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why and how to make fermented chicken feed for a healthy flock

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As chicken caretakers, we all want the best for our flock. Can fermented chicken feed support that goal? It’s a resounding YES!

A healthy chicken is a happy chicken who makes healthy eggs and meat. And we know that the most important foundational aspect to health is what we consume. So what’s best for chickens is also what’s best for us humans.

Plus, who doesn’t love to provide a healthy snack daily and see your chickens flock to you every morning in expectation? It brings a smile to my face every day.

what is fermentation?

Simply put, fermentation is the process of bacteria breaking down edible substances when covered with water. The process creates gut-healthy bacteria and probiotics not available in non-fermented feed.

This is the same process used in creating sauerkraut and other fermented human foods. It gets really bubbly and has a pleasant sour scent.

how long does it take to make fermented chicken feed?

I find it takes at least 2 days to ferment and 3 to 4 days for the feed to really get going like we want.

The first day the feed is a wet mash that is still great to feed to your chickens (improves digestibility) but it won’t have reached the fermented stage with all the good bacteria.

On day 2 bubbles should be evident every 10 seconds or so and a cloudy film has covered the surface of the water. This is great! You can mix that in with the feed when you scoop it out for your flock.

By day 3 the bubbles are really going strong and a that pleasant sour scent is present.

You can start feeding fermented feed on Day 2. Experiment and see which day of fermentation your flock prefers to eat.

How does this grow sovereignty?

Lowering expenses while also increasing nutrient bioavailability seems like a cheat code. But taking more control over our food’s health improves our ability to control our own destiny. Happy and healthy chickens make for healthy and happy humans.

benefits to feeding fermented feed to chickens?

  • lower feed cost due to less waste – chickens don’t leave any behind due to the increased palatability and nutrients!
  • lower feed cost due to higher satiety – the feed swells due to the water and takes up more room in their stomachs causing them to feel fuller longer (along with the increased nutrients)
  • more nutrient dense than dry feed
  • increases egg production and quality in certain birds (study source)
  • increases egg weight and shell durability (study source)
  • soaking in water improves feed digestibility by reducing the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors found in all grains, seeds and legumes (same as in humans – this is why soaking lentils and beans is recommended)

Did you know?

Phytic acid prevents our bodies from absorbing iron, zinc, and calcium resulting in deficiencies and poor health. Plants use toxins as their form of self-defense since they cannot run or fight back physically from predators (humans and animals).

how often should you feed fermented feed to chickens?

Fermented feed should be a supplemental treat for chickens daily or a few times a week. A chicken eats, on average, a quarter of a pound (around 4oz) of dry feed daily.

For my flock of around 22 (currently), I fill a 16oz mason jar full of fermented feed. Sometimes I’ll give them two mason jars full but they typically just get one treat and then they free range.

No feed is left behind and I adjust based on a gut feeling and how many chickens I have at the time. I’ve yet to encounter an issue from just winging it.

Fermented feed does not make up the bulk of my flock’s everyday feed. Same as me not eating fermented feed at every meal of the day.

chickens eating fermented chicken feed
our flock enjoying their morning fermented chicken feed

what ages can you feed fermented feed?

Fermented feed can be fed at all ages from chick to hen and roo. The only consideration is the suitable size of the feed fermented for each stage of life.

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tips for efficiently feeding fermented feed

  • only ferment what your chickens will actually eat (too much fermented feed means a bigger risk of the feed going bad without use and the longer it sits the more sour it becomes which may put your chickens off)
  • reuse water to retain good bacteria
  • make sure feed is below water (preserved indefinitely) to prevent bad bacteria growth
  • burp the container every day (consider the proper container in your choice) if you’re not feeding every day
  • avoid feed with corn and soybeans (unless you know their source)
  • create your own chicken feed for optimal health – more control over their feed means healthier results from your chickens (we feed black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) and local and/organic barley, wheat, triticale, oats)
  • use high quality water – we utilize a reverse osmosis (RO) countertop filter
  • keep the temperature of your container around 65 to 75 degrees in a darker area as too cold temps will slow or stop fermentation and too hot temps will speed up fermentation and potentially kill off the good bacteria

Did you know?

Corn and soy are the biggest glyphosate (a known cancer causing substance) users in the USA. Go local or organic to source feed from someone you trust for a healthy flock.

steps to making fermented chicken feed

Day 1

Step 1: Choose your container. If you have a smaller flock, consider a mason jar. If your flock is large consider a 5 gallon bucket.

different types of containers for fermenting chicken feed

Step 2: Choose your feed and fill your container halfway. Pour in water to cover the feed by about an inch. Stir the feed into the water to make sure everything is coated. Some feed might float to the top but most will swell with water and fall over time.

Step 3: As the feed soaks up the water, check back in to make sure the feed is fully covered. It takes about about 6 hours for the feed to fully swell. It’s imperative to keep the feed below the water line.

Step 4: If there’s feed that won’t stay below the water line, remove it and feed it to your chickens. Cover with more water if necessary.

Day 2

Remember to burp the jar.

You should see bubbles at the top of the water from the fermentation process starting up. Add more water if needed to keep the feed covered.

You might start to notice a change in the scent which is a great sign!

If you have a small flock and you want to fermenting multiple smaller mason jars, start the 2nd jar today or on Day 3 to stagger the process. This will ensure you have fermented feed at least every other day.

Day 3

A cloudy film might start to show up on the surface of the water. It’s okay! And it can actually act as another barrier between the air and the fermented feed. It’s kahm yeast and can be mixed back into the feed or skimmed out.

If you didn’t already start feeding the feed to your flock you can do so now!

You can either use up all the fermented feed before completely refilling the same container (saving the good water) or you can replenish the container with new dry feed after each feeding.

I prefer to keep the water level high even as the fermented chicken feed is used up. This makes sure that the chicken feed stays below the water line.

grain in a glass jar for fermenting chicken feed
grain in a glass jar for fermenting chicken feed

I also add new chicken feed to the fermented liquid right after I give the treat to my chickens in the mornings. That allows the chicken feed to ferment for 24 hours before I use it again.

when to throw out fermented feed?

Has the scent turned into a repulsive odor that makes your stomach turn? Your fermented feed may have gone bad and you don’t want to risk feeding that to your chickens.

Is your container growing mold? This is a sure sign that things have gone bad. The fermentation process creates an environment where bad bacteria cannot grow. If you’re seeing mold, that process has failed.

In both cases, your best bet is to dump the fermented feed and start over. However before you toss it all, check underneath the top layer of feed to see if the lower layers have been protected from bad bacteria. If it looks and smells okay, make a judgment call based on your own personal risk/benefit analysis.

crushed eggshells closeup to make eggshells for chickens

Feeding eggshells to your hens

Allow your hens to provide for their own calcium needs while also decreasing costs in the coop!

learn more here!

summing it up

Fermented chicken feed is an unbelievably easy and healthy chicken snack for your flock. The whole process is not as complicated as the name sounds.

The benefits are vast for you and your flock so what do you have to lose? Start your own fermentation station today!

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Here are some of the supplies that I use when fermenting feed.

5 gal bucket (food grade) with gamma seal top

These are so versatile! We use them so often around the homestead and the gamma seal tops are so much easier to use than regular tops. It’s worth the extra cost in exchange for less frustration!

1 gal wide mouth mason jar with airtight top

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16oz mason jar

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reverse osmosis (RO) water filter

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