How to Ferment chicken feed.
Bigger eggs, healthier chickens.

I’m handing the reins, or in this case the coop, over to Leigh Edwards today. Leigh runs the blog Natural Chicken Keeping. It’s a really, REALLY great chicken keeping website with tons of  information. Leigh is one of the many who took my How to Turn your Blog into a Business course. I was so impressed with her site that when she asked if she could do a guest post on a topic I’ve been interested in for a while now, I said You BET chicken lady. 

Today Leigh is going to be talking about fermented chicken feed. You know how I fermented a bunch of cucumbers into pickles earlier in the fall? Well it’s the same thing, the only difference is you’re fermenting chicken feed.  Plus, I mean, you probably wouldn’t serve this at Thanksgiving dinner like I did with my pickles.

Take it away Leigh.

*********************************************************************

 

Fermenting your chickens’ feed can have huge health benefits for your flock, can lower your feed bill and can even make your chickens lay bigger eggs. Fermenting is also nowhere near as much of a pain in the butt as you might think!

So – Health Benefits:

Yes! Fermented chicken feed is actually quite a bit healthier for your chickens than regular ol’ dry feed for a couple reasons. The first reason is that fermented feed has naturally occurring probiotics. No more running to the store for those expensive, fruit-flavored yogurt drinks your flock craves! (What? You don’t do that?)

fermented-chicken-feed-2

Just like with humans, the gastro-intestinal tract is the foundation of a bird’s immune system. Probiotics balance that system and create a barrier against disease and illness. So basically, feeding fermented feed with naturally occurring probiotics is like setting loose an army of microscopic disease fighters inside your chickens… every time you feed them.

ferment-longpin

 

 

The second big health benefit of fermentation is that the fermentation process breaks down the antinutrients that are naturally present in grains. Grains and seeds have this funky protective barrier that can prevent them from being fully digested. This is a kind of wacked-out, mutant survival mechanism of the plant world. Having these antinutrients boosts the chances that, even if eaten, the grains can still grow once they have made their journey all the way through a critter. And wow! They’re already fertilized!

Ewww, right?

At any rate, fermenting these grains naturally strips them of antinutrients and helps break down the proteins so that your chickens can get the full nutritional benefits from them. (And you’ll be less likely to have all kinds of random grains sprouting up around your yard.)

Lowering your feed bill:

Because your chickens are getting higher nutritional benefits from their feed, after a week or so, they’ll start to eat less of it. Also – wet feed doesn’t fly nearly as far across your yard when lil’ Miss Henrietta decides to hop into the feeder and dig for gold!

And you know what happens when hens are really healthy? They start to lay bigger eggs with ginormous yolks. Hard to complain about that! They are also far less likely to succumb to diseases carried by the local wild birds.

The Art of Fermentation:

Fermented-chicken-feed-1

OK – so now that you’re ten-kinds of excited about having healthier chickens and lowering your monthly feed costs, let’s talk about HOW to properly ferment feed because the last thing you need is a yard full of drunk chickens!

There are two kinds of fermentation – Lacto-Fermentation and Alcohol Fermentation. The first kind is the really healthy kind and teh sekund kiind ish jusht rewey… wheeeeeeeeee!
(So please… ferment responsibly!)

There is a common misconception you’re likely to run across if you research fermented chicken feed online. Many people use unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (U-ACV) as a fermentation “starter.” U-ACV does have a lot of health benefits for your flock when you put it in their drinking water but for fermented feed… not so much!

Why? In short, the enzymes in U-ACV are PREbiotics and not PRObiotics. They can actually prevent the growth of good probiotics when put into the wet feed. I’m not going into a huge amount of detail (because this post is already going to be way long, but if you’re interested in more information you can see our ridiculously information-packed, long-winded article on the Natural Chicken Keeping blog). See ridiculously information-packed, long-winded article here.

Using vinegar to start the fermentation process can also start an alcohol fermentation. (Not the goal of today’s post.)

No – if you want to grow your own little army of immunity-boosting PRObiotics, you need to have lacto-fermentation. (Just take my word on it for now because we’re getting too sciency here!)

