Fermented chicken feed has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, and according to poultry experts, for good reason.
Yoghurt and cheese are all fermented foods we humans consume on a regular basis, but did you know that you can ferment your chickens feed too- and they will love you for it!
So, now you’re asking what is this fermenting business and how can I jump on the bandwagon – well we have all the answers!
Fermentation is one of the oldest forms of food preservation known to humans. Historically, it has been used to preserve food for long periods of time. Fermenting is a great way to make use of any surplus or uneaten food that you have on hand.
The most common form of fermentation is called “souring.” This simply means that acid is added to a mixture that contains both a liquid and a solid food product.
This results in the breakdown of the food into smaller particles that are easier to digest. This method was commonly used by our ancestors before refrigeration became a common household fixture.
These days, however, it’s becoming much more popular to make use of the bacterial action that takes place in fermentation. Fermentation uses bacteria to break down food into simpler compounds that can be easily absorbed by the body.
In addition to food, this process can be applied to drinks and alcohol, resulting in a very different beverage.
The process of fermentation can be simple or complex depending on how you choose to do it.
What is fermenting chicken feed?
Fermentation has been used for many years as a means of preserving and enhancing some particular foods.
The fermentation process involves using naturally occurring bacteria to partially break down the food- improving its enzyme content and increasing its levels of vitamins B, C and K.
This helps to make the food easier to digest and gives its usable protein content a major boost. It will rid of all the bad bacteria, leaving only the good bacteria behind!
Why should we ferment our chicken feed?
Fermented foods are great for our health – they normalise the acidity in our stomach, provide digestive balance, aid in the absorption of nutrients and neutralize toxic compounds.
In chickens, it has been found to have similar effects- aiding with their digestive and intestinal health as well as increasing their egg weight, shell weight and thickness.
Fermenting preserves all the important vitamins in your chicken feed grains, and also creates new vitamins such as folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin- all which help promote better overall health in your chickens!
As fermented feed becomes more dense and rich in nutrients, it becomes more filling- so a little goes a long way! Compared the amount of unfermented feed your chickens would eat, they will generally eat about half this amount of fermented feed- yet get more nutrients! (This also means you will have less chicken poop on your hands!)
We all know that lacto-fermented foods are good for us; yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha are just a few of the foods that have been touted for their nutrient-dense and enzyme-rich health benefits.
Lacto-fermentation is a type of anaerobic fermentation that preserves and improves food. Lacto-fermented foods contain live Lactobacillus, a beneficial bacteria that helps normalize stomach acidity, provide digestive balance, aid in nutrient absorption, neutralize toxic compounds, and boost overall immunity.
According to a 2009 British Poultry Science study, fermented feed increased egg weight, shell weight, and shell thickness; improved chicken intestinal health by forming a natural protection to acid-sensitive pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella; and reduced feed consumption (due to their bodies metabolizing the fermented feed more effectively).
Another 2009 study published in the African Journal of Biotechnology found that fermented feed decreases the level of anti-nutrients found in grains and seeds while greatly improving vitamin and mineral bioavailability during digestion.
Fermentation not only preserves the vitamins in your grains, but it also produces new vitamins, primarily B vitamins such as folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin.
In a nutshell, fermenting your chicken feed results in better eggs, healthier hens, and lower feed costs. Less feed means less poop, which is something none of us can complain about!
Because it has the consistency of a ‘mash’ there is less spillage, and chickens won’t scratch through and throw it out of the feeder, so there is less waste- your wallet will thank you!
So by fermenting your chicken feed, you will have tastier and stronger eggs, increased hen health, lowered feed costs, and less poop- what are you waiting for?
Advantages of Fermenting Chicken Feed
The most popular reason for fermenting chicken feed is to supplement your chickens’ diets with nutrients such as probiotics. It has several digestive benefits, such as assisting with nutrition absorption, balancing stomach acidity, and maintaining digestion equilibrium.
Fermented feed is also proven to improve egg quality in chickens. They’ll produce larger eggs with thicker shells. Fermented feed also protects chickens from harmful pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli. Because sick chickens might produce harmful eggs, this safeguards both you and your flock.
Fermenting, on top of everything else, is also inexpensive. Fermenting chicken feed enables it to grow in volume, allowing the bird to eat more quickly. Chickens will consume 1/3 to 1/2 less feed if it has been fermented.
As a result, you won’t have to buy chicken feed as frequently, even though your birds will still get plenty of nutrition.
Overall, fermenting chicken food will make your chickens and eggs healthier, which will save you money on vet expenses and food. It’s a win-win situation for you and your chickens!
