Fermented Chicken Feed | The Health Benefits

Fermented chicken feed is easy to make for your flock. The fermented whole grains provide good gut health, requires less feed per serving, and is a way to extend the nutrients of the grains. Not to mention, fermented feed can also be fed to water fowl, guineas, turkeys, and quail.

Fermented Chicken Feed | The Health Benefits

A Quick Rundown on Fermentation

What makes fermentation awesome for poultry? In a nutshell when fermented feed is consumed it provides natural probiotics to the body, packed full of good bacteria and yeast. Lacto-fermentated foods and feed is able to be consumed by all living creatures; including dogs, cats, and even ruminants.

Livestock feed ferments when allowed to soak in water for an period of time, typically within three days. Temperature plays an important factor on how quickly, and safely, food ferments. Fermentation occurs between the range of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything over can cause the item to spoil, whereas anything under can cause the item to not ferment and spoil.

Fermenting feed can be done any time of year. During winter months, a secondary heat source may be needed for homes which maintain a steady temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. LED Christmas lights or a heat pad for starting seeds are excellent options for providing heat without overheating the fermenting vessel.

Lactic acid bacteria begins forming on the second day of the fermentation process. The beneficial bacteria consumes the sugars found in the grain and begins to multiply. The lactic acid makes the environment unsuitable for bad bacteria to thrive. What remains in fermented chicken feed are beneficial microbes.

Fermented Chicken Feed – Why bother?

Feeding fermented feed daily to poultry, fowl, or water fowl is an excellent way to provide a natural probiotic option to your flock.  Unlike natural options, a synthetic probiotic should not be offered daily.

By providing fermented feed to chickens and other poultry healthy, good things can happen:

  • Increase in egg weight, providing thicker shells
  • Boost in intestinal health, forming a natural barrier to pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella
  • Lower feed consumption, digesting and absorbing fermented feed more effectively
  • Providing and preserving vitamins and minerals found in fermented whole grains; B vitamins such as folic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin.

Human husbandry allows individuals to want more for the animals in their care. Something as simple as fermenting chicken feed leads to an overall better egg and a healthier hen. This is a win for both the chicken keeper and the flock.

Fermented Chicken Feed | The Health Benefits

Two Additional Benefits of Fermented Feed

If the above information has not convinced you to begin fermenting the feed, what will?

Fermented feed will fill birds more so than a dry pellet or crumble will, especially when feeding whole grains. With the decrease of feed comes a decrease in the overall feed bill.

By consuming fermented feed allows the chicken to absorb most of the feed. Keep in mind, the more feed absorbed the less the chicken poops. Another win!

Fermented Chicken Feed Supplies

The following steps to fermenting chicken feed is extremely easy. Prior to beginning the process gather the necessary material.

  • Fermenting Vessels – For larger flocks 3 food grade buckets (2 or 5 gallon) work best. For smaller urban flocks, 3 Mason glass jar can be used. This allows for multiple batches of fermented grains to be in progress at all times.
  • Whole Grain Feed – Whole grain feed is an overall healthier option when it comes to fermenting or feeding dry, and my preferred is Scratch and Peck Feeds.
  • Feed Container – Chicken feeder troughs are the best option for fermented feeds. In addition to the needed supplies select the best location to store fermenting vessels.

Fermenting vessels should be kept away from direct sunlight and spots which are drafty.

Fermented Chicken Feed – The Process

A chicken will consume around 1/4 of a cup of feed per day. With that said, chickens will consume less than that amount daily once the feed is fermented. Also keep in mind, chickens will consume feed all day if offered.

Begin by fermenting 1/4 cup per bird. Discard any fermented feed at the end of the day, and reduce amount by 1/4 cup.

Do not allow a fermented chicken feed to go past 3 days. The ferment can become too sour, turning unappealing for many poultry.

By day three fermented chicken feed will take on a yeasty, slightly sour scent. Again, no mold should be present in the fermenting vessel.

Printable Recipe – How to Ferment Chicken Feed

A printable recipe card is available for your convenience.

Fermented Chicken Feed | The Health Benefits
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Fermented Chicken Feed

Fermented chicken feed is easy to make for your flock. The whole grains used provide a natural probiotic option with beneficial good bacteria. Not to mention, fermented feed provides a filling healthy diet and is an overall better feed option.
Keyword: fermented chicken feed

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Whole Grain Feed, per chicken
  • Water

Instructions

DAY ONE

  • In the fermenting vessel add appropriate amount whole grain feed.
  • Add water, making sure feed is completely submerged by 3 inches.
  • Gently mix the feed with water taking, making sure to mix the bottom of the fermenting vessel.
  • Add more water if necessary, keeping grains cover by 3 inches of water at all times.
  • Though not necessary, fermenting vessels can be covered using breathable cotton dishtowels. A coffee filter can be used as a cover when mason jars are used. Fermenting covers can be secured to the vessel with twine or large rubber bands. 