The good news is that lacto-fermentation will just happen if you just add water.

fermented-chicken-feed-6

If you are the anxious type and really want to get the probiotics marching about the feed sooner, you can add a starter culture such as;
· 1+ Tbsp. juice from raw lacto-fermented pickles or sauerkraut
· 1+ Tbsp. cultured buttermilk (the cultured stuff will have nice shoes and an expensive haircut)
· Whey from cheese made with a mesophillic culture
· A mesophillic starter culture for cheese-making

But as I indicated before, lacto-fermentation will happen regardless of whether or not you use a starter.

And finally we’re at the point where we talk about actually MAKING fermented feed. I’ll keep it short and sweet (pffttt! Like I’m capable of THAT!)

fermented-chicken-feed-5

Making fermented feed:

You need a non-metal container. Acids from fermentation can react with metal and leave bad things in your chickens’ dinner, so use plastic, glass or lead-free ceramic crocks. Be sure to get a BIGGER container than you think you will need.
2 Gallon Preserving Crock / 5 Gallon Preserving Crock of my dreams

Me? I use a super-stylish 5-gallon plastic bucket from my local home improvement store… because I’m sexy that way! (And because I have more than 60 chickens and ferment a LOT of feed…)

fermented-chicken-feed-4

· Put 2-3 days worth of feed in your container of choice
· Cover the feed with water (you should have a few centimeters (at least an inch) of water above the level of the feed)
· If you want to use a starter, go ahead and toss it in there right away
· Expect the feed to expand (water retention will do that to the best of us… just ask my favorite jeans) so check the feed about an hour later and add more water if necessary
· That extra few inches of water above the level of the feed will prevent mold from growing on the feed and will allow the lacto-fermentation process to start… processing…
· Cover your container with a towel or a loosely-fitted cover to allow for the off-gassing that happens with the fermentation process. Don’t use a tightly-fitted cover unless you want to decorate a space with fermented feed. (Ask me how I know this.)
· Decorating with fermented feed will be covered in a different post. (No… not really.)

That’s it! You can start feeding the wet feed right away. Just add more water and dry feed each time you take some out and be sure to stir the mixture well each time. In about 3 days the feed will start to smell a bit tangy like sourdough, sauerkraut or pickles.

fermented-chicken-feed-7

You can keep a batch of fermented feed going indefinitely… just keep adding water and feed and it will keep fermenting. If it starts to smell like yeast, mold or alcohol, toss it and start over.

That’s all there is to it! If you want more of the sciency-stuff behind fermenting feed, you can get your fill (and then some) HERE.

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138 Comments

  1. Liz says:

    I read about halfway down this post before realising that the title was fermenting chicken feed, not feet.

    I was wondering why and how this was a health benefit, cause I know I don’t like soggy feet, but maybe chickens do?

    Nice article though, I’m amazed at how much I enjoy reading chicken posts! Keep up the good guest post having work Karen, and Leigh continue with the good guest post writing!

    • Karen says:

      LOL. I’m sure you could ferment feet too. And you know, before I got chickens (before I even thought I’d EVER get chickens) I absolutely loved reading other people’s chicken posts. It just seemed so foreign and exciting! And it is. But it’s also filled with festering wounds and fermented feed. 🙂

    • Leigh says:

      Pickled chicken feet, anyone? 😀

  2. Stephanie says:

    I so want to do this. I had a fail my first go around about a month ago. I had already found Leigh’s WONDERFULLY helpful site & learned a lot from it. I was so psyched I bought various whole grains to ferment. But within days they smelled like sewer. Really awful. Not sweet. My husband brews beer, we live in the country, have a big garden…i know what nice dirty is. THIS was not nice dirty. Not sure what happened. Would like to try again (especially since I have almost 300 lbs of grains in the garage still). I just used clean bucket, water & grains. Any advice?

    • Leigh says:

      Stephanie – sorry for your sewage issues! Spores from a dusty barn or coop area, or even spores lodged in wood used for fires in your house can get into your fermentation batch and wreak havoc. Try fermenting again – but try changing the location of your fermentation bucket/crock. Put it in your laundry room or a spare bathroom instead and see if you have better luck.
      Also, in some cases you can get a batch of grains with mold. It’s not that common, but it does happen.

    • JoDee says:

      So, how do you feed the fermented feed?

