Saturday, March 23, 2013

Making Lacto-Fermented Feed - Part 3 of 3

Fermenting Feed Series - Part 3 of 3

Swedish Flower Hens enjoying their fermented feed.

By Sue -
To start your lacto-fermented feed, follow these steps:

1.  Find a container that is a suitable size for the number of chickens in your flock.  Suitable containers include:

-Plastic Food Grade Buckets
These can often be obtained free of charge or very inexpensively from your local grocery store bakery department or a local restaurant and come in various sizes including 2 Gallon, 3 Gallon or 5 Gallon. 

  • LEAD FREE Ceramic Crocks or Containers - If using ceramic, be sure that you purchase a new container from a source that clearly states lead-free.  Do not use any ceramic container that you currently own that is not marked lead-free.  See Lead and Zinc - Hidden Dangers to Your Chickens.

Various sized crocks from

  • Glass Containers - So far I've used glass containers that I can keep handy in the kitchen.  If possible I always prefer glass over plastic as glass is much less porous and does not contain substances that can leach into the high-acid ferment.  Glass containers come in various sizes similar to crocks.


Above:  Anchor glass truffle bowl with fermented feed.  I used this when I only had 6 chickens. 

Below:  Two Gallon Glass container with fermented feed.

Notice the liquid layer above the feed sediment.  Keeping liquid above the feed helps keep oxygen from freely reaching the feed below.

The high acid content of the fermented feed can interact with the metals and cause contamination of the feed.

2.  Place a suitable amount of dry feed in your container and completely cover with water. As lacto-fermenting is an anaerobic process, be sure to add enough water to keep about 1/2" - 1" of water standing above the feed level.  This encourages the Lactic Acid Bacteria to proliferate while deterring the growth of undesirable molds/yeasts/fungi which require oxygen to proliferate.

Be aware that when you first start the feed, it will begin soaking up water and expand so begin with a small amount of dry feed relative to the size of your bucket or container and continue to add water as it soaks into the feed to keep the water standing well above the feed.  Initially when you add water and stir it all together it will appear that there is more than enough liquid.  After several hours it may have soaked up all the water and you'll have to add additional water and stir again. 

Continue this process until it quits expanding and has enough water standing above to keep it completely submerged. When you first start a batch,  stir the feed about every 2-3 hours (or as often as possible for your schedule) for the first several days. 

Keep the feed covered with a lid.

3.  Within 2 - 5 days, the feed will begin to bubble slightly as the LABs will begin to put off carbon dioxide, and you should start to smell a slightly sour smell similar to pickles, sauerkraut or yogurt.  This is the lactic acid that the LABs are beginning to produce.

NOTE:  Lacto-fermented feed should not have a rotten or putrid smell - just a slightly sour/tangy smell. 

Some folks who make fermented feed have asked about a putrid smell in their fermented feed.  The presence of a strong, unpleasant odor indicates an over-growth of unwanted yeasts/molds and possibly "unfriendly bacteria".  If the feed is kept well under the water level, you will usually not have this unbalanced growth of molds and purification.

For LACTO FERMENTATION My personal "rule of thumb" is:  If I can smell yeast/mold or alcohol in the lacto-fermented feed, I don't feed it to my chickens. (See notes on ACV below).

4.  When feeding, scoop or spoon out an appropriate amount of feed for your flock.  Scoop from the bottom of the ferment container to assure that you get a full mixture of all the items in the feed.  You can press out some of the liquid, strain it in a strainer, or just put it into the feed pan as-is.

Do not remove all the feed and liquid from the container.

Fermented feed in a stainless steel strainer draining slightly before adding to the feed bowl.
Note:  You may begin to feed as soon as the first day.  While the LABs will not yet have had time to  multiply, simply soaking feed overnight is beneficial.  (See, "Easy Ways to Sprout Seeds for Your Chickens" for information on the benefit of soaking grains for the reduction of phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.)
5.  Add more dry feed back into the ferment container to replace the feed that was removed.  Stir thoroughly and add enough water to completely submerge the feed as before.  The LABs that are already present will continue to proliferate and the fermenting process can be continued indefinitely in the same container.