Disadvantages of Fermenting Chicken Feeds
The main disadvantage of fermenting chicken feed is that it takes longer and requires more patience to prepare than ordinary feed. Fermented feed does not last long after it is withdrawn from the water it was soaked in.
As a result, you’ll need to devise a plan to ensure that fermented feed is always available for your hens.
Aside from that, it has no significant disadvantages for chickens. It can be fed to them all year or only at certain periods, according on your preferences. Some keepers only give it to their hens at stressful times, such as winter or molting.
However, if your fermented chicken feed becomes moldy, it may cause complications for your birds. If any of the food seems to be rancid, do not feed it to them.
How do I ferment my chicken feed?
There are a few things to consider before you rush into the fermenting process- firstly, how many chickens do you have? If you only have three of four hens, you might want to make your feed in a tupperware container, glass jar, or small bucket.
If you have a larger flock, plastic food-grade buckets, ceramic containers or a bucket should do the trick. No matter what you’re using, make sure they have a lid!
Be wary to not use metal containers as the high acid content of the fermented feed can sometimes interact with the metals and cause contamination of the feed.
Next, you need to decide what ingredients you want to ferment. You can ferment pretty much any feed that you currently give your chickens- pellets, scratch, seeds, eggshells and whole grains are all great!
How to make your own fermented chicken feed?
1. Fill your container about halfway with your chosen feed- remember that the grains will expand, so be sure to leave enough room relative to the size of your container.
2. Then add enough dechlorinated water to cover your grains by a couple of inches.
3. Stir the mixture at least once or twice a day, and add water as necessary to ensure that the water level stays above the feed. Make sure that you put the lid on properly each time after opening, and soon the magic will happen!
You soon should start to see bubbles form on the surface of your liquid, and it may emit a slightly sour smell- this is lacto-fermentation in action! The water may also appear a little cloudy and foamy- this is all very normal, and you can simply stir your mixture to get rid of it.
Lacto-fermented feed should never have a rotten or unpleasant smell- this indicates an overgrowth of yeasts or moulds in the feed, and so it should be discarded, and you will need to start the fermentation process again.
If your grains are always completely covered by water, and your container is always sealed properly, you shouldn’t have an issue, and the fermenting process should be a breeze!
Within three to five days your feed should be fully fermented-yay! This will be made evident by the presence of small bubbles and the sour smell.
Tips on Fermenting Chicken Feed
- Whole-grain chicken feed ferments the best and is the most nutritious.
- You may notice a few bubbles as soon as 24 hours after soaking but don’t expect any significant bubbles until the second day after fermenting.
- It is totally natural for fermented feed to have a sour, acidic, or somewhat yeasty odor.
- If the feed seems moldy or appears to be contaminated in any way, do not feed it to your flock!
- When working with fermented feed, try to use glass, wood, or plastic containers and utensils. Metal objects can occasionally interfere with the fermentation process.
- Make sure that all of the feed is below the water level. Mold spores can gather on damp feed if it is kept dry and exposed to the open air.
- Don’t, however, submerge your fermented feed in the water! While there is no such thing as ‘too much water,’ you should try for a balance of enough water to cover the feed while not having too much surplus water sitting above the feed. It should have a thick, soupy texture.
- Excess water above the feed can make it difficult to spot bubbles or detect any strong indicators of the fermenting process.
- Cover the fermented feed jar with cheesecloth or a permeable material. You want to be able to gather microscopic wild yeast particles while simultaneously keeping large trash particles out of the feed.
- While fermenting, the ideal place to store your fermented feed is somewhere safe, dark, and relatively chilly. It should be easily accessible but not in a high-traffic area. A pantry is frequently effective.
- After a few days of fermenting feed, clean out the fermented feed jar with a splash of vinegar and warm water.
- If you’re using the straining method to serve the fermented feed, you can strain it the night before the day you intend to serve it. Simply cover it with an airtight lid and store it in a cool place until you’re ready to serve it in the morning.
How to Feed Fermented Chicken Feed to your Chickens?
When it comes to feeding, scoop or spoon out an appropriate amount for your flock. Try and scoop from the bottom of the container to get a real mixture of all the ingredients.
You can choose to press out some of the liquid, strain it, or simply add it to their feeder as is- all work equally well!
When you remove feed, be sure to add the same amount back into the container to replace it. Stir thoroughly, add more water to completely cover the feed, then seal the lid back on- letting the fermenting process continue!
While you may not feed your chickens’ fermented feed every day, it is definitely something to experiment with given the health benefits for your girls.
Have you ever fermented chicken feed before? We would love to know your tips and tricks and do’s and don’ts. Please share it on the comments.