    • Lynn says:

      I use my Kefir that is made with powdered cow milk. My kefir seeds have been growing for about 3 years and I get a big batch daily. I take the daily kefir and add 2 cups of kefir to about 6 cups of oats, and then add warm water so that is one inch above the oats. Stir it up real good and let it soak over night in temperature controlled room around 65-70 degrees. The chickens absoutley go crazy for it. When they see the bowl they come flying from every direction to get their share! I recently added chicken scratch 50/50 with rolled oats and they like that too. Get the oats from the feed store, 50 lbs/$24.

  3. SeaDee says:

    So when’s the post on how to make chicken feed moonshine? :-/

    • Auntiepatch says:

      LOL!!!

    • Leigh says:

      What a lucky lady you are! I just happen to live in the moonshine capitol of the world!

      Oh wait! I meant to say “What a lucky lady I am!”
      Crazy fact: A local moonshiner actually took out an ad in my daughter’s elementary school yearbook last year to sell his home made goodies! (I swear – Virginia has the BEST bake sales EVER!)
      LOL!

      • Robin Howell says:

        OMG you live in VA? When I read “moonshine capital of the world” I thought VA. LOL

        Back on topic. I want to do fermented chicken feed, but honesty I am afraid to. I am afraid of messing up and wasting feed, which we cannot afford to do.

        I am trying fodder and not have a lot of luck with that.

        How long do you let the feed set at the beginning? I mean when you fill your bucket with feed and water, how long to let it sit and WHERE. Cool dry place like a basement or in the house (our house tends to stay on the cool side most of the time) or out on the porch??

  4. Jody says:

    Leigh has a similar writing style to you. Love it. Have you tried the fermentation yet? What did the girls think of it?

    • Karen says:

      I have, and the first day I set the fermented feed out they loved it. They went NUTS for it. Now they eat it but aren’t quite so greedy and maniacal about it. 🙂 They’re moulting so I haven’t seen or noticed any difference in the eggs or shells. ~ karen!

  5. Tracey says:

    Great post and pictures Leigh! I don’t have chickens, but I loved the article. I like sciencey stuff, so I’m going to check out your blog on how to ferment (the scienc version) 🙂

  6. Amanda Rudack says:

    Really, really, really want chickens. Leigh’s post makes it worse.

    • Leigh says:

      Doooooooo iiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttt!
      3:)

    • Terry Obright says:

      I just love having my chickens and have sit watching them for hours before, they can be so entertaining! The eggs are just an added bonus. I am about to build a second coop & run for a different breed of chickens Iwant me some silkies and Frizzle chicks, or to even let my bantam set some fertile eggs when she goes broody next time. I can’t wait, I am so excited to get them. I have been seeing pictures of them on the backyard chickens facebook site, and I cannot take it anymore I just have to have me some of these babies!

  7. LilyMacBloom says:

    Liz:
    You made me spit coffee all over 36 inches od Canada AM!

    LOl,

  8. Tigersmom says:

    I have no need to know how to ferment chicken feed as I hate eggs, except for their cool shape and soft colors and what they symbolize, yet I kept reading to the very end because I like your writing style. Nice work, Leigh.

    • Leigh says:

      Tigersmom –
      Karen just likes me because I’m the single wide trailer version of herself… but with more chickens. 🙂
      What about chicken art? Do you like chicken art? If so, go check out some of the chicken art I’ve been working on at my blog: Natural Chicken Keeping … no eggs involved!

  9. Kipley says:

    I’ve done this and have a question: Once I ferment a batch can I freeze the results? Also, can I add electrolytes and oyster shell to the mix, just to have everything in one?
    Thanks.

    • Leigh says:

      Kipley – the best place to ask all your Fermented Feed questions is on our forum where our Fermented Feed Goddess (who goes by the name of Leah’s Mom) lurks. She is like a FF Encyclopedia. Click HERE – it’s free. It’s kind of a quiet forum, but the people out there are VERY knowledgeable.

      And yes – you can add electrolytes. I’m not sure if freezing will kill the probiotics – the FF Goddess will know – and no – I wouldn’t toss oyster shells into the FF. Free-feed it separately in a bowl or feeder.
      🙂

      • SuziCat says:

        The link is no longer available. 🙁

        I have questions -are you still manning this feed for q’s and a’s?

        I’ve had chickens for 10 years and somehow have never heard of fermented feed. (I need to get out more.). I currently keep the feed in a large galvanized aluminum garbage can with a lid in the coop right next to their feeders. It’s easy and it works to keep mice out – (MICE – this is another question altogether!)
        So if I start this fermentation process, how long do I have to wait to use it; AND how do I keep it varmint-free using a loose-fitted lid?
        Any advice would be highly appreciated!