Lacto-fermentation can be achieved with no added starter culture as the LAB cultures and various yeasts are naturally present in the air and on surfaces everywhere.  However - if you prefer to speed up the beginning of lacto-fermentation or cultivate specific LABs in your ferment, you can add a starter culture when you first begin your batch.

If you decide to use a starter culture:
Starter cultures that are APPROPRIATE for Lacto-Fermented Feed include:

  • A tablespoon or two of juice from raw lacto-fermented pickles or sauerkraut.  (Note:  If the pickles or sauerkraut were purchased from the store or were heat canned, this WILL NOT contain live active cultures and cannot be used.)
  • A purchased starter culture such as Caldwell Starter Culture for Fresh Vegetables
  • Whey from cheese made with a mesophillic culture, or a mesophillic starter culture for cheesemaking or culturing other dairy products such as cultured buttermilk or fromage blanc.
  • A tablespoon or two of CULTURED Buttermilk with live active cultures from the supermarket.  Be sure it states live, active cultures.


  • Whey from yogurt.  The specific strains of LAB used in yogurt is thermophillic which means that it achieves maximum growth rate when it is kept at a higher temperature than the room temperature where most will have their fermenting container.  Therefore, it is a less suitable source of LABs for fermenting feed.
  • Yeasts are not an appropriate starter for lacto-fermentation as they produce alcohol rather than lactic acid.  (See Part 2 FERMENTATIONBASICS:  A TALE OF TWO FERMENTATIONS  for more information.

Edited for clarification:

A few notes on Unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar relative to lacto-fermentation (ACV):

When using LACTO-FERMENTATION, Unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar is not an appropriate STATER CULTURE.  The CULTURE in ACV is Acetobacter bacteria which converts alcohol to acetic acid and is not a lactic acid bacteria.

Rather, for lacto-fermentation, a Lactic Acid Bacteria is appropriate as a STARTER CULTURE.  Please see Part 2 for an overview of the two types of fermentation.

Although not useful as a STARTER CULTURE in lacto-fermenting, it has many other benefits.  Part 2 in this series gives a brief list of nutritional benefits of unpasteurized ACV and some links to find more information.  Please take a look at Part 2 for that information.

While not a starter culture used in lacto-fermenting, it can be added to lacto-fermented feed at any time in small amounts for its other great benefits!

Since I prefer - and use - lacto-fermentation, one of my goals is to keep naturally occurring yeasts/molds/fungus from proliferating in the feed so that the LABs can be dominant in the mix.

As stated above..For LACTO-FERMENTATION my personal "rule of thumb" is:

If I can smell yeast/mold or alcohol, I don't feed it to my chickens. 

When these smells are present and strong enough for me to notice, I know the LABs are out of balance and yeasts or alcohol are becoming more dominant. 

To help illustrate with an example with which most are familiar:  consider a candida  overgrowth in our bodies.  (Commonly referred to as a "yeast"  infection.)  Although yeasts are always present in our systems, it is the balance that is the issue.  When yeasts are kept in balance, it allows the "good bacteria" to proliferate in our system  and create a healthy gut flora which helps our  immune system to do its job.  If the yeasts get out of balance in our body, we take action to help correct the imbalance and return the "good bacteria" to dominance.

If I ever smell either yeasts/molds or alcohol in my feed I have used ACV to help quickly bring the pH level down (increase acid) which (in moderation) can help retard the growth of the yeasts and allow the Acetobacter bacteria that's contained in the ACV mother to digest any alcohol that may have been produced by naturally occurring yeasts.  When used in small amounts, it can retard the growth of the yeasts just enough to allow the LABs enough time to re-establish a dominant colony that is able to keep the molds/yeasts in check. 

In my experience, the small amount of ACV (about a tablespoon or less for about 2 gal.of feed)  allows the LABs enough time to re-gain dominance within a day or two. 

I have not  had to use ACV for the purpose of rebalancing LAB dominance for several months as I have a good, strong LAB dominance in my current batch of feed.

 - Sue


  1. When you say keep it covered with a lid, does this mean air-tight, or do you want to loosely cover it for some air circulation?

