How to Make Fermented Chicken Feed

Learning to make your own fermented chicken feed can help you save money and have healthier birds. By soaking your chicken feed in water, the seeds will expand, releasing locked up nutrients, and will also deliver important probiotics to your flock. In turn, your birds will be healthier, happier, and your wallet just a little fuller.

Basic Chicken Feed Recipe

Ingredients are measured by “parts”

Mix the feed using a unit of measurement that suits your particular situation by changing the size of the unit of measurement. For example, one part (in the recipe below) could mean “a coffee can full”, “a scoop full”, “one cup full”, “one bucket full”, etc. In essence, this recipe will make 12 parts total. So, if your unit for measuring is one cup, you’ll be adding 2 cups of cracked corn, 1 cup of oats, 1/2 cup of kelp, etc…. which will then give you 12 cups of dry feed when the recipe is complete. If you use a 1 gallon scoop for your unit, you will get 12 gallons of mixed dry feed.

Here is the basic chicken feed recipe:

  • 2 cracked corn
  • 1 oats
  • 1/2 kelp meal
  • 1 barley 
  • 2 milo
  • 2 wheat
  • 1 alfalfa (pellets)
  • 1.5 split peas
  • 1/2 flax (ground or whole)

NOTE:  It’s important to use organic / non-GMO ingredients when possible.  

NOTE 2: Use 1/4 part aragonite for layers as a calcium supplement

How to Ferment Chicken Feed
How to Ferment Chicken Feed

How to Ferment Chicken Feed

How to ferment your feed

  1. Use the chicken feed recipe above OR your own whole grain feed mix.  Fermenting feed does not work well with pelletized food, because when soaked it makes a mush that some chickens may avoid.  In addition, non-organic foods may also contain added antibiotics or chemicals that may change the fermentation process.
  2. Fill a five gallon bucket 1/2 full of feed.
  3. Add 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar OR 2 tablespoons of BioLivestock (by SCD probiotics) to start the fermentation process.
  4. Add enough water so that the bucket is 2/3 full.  Your feed will expand, so be sure to allow room for this.  You may need to modify this quantity based on your feed type.
  5. Keep 2” of water on top of the feed at all times.   This will help prevent mold from growing on your feed. Whenever you see mold, the ferment will need to be discarded.
  6. Let it sit for 3-4 days to get the ferment going.  You’ll smell the ferment (slightly sour) as it becomes ready.  You should never see mold growing or smell a rotten smell in the bucket. You may choose to lightly set a lid or board on top of the bucket (do not press sealed) in order to keep critters out.
  7. Feed your chickens the fermented feed (within 5 days) using a pan or tray and make sure to add more water to the ferment so the seeds are covered at all times.
  8. Use a scoop from a previously fermented bucket to start a new bucket of feed, similar to a kombucha scoby.  Once the ferment is started, you will not need to add more of the apple cider vinegar or BioLivestock, unless it’s a completely new fermented bucket.
  9. The general rule is that if you feed a scoop of fermented feed, add a new scoop to the bucket, so you don’t have to start from scratch each time. Think of it like a sour dough starter for chickens.

Soaking and fermenting your own feed is a much healthier choice for your flock. It delivers powerful probiotics in a way that is bioavailable to birds, and also expands the food using water so that you use less feed. This nutrient dense way of feeding your flock will not only increase their overall health and well-being, but also give you healthier eggs for you and your family. Enjoy!

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5 Food Sources for the Resourceful Backyard Chicken Keeper | Matthew Capps

Mealworms for chickens

5 Food Sources for the Resourceful Backyard Chicken Keeper

Going to the mill and buying chicken feed is easy, but it has its drawbacks. With a limited spectrum of nutrients, mill feed can cost more than it’s worth, especially if there are healthier and more readily available alternatives. Eliminating bagged feed entirely may not be possible, or even desirable, but if we activate the resources at hand, we can greatly enhance the lives and quality of our birds. Here is a list of five food sources for the resourceful backyard chicken keeper to lower costs and bring balance to the diet of your flock.

1 – The Compost Pile

An active compost pile provides not only diverse food scraps, but also the insects that come to feed on them. On top of that, compost is still produced, simply taking a short detour through the chickens’ guts before being deposited back into the pile and surrounding land.

 

2 – Fermented and Soaking Your Chicken Feed

The bacteria in fermented feed are good for the chickens, and will make nutrients more bioavailable, increasing nourishment and lowering food intake. Whole seed chicken feeds can be easily fermented by soaking in water, adding a glug of apple cider vinegar, and leaving it until the concoction is slightly bubbly and smells fermented– the amount of time will vary by season and climate. Generally in Kansas City, if left in a potting shed overnight, it’s already bubbling the next morning. If the feed is left too long it will go bad, or create it’s own ACV scoby. If the food doesn’t smell fresh to you, it’s probably not fresh for the birds. If you see ANY sign of mold, discard it immediately. Remember though, fermentation will only work with whole seed feeds. You can get the recipe for our specialized whole seed feed blend by reading the linked article.

 

Mealworms for chickens
Mealworms for Chickens

3 – Mealworms

Mealworms are an excellent source of protein for chickens and can be grown easily in a basement, closet, or garage. Their living conditions are very dry, as are their feces (called frass). All they need is an occasional fruit or vegetable scrap and a plastic tub to breed in.

 

4 – The Nightly Free Range

If chickens are released from their run about 30 minutes before dusk, they will almost always instinctively return to the coop before dark. Obviously, these are animals and there is no guarantee, so I’d watch them the first few times. In the meantime they will be able to find and eat whatever their current forage is lacking.

That said, before you try this idea, know your area and know your birds. Free ranging is a great resource, but if you have squeamish neighbours, live by a busy road, or frequently see predators, it could easily mean the demise of your girls. Watch carefully!

 

backyard chickens in Kansas City
Alternative Chicken Feed Options in Kansas City

5 – Rotational Foraging Systems

A rotational foraging system will keep chickens healthy and active with fresh ground and change of scenery. By the time they expend forageable plants and insects in one zone, they are moved to the next. As each zone rests, insects and vegetation return, capitalizing on the open ground and nutrient rich manure the chickens leave behind. If the zones are rested long enough (about a month depending on the climate and season) they will be teaming with life next time the chickens come around.

Taking care of chickens requires effort and care, and the value of our flocks will match the value of management we put into them. If we are willing to invest and think creatively, we will be rewarded by high quality, high production, and happy birds.

 

 

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