Fermented Feed


What the heck is fermented feed and why on earth would you want to give it to chickens?

Fermentation has been used for hundreds of years by many cultures to preserve and enhance foods. If you have ever consumed cheese, yogurt, sourdough bread, wine, beer kimchi or sauerkraut (just to name a few) you have eaten a fermented food.

The fermentation process uses naturally occurring bacteria to partially break down the food, improving its enzyme content and increasing its levels of vitamins B, C and K. It also makes food more digestible, and boosts the "usable" protein level by about 12 percent.

The other benefits to using fermented feed:
  • Feed consumption and waste will drop by 1/2 to 3/4 (this will save you money)
  • Poultry on a diet of fermented feed are generally healthier and less likely to contract disease
  • There is almost zero waste as chickens don't scratch through it, kicking it out of the feeder
  • Stools become more solid and many people report less smell in the coop and run!
  • Egg yolks of eggs laid by hens on fermented feed will become noticeably larger, and shells will be more solid.  

Benefits Of Lacto-Fermenting Feed For Chickens
By Sue - 
Fermenting or soaking  feed for chickens has gained a lot of popularity in recent years - and for good reason.
Four week old chick eating fermented feed.
Why is fermenting feed a good idea?
In a previous article, "Easy Ways to Sprout Seeds for Your Chickens" here on the Natural Chicken Keeping Blog,  we discussed the anti-nutrient roll of phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, tannins, and hard-to-digest proteins  that are present in grains (seeds) and legumes (also a seed).  We learned that seeds were created with these items as a protective device to help them survive until conditions are right for them to sprout and grow into mature plants.  This is GREAT for the seeds and their continued proliferation.  However, it's not so great for people or animals that attempt to use them as a main food source as they deplete our systems of nutrients that are vital to health.  For more information and documentation, please see Easy Ways to Sprout Seeds for Your Chickens.

While sprouting, fermenting, or even just overnight soaking of seeds/grains reduces their anti-nutrient properties making them more available for digestion and use by the body, lacto-fermenting provides another set of benefits. 
In the book, Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin, the author states,  "... beyond simply maintaining the vitamin content of raw foods, the process of fermentation can actually create new vitamins, specifically B vitamins and Vitamin K2 , as well as some types of enzymes."  (Emphasis added)  These additional nutrients are part of the benefit and byproduct of lactic acid bacteria working in the fermentation process.  
Almost everyone who has ever eaten yogurt will recognize the term "friendly bacteria" or "probiotics".   We've learned that these friendly bacteria are ESSENTIAL to maintain a healthy digestive tract and a properly functioning immune system.  Fermenting feed for our animals provides these same benefits.
Yogurt anyone?  Photo Courtesy www.lesfarms.weebly.com
According to one study regarding use of lacto-fermented feed for chickens, an adaptation period of several weeks is required to see benefits in chickens that were previously given dry feed.  After the initial adaptation period, fermented feed was observed to:
"...improve feed conversion as compared with the dry mash... increase egg weight... increase shell weight and stiffness...increase intestinal health by acidification of the upper digestive tract, forming a natural barrier towards infection with acid sensitive pathogens, e.g. E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter. "   

Additional studies note that:
  • Wet feeding increases the feed intake and growth rate of Chickens.
  • Pre-soaking of broiler feeds for 12 and 24 hours significantly increased dry matter digestibility and body weight gain in male broilers (25-40 days of age) compared with dry feed.
  • Bacterial fermentation of barley and wheat whole meal flours with b-glucan-degrading LAB (Lactic Acid Bacteria) has improved growth and early feed-to-gain ratio in broiler chickens.
Regarding Chicks:
  • Early access to semi-moist diets for day-old chicks stimulates gastrointestinal (GI) development and prevents dehydration during transport from the hatchery.
  • Rapid GI tract development after hatch is essential for optimization of digestive function and underpins efficient growth and development as well as a full expression of the genetic potential for production traits. 
  • The moisten capacity of the crop of chicks during the first weeks of life is also believed to be a limiting factor for the optimal functioning of the gut when standard solid diets are fed.
  • Benefits of wet feeding have been attributed to decreased viscosity of gut contents, greater development of the layer of villi in the digestive segments and reduced crypt cell proliferation. 
For a bibliography and full list of studies, see:  
Broody and newly hatched chicks enjoying fermented feed with a few dried meal-worms added. 

