“What?! You ferment your chicken feed?!”
Yessirree! I most certainly do! Not crazy, I tell you…
Let’s go back to how I got to this point…
A number of months ago, I was looking at mixing my own chicken feed. I was tired of feeding my girls plain ol’ layer pellets, void of antioxidants and healthy bacteria. I took the next step and priced out what it would cost me to do that – Shall I say, it wasn’t in our budget…
I needed another option.
Then I found this inspiring post from Blue Yurt Farms – over on their homestead, they FERMENT their feed. What?! I had never even considered that! How genius! Here’s the original post – CLICK HERE.
So, now WHY would you want to ferment your chicken feed?
- Improved hen health: healthy bacteria is introduced into your chicken’s system. Good gut bacteria that aids in digestion and increased vitamin/mineral/antioxidant absorption
- It has been shown to increase your egg shell quality (weight and thickness)
- Lower feed costs: since the food is better absorbed, the chickens aren’t eating as much as their were before.
- Less waste (which ties in with lower feed costs): the hanging feeder I used before was VERY wasteful, as the chickens had a tendency to fling everything everywhere, resulting in a heap of feed under the feeder, on the floor of the coop. Ridiculous, I tell you! By using the fermented feed, I scoop it into a large pan, and they eat directly from there! No waste – and only minor flinging (only due to excitement, of course). 🙂
How do I ferment my chicken feed, anyway?
Using two 5-gallon buckets, drill drainage holes in one of the buckets. This will be your interior bucket. Place the bucket with the drilled holes inside the intact bucket.
The basics that I placed in the bucket to start were as follows: (hop over the advertisement)
- basic layer feed (about 3/4 full)
- a few good glugs of raw apple cider vinegar (I use this kind) – a great alternative to the ACV would be whey.
- Optional add-ins: you can really just go to town on what you want to add-in to your fermented feed. I toss in veggie scraps, clabbered milk or yogurt when I have extra, dry lentils (protein), black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, and dried oregano (antibacterial properties).
When you first start, the dry feed will suck that water right up – Over the first few hours, I kept checking on it and adding more water, adding enough so it would just pool on the top. From here, it needs to sit for a day or so to start the fermentation process. I started to feed mine to the chickens after two days. I keep the buckets stored on our back porch, covered with a pillowcase and a bungee-cord to keep the dogs out. 🙂 Just a note of caution: MOLD = BAD. If mold develops on your feed, throw it out!!
Feeding your feed to your chickens
We have around twenty chickens. I scoop about about 4 cups or so of fermented feed into a large plastic feed pan and give it to them twice daily. At first, it was hard for me to determine how much to give them. By feeding them twice daily, I am able to assess how much they went through in the morning, and then adjust it for the evening feeding.
I was also curious if they would even like it – But lo and behold, they LOVED it!
What do you think? Would you ferment your chicken feed? What things would you add to it?
Want to hear more about our chickens on the Faulk Farmstead? Here’s our chicken basics and our experiences with butchering our first chicken!
This post can also be seen at Heritage Homesteaders!