermenting vessel.
Fermented Chicken Feed ~ Recipe
Fermented chicken feed is easy to make for your flock. The whole grains used provide a natural probiotic option with beneficial good bacteria. Not to mention, fermented feed provides a filling, healthy diet and is an overall better feed option.
1/4 cup whole grains or whole grain feed, per chicken
In the fermenting vessel, add the appropriate amount of whole grain feed.
Add water, making sure the feed is completely submerged by 3 inches.
Gently mix the feed with water making sure to mix the bottom of the fermenting vessel.
Add more water, if necessary, keeping grains covered by 3 inches of water at all times.
Though not necessary, fermenting vessels can be covered using breathable cotton dishtowels. A coffee filter can be used as a cover when mason jars are used. Fermenting covers can be secured to the vessel with twine or large rubber bands.
Using a second fermenting vessel, repeat steps from Day One
Using a third fermenting vessel, repeat steps from Day One
On day 4, feed from Day One's fermenting vessel.
Begin another ferment following instructions from Day One.
The next day, feed using Day Two's vessel. Start a new ferment.
Continue to process each day.
Upon the completion of the fermentation process, the grains will have a yeasty, lightly sour smell resembling sourdough bread. This scent indicates the grains are ready to be fed to the flock.
Do not provide feed which contains mold. Mold is fuzzy and can appear black, white, even pink. At times, scum may appear floating on top of the liquid. Scum should not be confused with mold. Unlike mold, scum is not fuzzy in appearance but is off-white or cream in color. Scum can be removed using a rubber spatula and discarded. Discard any remaining feed at the end of the day. Remaining feed indicates that too much fermented feed is being offered. Decrease the amount of grains being fermented by 1/4 cup until no fermented feed is present at the end of the day.
Not Quite Ready to Provide Fermented Feed?
The process of fermenting is often intimidating. Start slowly by soaking whole grains for 24 hours. This is is also known to be beneficial and a healthier way to feed.
Soaked grains plump-up, allowing poultry to become fuller on a smaller amount of feed and to aid in hydration.
Soaked grains improves the digestibility of whole grains by reducing the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors found in grains.
Order a bag of Scratch and Peck Organic Layer Feed or Modesto Milling Organic whole grains and seeds from American Farm and Larder and start fermenting today!