DAY TWO

  • Using a second fermenting vessel, repeat steps from Day One

DAY THREE

  • Using a third fermenting vessel, repeat steps from Day One

FEEDING

  • On day 4 feed from Day One's fermenting vessel.
  • Begin another ferment following instructions from Day One. 

REPEAT

  • The next day, feed using Day Two's vessel. Start a new ferment.
  • Continue to process each day.

Notes

Upon the completion of the fermentation process the grains will have a yeasty, lightly sour smell resembling sourdough bread. This scent indicates the grains are ready to be fed to the flock.
Do not provide feed which contains mold. Mold is fuzzy and can appear black, white, even pink.
At times scum may appear floating on top of the liquid. Scum should not be confuse with mold. Unlike mold, scum is not fuzzy in appearance but is off white or cream in color. Scum can be removed using a rubber spatula and discarded. 
Discard any remaining feed at the end of the day.
Remaining feed indicates that to much fermented feed is being offered. Decrease the amount of grains being fermented by 1/4 cup until no fermented feed is present at the end of the day. 
 
Not Quite Ready to Provide Fermented Feed?

The process of fermenting is often intimidating, especially for newbies. Soaking whole grains for 24 hours is also known to be beneficial and a healthier way to feed.

  • Soaked grains plump-up, allowing for poultry to become fuller on a smaller amount of feed and to aid in hydration.
  • Improves the digestibility in consuming whole grains by reducing the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors found in grains.

The process of soaking feed for 24 hours is beneficial using whole grains. Pellet feed simply turns to mush, containing no beneficial healthy qualities.

Still not convinced? A good whole grain layer feed, such as Scratch and Peck Feeds, can be fed raw, and a healthier option to providing pellet feed.

Learn more about raising poultry in these articles:

Fermented Chicken Feed | The Health Benefits

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Comments


  1. I have just started fermenting the last few months and chickens love it. However they love it on the dry side and don’t seem interested if liquid is present so I run a fine line between creating mold and having it perfect that morning. Do you strain liquid off or is all your liquid absorbed by feeding day or does your flock eat it soupy? I believe I am currently only putting about 1 to 1 1/2 inches above feed line.

    • Straining the liquid makes it easier for the birds to consume the feed. The extra liquid can be added to the waterer or given to other livestock to consume!


      • We drain it in a colander or large stainless steel mesh strainer (as for tea, but larger)a couple of minutes or longer before feeding. They don’t like soupy meals. I don’t re-use the water because once in a while it ended up smelling “really off” and I threw out the batch. I add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with the “mother” to the quart jar. I shake the bottle of vinegar beforehand to distribute the mother. We use Scratch and Peck organic feed and our hens give incredible eggs with very thick shells. I give them treats as well later in the day such as squash or peaches that I froze for them the summer prior. Sometimes I add a little warm Trader Joe’s organic oatmeal to the peaches to soak up the water from when I heat the peaches to unfreeze them. My five hens have been averaging at least 4 eggs a day all winter and it has been down to 9 degrees at times. We live north of St. George, Utah at 4600 feet. We leave a heat lamp on for them. There might have been more eggs but one hen went broody for quite a while.


  2. Thanks for the very clear directions on fermenting Scratch and Peck food for my 4 chickens. Now I understand that I was making and giving them too much feed. (they weren’t finishing it and I just left it. It turns into grain popsicles these days!)
    But I have a few more questions…..I have been treating the mason jar that I ferment in like a sourdough starter and just adding new dry grain to the ‘dirty’ jar. Bingo, the fermentation is very very quick (I think?) and I can give them more grain the next day and the day after and then repeat the whole process. At the end of the week I do a deep clean of the jar in a very hot dishwasher. Is that process/practice OK? or not a very good idea……..??? I also often use any whey I have from thickening my yogurt as the liquid in the process. It seems to speed up the fermentation even more. I’m sure I read someplace that the added protein was just a plus for the chickens.

    • Hi there! You can use a little of the fermented water (starter) to jump start a new ferment, though not the entire amount of the liquid. This can cause new the new ferement to be off in flavor for the flock. Because the fermentation process only takes 3 days, I don’t suggest using starter liquid and possibly waste a container of grains. Sterilizing vessels is absolutely fine, just make sure it is completely cooled to room temperature for beginning the fermenation cycle again. Whey is fine to give poultry, and pigs especially love it, though again, there is really no need to speed up the process. Fermenation of the grains begins on day 2, and fully fermented grains is completed on day 3.

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