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Healthy Hen’s Guide to Fermenting Chicken Feed [+ Our Top 5 Recipes!]

Fermenting chicken feed may be the newest trend in chicken-keeping, but what is it, and is it worth your precious time and effort? It certainly could be. But there’s debate on the topic! Read on to find out if fermenting chicken feed is the right choice for your flock.

We also share our favorite fermented chicken feed recipes – and how to make your first batch.

From scratch!

What Is Fermented Chicken Feed?

Fermented chicken feed is a form of lacto-fermentation (a fancy term for how pickles or sourdough get made) and might serve a role in your chicken’s diet. 

Fermented food is more easily digested and provides lots of good bacteria and probiotics for healthy chickens and nutritious eggs.

You can get started with just a few simple supplies and have a fermented chicken treat ready for your flock in a few days. You might try fermented feeds for chooks of all shapes and sizes – from chicks to laying hens to broilers.

hungry domestic chickens eating fermented grains
We read a fascinating fermented chicken feed study that noticed a few pros and cons of fermenting chicken food. The study notes that hens eating fermented feed gained 80 grams more bodyweight than their dry-feed-fed flock mates. This weight gain seems to indicate better food efficiency. The same study also cites how fermented feed seemed to lose attractiveness after a while. (We think adding more ingredients could help keep the chickens interested. But – it’s tough to say for sure!)

In a Nutshell, Should I Give My Flock Fermented Chicken Feed?

Maybe! We know your chickens will love eating fermented chicken feed. And it’s also easy for your flock to digest! However, we’ve read conflicting reports about whether it’s a suitable replacement for regular chicken feed.

We searched far and wide for studies depicting the efficacy of fermented chicken feed on flock and poultry health. We also found dozens (and more) of homesteaders and small ranchers who swear that fermenting your chicken feed is a miracle maneuver!

Fermented chicken feed allegedly gives a dietary boost and can help lower your feed bill. We also found sources that say it can help boost your chicken’s immune system!

However, we could only find a small handful of trustworthy studies citing the clear-cut benefits. Also – we determined that many fermented chicken feed studies were small-scale. Meaning they only contained a few hundred chickens – over a tiny period.

But – we still think fermented chicken feed is safe as a special treat for your flock. And – we also believe your chickens will love eating it!

Continue reading to learn more about fermented chicken feed! We share the best-fermented chicken feed studies we could find. We also share our anecdotes and experience with making fermented chicken feed. 

Read More – 313 Funny and Cute Chicken Names! Anoint Your Entire Flock!

What Is Fermented Feed? Why Do Chicken Farmers Use It?

Fermentation is a natural process where good microbes and yeasts break down starch and glucose found in grains and replace it with lactic acid. This process creates an environment where undesirable bacteria get stifled. But good bacteria like Lactobacillus can thrive (and pass on digestive and immune benefits to your chickens).

We also believe that the fermenting process makes feed easier to digest! The easy digestion (in theory) causes hens to eat less fermented than dry feed.

(We also found a study that cites dry-diet chickens having higher feed rates than fermented-diet chickens in the fall months. But – the study also warns that the feed consumption data wasn’t 100% reliable – as the feed collection was difficult to measure.)

Nevertheless – fermented chicken feed may provide other health benefits! The fermented chicken feed may lead to more eggs. The study also found that chickens fed fermented feed laid 9% more eggs overall than their dry-fed neighbors!

What Supplies Do You Need to Ferment Chicken Feed?

You likely already have all supplies needed to ferment your chicken feed sitting around the homestead or house. To start, all you need is your dry feed (this can be chick starter, layer feed, scratch grains mixes, or other seeds or grains), a clean bucket or container, clean water, and a cool and dry space to let those good bacteria get to work!

Cluckin' Good Sprouting Fermenting Starter Kit | Scratch and Peck Feeds
$26.99 ($0.84 / Ounce)

We love this chicken feed fermenting kit! The kit contains organic whole barley and organic layer feed and instructions for creating a freshly-sprouted fermented chicken feed. You also get a quart-sized jar for fermenting - and cheesecloth screens for draining.

