October 13, 2016

Fermenting Chicken Feed

The newest trend in the chicken world these days is fermenting feed.  There have been lots of articles lately on the site that I write for called Countryside Network, about the benefits of fermenting feed.  Fermenting makes the nutrients in the feed more easily digestible for the birds so they get more nutritional value from less feed and fermentation also adds probiotics, which in turn make for healthier eggs.  We wanted to try it!

The basic idea is that you cover the feed with water and let it sit three days.  Sounds so simple, right?

Well, we have been through three different set-ups to make this work.  First we tried what we saw online.  You take a set of two five-gallon buckets.  One you drill holes in to make it like a strainer; then you put the second bucket underneath to catch the water.  Fill the bucket about a third full then add water to cover.  We found that with this set-up we kept leaking water on the floor as the food doubled in size.  So we added a large container underneath to catch the extra water.  

Next we thought, what if we just fill the large container and set the "strainer" buckets into the water all together.  Josh even made a chain that hung down from the ceiling so the buckets could drain when they were done.  This didn't work because the buckets tipped and made the large container water disgusting fast.   

Both of these systems were also difficult because they were removed from our water source so we had to haul water inside to fill the buckets.

Finally, I thought - what if we ferment right inside the coop?  I went back to the double bucket system but added a lid on top to keep the birds out.  I drilled holes in the lids so the ferment could breathe.  This solves the problem of being near a water source.  It also helps with the the excess water drainage because since it is on the ground, any water that overflows just seeps down into the ground.  So far it's working.  I don't know what we will do when it gets too cold for the ferment to happen outside.  Then I guess we are back to the drawing board.  

The birds seem to enjoy the food.  I dump it out on a large tray and it's gone by the end of the day.  

This process definitely takes more effort than our dry food system which we only had to fill about twice each week.  So we will have to see over time if it seems worth the effort to get the added health benefits of fermented feed.

Are you fermenting your chicken feed?  Tell me about how you do it!

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