GROW: The Book
Wondering if anyone ferments their chickens' feed? Benefits you've noticed if you do?
@merlin44 We have, a long time ago. We also did this for pigs.
They were more eager to eat it. As for with pigs, they appeared healthier & grew larger faster. I don't remember how the chickens faired.
They key is to keep those grains covered with water to prevent mold. Soaking barley makes it useful and goodness available to the animals. Without soaking, barley has little nutritional value, unlike other grains which are better soaked but can still be fed with great results without soaking.
We want to soak grains with whole milk (for extra growth) for butcher chickens only. Fat layers don't lay. If you look up the fancy French Bresse and how they are prepared, this is similar to the experiment that we wish to try. We can't free range due to predators here, but the rest will be similar. It should result in heavier birds with more tender meat.
I want to do a test where we finish some this way (milk soaked mixed grain), and others with just water soaked grains and others traditionally. Some will be done with large old roosters, and some around butcher age. Some hens will be included as well.
A note on barley...it is ideal for pigs & when rolled (NEVER whole), great for cream in dairy cattle.
A note on wheat...it is a great grain for chickens being pretty balanced nutritionally. Wheat germ gives strong, thick shells.
I found some old oat seeds. I have test sprouted some. I figured my chickens would like the tops. Anyone know if oats are good for chickens? Which is best soaked, just germinated, or plain seed? They are laying hens or will be if they decide to start laying.
I haven't for chickens but we do for our pigs, I am sure it would be beneficial for chickens as well. We also found that the pigs loved the grain that way and they grew nicely. The meat was much tastier, all in all well worth the trouble.
@gardneto76 Oats are good feed for chickens, but they should have wheat as well as it gives more nutrients. I would feed soaked oats. It is very appealing to them and they will thank you for it!
If you feed sprouted oats that you have let grow until grass like, this will give them a fun treat as well. Chickens love grasses.
I have fermented feed for my chickens for a long time. I give them 1-2 scoops a day which they gobble up and then they free range in my yard. I also have a hanging regular feed bucket for them which I rarely see them eat out of.
@Laurie thanks! My chickens love to scratch for bugs and eat the grass. I hade some oats that I tried sprouting in the jar after soaking them. Some grew grass, while others barely germinated, and some did nothing. I am guessing it has to do with age of the seed. I will continue to soak more and give a treats. They get laying crumbled as well.
what is the difference between soaked and. Fermented seeds? And when you ferment, do you just do grains, or are you including laying crumbles as well? My crumbles seems very processed even though it is organic. Was thinking it would get very messy quickly.
@gardneto76 You are very welcome! I would conclude age of seed as well.
Soaked will not have a fermented smell, but fermented will. It will be yeasty and have some bubbles. It smells like yeast bread. It is a pretty simple difference. It makes you want fresh bread...
We have not yet done it for our chickens, but will do this to their layer feed. Our feed is mainly whole grains, so we figure that it will be just fine. We wanted a feed that was whole food, and were lucky enough to find some that fit this. Crumbles are too mysterious. We want identifiable ingredients.
We don't feed crumbles. I am not sure that crumbles would do well soaked and I don't know if any benefit would be apparent. I think you are right, that it would be a mushy mess.
I read that fermenting saves 10% on food because of the beneficial enzymes, I believe, which allows better digestibility of the grains. Another plus I find is that there is a lot less wasted as the fermented food doesn't fly around when they dig for the good bits. They eat all of it. I love the smell of it.
Not sure about the crumbles, however, when I tried to ferment chick starter, the small fines just made a mushy glob and the chicks didn't like it.
I ferment with water, but I also make a mash using extra milk from our Jersey cow. Sometimes I ferment it, but usually, I feed the mash fresh. I have read in some places that you shouldn't feed milk to chickens, but I have been doing in for over 15 years and they love it. It is a great way to use extra milk. I also give them whey from making cottage cheese.
Welcome @cattleuponahill! We have jerseys too.
I was a part of, and a moderator of, a large Canadian poultry forum for a number of years. Fermenting/soaking & feeding milk to chickens was discussed.
In France, they free range their bresse (heavy meat chicken breed), cage them up & then fatten them up on milk & such. This is a specially there.
This practice of feeding softens/tenderizes the meat as it flattens them up.
What you need to be aware of is whole milk fed to layers. Skim is what was traditionally fed to chickens and it was widely practiced & even documented. If your layers get too much whole milk & get fat, they will quit laying.
Good to know! I usually only feed it to my meat chickens. Maybe that is why they taste so good! 😋
I do the same. Soak a mix of spelt, oat groats and millet (all organic) in a bucket for at least 24 hours, then feed a couple of scoops a day. Mine are pasture raised so they have bugs and greens aplenty, but they still crave it. Have to wash the mix in several changes of fresh water each day because it ferments rather rapidly, though. Also, great for geese, but just watch out for young males who might get a little tipsy on the liquid if allowed to feed out of the bucket...
You can feed them yoghurt, as well. I make raw milk yoghurt at home, and feed the old leftover at the bottom of the jar to the birds on occasion. They love it. But now I know why they're not laying much any more - they're all FAT!!! I love fat 'n happy hens, but we need the eggs! And they are pastured all day in our orchard, so they're not strangers to exercise. Gonna have to cut down on the rations, I think.
I sometimes add yogurt but I also have raw cow's milk kefir and soak my feed for 12 hours (typically) with kefir whey and water. It's my work around the time needed for real fermenting of grain. The gains/feed soften, absorb liquid, and have more enzymes and probiotics all of which are good for the gals and they love it that way.
Hmmmm... I never thought of soaking in kefir or yoghurt! Would be too expensive for me with 12 girls who all have generous appetites, but maybe I'll do that as a treat once in a while. Would have to be in the winter, otherwise, it would spoil and stink in a hurry (I keep the feed bucket outside near the aviary. It's too big of a hassle to bring it up the slope to the barn and back down again every day.)
@solarnoon.aspen I have also heard that it can save %10-15 on feed costs as well as make it easier for the chickens to digest the feed. I want to try it as well. My layers don't eat a lot of feed as it is since they get to roam the woods, but it might still be worth saving some!
Here's a little video about it. Justin saved 25% on one of his trial runs of dry feed vs fermented feed. Pretty impressive. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WGuKx6G1YQ
I have found Justin Rhodes' Permaculture Chickens presentation (https://abundantpermaculture.com/permaculture-chickens) extremely helpful, especially when I was starting up. well worth getting/watching it. the great fermentation section is a small slice of the info he offers.
We did fermented chicken feed for a few years, in the summer. Until we have a heated area to keep our feed doing it in the winter is too difficult here. Tried it once in the house, not easy when you have a LOT of chickens. lol We are currently doing fermented feed for our piglets as well. Not sure how we will handle it for the winter, but I guess we will figure something out.