        • Karen says:

          HI SuziCat! In case Leigh doesn’t get back here I can answer your question. 🙂 The speed your feed will ferment will depend entirely on what temperature it is out in your coop. The colder it is the longer it takes to get the fermentation process going. If it’s in a warm environment like inside the house during the winter or outside during the summer the feed will start to ferment in as soon as 2 days. You’ll know it’s ready because it’ll get that very distinct fermentey smell and it’ll be bubbling a bit. Instead of using a metal lid try just covering it with a dish towel or cheesecloth. Keep it secured over the top with bungee cords. ~ karen!

          • SuziCat says:

            Thanks Karen! :).
            One more question – we feed in a hanging feeder. Does this stuff need to be plopped on the ground or in a certain type of feeder? How much should I feed per chicken per day?
            They are cooped because of predators around here…neighborhood dogs and such.
            Thanks again 😀

  10. CBuffy says:

    I’ve been fermenting with Leigh since we both first learned about it 2+ years ago on another forum. Here’s my plug. My neighbor has 80 chickens. I have 120. We both feed the exact same DNA tested, non-GMO organic feed. (we order it together) I go through four 50# bags each week. They go through a bag a day. I ferment. They feed dry. They also feed all the local birds, since their chickens pick through, fling feed all over the yard, and waste a TON of feed. (Literally) MY girls practically lick the bowl! And I get WAY nicer eggs. (We sell them together as well…) So whether you have 4 chickens or an entire flock, fermenting is TOTALLY the way to go! (And it’s EASY PEASY and kindda fun in a mad scientist sort of way…)

    • Lori Hall says:

      Just curious…where do you get your feed from and what do you buy?

    • Leigh says:

      Is this “J”?
      HI!!
      XOXOXOX

    • Tracy says:

      How many days does it take for the feed to be fermented? From putting feed and water together in a bucket until I feed it to them. Or how do you tell when the right time is if its all up to the environment. I am thinking about doing this in my kitchen, good spot? My house is usually 75* Thanks for any help!

      • CBuffy says:

        Because I live in Florida, I get a good ferment after 24 hours. In the summer I’m getting a good bubbling ferment in 12 – which is good because I feed twice a day. I hang the buckets out in the barn (I wouldn’t like to do it in my kitchen – smells like a BIG bucket of sauerkraut – which I like the smell of, but might be overpowering indoors…..)

        You’ll know its good when it smells like sauerkraut. Mine kind of bubbles too. And the chickens, horses, dogs and even rabbits I raise for meat go absolutely NUTS for it. (I have to keep it covered with more buckets or the raccoons help themselves overnight as well… they don’t mess with my chickens, knock wood, but they sure go for that fermented feed!)

        Good luck!

        • Darlene skinner says:

          Ok so when starting the fermentation process, you add feed and water… so while feeding from the bucket do you drain it or give them the liquid.. also do you ever need to completely empty the bucket to clean it a d start over, or is this one time how uou go.. im confused on that

          • Karen says:

            Hi Darlene – You have to drain out some of the water, so you can either scoop with a perforated spoon that does the draining automatically or you can do what I do which is use a mesh sieve. I just dip it (large) sieve down into the feed, pull up a huge scoop of it then let the sieve rest on the top of the bucket/bowl for a couple of minutes to let the feed drain. IF it’s still too watery then you just have to shake the sieve a couple of times. Just keep adding feed to your bucket as you go so you’ll always have a supply of fermented feed. ~ karen!

            • Kerri Clarke says:

              I have been fermenting chicken feed for a while now in a 20L food grade container and have found in the last month that the feed liquid is really thick and stringy. I was just adding feed and enough water to top up to cover most days. The fermented feed doesn’t smell at all and every few days I have been draining most of the liquid off and adding more filtered water when I add the grain. The thick stringy liquid returns daily. I feed everyday and top up with a days worth of feed and filtered water. Is the thick liquid stringiness good bacteria? I don’t want to be feeding the chickens loads of yeast. Would like to know the condition of others fermenting chook food 🙂 Kerri

    • terri says:

      thanks for that bit of knowledge on how it saves feed

  11. Thanks Leigh! I’ve got my first flock of 8 lovely girls and I’m looking for every scrap of information I can find. Thrilled to have found you and I’ll be trying fermentation soon.