All ingredients are USDA organic certified. We know fermenting your first batch of chicken feed is overwhelming. And daunting! This fermenting kit makes it much more straightforward. No more second-guessing!

Get More Info
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
09/27/2022 04:18 pm GMT

A Couple of Notes on Fermented Chicken Feed Supplies

Use clean, non-chlorinated water. Chlorinated water (used in many municipal water systems) can kill the good bacteria before they ever get started fermenting your feed. 

So, although you can use clean tap water, double-check what may get added to your water. And use other water sources if your tap gets chlorinated.

Another option is to let the chlorine evaporate from the tap water before you use it. Chlorine is a gas at room temperature and it will evaporate over time. Sciencing has more information on how to remove chlorine from your tap water.

Use a glass, ceramic, or BPA-free plastic container for fermenting. Make sure it has a loose-fitting lid that keeps dust and bugs out! The loose container lid should also allow gasses to escape from the container.

hungry chickens eating chicken feed
We think fermented chicken feeds are excellent for small-scale farmers who want to give their birds a yummy treat. But – there is debate on the topic! We also read a guide published for small-scale egg enterprises by the University of Kentucky Extension that says fermented chicken feed isn’t worth the fuss. The guide cites the increased cost of production, increased cost of feeders, and the risk of toxins as deterrents.

How to Ferment Chicken Feed Step-by-Step

  1. Gather your supplies! A clean container, water, and dry feed.
  2. Pour a day’s (or single serving) worth of feed into the bottom of the container.
  3. Completely cover your feed with water until it is fully submerged.
  4. That’s it! Cover your container loosely with a lid to keep the gunk out. And ideally, place it where you won’t trip over it.
  5. Now you wait. Stir your feed a couple of times a day. Look for bubbles and a slightly sour smell. Depending on how hot or cool your area is, this could take from one to four days. Be sure to keep the feed submerged underwater. Add more water as necessary if it drops below the chicken feed.
  6. When the top of the fermented feed is bubbly, you’re ready! Drain off excess water, and feed your happy (and hungry) chickens.
village chickens eating fermented oats in bowl
We read another fermented chicken feed study citing improved immune functions, growth performance, and gut ecosystems for birds. The study concludes that fermented chicken feed may be a viable way to decrease feed costs. However, the conclusion also admits that data on the topic is scarce – and calls for additional studies researching fermented chicken feed performance.

How to Feed Fermented Food to Your Flock

Okay, you have a beautiful, bubbling bucket of fermented chicken feed. Now what? Drain off the excess water, and feed the mash to your flock! 

Be sure to offer what they can eat in one sitting, and remove any feed left at the end of the day. 

Once drained, the fermented feed can spoil fast, and you don’t want to leave moldy feed in your coop. 

However, leftovers can be refrigerated, which preserves the feed and enables you to offer it again the next day!

Five Best Fermented Chicken Feed Recipes! Easy DIY!

We know that following instructions on how to make fermented chicken feed is tricky. And daunting!

So – we tracked down the most popular and famous DIY fermented chicken feed recipes. And tutorials!

We hope these recipes help you.

1. Fermenting Your Chicken Feed by Homesteading Family

We love how Josh from Homesteading Family makes massive batches of fermented chicken feed! We encourage you to check out their recipe – and their fermentation tactics. Their chicken fermentation recipe enables them to save 40% on chicken feed – which is spectacular. You’ll notice they use sizeable buckets – not jars to make their fermented chicken food. When you have a massive flock – buckets might be the better option!

2. Save Cash with Fermented Grains by Brimwood Farm

Here’s another epic fermented chicken feed recipe from Brimwood Farm. I love how the fermented grains look after preparation. Brimwood Farm feeds a diet containing 80% fermented foods to their flock. You only need a regular bag of chicken feed grain (barley) for the recipe. We love the simplicity – and it saves the farm some cash!

