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Chickens are magic! They take our weeds, bugs/pests, food scraps and leftovers and turn them into a complete protein year after year. Magic I tell you.
No matter what enrichment your chickens receive, they still need to receive a daily ration of a commercial feed to meet their nutritional needs. Your local feed store will have a few options for you to choose from and knowledgeable employees who can help you find what you’re looking for.
If you live in a more urban area and a feed store isn’t nearby or you don’t have your own transportation you can order your chicken feed online and have it delivered right to your home.
Feed cost can be offset in a number of ways but our favorite way is to ferment their commercial chicken feed to increase nutrient absorption, provide daily probiotics, and keep our girls fuller longer.
What is Fermented Chicken Feed?
Chicken feed is combined with cool water to form a wet mash where naturally occurring lactobacillus and healthy yeasts can thrive!
Over the course of fermentation, lactobacillus converts starch and sugar into lactic acid bacteria which encourages probiotic growth, prevents harmful bacteria from growing and lowers the pH.
You can ferment whole grain feed, pellets, or crumbles. The only adjustment you will have to make is how much water your feed takes to keep covered by 1/2″.
Benefits of Fermented Chicken Feed
If your number one reason for raising egg layers is to provide as high of quality complete protein as you can, you should try fermenting your feed. By soaking and fermenting the feed, the phytic acid that naturally occurs in grains and legumes (and reduces the absorption of nutrients) dissipates and allows more nutrients to be absorbed by the hen. This means that your hens can absorb more nutrients from the feed, requiring less feed over all and a more nutritious egg for you.
Not to mention that soaked feed increases in volume keeping our hens fuller longer and decreasing their overall intake.
Here in the high desert we can see snow, thunderstorms, and 100 degree weather all in one day! Every night as the sun goes down the temperature drops 30-40 degrees! That takes its toll on the body! Daily probiotics from the fermented feed increases their gut health giving them the building blocks for a robust immune system.
Increased nutrient absorption and better gut health means a higher quality eggs with thick, sturdy shells. Soft shelled eggs can lead to life threatening issues and infections, bad for the bird, and don’t store as well, bad for you.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I FEED?
You can feed it as a treat and others feed exclusively! There is no right or wrong answer!
We exclusively give fermented feed unless we are going out of town. The scratch and peck recommendation is 1/4 #-1/2# per bird per day. Because we offer 50% forage and scraps combined we stick with 1/4# per bird or 1# of feed per day. There are no hard and fast rules so feel free to start lower and offer more if they seem hungry still!
HOW TO FERMENT CHICKEN FEED
Things you need:
Measure Feed & Water
I have found that there is a sweet spot for scratch and peck feed in our climate and that is 1 part feed to 2.5 pts water.
Pellet feed can be fermented as well but it takes a lot more water!
Combine & Cover
As the grains absorb the water you may notice that the top gets a little dry. Add enough water to keep about 1/2″ of water on top.
This helps it not spoil while it ferments.
Allow to sit on the counter , out of direct sunlight, for 2-3 days stirring a least once a day.
It should smell pleasant. If it makes you gag or has visible mold, throw it away and start again.
Feed the Chooks!
Your birds may seem leery at first but as soon as they try it they fall in love!
If they won’t try it at all, try sprinkling their favorite treat on top to entice them!
QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? CONCERNS?
You truly can’t go wrong with fermented feed. Your bank account will thank you and your hens will be healthier giving you the best of both worlds. I hope you give it a try!
We love to see and hear about your adventures on your property, big or small! Please leave a comment or tag me on Instagram with @TheFryFarmette and #TheFryFarmette so we can cheer you on!