    Caroline

    • Leigh says:

      Great to meet you, Caroline! Aren’t chickens FUN??
      Be sure to check out the Index Page on my blog (in one of the tabs near the top of the page). All kinds of links to all the Natural Chicken Keeping articles from the past as well as articles from another top chicken blog.

      Link: NCK Article Index

      Oh – and of course be sure to subscribe to my blog! LOL – gotta put that plug in. 🙂

  12. Christina says:

    Saving this for the day I finally get to have chickens!

    I’m a HUGE believer in probiotics–for us and animals. Our Golden Retriever used to have major seasonal allergies and seizures (several a month). We were told it was just “normal” for Goldens, so we just dealt with it for his first 5 years. When I read how helpful probiotics were for human allergies, I started giving them to the dog with every meal. His allergies disappeared and he hasn’t had a single seizure in almost a year!

    • sheila says:

      Christina,

      Do you happen to have a particular brand name of the probiotic product you use? My mixed breed dog has allergies as well, and I’d really like to not have to put him on Prednisone every Summer and early Fall. Any info is appreciated.

      Thanks in advance.

      Sheila

      • Christina says:

        We used to use American Health chewable Acidophilus (up to 8 tablets a day in allergy season for our 75 pound dog). It was one of the most affordable options at the grocery store. But now I make my own water kefir, so he just gets a big scoop of the kefir “grains” with his food every day.

  13. kate-v says:

    Thank you – I love learning something new!

  14. LazySusan says:

    I really have no interest in having chickens, but I thoroughly enjoyed the article, and read every word of it. Very nice writing style, very informative. If the subject of chicken feed ever comes up in conversation, I’m armed for it!

  15. I wish I would have known about this a few years back. I swear my chickens were the biggest food wasters there ever was.

  16. Lisa says:

    You can do this with grain for any animal, not just chickens! I know people with a cattle ranch who ferment corn, although in much larger batches using tarps.

  17. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Actually..I think a yard full of drunk chickens could be quite entertaining..

  18. Jane S says:

    My husband still talks about the time his family fed the chickens the rice left over from making sake. Little bantams flopping all over the yard.

  19. Kat says:

    Can you talk about the feed you use? Whole grain? Rolled grain? Pellets (ha ha!)?

    • Leigh says:

      Grain and mash are the best in my opinion, but currently I can only afford to ferment crumbles from the farm store… but you can ferment just about anything!

    • Leslie says:

      I believe pellets are the best feed for chickens, and they ferment beautifully. I have over 100 chickens and buy a custom feed from a highly-recommended little local mill. The feed mixer there is incredibly knowledgable and prefers pelleted feed for lots of fancy nutritional reasons. Pellets are also less wasteful when fed dry.

      When fermenting grains, I’ve read the breakdown of the antinutrients is enhanced if the grains are ground first, as they are in pellets.

      I offer the chickens some whole grains here. I use them as scratch, so I don’t ferment them. I’d think soaking whole grains for long enough to ferment would start them to sprout, which is another way to enhance the nutrition.

  20. Hi Leigh…let’s ferment some grapes and just get to the real real here! The chickens can have a glass if they would like. It was great doing the blogging webinar, wasn’t it? I had wanted chickens for months until my sister in law got some. If I didn’t have a day job, I would do it, but it is a lot of work that my hubs probably doesn’t need. You know, he would do the work and I would reap the fun part… I already had the names picked out, but just couldn’t pull the trigger. Lily, Petal, Flower, Daisy and Cluck!

  21. Erin says:

    Thanks Leigh for the well written and very timely post.
    I’ve been wondering about changing up the feed for our 30 chickens with winter on the horizon. I was worried about nutrition once the fresh grass is a distant memory. And even though I kind of like “the random grains sprouting around the yard” in a plant geek kind of way, the waste is really starting to get to me. Our favourite feed supplier is a 50 min. drive so getting the most bang out of a bag of feed is key. We are trying this out this weekend! I’m off to check out your blog.
    Thanks Karen for inviting Leigh to guest post. Much appreciated.

  22. I have been fermenting the chicken feed just over three months. Have not noticed an increase in laying nor a real change in egg quality. But it still seems like a good idea. Not sure how it will do once winter is here, but the ferment has “worked” through the cool fall weather here in Minnesota. May have to build an insulated closet…..