To summarize, lacto-fermenting or soaking feed gives "more bang for your buck" by;
  • Increasing nutrient usability
  • Decreasing the overall intake of feed to provide the same -or greater-  amount of nutrients (by reducing undigested feed items passing through the digestive tract)
  • Increasing nutrient content as a by-product of lacto-fermentation (B Vitamins, Vitamin K2 and Enzymes)
  • Strengthening the immune system resulting in increased ability to resist disease and bacterial infection
The benefits go on and on. 
And don't forget -  producing a healthier chicken results in healthier meat and eggs for you.
Fermentation Basics: A Tale of Two Fermentations (Part 2)
By Sue -

There are several different types of fermentation that are used for different results depending on the item that you are fermenting and the results desired. 

In this article I'll attempt to provide a very basic overview of Alcohol Fermentation and Lacto-Fermentation processes.  Hopefully this short overview will encourage you to research and learn more on your own!

When fermenting feed for my chickens, I use lacto-fermentation.

Chicken feed fermenting in glass container.

FERMENTATION - WHAT'S GOING ON IN THAT BUCKET ANYWAY?
In very general terms:
Yeasts consume sugars (carbohydrates) and produce alcohol.
Bacteria consume sugars (carbohydrates), starches or alcohol and produce acids.
  
FERMENTATION FOR ALCOHOL 
-When fermenting to produce alcohol, various yeasts are used.  These yeasts digest the carbohydrates (sugars) and produce alcohol.   
-In high concentrations, alcohol is toxic even to alcohol-producing yeasts which will eventually die off when the concentration of alcohol becomes high enough in the fermenting mixture.
Example:  Almost everyone has had a gallon of apple cider go "hard" over time as the various yeasts that are present in the environment do their work and begin producing alcohol while they're enjoying consuming the carbohydrates in the cider.  Now If you keep that hard cider long enough, it will eventually turn to vinegar...so what happened?
- Acetobacter bacteria convert alcohol to acetic acid which is the main ingredient in vinegar; this process is aerobic (open to the air).  The "mother" in an unpasteurized vinegar contains these bacteria and other health-producing ingredients.
According to Bragg.com their raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) Contains:  "enzymes and important minerals, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, chlorine, phosphorus, iron, silicon and other trace minerals. The vitamins contained in ACV are bioflavonoids (vitamin P), beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, E, B1, B2, and B6."
-Acetic acid preserves food by lowering pH (raising acid level) and making an environment that is unfriendly to harmful bacteria.
Notes: 
-Alcohol is processed by the liver rather than through the digestive system.  Liver damage can occur with excessive consumption over a long-term basis.
LACTO-FERMENTATION
-During lacto-fermentation, various Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) are used to digest the carbohydrates (sugars) and produce lactic acid.  This lactic acid is what produces the "tangy" or "sour" flavor that is found in items such as yogurt, raw lacto-fermented pickles, raw lacto-fermented sauerkraut, etc.
-High concentrations of LABs are beneficial to the digestive tract and immune system and even produce additional nutritive value in the form of B Vitamins, Vitamin K2 and Enzymes.  (See Part 1 BENEFITS OF LACTO-FERMENTING FEED FOR CHICKENS for more information.)
"The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine."  (From Weston A Price Foundation Website Article:  Lacto-Fermentation)
 -Lactic acid preserves food and produces an environment that is unfriendly to harmful bacteria.   This type of food preservation has been used for centuries.  As the acid level raises in the food (pH lowers) it prevents "deadly" bacteria from being able to grow in the food

Lactic Acid Bacteria...."does inhibit most Gram-positive organisms including spore-formers such as Clostridia Botulinum and heat-resistant spoilage organisms."  (Quote from:  http://silvalab.fsnhp.msstate.edu//vinegar_lactic.pdf)
IMPORTANT NOTE:  This is one of the reasons that preserving lower acid foods via lacto-fermentation is safer than heat canning as deadly bacteria such as botulism can grow in low acid, heat-canned products due to their ability to proliferate anaerobically.  (See Part1 BENEFITS OF LACTO-FERMENTING FEED FORCHICKENS for more information.)

-As the lactic acid increases, molds/yeasts/fungi are also kept in check, allowing the beneficial "probiotics" to flourish in greater quantities while discouraging overgrowth of alcohol-producing yeasts.

Lacto-fermentation is generally anaerobic (not open to the air).

-Common food items that use this process are fermented milks (yogurt, cheese, kefir, buttermilk, etc.), fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi. etc.) and fermented meats (corned beef, sausages and fish).

And....Chicken Feed!

Healthy chicks enjoying fermented feed.  Photo by Vicki Servi
For more information on fermentation see:
Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin
This book has great photos and a good basic overview of fermentation of many types of food items for people!
Lots of great information on healthy preparation of foods including lacto-fermentation and sprouting.
 
