Fermented Chicken Feed – the why’s and how’s!

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Let’s talk about chicken food for a moment, shall we? It seems so simple and not really blog worthy, and yet! AND YET! I have more issues with their food than anything else regarding chickens. They throw it everywhere, the squirrels (THE SQUIRRELS!!!), the cost of feeding the chickens AND the squirrels, and the chipmunks, and the mice, and the birds….I mean really. I love wildlife and I don’t mind sharing but things were getting a little out of hand. A bag of organic feed a week was making for some pretty expensive eggs…and fat squirrels! Don’t have a squirrel or rodent or bird problem? Your chickens are very neat and don’t happen to throw their food EVERY-WHERE when they’re eating? Well here are a few additional reasons to ferment your chickens food:

  1. Fermenting boosts the nutrition of the grains you’re feeding! Usable protein increases, digestibility increases, enzymes and vitamins become more bio-available and the ladies love it!
  2. Feed cost. We feed only organic feed and it does get a bit pricey (especially when you’re feeding the entire wildlife population). Any way we can cut down on feed costs really does make a difference in our monthly budget. My girls are much more satisfied with much less eating fermented feed and the squirrels don’t like the mushiness of the fermented food. HA! Victory!
  3. You won’t have to buy expensive feeders! I put out 2 black recycled tire bowls that cost me about $20 for both. The hanging feeders were expensive, bulky, and honestly just a pain to fill.

Okay! Now that you have your “why” let’s talk briefly about the “how”. I hope you’re ready for this…it’s quite sophisticated and very complex. You will need…

  • Chicken feed (I use organic crumble or non GMO turkey crumble)
  • A container (size depends on how many birds you have)
  • Non chlorinated water (call your water department to check if they add chlorine to your drinking water. Ours does, so I fill a 5 gallon bucket and let it sit for 24 hrs to allow the chlorine to evaporate)

THAT’S IT! There are a few different methods that people use to ferment their feed. Some people line up several buckets and use one full bucket per day. Here is my method, for simplicity sake;

  1. When you first start, you will have to wait 4 days for the grains to fully ferment. I know. The agony. Four days is basically forever, but ya just gotta do it. Sorry.
  2. Fill your jar or bucket a little less than half full with whatever feed you are using. I am currently using a mix of organic layer crumble, barley, and scratch.
  3. Fill the bucket the rest of the way with chlorine free water.
  4. Give the whole thing a good stir a few times a day (mine is in the garage so I stir it up in the morning when I’m out getting the animals fed and then at night before bed) You might have to add more water as the grains expand. No big deal. I like to keep my fermented grains a little thick, like oatmeal, but not dry. Some people prefer a soupier consistency, not I.
  5. You will notice bubbles and fermenty-like activity in your buckets or whatever container you are using (see video below). That’s awesome! Just imagine all the gas and bubbles your Chick’s will not have to deal with because you’re fermenting their feed! What a good chicken keeper you are!
  6. After 4 days, your feed is done and fully fermented! Feed half of the bucket to your chickens, and refill the bucket with new feed and water. Because the fermentation bacteria is already present and active, the new feed will ferment much faster! In about 24 hours (this is similar to how my sourdough works!)
  7. So now you have a simple system to save your gobbly gals digestion and your pocket book. Win. Win.

I really cannot find a downside to this method! Except for the small extra daily step of adding water to the dry feed…but it’s nowhere near as annoying, or costly, as loosing 30%-40% of your feed to random acts of nature.

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