    • Leigh says:

      Henry – it is also molting season, and this can have a big impact on egg production until the girls are done. Hopefully you’ll see some improvement soon. =)

      Yes – you will need to keep your fermenting bucket in a warm room – it needs to be above 45 F or 8 C to properly ferment.

      • The mash kept bubbling when the temperatures got into the mid-twenties. It was freezing when the temps got below twenty, but didn’t freeze solid and break the four-gallon jars! There seems to be some natural anti-freeze. I would even guess the early stages of fermentation actually generate a bit of heat.

        As cold settled in I tried wrapping them in blankets with a jug of hot water for the night.

        The temperatures kept falling and are staying low all day so I reclaimed an old cedar chest deemed unusable due the strong moth ball odor (who would put mothballs in a cedar chest?). Or nighttime temps have been near zeroF, the cedar chest is working great.

        The three big jars of mash are kept warm enough to be active through the cold nights by 4.5 gallons of hot tapwater and wool blankets over the whole thing before closing the chest.

        But I am getting tired of schlepping jugs of hot water twice a day….

  23. Kristin Ferguson says:

    I went out and tried this immediately. What kind of feed was I supposed to use? I just used the pellets I normally feed the hens (it’s one of the kinds that has extra Omega-3) and I had an almost-empty jar of fresh-fermented (from Trader Joe’s) sauerkraut in my fridge, so I poured in a little of the juice. The chickens seem to like it a lot, but it definitely turned to absolute mush. All the chicken feed I can get here in Los Angeles is either crumbles or pellets. None of it is whole grains, except scratch, which I’ve been warned again and again is not healthful for them. One final question: What would happen if you added a bit of sourdough starter to the feed instead of sauerkraut juice?

    • Leigh says:

      Yes – pellets and crumbles do turn to mush, but it’s still got great nutritional benefits. I use a strainer – I put the feed in the strainer and go do something else for about 5 minutes and when I come back it is ready to feed. If you’re short on time, put some dry in the bottom of the feeder and then put the soupy feed on top – by the time you serve it up, the dry pellets will have absorbed much of the “soup” and it’s good to go!

    • Sourdough starter would be a good culture to try. But you don’t need to add any starter at all! I used sauerkraut the first time and was pleased with the results. I also tried tempeh. But my best ferment started as just chicken feed and water.

  24. Kimberley says:

    We’ve been doing this for almost a year. We also add some alfalfa pellets to the feed/water. Talk about some orange and delicious eggs! The girls didn’t take to it right away, but after a week or so they loved it.

  25. Marjorie Oliver says:

    Really enjoyed this article on the fermentation of feed. I knew fermentation of veggies for humans was a great source of probiotics but never thought of doing this for my flock of 18. I have found a source of mail order feed, though expensive even with free shipping, for smaller flocks it is doable and the feed is impressive as I have purchased this feed and the flock loves it. I did start the fermentation process today using a plastic bucket and put my towel over it, they will probably go nuts for it on Tuesday, can’t wait. Hope the website is useful to all you chicken lovers. I love the combination of ingredients listed, kelp is include as well as alfalfa and oystershells so that makes life easier. I landed on this site looking for answers to chicken feet problems since one of my hens is limping but did not plan to ferment feet, LOL

    http://handhsoyfreenongmofeed.com/

    Our Original Old Fashioned Layer – for your layers and breeding birds beginning just before onset of laying and continuing throughout their life. Our unique blend includes non-GMO loose grains plus seeds with tasty protein mini-pellets for your chicken’s maximum enjoyment. Our formula maximizes feed conversion and efficiency while offering a great variety of ingredients to ensure the tastiest of eggs and healthiest of chickens. Contains 19% protein and oyster shells for a complete feed ration.

    Organic Acadian sea kelp
    Organic Fertrell Poultry Nutri-Balancer
    wheat
    oats
    North Atlantic fish protein
    millet
    alfalfa
    animal protein
    flax
    barley
    oyster shells
    black oil sunflower seed
    grain sorgum
    diatomaceous earth

  26. Leslie says:

    When I ferment our chicken feed, I use about the same amount of water as I do feed. With our feed this produces a nice texture that doesn’t need to be strained but stays moist enough in the trough that the birds can clean up any leftovers. It is so simple!