This site has many articles and videos showing a variety of fermenting processes. 
Also sells various LAB starter cultures suitable for various types of fermentation.
Very interesting book worth reading for a broad spectrum of nutrition topics including fermentation and sprouting.

Making Lacto-Fermented Feed

Swedish Flower Hens enjoying their fermented feed
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.
 
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.

DO NOT USE METAL CONTAINERS.
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.
Notes:
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.
 
NOTES:
A WORD ON STARTER CULTURES FOR LACTO-FERMENTATION:
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.
Starter cultures that are NOT APPROPRIATE FOR LACTO-FERMENTATION:
  • 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.






Additional Protein Info:
FOOD SOURCE - PROTEIN BY WEIGHT
Dried fish flakes 76
Dried liver 76
Dried earthworms 76
Duckweed 50
Torula yeast 50
Brewers yeast 39
Soybeans (dry roasted) 37
Flaxseed 37
Alfalfa seed 35
Beef, lean 28
Earthworms 28
Fish 28
Wheat germ 25
Peas & Beans, dried 24.5
Sesame seed 19.3
Soybeans (boiled) 17
Sunflower seeds 17
Wheat bran 16.6
Oats, whole 14
Rice polish 12.8
Rye 12.5
Wheat 12.5
Barley 12.3
Oats 12
Corn 9
Millet 9
Milo 9
Rice, brown 7.5

*

153 comments:

  1. For clarification what are some of the lower protein chicken feeds and what are ones containing hight proteins.
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, different areas have different feeds available. All mass-produced feeds *should* have the protein counts right on the bag for comparison. Feed stores that create their own feeds or mash may not label their products with the protein values... but don't be afraid to ask.

      When I get a little time, perhaps I'll research the top brands of chicken feeds and the protein content of each. You can be sure we'll post the information when we can!

      Delete
  2. Great article. I'm a beginner Fermenter, and have been reading that we can do the same with some grains.
    What are some good grains for a beginner to try and ferment? I was also wondering if there there any we should avoid or stay away from.?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The information on protein levels in various grains & food products has been added (thanks to Bee). Hope this helps! Might want to avoid things like bread (it can cause sour crop) or too much of anything with higher protein levels (a little should be fine).

      Delete
  3. How much feed do you measure for
    15 chickens.?
    Thanks.
    mg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Start by determining how much your chickens eat a day. Start with that, times 2. As you move forward with fermenting, you'll find they eat less and less as their bodies are able to get more nutrition from this feed. You just have to learn as you go. I found it was much easier than I thought it would be :-)
      Leigh

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    2. Hi,
      Thanks, this is a great site. I like being able to access answers to questions quickly. Ohhh, so much reading for newbies like me.
      Mary Grace.

      Delete
  4. I've just started my small flock on fermented feed. It's definitely improving the health of my flock. My roosters live and run with the hens and so I'm wondering what type of feed I should be fermenting for them? It's impossible to feed the roosters separately, so, fermented layer pellets/grains for the roosters too? What about the calcium level of this mix for roosters? (I have heritage large fowl that need to grow slowly).

    Thanks, Angela

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please take a peek at our article, Calcium - Mixed Flocks vs Mixed Feeds for more information on finding the best feed to use for your flock.

      Leigh

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  5. I am hoping to try this for my breeding and show flocks of silkies very soon but have a question.... When u r feeding ff do u still feed a daily scratch on top of the food ration. Also wondering if they dont eat all of the food put out for them daily after fermenting is it ok to sit in their feed bowl over night to be eaten the next day or should it be discarded at the end of the day if not eatten?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can feed scratch as a treat as you like. Scratch isn't generally fed for its nutritional value but as something to keep your non-free ranging birds busy. Free ranging birds will find snacks on their own.

      It is fine to leave FF out over night provided you're not attracting vermin. Chickens may not like leftovers as much in the morning if you live in a cold climate, but many have had success flipping the feed dish over and dumping it onto the grass for their chickens to clean up. For whatever reason, this seems to renew interest in leftovers.

      Leigh

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  6. Hi,

    I have Dumor 16% layer crumbles and 4 healthy hens who have free range of my suburban backyard.

    Are the crumbles okay to ferment and is the 16% protein content low enough?

    Also, I have been free choice feeding my girls. Should I be concerned with amount per bird to ferment or just feed them more than enough to start and then slowly reduce until there are no leftovers?

    Thanks, Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paul - folks successfully ferment crumbles, pellets, mash... you name it! And the 16% should be just fine. If your birds free range all day, I would suggest feeding once in the morning and once at night in the winter (when there are less bugs and green growth) and just once at night in the summer.
      It's trial and error to figure out how much to feed. Once your birds get used to the FF, they may eat quite a bit in the first week, and then their consumption will drop down as their bodies get the benefits of the nutrients that are so much more digestible in the FF.
      After a month, I can guarantee you'll be buying less feed! Let us know how it goes!
      Leigh

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  7. Thank you for answering my questions Leigh.

