The best part is that along the way I learned so much about it:
- The fermenting process creates probiotics which is the healthy bacteria we need. I buy and feed my chickens yogurt for this reason and by fermenting feed for them I could cut this expense.
- Fermenting makes the vitamins, minerals and proteins more bioavailable to them. Since half of my flock are guineas and they need extra protein, this would be a welcomed addition to their diets.
- Fermented feed is easier for them to digest which causes them to eat less feed.
- Fermented feed increases egg size, weight and shell thickness.
- They eat about half the amount of feed when it's fermented versus when its dry which makes a great impact on the feed bill.
- It's a great way to use up the powdered feed that's in the bottom of the bags that no one ever seems to eat.
Now that I actually knew all the benefits I needed to give it a try. Luckily the process is simple.
It's extremely easy to do you just need a jar, feed and water. I used a giant glass pickle jar but any large jar with a lid will do. I'd chose carefully if you use plastic for this because the fermenting process may cause chemicals to leach out of the plastic. I'd be worried since chickens are so small it wouldn't take much to affect them. If you do use plastic make sure it's BPA free.
1) If your water is chlorinated let it sit out a day for the chlorine to evaporate. (chlorine kills bacteria and we're trying to create bacteria here) Use enough water to cover the feed by almost double. The feed will absorb the water and expand, but you want it to always be under the water. You don't want it exposed to the air, that will cause it to start spoiling.
2) Add your feed. I used layer pellets and some cracked corn. Cover loosely. Store in a dark, cool place. I set mine on the floor in the corner of my kitchen.
3) Stir at least once daily and add more water if needed so the feed remains about an inch below the water surface. You should start to see some foamy bubbles on top. This means the fermenting process is taking place. Just mix those in.
4) At day three it's ready. Scoop it out and let it drain a bit, then serve to the chickens.
5) I pour some of the liquid back into the jar and add more water and feed to start over. I've read that if you reuse the liquid like this it takes less time to make, but 3 days seems to still be ideal for me.
Some interesting points: If at any time it starts to smell really bad or mold forms then just toss it out. If you wait too many days before feeding it to the chickens it goes from that sweet/sour taste they like to a very strong sour that they won't eat it. You do not need to add a starter. Some people add apple cider vinegar to get it started more quickly but I found it to not be necessary.
Many people choose to feed this daily. I'm more of a moderation person so I feed it every 2-3 days. I have one flock that won't touch it but the rest go absolutely crazy for it. I've noticed an increase in egg production (it's winter too!) since I started fermenting feed a little over a month ago. I also haven't found any of those paper thin eggs my one hen is so fond of laying which is awesome because I break those all the time! I'll definitely continue feeding them fermented feed. It's better for them, they seem to love it and it's easier on my feed bill!