Did you know that fermenting chicken feed can provide numerous benefits for you and your birds?
By using this simple process, you can help ensure nutrient-rich feed, improved digestion, and better overall health in your flock without having to take on any additional costs!
In this blog post, we’ll explain why it’s important to ferment your bird’s feed. We’ll also discuss what tools are needed and how to do it properly so that you get the most out of every bite.
An Overview of Fermenting Chicken Feed
What Is Lacto-Fermentation?
Lacto-fermentation is a natural process that helps the growth of beneficial bacteria in food items.
Fermenting food is a process that’s been used for centuries to create flavor, aroma, and texture in various dishes.
During this procedure, bacteria, yeasts, mold, or fungi break down sugars into acids such as lactic acid (or “lacto,”) alcohols or carbon dioxide gas.
Examples of fermentations include the creation of wine from yeast-produced alcoholic fermentation, vinegar production with acetic-acid-producing bacteria, plus soybeans being made into tempeh using microbial molds.
Sourdough is another great example of the process.
Fermentation encourages the formation of healthy probiotics while limiting bad bacterial activity, lowering pH levels, and preserving ingredients.
This technique can be used with chicken feed by fermenting it in common kitchen objects like mason jars or large glass bowls filled with water. This controlled environment is perfect for lactobacillus to interact with the available sugars and starches in the feed, converting them into lactic acid bacteria (LAB) along with introducing helpful yeasts (like those found in “wet mash” grain mixes).
Why You Should Ferment Chicken Feed
The simple act of soaking chicken feed has a multitude of benefits for chickens.
Feeding your flock fermented chicken feed can be a smart choice for their health and your pocketbook.
Benefits include improved digestion, easier nutrient absorption, more efficient use of grains (and savings!), as well probiotics that help boost overall wellness — all while producing slightly more eggs with better quality!
Benefits of Fermenting Chicken Feed
1. Improved Digestion, Better Nutrient Absorption
Chickens who eat fermented feed will experience improved digestion and increased nutrient absorption.
Softening the grains makes them more gentle on the chicken’s crop and gizzard, but there is even greater value hidden within.
Soaking seed prevents damage caused by phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that can impede proper mineral and vitamin uptake.
By sprouting seeds or grains prior to feeding your feathered friends, you are unlocking all the goodness they deserve without any undesirable side effects.
This is the equivalent of eating microgreens as a human!
Feel good about giving your flock delicious, nutritious snacks while nourishing them with optimal levels of essential vitamins (especially vitamin B) & minerals.
2. Better Immune Health via Natural Probiotics
Research has uncovered a wealth of potential health benefits for chickens consuming fermented feed.
Through the process of lactic acid bacteria breaking down their food, chickens receive additional probiotics that support their overall digestion and immunity.
This study demonstrated how lower pH levels managed with organic acids from fermentation can even reduce risk factors like E-Coli and Salmonella infection.
3. Higher Quality Eggs for You
Research published in the Journal of British Poultry Science has discovered that feeding chickens fermented feed can lead to a number of benefits.
Egg weight, shell thickness, and stiffness are all improved when compared to those fed only conventional dry food.
These healthy shells reduce the risk of laying soft-shell eggs or even life-threatening egg-binding issues occurring.
Plus, the added beneficial nutrients to your hens’ diet will also be passed on through their nutritious eggs, resulting in much deeper golden yolks with better flavor and texturing.
If you opt to incubate these eggs instead of eating them, the chicks will benefit from this nutritional goodness thanks to the nutrient-dense yolk (and healthier protective eggshell).
4. Reduced Feed Costs Without Sacrificing The Quantity or Quality of Feed
Fermenting chicken feed is an economical way to maximize the nutritional value of your poultry’s meal without costing you anything extra.
When grains are soaked in water, they not only expand but also provide a higher nutrient content than their dry counterparts — ensuring that chickens get all their essential needs met while still filling up quickly.
It may seem like adding water to food would be counterproductive, but it’s not.
The water awakens the energy within the seeds and feed, allowing your chickens to get the full nutritional profile while feeling fuller faster and costing you less money.
Fermentation feels like a cheat code because of this marvelous fact!
Which Feeds Should You Ferment
You can ferment nearly any kind of chicken feed.
