Sourdough, yoghurt and cheese are all fermented foods some 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!
Fermenting chicken feed has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, and according to poultry experts, for good reason.
So, now you're asking what is this fermenting business and how can I jump on the bandwagon - well we have all the answers!
What is fermenting?
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 I ferment my 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!)
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?
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, egg shells and whole grains are all great!
You are now ready to embark on the fermentation journey!
1. Fill your container about halfway way with your chosen feed- remember that the grains will expand, so be sure to leave enough room relative to the size of our 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 of, 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.
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 to 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- post on our Facebook page!