    1. As long as there is a layer of water above the feed sediment the lid doesn't need to be air tight. Since you are opening it daily to get out feed, the air-tight lid isn't as important. The water layer will accomplish keeping what's needed. A lid on will help keep smell down wherever you keep it, however :)

      If you were fermenting something like sauerkraut you'd want a lid that can off-gas but not take in air. (Fido jars are wonderful for this! You can see a couple of those in part 2 - the photos w/the sauerkraut and pickles)

      When making food items such as sauerkraut and pickles, etc., you don't open it continually (like you do w/ ff for the chickens) and it is designed to be stored on the shelf long-term. In that case it is much more important as you don't want mold (or other nasties) growing on the top of your fermented item that is being kept all year long!

  2. What about using Kefir as a starter culture? It is a probiotic milk culture, like yogurt, but it cultures at room temperature. Do you think this would work?

    Thank you so much for this series BTW! We started fermenting feed for our chickens last year, and were using raw ACV, as recommended by many others. I didn't realize that it was not the right type of bacteria for true lactic fermentation. :)

    1. On the kefir - Kefir is a little different as it uses BOTH YEASTS AND LABS. (Yogurt only uses LABs)

      When you think about drinking kefir, can you taste that "little alcohol taste" in there? It is using VERY SPECIFIC yeasts along with the LABs to get that result.

      I have mixed feelings on kefir. Yes, it would work're introducing yeasts in there. It's very important to keep the yeasts in balance with the want the LABs to be in abundance and not have the yeasts growing out of control and overtaking.

      Since you really don't need a starter in the first place, I'd say why do it and risk having to work more to keep the yeasts in check? Just my thoughts...

      On the WON'T HURT to put some in just isn't a is an acid. Acetic acid. It doesn't accomplish "starting" the feed, but an acid can keep down the yeast level if it starts to get out of balance.

      Before I got my ff figured out really well, I'd occasionally begin to smell the mold/yeast smell. I found that I could put in a bit of ACV (acid) to actually kill the yeast (!) and give the LABs the chance to take control again.

      You have to be a bit careful with that, however, because the acid will also kill the LABs so you have to be judicial and not get too carried away! :)

    2. From what I am reading you just use water covering the feed & time does the fermenting. So where does the Vinegar come into play. Am I missing something. Thanks

    3. Take a look at the info above that was added about vinegar. You don't need to use vinegar in fermented feed at all if you don't want to. I haven't used any in the feed since October I believe. This batch has been going well and has that slightly sour/tangy smell you get w/lactic acid. No smell of yeast or mold.

  3. I mix my own feed and just started to ferment it (1st week). My mixture has BOSS in it and it floats on top of the water. All the other grains sink but not the BOSS, am I flirting with danger to introduce mold or other nasties since it is not covered? Does it need a starter culture? I'm not sure I could find any of the appropriate starters, I added some ACV. I get small bubbles after stirring....

    1. If you read above you'll find that YOU DON'T NEED A STARTER. The LABs are naturally present. Just some folks like to speed things up a little w/a starter but it's not necessary.

      As far as the sunflower seeds, you might consider sprouting them instead of putting them in the ff. Here's a link to some info on sprouting

      Another idea on the sunflower seeds is to just soak them overnight in a separate container rather than fermenting. You could just add them to your feed bowl when feeding and stir them in - or why not just toss them on the ground? The chickens are ground- feeders and love to pick them up that way.

  4. Ive been using unfiltered ACV for months, oops! I make 3 gallons at a time and it lasts a few days. I keep it more of a slush consistency so I dont have to strain it. Will this still allow it to get LABs? Mine always smells nice and sour and I've never had mold. The chickens sure do love it! Thanks for the great article.

    1. Having ACV in it won't hurt it - unless it's in excess...then it will kill the bacteria! So if you put in some ACV it won't hurt. Just not too much. A little goes a long way in helping balance the yeasts.

      I haven't put any ACV in my ferment in 2 months. Not needed as it's going in balance very well. So if I feed ACV I just put a little in their feed bowl and mix in the ff (rather than putting it in the fermenting container) or put a little in the water!

      Do you take out some feed then add in new dry feed and stir it in? If you keep doing that, the ferment can go on indefinitely. The LABs that are multiplying in the ferment always get new feed to work on.