    I filled a bowl with 1 3/4 cups of FF yesterday and today and they ate all of it each day. They seem to love it. I still haven't removed their feeder so I don't have any idea as to how much dry they are eating but I'm thinking I will stay at this amount for a week or 2 and see how it goes.

    I'll let you know and thanks again, Paul


    ReplyDelete
  8. This is a great summary of the FF. Great job on the replies!!! Patient and concise! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Approximately what is "room temp"? Some of us hardened northern folk let the thermostat drop to save on heating costs. The place I'd be fermenting is about 60 degrees. Maybe 55 on a particularly windy day in January. How much longer would the ferment process take at those temps? And if you have to use double the feed, how is it saving on feed? Or do you leave some to ferment til the next day? I'm sure I misunderstood that somehow...

    Great blog, thanks so much! Can't wait to start trying FF!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Mine is kept in a room that stays about 65 during cold weather and it ferments just fine. Room temp is normally considered 72* but that's just a general temp thrown out...it will still perk well at 55*. I noticed mine stopped fermenting as well when the days and nights went to 40* temps and below, so I moved mine into the living room where the wood stove is. Bad move...too warm and ferment was too vigorous resulting in more intense smell and more "mother" growth on top of the feed. Not a bad thing but I noticed the birds were not liking it as much when the ferment went to this level.

    I then placed it in the farthest room from the stove and it's been back to normal...just right. I toned down the highly fermented mix by adding fresh feed and water, consistently, until it went back to my normal ferment's appearance and smell as the days went by. No need to throw out any FF, just adjust it slowly back to the way it was.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have seen a couple of different ways with the buckets. With, and without, right? Do you have to have holes in the bucket of feed fermenting? I also see a towel covered completely over one of the buckets. Should I keep a cover on the bucket.
    I am excited to start this, tomorrow!
    Cynthia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cynthia - Bee's method uses 2 buckets with holes drilled in the bucket that holds the FF (inside the 2nd bucket).

      When I started fermenting, I only had one bucket, so I ferment in the single bucket and then use a strainer with a handle to scoop out the feed for my flock.

      As for covering the bucket - you need airflow, so cover the bucket with a light towel. Without airflow, feed may mold and may not ferment properly. I just keep the towel over the bucket to keep bugs out :)

      Leigh

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  12. I've just recently been reading this on BYC site and here. Regarding the two bucket method, I am a little confused about what you mean when you say "drilled all over with small holes", do you mean drilled all over the bottom, all over the sides or both??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Primarily the bottom of the bucket, but you could do a few around the bottom of the sides if you like. I believe Bee hangs the top bucket from a support, still within the mouth of the bottom bucket, but high enough to allow the excess fluid to drain off before feeding. You just don't want holes so high up that when you lift your top bucket, you get a shower.
      Leigh

      Delete
  13. I've been fermenting for about a month now and am getting quite a bit of sediment at the bottom of my bucket.
    At what point should we be concerned with how deep this gets and at what point should we remove some of the sediment? Right now mine is at about an inch.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yes I was wondering the same thing about the sediment.
    How deep do we let it get before we take some of it off?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sediment is all good ferment. It should be fine for a long, long time, but if you are concerned about it, simply pour it over the top of your FF batch to mix it all back through. Much of that older sediment will settle on the feed and be fed to your chickens over the next day.

      Leigh

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  15. I was just reading about the list of Protein Info. but it doesn't say what the 'Weight' is?? is that per oz?

    Additional Protein Info:
    FOOD SOURCE - PROTEIN BY WEIGHT

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. typically it's a percentage... so if something is 10% protein, then that would be 10g of protein in a 100g sample.

      if you want to learn to calculate your own feed formulations, this is a great reference to keep on hand...

      http://www.ag.auburn.edu/~chibale/an18dietformingredients.pdf

      it has charts of different common feedstuffs with their nutritional values, and how to calculate a multi-feed diet. if you want to get really technical with it. but FF is likely to change the base values considerably IMO.

      Delete
    2. Been doing the wet feed for acouple weeks now and noticed the black spots on the roosters comb that come each winter have cleared up. I add different things like, frozen corn, grated carrots, spiriluna and anything that will help add nutrition to their diet.

