This whole thing came about when they started laying eggs. I was surprised at the quality and taste. They were supposed to be tastier and better quality than farm factory eggs weren't they? Well, they weren't! The yolks were flat and pale, the whites were not firm and were rather runny, the shells were thin, even with added calcium. I changed layer brands but it didn't seem to make any difference in egg quality. Supplement were out of the question financially. The whole idea was to keep the cost of my eggs down below the grocery store prices. So this delimma brought me to start my research and I came across several articles about fermenting chicken feed. Some articles were very informative, others not so much. Fermented food is very beneficial for humans would it be the same for chickens? My experience has proven to me fermented chicken feed is very beneficial as well as practical.
1. Nutrients become more readily available for digestion as fermenting dissolves the outer protective coating on seeds that Mother Nature put there to prevent sprouting till the appropriate time. (Spring rains happen for a reason)
2. Chickens eat less because they now are getting nutrient rich food and their digestive system is better with healthy enzymes and microbes for digestion.
3. Buying less feed, saving money!
4. Improved health and vigor
5. Need less water as they ingest fluid with the feed thereby improving hydration.
6. Less feed loss to birds, ( they don't seem to like it)
7. Improved quality of eggs; Dark yellow, firm yolks, firm whites, thicker shells, improved taste. ( My eggs were 2 oz when I started, 2-5 days later they were 2.5-2.8 oz and occasionally I get a 3 oz egg.
1. Large glass container or plastic bucket*
2. Air tight covering
3. Stirring tool and ladle to lift out the feed
4. Feed with fermenting microbes added ( Lactobacillus and all his friends)
5. Container to carry feed to fermenting container. I use an empty coffee container.
6. Strainer ( more about this later)
Use only chlorine free water. Filtered or if you must use tap water let it sit out for an hour or so, the chlorine will evaprorate. Fermenting feed is an acid process so you must use lead free glass containers. *Some folks use plastic buckets but I do not trust what might be fusing out of the plastic into the feed so I use a glass container. And your feeding containers should not be metal unless they are stainless steel. Plastic is ok because the feed won't be in them very long. Your feed should smell good, as in freshly baked sourdough bread or sourdough starter. It's kind of a yeasty, musty smell and is a pleasing odor. If it smells unpleasant or smells a bit rotten throw it out and start over with a cleaned container. It's ok when you see bubbles in your feed, it's working. If it just seems to be sitting there doing nothing and the smell isn't bad, just not exactly right, the aerobic bacteria have taken over and need to be suppressed. I add about 2 Tablespoons of Bragg organic Apple Cider Vinegar with the "mother" to my 2 gallon container. The acid and enzymes in the mother wil get the Ph rebalanced, anaerobic bacteria recharged and they will once again become dominate and fermentation will proceed. If you see a white film on top and it smells ok that's the mother, just stir it into the feed.
Fill container about half to 3/4 full. Add water to cover keeping in mind the layer feed will swell as it absorbs fluid so pour in water to about 1-2" above the feed. Stir well and cover with airtight cover. Feed should be fermented by 24-48 hours. By then the microbes will need more feed. I ferment mine for 24 hours and it's ok. It smells delicious and the layers love it. Save a little in the bottom of your container, that's the mother for your next fermenting batch. You can ferment any grain but be mindful of corn, if fermented too long the fluid will turn to alcohol which is deadly for chickens. White lightening for chickens, not a good thing! I soak cracked corn all day and feed it to my hens in the afternoon. Corn produces a lot of heat as it's being digested and that's what they need in the winter time, never in summer.
For the most part fermenting is easy. It can be messy but only if you allow it to be. When I started I faithfully followed directions. I strained out the fluid, smelled it every day, I kept an airtight lid on the container. I no longer strain out the fluid, too messy! My thinking is it has lots of good nutrients in it. My layers have taught me they DO NOT like watery food so I ferment with lots of fluid and with the morning feed I add more feed to the container to soak up all that extra fluid and that sits for about one to two hours before feeding. They start gobbeling it up as soon as I let them out!
Hopefully this article has been helpful. Questions are welcome!
Even on a Heart Healthy Diet I still enjoy delicious tasting egg whites.