  5. Oh good, I only put a glug of the ACV in. I never wash the bucket and mix a new batch when there is still a tiny bit left of the old, I was hoping this would "seed" the new batch. It gets kind of light and fluffy after a day or two, I think this is due to the fermentation. Thanks for the tips!

  6. You do realize,of course, that mother vinegar is not comprised of JUST acetic acid, false statement.

    Another point is that open air fermentation is going to pull in acetobacter spores, as well as lactobacter spores. The LABs will be stronger but it is inevitable that you will also have acetobacter spores in your fermentation~whether you cover the mix completely with water or not. Keeping the feed below the water will not prevent this and you better hope you get some acetobacter spores in it..they will consume the alcohol produced by the LAB metabolism while inhibiting the overgrowth of other, more harmful spores, that are also pulled into the mix via the air.

    Water does not exclude these bacteria, nor seal the feed from their growth...if that were the case, one wouldn't have to seal a jar and heat it to can it but just let the water in the jar keep the food safe from harmful bacteria. Botulism is anaerobic..maybe the water sealing oxygen out of the feed will keep those spores healthy and producing too?

    Mother ACV is NOT an inappropriate starter to the fermentation process, as it can protect the mix from harmful pathogens while the LABs are becoming established...they do not compete with one another but work in conjunction. The vinegar does NOT kill the LABs unless you are using a very large amount of vinegar. What the heck do you think is in pickle juice, I might ask? Vinegar.

    Get the facts straight before you mislead people with false information and scare them with false drama.

    1. Anonymous -
      We don't "do" drama on this blog. We do, however, welcome civil discourse and the sharing of information. Sue has shared information on this blog and provided the links and names of books where her information was found. Please feel free to click on those links and do a little reading before you label the information as "false."

      If you wish to debate the information she has provided, that is just fine - but please do it in a manner more conducive to the sharing of information. Also, please feel free to provide us with links to the information backing up your stance.

      t is a wonderful thing to have all sides weigh in... but let me reiterate -

      We do not do drama here.
      Thank you -

    2. For Anonymous:
      Sorry so long in responding as I'm just getting on-line this evening after a very busy day!

      From the comment that you left, It seems that you may not have read ALL THREE articles in the series as most of these points have already been covered in the text of the articles and the conversation in the comments. If you haven't already, I'm hoping you'll take the time to read them all.

      One of the main things that you may have missed is that I am referring to LACTO-FERMENTING of feed rather than alcohol fermenting. The basics of these two types of fermentation are covered in very basic terms in Part 2 of the series.

      RE: "mother vinegar is not comprised of JUST acetic acid "
      Yes, unpasteurized ACV with the mother culture is a wonderful product with many benefits. Please take a look at Part 2 for more information and links regarding the content of ACV. No false statements made.

      Re Acetobacter spores in the environment:
      Of course. That is also covered in the articles. Between reading THE WHOLE SERIES, the comments, and the added material you'll find that information is there.

      Regarding Botulism:
      Again, covered in part 2. The lactic acid that is being produced lowers the pH and makes the environment inhospitable to those kinds of bacteria. Thus the statements in Part 2 regarding safety of lacto-fermenting for preserving. This was specifically addressed in the series.

      Re Using a non-LAB bacteria as a culture to produce LABs
      Well, it should be obvious that it won't work to produce LABs. That is also well-explained in Part 2 and now better clarified in Part 3 with the addition of the updated info on ACV.

      I want to note, again, that I'm referring to lacto-fermentation in these articles. Based on my current understanding and knowledge of fermentation - in addition to the research I've read on fermenting chicken feed using lacto-fermentation - this is the form of fermentation I've chosen to use and the form of fermentation that I chose to write about in this series of articles.

      Others may decide to use yeasts and ferment toward alcohol production after they've done their own research and come to their own conclusions to what is the healthiest alternative.

      Hope this is helpful in answering some of your concerns.

      I'm confident that most folks who seriously want to learn will take the time to read all three articles, do a little research, and come to their own conclusions of how they want to proceed. We've already enjoyed conversing with many of them.


  7. I came on this blog because I wanted to know how to ferment my broiler, layer and pig feed. I read all three articles and found the information and steps to be exactly what I came on here for. Thank you very much for the information and the additional resources you cited.