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  16. So excited to read this post ! I make my own kombucha and sauerkraut so I really love to ferment :) I raise chickens for their eggs and occasionally we process roos for meat and I buy and organic whole grain mix without soy added, so instead they use fish meal protein and that is the only powdery ingredient. I am wondering how that might work. I have 45 hens and two roos but one is a Serama so he is almost a toy ! Anyway, got any ideas on how to do this out in the barn or the chicken house feed room that will be easy and won't send my husband over the edge, since he already thinks I am a bit nutty :) I would love to give my girls fermented feed and also cut back on the amounts that they eat as our feed mix is expensive, but thankful to be able to get it and avoid GMO's.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for the step by step instructions! I was also curious about how the fermentation process affects the fish meal, vitamin/mineral supplements, etc that are already in prepared feeds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All I can say is that nobody is reporting any issues with it. It seems to ferment along with the grains and such. I suppose it may be a bit like pickled herring, pickled eggs or pickled pigs feet. Meat proteins seem to ferment just fine.
      Leigh

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  18. Hi Leigh,

    My FF stopped bubbling 2 days ago. I added more Bragg's ACV but it didn't seem to do anything. Should I be worried?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As long as your FF still smells like sourdough/ferment, it is fine. The bubbles result from the fermenting process. If you have not added new (unfermented) feed to the mix for a few days, the food in there will already be fermented and no longer going through the process of fermenting.
      Leigh

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  19. Ah ha...that's it! Thank you Leigh! Happy Holidays to you & Bee!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm always referring people back to this.

    Sending people with pet birds to the meat bird section is not what they like. This is so much easier.

    -aoxa

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  21. My chickens are about 13 weeks old now. I have 12 of them. I have 4 ducks around the same age as well. I just ran out of my commercial non-organic feed and my new order of organic feed arrived as I am switching them all to organic. I have a couple questions... the new organic feed is mash - I was used to using crumbles. Can I still ferment it if it's mash? Can I also feed it to the ducks? Anything special I should know regarding fermenting mash vs. crumbles or pellets? I'm so excited to try this out!! I love this site!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can absolutely ferment mash, and your ducks will love it too - once they get used to it! Fermenting mash is just the same as fermenting pellets or crumbles. How awesome you're able to go organic! :o)
      Leigh

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  22. Thanks so much! I will start tomorrow!!

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  23. I can't thank you enough! What a wonderful plethora of information!

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  24. I have rubber feed pans along with metal trough. I know the trough is out; what about the rubber feed pans??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rubber is just fine and should work quite well for you.
      Leigh

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  25. I have been fermenting my feed for a year now. I started last summer with meat birds and have continued with my layers. The meat birds are by far the best flavor I have ever tasted. We always buy our birds from the same place so I'm sure I can attribute the improved flavor on the FF!! I started my ferment with my sourdough starter waste. Couldn't see putting it down the drain so I decided to try it and it worked perfectly. I have 52 layers that are offered free choice layers crumbles and they also receive 8 quarts of an equal mix of whole oats, feed wheat, whole barley and cracked corn fermented daily. I also add 1 quart of layers crumbles just to give my ferment something to work on while the grain starts to soften. FF is the only way to go as far as I'm concerned!! Thank you for your post to educate more people. :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thanks for this great article! Still deciding whether to try the one bucket or two bucket method.... But in the mean time - could you help me get an idea of how much I should start with feeding? I just "inherited" 8 hens and a rooster 2 days ago - and have never had chickens before. They have been being fed a typical commercial layer crumble (clipped beaks poor girls). They free feed from a gravity feeder. I plan on getting 2 or 3? plastic bowls to feed their FF. But I have no idea how much they have been eating. WAY too much predatory wildlife around me (the people who had these chickens - my neighbors - HAD 24 hens but were free-ranging them). So other than the stray bug - what I feed is what they get - I am giving them what veggie scraps I have each day and will be setting up a log to attract more bugs for them inside of their pen. For now I will be fermenting the same feed they have been eating, but soon will be getting my hands on a good mix feed, eventually I will like to mix my own grains - once I can figure out a place to store all that.

    I am a newbie jumping into this with both feet, help! I am gone all day every day - so I do not want to underfeed and have them hungry all day from too small of a morning meal, so I want to get a better idea of how much to feed so that will happen nor will there be too much waste. As a side note - should they have an issue of cleaning their "plate" with the FF bowl with the clipped beaks?

    Sorry for rambling! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good for you for wanting to learn about your new flock and keep them healthy! Start by figuring out about how much they eat in 2 days, and ferment that amount. Older birds often reject FF at first, so start by sprinkling the dry feed they are used to on top of it. Within 1-2 weeks, they'll be gobbling up the FF as-is!

      Get a few plastic bowls or just plop their feed on the ground.

