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How to Save Money by Fermenting Chicken Feed

Save money by fermenting your chickens feed. They'll get more nutrients and eat less.

Fermentation is nothing new. People have been using the process as a method of food preservation for hundreds and hundreds of years. 

Foods such as sauerkraut, sourdough bread, buttermilk, cheese, pickles, kimchi, apple cider vinegar - even beer and wine - take advantage of fermenting.

It might surprise you to learn that animal feeds can also be fermented. There are numerous nutritional benefits to feeding fermented feed, and even better, it can save you money on your feed bill! Once again, the old-timers had it right!

How to Save Money by Fermenting Chicken Feed

I have been asked many times over the years by readers my opinion on feeding fermented feed, and yes, I do feed our chickens fermented feed, and yes I do highly recommend it.

I have been fermenting whole and cracked grain organic layer feed with added oats and cracked corn. The chickens love it and I'm confident I'm providing them THE best diet I can.

What is Fermentation Anyway?

Basically fermentation is the process of creating probiotics and enzymes by allowing the feed to sit in a liquid for several days. 

The feed begins to partially break down, making it more digestible and also more palatable to your chickens.

What are the Benefits of Fermenting Chicken Feed?

  •  Fermentation creates probiotics which assist in digestion and gut health by promoting 'good' bacteria in the intestines.
  •  Studies have shown that feeding fermented feed can increase egg weight and eggshell thickness.
  •  Eating fermented feed improves chickens’ immune system, increasing their resistance to diseases such Salmonella and E.coli.

How Does Fermenting Chicken Feed Save Money?

  • Because nutrients are more readily absorbed when feed is fermented, your chickens will eat less. (It’s believed that chickens will eat up to 20% less fermented feed than regular dry feed because they can meet their nutritional requirements with a lesser amount of feed.)
  •  Fermentation introduces vitamins, specifically the B vitamins (folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin), not present before fermentation, so if you are currently adding brewer's yeast to the feed, you don't need to any longer.
  •  Fermentation also creates probiotics, meaning if you currently add probiotic powder to your chicken feed, you can discontinue that too.
  • Chickens LOVE it, so there will literally be NO waste when you serve fermented feed.

How Do I Start Fermenting Chicken Feed? 

Fermenting is very easy to do. Here's what you need:

  •  A glass, food-grade stoneware or BPA-free plastic container
  •  De-chlorinated water (Well water, store bought distilled water or tap water allowed to sit out overnight)
  • A mixture of seeds and grains (you can also ferment crumble or pelleted feed, but it tends to just get mushy and it ends up not being as nutritionally dense or probiotic-dense - although your chickens will still love it!)

What Types of Things Can I Ferment?

Here are some suggestions of what you can add to your jar to begin fermenting:

  • amaranth
  • barley
  • buckwheat
  • corn, cracked or whole
  • flax seed
  • millet
  • oats, steel cut or rolled
  • quinoa
  • rye
  • sorghum
  • dried split green peas
  • sunflower seeds
  • whole wheat

Fill your container about 1/3 full with your feed mixture. Pour in enough water so the solids are completely submerged by an inch or so, leaving some headroom in the jar to allow for expansion. Cover your container with a piece of cheesecloth. 

Set the container in a cool location, out of direct sunlight.  Stir a few times a day for three days, adding more water if necessary to keep the grains submerged. You should start seeing some milky liquid and bubbles forming.

Smell the mixture. It should smell a bit tangy, like sourdough.  After three days, strain and feed the solids. (You can leave the feed for longer than three days, but it will start to lose the sweet smell and taste that chickens prefer.)

Only feed your chickens what they will eat at one sitting to prevent it from getting moldy and to maximize the nutritional value. Once you get an idea of how much your flock will go through in about half an hour, you can adjust the size of the container you are using, and also start to stagger batches so you have some ready each morning.

After you have strained or scooped out the solids, you can reuse the liquid and add more feed and grains to start another batch - subsequent batches will ferment even faster if you do that. If your liquid starts to smell rancid or get really thick and cloudy, toss it out and start over.

If you see any mold developing or the mixture starts to smell like alcohol or a bit rancid, toss it out and start over. That's it, its as simple as that

I don't feed the fermented feed every day, although I certainly could. But I have been switching off fermented with regular feed. I don't think it would be a problem to feed it every day, but I do like to switch up their diet and give everything in moderation and offer them variety.  

Note: Fermented feed is also wonderful for ducks, providing them the niacin they need, and can also be fed to chicks and baby ducklings - as always, just be sure they have access to grit to help them digest the feed, or limit them to fermented chick starter)  

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There are numerous scientific studies done on the topic of fermentation, the links to which I have listed below for further reading if you’re interested, but suffice it to say, fermenting is good for your chickens’ health and good for your pocketbook.

The Science and Benefits of Fermentation:

More on How to Ferment Chicken Feed:

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