    Y'all were a lot more civil with Anonymous than I would have been. What a jerk; and he/she didn't even apologize after you provided a civil rebuttal to his/her cyber rant. The fact that he/she wanted to zing you in your own open forum but remain anonymous speaks volumes of this person's character, in my opinion.

    1. Thanks, portert0224.

      Glad the information was helpful to you! And thanks for reading the Natural Chicken Keeping Blog :)

  8. thanks for the articles and photo's.. photo's really help me..

    I got a layer mash and scratch from the feed store.. should i ferment them together.. or just throw the scratch out separately?
    thanks, Debra

    1. You can do it either way you like!

      The thing I like about either soaking overnight, sprouting, or putting the grains into the ferment is that it reduces the anti-nutrients in the seeds and provides more useable nutrients.

      I like to sprout my whole grains but that's just my preference. A lot of folks I know put their whole grains right in the ferment container. And one of our friends only ferments her whole grains and feeds her layer mash or pellets dry.

      So maybe you could experiment with different ways and decide whatever works best for you and your routine :)

  9. Great series ladies! Very helpful, even though i've been fermenting for a while. So, I'll start the ducklings feed with buttermilk instead of ACV, and see how it goes. We put ACV in the water anyways, so they won't miss out on those benefits at all.
    I'm glad you all did the research, and all I had to do was read a few emails. Thanks.

    1. :) Glad you enjoyed it!

      If you do use cultured buttermilk from the store just be sure it's labeled that it has LIVE, ACTIVE CULTURES.

  10. I have a question. I save and grind the eggshells and have been putting them into the dry feed. Now that I'm making fermented feed, I've started adding the ground eggshell to that. Does anyone have an opinion as to whether fermentation is helpful/harmful/useful/effective when added to FF? I had been thinking that the fermentation might help breakdown the eggshell particle and make the calcium easier to digest; but maybe I'm way off base.

    1. Here are my thoughts - just my thoughts based on what I know in other contexts so that's my disclaimer :)

      When you make a bone broth, you add an acid (usually vinegar) to pull the calcium and other minerals out into the broth. "common-sense" thought is that the lactic acid (or vinegar if you use it) should have the same effect on the egg shells and accomplish what you're thinking. In fact, I think it's very likely a GREAT way to make that calcium more useable!

      I have never put the egg shells into the ferment - I just feed them free-choice. So far I've only fed any calcium supplement free-choice since I have birds of various ages so that they can choose if they want it or not.

      However, if I had all adult birds I might put some egg shells in. I know other people that do with theirs. :)

    2. Here are a couple of sites with info regarding vinegar or lemon juice and egg shells. Remember that the lacto-fermented feed has lactic acid..the acid content is what we're looking at here as it's the acid that is drawing out the minerals. Interesting reading and food for thought!

      20. Make Calcium Citrate: Make your own calcium citrate using only fresh farm raised, preferably organic, egg shells. Rinse residual egg out of the shells and air dry. Crush the shell and add 1t. lemon juice per egg shell and cover. The lemon juice will dissolve the shell and there you have it… calcium citrate. (From Mary Anne)

      21. Calcium-Rich Vinegar: I was taught by my herbalist teacher to make a calcium rich vinegar by adding calcium rich herbs (nettles, dock, etc) and one clean high quality eggshell to apple cider vinegar. It needs to infuse for at least six weeks, then be decanted. But the calcium from the shell and the plants goes into the vinegar and can be used as regular vinegar would be in salad dressing, over cooked greens, etc. (From Sara)

    3. Wow, super articles, thank you very much. Yes, I switched to lactic ferment, because I have lots of whey left over from cheesemaking. And all my birds are adults at the moment.

      I kind of like the idea of free-feeding the eggshell, because it's hard to know just how much eggshell to use per batch. I'm trying to match the amount of eggshells saved in a month with how much feed I use in a month -- but that's not very scientific.

      At the same time, I'd love to know if it actually benefits the hens to have it dissolved into their feed. If so, I'd gladly keep doing it, it's easy enough to smash up dried eggshells with my kitchen mallet. If you ever hear any new information, I do hope you'll post it, I bet others would like the information as well.

      Thank you so much for the response and the great articles, which I'm printing out!