      If you can not free range your flock, make sure you have a minimum of 3-4 sq. ft. of floor space in the coop per bird, and 10 sq. ft. of run space per bird to help avoid feather picking and squabbles. Perhaps you could do "supervised free range time" once they are acclimated to their new home.
      Best wishes with your new flock!
      Leigh

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    2. For what it's worth -- I save milk and apple juice cartons, so I cut away part of the top including the lid, leaving the handle on, and the bottom then becomes a good-sized "tub". I looped some twine through the handle opening, and hung 5 of these in a row from nails on the coop wall, low enough for the chickens to feed from them. I put a scoop of feed in each one, and at least 5 chickens can eat at a time. It's best if you snug them together as close as possible, so they don't twist around while the chx are feeding. It keeps them from walking through the feed. -Kathrynne

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    3. I like that idea! Thanks for posting it :) I don't buy milk from the store but I know plenty of people that would save them for me if I decided I wanted to try it!

      Delete
    4. Megan, You can also grow sprouts and wheat grass or other grains for your flock. I grow them in flats in the winter, then put out the chunk of sod/fodder for them to work on. Easy to grow and they love it. Sprouts are easy too. I generally do wheat berries as I can get them organic from the local co-op, and I also grow cat grass for sale. Some other ideas are to hang cabbage, kale etc for them to work on during the day. Congrats with your new flock! Leela

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  27. Just mixed some Bob's Red Mill (natural) 8 grain with water and sugared apple cider made from our trees last year! My neighbor collected her apples and mine and put them through an old fashioned apple press last fall. She still had some and gave it to me to get mine started.

    Later when I get the chickens from a friend that is moving I will add more to this and get them on the FF. They are used to what she called crumble. I will see later. Going to get them converted to organic AND Fermented feed to suppliment ranging in my yard.

    4-6 weeks till she moves so it should be ready by then right???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well... it is a bit early to start it, but it will certainly be ready! It usually only takes 2-3 days to get a really good ferment going. Let us know how it goes once your new chickens arrive!
      Leigh

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    2. I may be getting them earlier if I have things ready. I have materials coming for the coop/pen. I wasn't sure if the cider would still ferment if I leave it out as she had frozen the cider. So this is an experiment on using cider from past years and the "Bobs Red Mill" grains. I have not used Fermented Feed before so this will be new for me.

      I am getting excited. Always wanted chickens from when I visited relatives with them.

      Delete
  28. Ladies, at what age can I start my chicks and d'lings on FF? They are all 1 week old

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  29. I have seen many people say the bacteria or Mother from UP/ACV is like what is in yogurt. I would like to try fermented feed, but if I can I would like to use what I have. Would yogurt (or a mixture of white vinegar and yogurt) do ok as a replacement for the UP/ACV?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The bacteria in unpasteurized vinegar is NOT like the bacteria in yogurt. The bacteria in yogurt is a Lactic Acid Producing bacteria. The bacteria in vinegar produces acetic acid.

      Take a look at the new series here on the blog about LACTO-FERMENTING...be sure to read ALL THREE PARTS and it will give you a basic explanation of the differences.

      Part 1 can be found here: http://naturalchickenkeeping.blogspot.com/2013/03/benefits-of-fermenting-feed-for.html

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    2. (You'll have to copy and paste the address in your browser to get there!

      :)

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  30. I wanted some clarification as to the FEED...
    What type of feed am I to use for the fermentation feed.
    If I am to make my own feed what do I put in this mix.
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rebecca,
      Many people (myself included) simply ferment a bagged, commercial feed. I personally use a Grower/Finisher feed because I have roosters and don't want to feed them the high calcium that is present in the Layer feeds.

      Others mix their own organic feeds or GMO/soy free feeds. Mixing your own feed depends on your flock (age/gender/laying...) and what you have available in your area.
      Leigh

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    2. Leigh, I have Amerucana, Barred Rocks, Silver Laced, Buffs, Isas. I also decided to adopt from the Humane Society 25 Rescue Easter Chicks that had been dyed so that is pretty much a potluck mix of lil yellow babies. I also have 2 Pekins (most likely Easter Gifts from friend for kids) Duckies about 2 weeks as well... The All but potluck mix and Duckies are Laying Hens and currently I get an average of 5 eggs aday from the Amerucana & Isas I have that are a year old.. the rest are between 2-8 weeks.

      What is your advice on feed.. I have been getting mash from a local farmer but Ladies that currently lay HATE IT... I have to mix cracked corn & Oats with it They do not like pellets either they pick those out when I add them... They prefera more coarse feed but dont like the powder... I also give them sunflower seeds from our sunflowers we grew last year... they love them.. I really want to have my own mix made as I try to keep my animals as natural and healthy as possible in their feeds... I have Sheep and freerange them with supplement of Corn & Oats in the winter...

