Fermenting Your Chicken Food 101

It looks GROSS, doesn’t it? But, oh…your chickens will love you for it. And, according to the experts, your pocketbook will smile too. The benefits of fermentation in a nutshell? Wet feed is more filling than dry, the good bacteria help keep your chickens healthy and the fermentation changes the nutritional components of your feed to the better. We currently aren’t feeding organic (I’m sorry ladies!) due to budget, so it’s the least I can do to try and up the nutritional bang-for-the-buck. So how do YOU do it?

FERMENTATION SETUP:

How many chickens do you have? If you only have 3 or 4, you might want to use a Tupperware or smaller bucket. We have a larger flock, so I chose 5 gallon buckets (they come in so handy…almost as handy as pallets!).

FERMENTATION SETUP

You’ll need two, one to drill holes into and the other to act as the container. You’ll also want a cover of some sort, but don’t stress about what. I use a kitchen towel, and a spare piece of firewood…we’re fancy like that. 😉

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken food (whatever you feed your hens is fine)

Water

Optional: live apple cider vinegar with mother (i.e. Braggs), whey from cheese or yogurt (Don’t make your own? Just pour off the thin liquid that forms on top of your yogurt), kefir, liquid from non-vinegar sauerkraut or pickles (i.e. Bubbies). The ferment agent is optional, since your wet mash will pick up good bacteria from the air..but it might take longer to ferment without that extra boost.

HOW TO:

Choose the location for your container (preferably in a warm spot, near where you feed your chickens). Ours is placed by the door, so I can scoop some in a bowl on my way out to feed the chickens, and near the wood stove for warmth.

Mold-on-Snap-peas

Dump the chicken food into your container (the one with the holes), and set the hole-y container into the non-hole-y one. Pour enough water over the chicken food to completely cover it (some will probably float to the surface, that’s not a problem). If you’re using a ferment agent, add a few generous glugs now.

STIR.

Cover your container with a kitchen towel or lid. This just keeps undesirables out.

NOTE: One of our cats is OBSESSED with the chicken ferment, and will actually eat some if I let him. Bugger. So I keep a heavy piece of firewood over my towel as extra protection from his grubby little paws.

Add more water than is shown in this below shot…I just wanted to show the sludge that forms. You want water/liquid to cover your fermenting food.

NOW WHAT?

Check on your chicken ferment every 12 hours or so (or in my laid back way, when I think of it), and add more water as needed. The food will soak up the water like a sponge, so you will be adding more on a fairly regular basis.

WHEN DO I START FEEDING IT TO MY CHICKENS?

You can start as soon as the food soaks up the first round of water, but it won’t truly be fermented yet. I waited three days, and WOW, the girls (and boys) went WILD for it.

IS THERE A SCHEDULE?

Carrots This is what I do. Please note, I’ve been doing this a week, so we’ll see how long I keep it up, but it’s not really a big pain, and they really like it, so I have high hopes.

Wake up, scoop a few cups of food out of the bucket and take it out to the chickens.

Pick up more dry chicken food while I’m out there (we keep the dry chicken food in big metal trash cans by the coop) and add it to the ferment bucket when I come in.

I’ll then pour enough water to cover, stir to combine and cover.

It’s that easy.

Optional extras: Use your imagination. Raw seeds, veggie scraps, boiled eggs, etc are all supposed to be awesome.

Here is what I’ve tried so far: Raw black oil sunflower seeds, raw peanuts (in shell), rolled oats, raw lentils, water kefir, beet stock (the water left over after boiling beets).

FINAL NOTE:

I was beyond skittish about fermenting things not even, eh, 4 months ago…but once you get started, you really gain a lot of confidence in YOUR ability to test food safety. Here’s a good general rule — if it smells OFF or ROTTED, things might not be on the right track (That rule is for this ferment…cause, lemme tell you, kimchi? Definitely, definitely smells funktastic while it ferments.)

GOOD SMELLS FOR THIS FERMENT: yeasty, beer-like, bread, warm, toasty. Ours even smells peanut-y from the raw, shell-on peanuts.