    I made great troughs out of PVC pipe that I set up between cement blocks. It really works slick.

  27. Nancy Young says:

    Thanks for the fermenting info. I tried last year growing my own grains and the wonderful little song birds ate everything in two weeks.The organic food is way too expensive for us and I’d like to make my own.We have 75 chicken,20 peacocks 12 guineas 3 geese and am planning on getting 100 more chickens and adding ducks. Where can I order organic grains to mix my own feed?

  28. Angela Searles says:

    So I can do this with my crumbled feed. Do you still feed your flock dry crumbles in addition to the fermented?

  29. Pingback: Fermented Chicken Feed Recipe | September Books

  30. Catherine says:

    I’m already a fermentation hobbiest, but I never considered this!

    Your instructions call for an open aerobic ferment.
    Would it actually be done better anaerobically by placing a fermentation lock on the bucket lid, allowing CO2 out?

    Or would frequent opening and topping off render that moot?

  31. Heidi says:

    How does one ferment in the frigid Iowa climate? In the house? My husband does not seem to think it’s a good idea but I’m sure it can’t smell worse than everything else that gets tracked into the back porch. Any other zone 5 fermenters?

  32. Janet says:

    I love my girls and just acquired a frizzle rooster Spyderman and he’s gorgeous. started the fermented feed about 2 months ago now i am dealing with no egg production, they aren’t molting, but the girls are super healthy, any ideas? Read you didn’t have to have oyster shells when feeding fermented feed but i think this is my problem.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Janet! This time of year usually results in no eggs this time of year. Actually it’s around now that they usually decide to start finally laying again. I’d say to start feeding their shells back to then but you probably have no eggs shells to give them! No matter what kind of feed I’m giving my hens I always have shells (oyster or egg) for them to pick at. ~ karen!

  33. muhammad dalil says:

    Excuse my silliness but do I just keep adding water and feed as needed each time I pick some ??? And how do I know it’s ready to feed my flock ? 🙂

  34. Grace says:

    Great article and comments from everyone. I heard of fermenting feed before but didn’t realize how easy it was. I’m going to try doing it today. Thanks Karen for very informative article.

  35. Shannon Slish says:

    I found this article (and the comments) at the most perfect time! We gave fermentation a go for the first time this week, and thought our attempt was a total failure. There isn’t a lot of knowledgable information here in Washington State at our feed stores on Fermentation, in fact, my inquiring calls today consisted of ME educating THEM on the process, and the “why would you do that?” questions. Not helpful. But, after reading this article, and especially reading the questions, comments, and experiences in the “comment section”, I ran out and told my hubby NOT to dump our “failure”, but to give it to the ladies. They absolutely loved it.
    Thank you for a great forum to give us the confidence to push forward and give it a try. I anticipate a very successful Fermentation feeding regimen here with all our flocks.

  36. Pingback: Chicken Experiments – Fermented Grains | Barrows Farm

  37. Melissa says:

    How often do you feed them this a day? Once a day? Twice a day? And how much do you suggest per chicken?

    • Shelia says:

      Hi, the research I’ve read says to feed 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fermented feed per chicken 1-2 times a day. I feed about 1/4 c. per chicken once a day in the mornings myself. Sometimes I’ll do it twice a day. Mine free range during most of the day and I also leave dry feed in my hanging feeder all the time in case something happens and I’m not able to feed them in the mornings.

  38. Kris says:

    Great, simple, and funny. Thank you!

  39. Schylie says:

    Can I store my fermented chicken feed outside, or will it go rancid in the heat? Right now my bucket is inside; it kind of smells and it’s hard not to make a mess when I take some feed out.

    • Leigh says:

      Schylie – you can absolutely keep your fermented feed outside! Heat will cause it to ferment faster, but this should not be a problem as long as you are stirring it regularly. Keep it away from wood piles and other things which could harbor spores as certain spores can get into the feed and start an alcohol ferment. Just be sure to sniff regularly to make sure the feed still smells good. If you have any issues with it going bad, try moving it to a different location.
      Cold temperatures aren’t as friendly to FF as the feed can freeze (of course) and it will not ferment well at temperatures lower than 40 F or 4.4 C.
      Hope that helps!

  40. Susan says:

    I have 8 chicks and they are eating medicated chick food. Can I use it to make fermented seed? They didn’t carry any other chick feed at the place I purchased it.