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    3. I have my feed mixed by my local feed mill with whole grains and fish meal. It IS powdery, but I either ferment it, soak it over night, 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 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 so 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.

      You might take a look at this site that has some recipes for various feeds that might be helpful. This article is Part 3 http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Making-Poultry-Feeds-3.html

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

      Delete
    4. Forgot to say:

      I know one lady that ferments all her whole grains but feeds her regular (pelleted I believe) feed dry in a free-feed feeder.

      I ferment the regular feed that I get from the feed mill and sprout whatever whole grains/seeds I have.

      I guess that just illustrates that we all just have to work out what works best for our situations!

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  31. Hi

    I have never heard of fermented feed before today and am looking forward to starting. I have one question. Do you just continually add new feed to the container as you take it out? Do you ever need to completely start over or is this a continuous process? I only have a 6 chickens, so will be using a small container. Thanks! I can;t wait to explore more of your website!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - you can just continuously add new feed to the fermented mix and it will be good indefinitely. The only time you would need to start over is if something nasty accidentally dropped into your FF bucket, if you "messed up" your mix somehow or if your water level gets too low and mold starts... but it is pretty rare to develop a mold issue. (Gray, slimy stuff is natural for FF... fuzzy mold is not.)

      Delete
  32. I have been reading about FF for awhile and read your page. However I am stil confused on something and hope you can help:

    It seems as though most people are using ACV only. In reading on here, you tell two different ways. I am having a difficult time telling what the pro and cons are of the two; and can you use both buttermilk and acv or should it be one of the other? THANKS!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can always add a little ACV at any time if you like!

      The main difference between the 2 different kinds of fermentation is that one makes Alcohol (using yeasts) and the other makes lactic acid (Using Lactic Acid Bacteria).

      Lactic acid bacteria is what you've heard of as "probiotics".

      The research that was done on the benefits of fermenting feed for chickens was done on LACTIC ACID FERMENTATION rather than alcohol fermentation. So - Lacto-fermentation (as it's referred to) is what is focused on in the articles and it is the type of fermentation that I do with my feed.

      While you can add ACV at any time, it just isn't a "starter" for LACTIC ACID BACTERIA as vinegar is the result of Acetobacter bacteria. The Acetobacter DIGESTS ALCOHOL and puts out acetic acid which is the acid in vinegar.

      If you use one of the LAB (Lactic Acid Bacteria) starters, you can still add a little ACV if you like - probably not more than about a Tablespoon to a gallon and a half of feed.

      Or you could just put ACV in your waterers if your goal is to have some ACV in your chicken's diet.

      I hope that helps some! Don't be afraid to ask for more clarity if needed :D



      Delete
  33. I've used milo as chicken feed in TX. It's less common where I am in WA. I soured some milo for 3 days and my chicks didn't take to it or even the dry milo. They're a little over a month old. I'll try again in a month.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Jeremy!
      One thing you could try with this is sprinkling some of their regular feed on top of the milo. Sometimes they'll eat what they're used to and get a taste of the fermented part in the process and find out that they like it.

      It seems like chickens are often "suspicious" of anything new and hesitant to try it. Then when they do, they find they like it!

      Some folks have also found that, if they use any ACV in the ferment, if they put too much in, the chickens won't eat it or at least eat very little. So if you're using ACV in the feed at all, keep the amount low - maybe only about 1 teaspoon to a gallon of feed or so, and only the first time you make it.

      In this link to part 3 of the original articles on lacto-fermenting feed,

      There are a lot of comments at the end that may be interesting to read too!

      http://naturalchickenkeeping.blogspot.com/2013/03/making-fermented-feed-part-3-of-3.html

      I'll be interested to see how they take it the next time you try!

      Delete
  34. Hello again! I started ff a week or so ago and they love it! A couple questions I still have....I thought I read in the article that it should be covered but in the comments it said to only cover with a cloth?
    Also I am using their pellet food and adding a little scratch . If I use some each day then add some back, is it actually fermented enough?
    I went and bought split green peas, wheatberries, alfalfa squares and kelp....can these just be added to the ff? Fermented separately? Or just added to ff when fed?
    Is there something other then eggs or shells to add calcium? Could oyster shell be added? Thank you for all the great information!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Judi -
      Fermented feed does best with some airflow. Just throw a cloth over the top to prevent bugs, or leave a hard top ajar.

      Your feed will still be fermented enough when you are adding new feed to it each day - - as long as there is some good FF left in the bucket with plenty of the liquid.