3. How to Ferment Chicken Feed Easy and DIY by Welcome to Chickenlandia

Welcome to Chickenlandia! Where the chickens eat yummy fermented foods. And where everyone belongs! Come check out their easy DIY fermented chicken food recipe! The president of Chickenlandia will show you their super-top-secret fermented chicken feed recipe. And – since the fermented chicken recipe is so fast (and easy) to make, they share many fermented food tips and little-known insights that only the legendary inhabitants of Chickenlandia would know. Check it out!

4. Fermenting Your Chicken Feed and Cut Your Bill in Half by Our Organic Life

Here’s another epic fermented chicken feed recipe from Our Organic Life. They share their favorite base feed for fermenting. They also share other fermented food recipe ideas. For example – what types of food will work for fermenting? They share their best insights! Watch until the end! You’ll see their farm chickens and ducks devour the fermented feed with vigor!

5.  Making Healthy Homemade Fermented Chicken Feed by Acres of Adventure Homestead

Here’s another yummy fermented chicken feed recipe from Acres of Adventure Homestead. Their fermented chicken feed recipe is one of our favorites because it contains an organic mixture of raw ingredients. They also share some of their chicken feed fermentation math to help show us the nutrients inside the feed. We love the details!

Read More – Can Chickens Eat Grapes? What About Grape Vines? And Grape Leaves?

What to Look for When Fermented Chicken Feed Goes Wrong

To ensure that your fermented feed is healthy and beneficial to your flock, you’ll need to keep an eye on each batch. Fermented chicken feed should have tell-tale bubbles on top to let you know that good fermentation is happening.

  • If a fermented chicken feed batch smells moldy or sour or starts to form mold on top, discard it! Clean your equipment, and begin a new chicken feed batch from scratch.
  • Similarly, only feed what your flock can eat in one sitting, and remove any fermented feed left in the feeder to prevent chickens from eating moldy or rotting leftover chicken feed.
  • Make sure to give each batch the time it needs to ferment. A study showed that hydrated feed (chicken feed soaked in water but immediately fed to hens) led to delayed egg laying.
  • Allow your feed to soak in water for one to four days until it begins to bubble on top. Doing so ensures that it is fermented and that your chickens get all the plausible benefits – including digestibility, immune support, and gut health.
  • But don’t wait too long! The longer you let a batch ferment, the sourer it will taste. Letting it go too long may not be to the liking of your chickens. Experiment with the length of soaking to determine what fermentation level your flock enjoys best!

Read More – Can Chickens Eat Alfalfa? What About Alfalfa Cubes? Or Sprouts?

Conclusion

Do you feel ready to try fermenting feed for your flock? It’s a small commitment that can have great benefits. Fermented feed is an easy and flexible project for homesteaders. You can make a batch once in a blue moon as a treat for your flock or more frequently. To get started? Gather a clean container, water, and regular chicken feed. And then wait a few days! 

In return, your hungry flock will get an easily-digested food packed with probiotics for immune support and gut health. Because it’s easy to digest, it makes an excellent supplementary snack for their regular chicken die.

Gather your bucket, water, and feed. Give fermenting your chicken feed a try today! Your hens or broilers will thank you for it.

What about you?

Do you have experience making fermented chicken feed for your coop?

Do your chickens enjoy eating it? Or – do they prefer dry feed?

We’d love to hear your feedback!

Thanks so much for reading.

And – have a great day!

Author

  • Carla Nordlund grew up on a cattle ranch and is now a freelance writer and editor, which luckily allows her to work near her critters and garden in the mountains of Montana. When not wordsmithing, you can find her tending to chickens, horses, pigs, and a dryland garden. She is passionate about sustainable agriculture, local food, and ethical livestock raising and handling, all of which are reflected in both her on- and off-farm work.

Carol L

Tuesday 16th of August 2022

Really? No blog posts or just plain recipes? I have to sit and WATCH videos, pause constantly in order to write down the recipes? No thanks. Otherwise good post. I like the side notes about the 'discussion' about fermented foods for chickens. Interesting that some think it's not worth it...