Pellets, crumbles, chick starters, crushed scratch grains, and whole grains all work well, though whole grains likely have the most benefits and better success rates.
Skip the medicated chick starter for fermentation; it should be eaten dry and not fermented.
What You Need to Ferment Chicken Feed
You will need a non-porous container for the feed to sit in as it ferments.
The large 64-ounce mason jars are my favorite. But smaller canning jars, ceramic containers, metal bowls, or BPA-free buckets also work.
You can ferment any amount of feed you would like.
I find it most effective to put a day’s worth of feed into each container and then have several containers of fermented chicken feed going at once.
This makes it easier for me to keep track of how long each ferment has been going on, plus monitor how well the process is going.
You will also need dechlorinated, filtered, or spring water, the feed of your choice, and something to stir your concoction with, like a spatula or long-handled spoon.
How to Make Fermented Chicken Feed
STEP #1: Mix Feed with Water
First, fill your container about halfway full of dry chicken feed.
Then, pour water over the feed, and stop once the feed has been fully covered and is totally submerged under 2-3 inches of water.
STEP #2: Cover
Cover the receptacle with something that allows for some airflow but not too much.
I like to lay a clean dishcloth over the top and then secure it with a canning band.
Other great options include cheese cloths, a loose-fitting lid, a loose saucer or plate, or even a paper gently set on top.
STEP #3: Wait and Watch
The fermenting process progresses much faster if you keep it in a warmer spot in your home.
Every day you should check on the fermenting feed. It should keep about an inch of water (or more) over the feed.
Add water as needed. Failing to do so will result in mold on the feed, which means you’ll need to dispose of it and start over.
After two or three days (four or five if you keep a chilly house), you will get to see some bubbles happening in the ferment.
This is a great sign that it is ready or nearly ready to feed.
While you can wait longer than this, it’s likely not a good idea because the fermentation process slowly makes the feed more sour and strong in flavor with age.
It really is similar to sourdough and the creation of cider and apple cider vinegar.
STEP #4: Drain
When you’re ready to give the feed to your flock, drain the excess water off, and then get ready for the moment you’ve been waiting for!
STEP #5: Feed
Feeding chickens fermented feed is such a fun experience.
They may not understand what it is at first glance. But once one of them is brave enough to taste it, they will all dive in and devour the fermented feed as soon as they can.
This different flavor and texture is a welcomed treat for the chickens, and they love eating it.
You can give your chickens fermented feed every day, or you can save it for special occasions.
You should keep this method in mind when you start to notice a few birds are going through their molts, too. It really packs a punch in all the right ways.
Fermentation is an excellent way to make chickens look and feel better in a very short amount of time.
FAQs on Fermenting Chicken Feed
Can you ferment homemade chicken feed?
Ideally, grains and seeds are the best chicken feeds to ferment.
But as an alternative, you can also ferment leaves and green vegetables, which your flock will surely enjoy, too!
How often should you feed fermented chicken feed to chickens?
Actually, you can feed fermented feed to your chickens as often as daily if you like!
Fermented feeds are packed with probiotics and other essential nutrients, so giving them to your birds is definitely beneficial.
But if you’re looking at a lower frequency, twice or thrice a week should be fine, too.
Ultimately, it will depend on the availability of your prepared fermented chicken feed for them!
How much fermented feed does a chicken eat a day?
Most often than not, chickens eat less when the feed is fermented.
But generally, around a quarter pound of fermented feed should be enough per chicken per day.
You have to keep in mind, though, that if a feed is offered to the chickens all day long, they’d gladly peck at it away!
Final Thoughts on Fermenting Chicken Feed
Fermenting is an incredibly beneficial process for chicken feed, as it allows chickens to absorb more nutrients and enjoy a wider range of flavors.
The bacteria present during fermentation also help protect chickens’ digestive systems from problems like coccidiosis.
However, fermenting chicken feed isn’t for everyone.
Before taking on this process, backyard farmers and homesteaders should consider their resources and the costs it takes to make the switch from traditional dry feed to fermented feed.
Truly the only downside to feeding fermented feed is the time it takes for it to ferment.
If you can manage to wait three days, though, you’re set. What a neat hack to keep in your back pocket as a chicken keeper!