    4. You're welcome! :)

      I always have that same concern: "What if I'm giving them too much calcium if I put eggshells in the feed?" "How many is too much?" Etc.

      It feels like I'd be forcing them to eat it because they don't have a choice if it's in the feed.

      One thing I know, however, is that when I put out the crushed shells, they all come running and eat them. When I put out calcium carbonate they don't have much interest. I think there must be something they like in the flavor of the shells too.

      I wonder if you couldn't try taking some of the liquid from the ferment and using it to ferment the shells in their own container. Then you could put them in a separate dish and see how much of it they eat...might be worth trying!

  11. Say -- that is a really good idea. I'm about to start a new batch of FF and I will set aside some of the liquid just for the shells. Then I'll put that in one of my hanging "plastic milk jug" feeders and see what happens.

    Incidentally, in case anyone is interested, I just worked out the cost of dry feed vs fermented feed. I had to first calculate the amount and cost per bird, because I had 20 birds eating the dry feed, and only 16 eating the FF.

    20 fowl consumed 50 lb feed ($10.00/50 lbs, $0.20/lb) in 8 days: .3125 lbs per fowl per day

    50 lbs/20 fowl = 2.5 lb per fowl per 8 days
    2.5 lb / 8 days = .3125 lb per fowl per day X $0.20/lb = .0625 per fowl per day

    3/5 - began feeding fermented feed from new 50 lb bag; during this time, culled 4 roosters.

    3/31 - used the last of the bag. So, 16 fowl consumed 50 lb feed in 26 days. Assuming 16 fowl the whole time.:

    50 lbs / 26 days = 1.9 lbs per day / 16 fowl = .12 lb per fowl per day

    .3125 lb
    - .1200 lb
    .1925 lbs per fowl per day X $0.20/lb = $0.0385 per fowl per day

    - $0.0385
    $0.024 per fowl per day savings

    In my present case, it's not a big deal; but if I were to expand, it would become a significant savings. So I'm delighted with FF for a whole lot of reasons!

    1. Wow! Thanks for the breakdown!

    2. When I first started feeding ferment, at first the feed dropped. Then it INCREASED and they ate almost twice as much the next month. After that, it decreased again and went back to about 1/3 of what they had been eating.

      Not sure why the fluctuation. Perhaps there was some nutrient that they were getting that they hadn't been? It was getting colder (month of October) so maybe the cold made them more hungry? Not sure. But they did slow down and even out at the lower rate after that.

    3. Whoops - I typed that wrong. Should have been 2/3 of what they had been eating!

  12. Aha, thanks for that tip. Also, they free-range in the afternoons, and now that it's spring there will be more to eat than just last fall's crabgrass; so I will need to factor that in too. I do plan to continue keeping track, at least for 6 months or so. Maybe get an average for the year, then I could do long-term planning. So now I know to expect fluctuations, thanks!

  13. I always love to see the science behind the techniques advocated -- many thanks for doing so and for providing references so readers can do more research if they like. You all rock!

  14. I'm new on this web site & Can't figure out how to select a profile, But my name is Trudi Jo. I am learning so much about raising my 8wk old chicks. From BYC website & now here. I will start my fermented feed this weekend. I know I dont need it now, but How do I know if my ACV is unpasteurized? All it says on the ingredient label is ACV. Tks Trudi jo

    1. It will always be clearly marked that it's unpasteurized on the label. If you don't see it on the label, it will have been heat bottled.

      I understand that Walmart is carrying a Heinz brand that is unpasteurized with the mother. And a LOT of grocery stores do carry the Braggs brand but it is also organic and the price is a little higher.

  15. Our chicks are 11 weeks old and I am not sure how much thy eat each day yet. Should I begin by doubling average amount for that age to begin with? When feeding fermented feed, do you go by final weight or volume? Same question for sprouts? For instance, if a chick eats 1/4 lb of dry food per day, would they eat 1/4 lb of ff and sprouts also, or more or less? Is the nutrition diluted at all in either since the final amount is so much greater than what you start with and since so much water is absorbed? I understand sprouting and fermenting makes feed more nutritious but do you have to increase the amount you feed at all to get the same amount of nutrition since some seeds start as 1 lb of dry seed and turn into 3 lbs of sprouts. Has anyone had success with sprouts and/or fermenting with pigs? Both pigs and chickens forage so no need to grow fodder from what I understand. Also, if I want to get away from gmo feed and don't have other reasonably priced options in our area, should I just add the ingredients such as nutri-balancer, calcium, fish meal, etc to the sprout/ff mixture? Also, am I correct in understanding some seeds/grains are better to sprout and some are better to ferment? Thanks so much!

