Why do people ferment chicken feed?
My hens and rooster love their feed. When the chicks were introduced to the grown-up chickens about six weeks ago, we changed from layer feed to Scratch and Peck’s organic starter feed since the chicks needed to stay on that until about eight weeks.
That’s when we’ll put them on grower feed. We always have out a bowl of oyster shell and grit as supplements. But recently, I also learned about fermenting chicken feed, and now we’re doing this for the ladies! Many farmers do this as part of their daily routine, so there is no reason a chicken keeper with a small flock cannot do this!
We sell all the Scratch and Peck Organic Livestock Feeds. We also talk about fermenting feed with our customers frequently. All Scratch and Peck feed can be fermented – with that in mind, all chicken feeds (except pellet feeds) can be fermented.
This post shows layer feed fermented in the pics below. This is SO EASY. We decided to use a fermenting kit provided by Scratch and Peck. As a newbie fermenter, it has all the elements needed, making me less nervous.
Note for everyone: Sprouting is not fermenting. You can sprout whole grains, but this post is about fermenting feed. I didn’t know the difference, and I actually started “fermenting” grains and then had to start over again. Oops! Note that these are grains! And you want to ferment feed. Oops!
THIS is the kit showing feed that can and should be fermented.
Day 4: Ready for the ladies
Fermenting chicken feed makes nutrients more readily available, feed requirements lessen, and less waste since the chickens love it. The nutritional benefits of fermenting chicken feed are great:
- It increases beneficial bacteria in their guts
- It also decreases pathogens in your hens’ digestive systems
- Makes protein more available
- Requires less feed per serving (one of my fave reasons)
- Increases water intake as water is consumed with the feed
- Improves digestibility of feed and nutrient absorption
How do you ferment chicken feed?
(I’ve included the daily steps below).
- First, you submerge the feed underwater for 24-48 hours.
- This can be done in a bucket. Expert Maat Van Uitert wrote a great book, “Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock” which is my go-to guide for chicken advice. A section on fermenting chicken feed talks a little about the process.
“It’s very, very important to make sure the feed remains under water, which creates the environment that allows the good bacteria to grow,” explains Maat.
- She likes to leave an inch or two of water above the feed as it ferments.
- Note: If it looks moldy at all, toss it. But it should smell like sourdough bread! By day two, my mason jar smelled this way, and I knew we were getting close (see below).
- These easy steps are from Scratch and Peck, and please don’t hesitate to ask any of our staff if you have questions about how this works:
- Place feed in a clean container (see my mason jar in the pics) with a loose-fitting lid.
- The size of the container will depend on the size of your flock. For a flock of just a few birds, a 32 oz mason jar will suffice.
- A 5-gallon bucket works for larger flocks. Start small, though, and work your way up if needed.
- Leave room in the container for the fermented chicken feed to expand. Pour non-chlorinated water over the feed and mix. (we have a well, so our water doesn’t have chlorine, but if your water does, follow these tips).
- I tried two parts water to one part feed. And just like Maat says in her book, ensure the water covers the feed completely. Let it sit at room temperature for at least a day. And stir it once a day. Bubbles will start to form when the ferment is ready, and there will be a slightly sour smell. Pea soup is the consistency you’re looking for.
Day Two Steps:
You can see that it’s starting to bubble on day two. Keep watching as this process can take up to 4 days depending on the temperature.
Day Three Steps:
How does it smell? Make sure to mix it once more on day three. Do you have a mash that’s ready to feed your hens?
Note that the mash should be slightly wet and not soupy, so I drained some of the liquid when mixing a new batch! Remember – pea soup! Fermenting chicken feed was an entirely new concept to me. But the yellow chicken approves. If you have questions, we can help you!