  41. felicia says:

    I feed cracked corn, layena and milo can that be turned into fermented feed?

  42. carol says:

    After you add the water to the feed, how do you know when it is considered ‘fermented’? How long does it usually take?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Carol. It doesn’t take long to ferment. And you’ll know it’s fermented because it’ll bubble. I’d say 3-5 days depending on the temperature of the room it’s in or the temperature outside if that’s where you have it. I did some on my counter this week in a bucket and it was fermented in 3 days. ~ karen!

  43. helen says:

    HI do you rinse the feed before you give it to the chickens, and would it be ok to ferment in a poly tunnel I am in uk

    • Karen says:

      Hi Helen. You don’t need to rinse the feed, just feed it right to the chickens. I sometimes lift it out of the bucket with a strainer, then rest the strainer on the bucket for a few minutes so it isn’t quite so sloppy. I’m not entirely sure what a poly tunnel is. ~ karen!

      • Paula says:

        A bit late, however; A poly tunnel is a plastic covered hoop house. You can ferment in the poly tunnel but not if it goes below 40F or 4.4C.

  44. Lara says:

    That was the most fun reading an article on the internet I’ve had in ages, and I actually learned something, too. About feeding chickens, even, which I’ve been doing for ten years or so and thought I had figured out, more or less. So just… thank you. I’m going to go find a bucket.

  45. Jackie says:

    Hi there! Great article. I am looking to try the fermented feed. I have 6 16 week old pullets. Its hard to say how much dry feed they actually eat. Which is costly to say the least! How much fermented feed per chicken is enough? You don’t have to be exact, just a ball park figure. I also have 8 2wk old silkies, do you think I could feed them fermented feed to? Btw, they all are eating chick starter.

  46. Farmtech says:

    I’ve done it once and though time consuming, I’ll do it again. But I won’t be feeding solely FF. The main thing I need for my chickens are the probiotics that will give them a strong immune system.

  47. Pamela says:

    I have a few questions about fermenting feed.

    First, I understand you have to use a non-reactive container for the actual fermentation but can you use metal as a feeder or must the feeder also be non-reactive?

    Second, I live in Ohio and for the past two winters, we’ve had wicked, bitterly cold weather where the temperatures did not reach above freezing for weeks at a time. I probably cannot ferment this in the house due to the smell and the presence of a family member with a hyper-sensitive olfactory nerve. How can I ferment in winter when it’s so cold?

    I was going to post these on the NCK Forum but couldn’t get there – I’m not sure if it is active anymore.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pamela. I, personally, don’t use a feeder for the fermented feed. Not a traditional one anyway because the feed is more like an oatmeal after it’s been fermented. I use a sieve to remove some from my bucket or bowl and then I dump that into a bowl for the chickens. Either old Tupperware or an old glass kitchen bowl. You feed this kind of feed in portions as opposed to just leaving it out for days or weeks. Since you’re just putting out what your chickens will eat for a feeding using a metal bowl is fine. The feed won’t ferment if it’s frozen (obviously, 🙂 but it can work in cold areas like a garage. It just takes much longer to ferment. So if you have an area like that in your house that’s about the only way you could get away with fermenting through the winter. In the winter I do it in my mudroom. Hope that helps a bit. ~ karen!

  48. Heidi says:

    I want to try this. I currently feed my girls a mix of cracked corn, wheat and laying pellets. (and they free range). Will laying pellets ferment? Hoping to cut down on feed costs….and hoping my 4 month old hens will be joining the year old ones in laying very soon.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Heidi. You can absolutely ferment layer pellets. If it’s warm out the feed will ferment within a couple of days. Your chickens will love it. ~ karen!

  49. Ryan says:

    I was wondering could this be done with starter feed? Or is it recommended to wait until they are at laying age?

  50. Becky Raslan says:

    Can chicks be started on fermented feed? I don’t use medicated starter, but could one use it and still get an active ferment? Also, I have a flock of Pilgrim geese -does anyone have any experience with geese and fermented feed?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Becky. I’ve never put tiny chicks on fermented feed myself but I can’t think of any reason you couldn’t. It’s really the same feed as grown up hen feed other than the protein amounts as far as I remember. Fermented food is good for pretty much everyone and everything and I expect that would include geese. I suppose it’s just a matter of whether they like the texture. ~ karen!

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