    1. When I first started keeping chickens, I was very worried about how much feed they should get. I had no experience and I didn't want to starve them or over-feed them!

      I asked some of these very same questions to folks that had WAY MORE experience than I did. The consensus was to just experiment and see how much they were eating from day to day by letting them self-regulate. Put some out and if they hadn't cleaned it up in a reasonable amount of time, use less the next day. But leave what was there until it was gone.

      That works well for me with the ff because if it continues to sit in the bowl a little longer it doesn't hurt it any. I do try to start out with a little less than I think they'll eat and if it's all gone quickly, add a little more to their bowl rather than having too much out - especially in hot summer weather. It won't hurt them to have to wait a bit for you to re-fill a bowl if you're not there for awhile.

      Right now I purchase a VERY BASIC MIX for their main feed which is all organic. You can also find "non-GMO" grains that are a little less expensive than organic. You might want to check around to see if you have a local feed mill where you can purchase the items whole or have them make a mix for you.

      My BASIC feed is made by my local feed mill with whole grains and fish meal. Currently I use this mix to ferment as the grains are coarse ground and it is powdery. It's perfect for fermenting as they get all the ingredients mixed in and use them all. Before I began fermenting, I would either soak it over night in water, mix it with whey or raw milk, or mix it with a little melted lard. Any of these ways helps them eat everything in the mix.

      Right now my BASIC feed primarily consists of
      40% Organic Corn
      45% Organic Peas
      3.6% Organic Alfalfa Pellets
      3.6% Organic Fish Meal
      2.2% Cal Carb #20
      5% Organic Fertrel Nutribalancer

      This is about 16% protein and low calcium because it is formulated as "all flock" then I free feed CalCarb and they also have grit available at all times.

      I add extra protein in the form of raw meats. I also sprout various grains and seeds so that basic recipe isn't all they get. In the winter they get various greens like kale as well.

      They also get to "range" during the warm months where they also get lots of green grass, bugs, and anything else they can find. They also have access to the compost pile that they forage through!

      You might take a look at this site that has some recipes for various feeds that might be helpful. This article is Part 3

      Check out the other parts too! The site also has lists of feed info that re very interesting!

    2. Thanks for responding! What I have come up with is a mixture of oats, wheat, milo, and flax to ferment. Then to that I will add lentil sprouts. We have pigs and chickens so I have put together recipes for each and had Fertrell look over them. I will have a mix for swine and a mix for poultry to add to the ff and sprouts. The mixes have fish meal (Since I don't want to ferment it) and either the swine grower and rumi-cult for the pigs or nutri-balancer and calcium for the chicks. Once I get it going, I think an assembly line will work. I have worked the numbers on ratios each should need to get proper nutrition and how much each will get per day. I am going to start fermenting 2x what their unfermented daily allowance should be and then adjust that as needed but I am thinking I will probably mix in the same swine or poultry mix amounts and sprouts as what I have calculated they "should" need per day if that makes since because I "know" the nutrition in those whereas all I know about ff is that the nutritional value is higher thus probably reducing feed needs or at least that portion of the feed. Thanks again for your response!

    3. Would you be willing to share your "recipe" for the chicken feed here? I'd love to see it! We've just been talking about that on another forum and Leigh is going to post a new post here about making your own feed.

      I think what you're doing would be helpful for us all to see!

  16. I am new to fermenting and found this very helpful. Is the process simply to cover any feed with water? Is there a recipe? Thanks

    1. Pretty much as stated above. Just start out with a small amount until you figure out how much you need. Remember - the first time it will soak up a lot of water! You can adjust as you go. And use a "starter" only if you want to!

