I first really heard about fermented feeds as something to seriously consider on a story-thread on backyardchickens.com where someone (Beekissed) within a few weeks brought back to thriving health chickens rescued from severe neglect, malnourished and infested with parasites – without resorting to medications. I am using some of her advice as well as other sources from the web in this post.
My main reason to start now is: one of my buff catalana pullets is a little runt about 1/2 the size of her sisters. She hesitates too long when at the food source to compete with the others. So I am looking to get her a little more advantage. Also, I heard one needs a LOT less feed if fermented food is used.
What is fermentation?
The fermentation process uses naturally occurring bacteria to partially break down food, improving its enzyme content and increasing the levels of some vitamins, as B, C and K. It makes food more digestible and boosts the “usable” protein level by about 12 percent.
Kefir, yogurt & sauerkraut are just some of the fermented food you may be familiar with. Peoepl all over the world have been using fermented food for hundreds of years.
In simple words: fermentation of the feed is as if it becomes somewhat predigested, making some nutrients in the feed more available and easier digestable and absorbed by a monogastric animal such as a chicken. This makes the food more used, rather than just being passed through. Incidentally – the food does not seem to spoil.
It is said that it leads to better bowel health due to more villi being present in the bowel. More villi means more blood supply, which results in better nutrient absorption from the available feeds passing through the small intestine.
So what changes can you expect to see if you feed fermented foods?
- The chickens need less food
Easier to absorb, food more available and more villi -> Depending what portion of feed you give as fermented – up to 1/2 or 3/4 less – that would be significant.
- Their poops are more solid and reportedly less smelly – a side effect.
My chicken’s poop does not smell very bad, but if this means it won’t smell at all – GREAT. will see.
- Your chickens will have better health overall.
The introduction of good live cultures also helps inhibit the overgrowth of more harmful pathogens such as coccidia, salmonella, e.coli, etc.
From Beekissed: ” Yet another good side effect of having this healthier bowel structure, blood supply, and good bacteria is a decrease in parasite infestation. The more digestive enzymes there are, the better the digestive action is. This creates a “hostile environment” for parasites, and thus they can not thrive inside your chickens. Parasites thrive better in an unhealthy bird with an unhealthy bowel.
This is important to know when you are thinking of de-worming your chickens: One has to ask, “How did my chickens’ health get to such a state that it has an infestation?” Take care of your chickens’ health and the other problems ~ visible worms being shed in the feces, etc. ~ will right themselves. All mammals have a parasite present in their bodies/bowels, but you will rarely see evidence of it in the fecal matter unless there is an overgrowth. When is the last time you looked in your toilet and saw long, white worms in your poop? This does not mean you have no worms, it merely means you have them but you are not infested with a large population of them.
Same with chickens. It’s expected that chickens will have some level of intestinal parasites, but never enough to affect their health or production. All animals have them and they thrive anyway. The key is not to try to get all the worms out of your chickens ~ if the conditions are that lovely for their infestation, they’ll just be back. Rather, the goal should be to create such a healthy chicken that the worms can not get a foothold inside them and colonize enough to cause problems.”
- Reportedly the egg yolks are larger and the egg shells harder
i can’t complain of small egg yolks or soft shells in my chickens, but ok.
- gives extra fluid to the chickens
if they learn to like it, that would be great, especially for the summer -and yes, it is great for the summer.
So HOW do you make it?
you will need
- a container – for my first try, I am using a Mason jar
- chicken feed – for my first try, I am using starter crumbles – later i found out that grains are better for fermenting as I like to throw them onto the garden beds they are working for me. Soaked mash crumbles are not as good for that.
- apply cider vinegar with “the mother” Bragg organic apple cider vinegar is easily available. Later you just reuse part of the water each time. Works for me.
- temperature around 68-70 is good, freezing temp outside would not work.
- a towel might be needed unless you use a 2 bucket method to drain water. I ended up just hand-scooping the fermented grains out add some water and fresh grains.
There are various ways to go about it. This is my first try and I used just over a cup of started crumbles, water and 1/4 cup of Bragg apple cider vinegar. Probably too much vinegar?? Will stir a couple of times, take out feed the next day and squeeze the liquid out.
how long: 8-48 hours, depending what you use, you can use crumbles, layer feed, scratch – since this is already all soft – I will feed it at the latest in the morning. A minimum of about 8 hours seems to be the consensus.
There is a 2 bucket method for feed allotments for 15 or 20 chickens for 1-2 days – later 🙂
You’ll learn to recognize the ferment smell and look for the telltale bubbles real quick.