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Making homemade fermented chicken feed is cost effective, nutritious, and easy! Fermented chicken feed helps you get the most out of your feed bags while still providing nutritious food for your flock!
My first experience with fermenting my chicken’s feed was last year. I was hesitant to try fermenting and I was nervous that I was wasting feed by soaking it in water. I also was not sure if my hens would even want to eat this new food that I was offering them! So, I started off making a very small batch. I served it to my hens, and they devoured it! Now I am making it in big enough batches that, for one day out of the week, all they get to eat is fermented feed.
Why offer fermented feed?
I love serving my flock fermented chicken feed for a variety of reasons:
- Fermented increases the nutritional value of the feed and adds beneficial proteins.
- It is easier to digest and supports digestive health with probiotics and helps eliminate bad microorganisms.
- Fermented food helps hens lay bigger, better quality eggs and it increases the yolk size.
- It saves money because when the feed ferments, it doubles in quantity, and it fills the birds up faster then dry feed.
- Chickens are less likely to contract diseases when they eat fermented feed.
- Another plus (especially for those of us who clean up after them) is that fermented feed makes the bird’s stools more solid and it actually makes them poop less as more of the feed can be used for nutritional purposes!
There are also changes in the nutritional value of the feed as it ferments.
- Phosphorus becomes more available for digestion
- Sugar content decreases significantly
- Protein content increases
- Combats mold spores in the feed
What is fermented chicken feed?
Fermented feed is basically any chicken feed that has been soaked in water over a period of time, allowing a fermentation process to take place. The fermentation process is started by live cultures of yeast and bacteria. A few starters that I recommend include:
- Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar– ACV also helps retain some of the amino acids that may be consumed by bacteria
- wild yeast- wild yeast is yeast that the brew (chicken feed soaked in water) collects naturally from the air
- brewers yeast
When the fermentation process first starts, it is low in lactic bacteria and has high pH levels. The longer the feed ferments the more lactic bacteria increases and the pH decreases, which is what we want.
You can also ferment other foods for chickens. I have mixed sunflower seeds in with my fermented feed to add extra protein during my flock’s molt. Other options would include whole oats and other healthy grains. Just remember that these should be fed as a snack, not as the main food.
How do you ferment chicken feed?
Making fermented chicken feed is quite easy and affordable! Here is how to do it!
- glass jar big enough to hold twice the amount of feed you are fermenting
- cheesecloth or other breathable cloth
- rubber band
- spoon for stirring and serving- I use a slotted, wooden spoon. I do not advice using a metal spoon as the metal could destroy the essential yeast that is growing.
- serving dish
Step 1. Place the amount of feed you are fermenting in the glass jar. Plan on fermenting at least 1/3 cup per chicken if you are feeding fermented feed as the sole ration for a day.
Step 2. Pour water into the jar until the feed is soaked through with water and there is an inch of water above the feed. Stir the feed with your spoon and cover the jar with the cheesecloth, fastening it with a rubber band.
Step 3. Stir your fermented feed at least three times a day (I do it in the morning, afternoon, and evening). On the first day you will notice nearly all the water has been soaked up by the feed, add more water until the feed is covered again. Always make sure your feed is covered with water to prevent mold from growing on the top.
Step 4. The fermentation process takes 3-4 days, depending on the climate. As a general rule of thumb I usually stick to three days. Technically, you can use the fermented feed after the first day of fermentation, but it won’t contain as much of the nutritious elements as a three day ferment does. Bubbles on the top of your brew is a good sign of fermentation. It should also smell tangy and kind of like sourdough. If it smells rancid or looks moldy, throw it all away! Continue to stir your brew at least three times a day.
Serving your Homemade Fermented Feed:
After your feed has fermented (no longer than five days) you can now serve it to your flock! I use my wooden, slotted spoon to scoop out the feed, drain it of most of the liquid, and place it in a clean dish. You may notice small, white specks near the bottom of your brew, I try not spoon too much of that into my serving dish. Those are cultures of the fermentation process. You can save those cultures along with some of the liquid to start a second batch, which will ferment faster because the yeast is already present in the cultures. I only serve fermented feed once a week so I usually start a brand new batch each time.
Once you have spooned out all of your feed, you can serve it to your chickens! Remember, chicken’s are often hesitant about trying new things, so give them a little bit to get used to the new feed. My flock loved my homemade fermented feed right from the start! If your flock does not eat all the fermented feed, do not save it for the next day as it could go moldy. You can ferment feed for any age of chicken as long it is the appropriate food type (starter, grower, or layer). You can also ferment both mash, pellet, and crumble foods.
Making homemade fermented chicken feed is a great, easy, and economical way to feed your flock nutritious food! I encourage you to give it a try and see how your flock likes it!
If you are looking for another way to boost the nutrients in your flock’s feed check out my homemade feed supplement!