  17. So much good information and I appreciate it all so much! I'm also new to this and I have a couple of questions that I don't believe I've seen addressed, but if they have been, please forgive me for making you repeat. First, if I'm correct, it should be alright to ferment whatever feed you would be giving the chickens. I'm giving our 8-9 week old girls Demor's Starter/Grower feed. Four days ago I put some into a 1 gallon glass jar to begin fermenting but compared to the feed shown in previous photos, this is very murky in appearance, not seedy so I'm not even sure how I would scoop it out. Is this this wrong type feed to ferment? The second thing I'm apprehensive about with this first attempt is that I used a jar which previously contained store-bought pickles. Every time I open the jar, even though I had washed it, all I smell is pickles. I'm not sure the chickens will eat it...or should? This is day 4 and I am not getting any bubbling yet. What would you say?
    Thank you!

    1. Yes - you can ferment any feed you have!

      In the photo you see in the post, I used a feed that I have the feed mill formulate for me so it consists mostly of cracked grains, fish meal, and a mineral mix that is powdery. You can see those cracked grains in there.

      On the regular purchased pellets or crumbles, it will be a bit "sludgy" but you can still just scoop it up and press your spoon against the side to squeeze out some of the liquid or put it in a strainer - or neither! If you have a little extra liquid in their bowl they'll get used to that. Some people sprinkle a little of their dry feed on the top in the bowl when they first start feeding so they get the idea!

      There should be no problem using that pickle jar at all. Your feed itself should begin to smell a sour smell similar to pickles as it ferments so it may be the feed you're smelling too.

      As far as the bubbling, give it a little stir and see what you see! can begin feeding it any time now. :D

    2. Thank you so much for taking the time to address my questions! You have relieved my concerns. The information you share here means a lot to those of us who are new to raising chickens.

  18. Dear Leigh:

    Thank you for all the great information! I am a first-time chicken keeper and I read all three blog parts on fermenting feed but I am still confused about whether the Lacto-fermenting jar needs exposure to air through a towel, etc.? Is Bee's double-bucket method the ACV method, and that's why it needs a towel covering and air exposure?

    I was hoping to use a 2L "Pickl-It" container ( for my three 11-week-old pullets but I am worried about the possibility of mold if I seal it. Obviously air will get in when I open it up to scoop out, replace, and stir the feed daily, but with Lacto-fermenting, can I keep the jar otherwise sealed?

    I want to use Scratch and Peck's non-GMO Grower feed (17% protein. I read the response that said 16% protein should be fine, but is 17% protein too high to ferment for pullets?

    Again, thank you for all the useful information!

    ~ Tara

    1. Hello there! This is Leah's Mom!

      If you just keep the water above the feed level that will take care of it. Lacto-fermenting is anaerobic so you want to keep the air from the surface as much as possible.

      However, as you noted, you will be opening it everyday to take out and put in food. Because we're using it on a regular basis like that, just keeping the water above the food level takes care of keeping the top of the feed from becoming exposed to the air and will deter the molds/yeasts from growing.

      I also have the Fido jars (the Pickl-It jars are Fido jars with a hole drilled in the top for the air lock to go in.) I just use them plain rather than the Pickl-it with the added airlock as they off-gas on their own without the need for the airlock. (I use them for fermenting sauerkraut, pickles, can see them in the photos in part 2 of this series.)I like the plain Fido jars because I can use them for other purposes too since the lid doesn't have a hole in it.

      Anyhow - yes, you could put it in your Pickl-it if you like and still be sure that the water is above feed level. You could leave the lid off the Pickl-it altogether if you like or go ahead and shut it with the "stopper" in the air-lock hole. Just be sure the water is above your food level by about 1/2".

  19. This series on Lacto-Fermentation has been so valuable to me that I am posting on my blog about my own experience with fermenting feed for my chickens and I credit your blog for teaching me how. I also recommend that my readers come over here and read the entire 3-part article before they begin their own. Here is the post that will go live on Monday, July 8, 2013.

    Thank you for sharing this information! You obviously did tons of research and I appreciate all of your work. My chickens LOVE their fermented feed!!!

    1. Thank you for commenting here about your success! We love to hear about it! I look forward to seeing your article on Monday. Be sure to let your readers know about our new forum too. We've already got a conversation going on our thread on fermenting (and quite a few other topics too).

      Hope you are having a great weekend!