      You can add all sorts of things to FF like wheatberries and kelp, so go for it! We do suggest keeping calcium separate and left out for free-choice consumption by your hens... especially for those folks who have mixed flocks with roosters and younger birds. Your chickens will always know if they need calcium, and how much they need, so why not leave it up to them? Just set up a dish or feeder with oyster shell or egg shells (or both) that they can access at will throughout the day, and they'll be just fine!

      Delete
    2. Ooop! I stand corrected! Sue let me know that the air flow is not as desirable because "Lacto-fermentation is anaerobic and you want to keep the water above so it doesn't have air getting to it. So the answer to air flow as relating to lacto-fermentation is that you want to diminish air flow as much as possible."

      My bad! So yes - cover it up!
      Leigh


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    3. I had put this answer to someone else who asked a similar question on another blog page here so I thought I'd cc it here:

      ----"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 put a cover over mine so I don't have to smell it because I keep it on my kitchen counter (!)... Since my container is glass, that glass cover also helps keep the air out a bit more, but because we feed from it daily and we're letting air in all the time it isn't really necessary since I keep the water above the feed level.

      If I were keeping it in coop or barn, I'd put a top on just to keep from drawing any animals that might want to help themselves. As long as the water is above the feed level, it would only need a top that has enough "give" to "off-gas" (let the carbon dioxide out that is rising - those bubbles you see).

      Hope that makes sense :D

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  35. Thank you for this article, It is the best expanation of FF I have found on the web. I recently started brewing Kombacha Tea and was wondering if using some for a starter would be a good idea. Looking forward to fermenting,

    Joe.

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  36. Thank you for the clarification!

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  37. Hello, thank you so much for this post and all the comments and questions asked. It was a great read as I am preparing to start my 2 chickens and 2 ducks on FF to hopefully give them the best health and to really save on the feed bill! My ducks seem to eat out of control.

    I had a few questions though that were still a bit unclear for me...

    1. Do we cover it? From reading the actual blog I got the notion that it was covered, sealed, with a lid. But from comments I got the understanding it is left uncovered or with a simple towel on top to keep things out of it?

    2. I am afraid it will go bad and I wont know. Is the smell from sourdough/ferment strongly different than an alcohol smell/mold smell? I don't want to make my birds sick on accident so this is the only thing I am scared about!

    Thanks so much again!
    -Robin

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading!

      To answer your questions:

      1. It is a good thing to cover your container. Having about 1/2" of liquid above the feed level helps provide a sort-of cover also. Lacto-fermenting is an anaerobic process so you want to keep the air out of it as much as possible. This helps keep molds and yeast from growing out of balance in the feed.

      2. The smell should be similar to fermented sauerkraut or fermented pickles. For lacto-fermentation, you do NOT want a yeast or mold smell. Just a slightly sour smell. (As opposed to sour dough smell which has a nice, yeasty smell. The fermentation for sour dough would be a yeast fermentation rather than a lacto-fermentation and needs air to encourage the yeasts to grow - not anaerobic.)

      On smell, my "rule of thumb" is that if I smell yeast/mold or an alcohol smell, I don't feed it.

      Hope that helps! :D

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    2. Also a clarification. Your lid has to be able to off-gas! It does put off C02 so you can't keep it totally sealed.

      Be sure your lid will allow it to off-gas. Usually a plastic lid or just something set on top of the container loosely is enough to accomplish this.

      Delete
  38. The sunflower seeds I've put in my feed mixture are all floating on the top, will they eventually sink down into the liquid? I'm worried, since everything should be submerged.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes...sunflower seeds do float :D

      Usually when I feed sunflower seeds I either sprout them or just throw them plain into the feed after I've taken it out of the fermenting container rather than trying to ferment them. (I just mix them directly into their food bowl.)

      Sprouting can increase some of the nutrients and enzymes, but it should also be noted that sunflower seeds do not have the level of anti-nutrients that dry grains and legumes have. Since one of the main purposes of fermenting, soaking, or sprouting is to reduce anti-nutrients, it's not as important for the sunflower seeds to go through the fermentation process.

      If you don't want to mix them into the feed bowl dry, you could try just soaking them overnight in a separate container and rinsing them before adding to the feed bowl. Sometimes the overnight soak also makes them more likely to sink into the ferment container as well. Give it a try and see how it works for you :D

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    2. Thanks so much for the reply. Been learning oodles & oodles here.

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  39. I want to ask, I use starter fluid which contains 24 kinds of microbes so that fermentation feed sufficiently wet dry 3 hours and 24 hours. whether it was the same as you use if I do not use a microbial culture? If you do not berkebaratn maybe we can share using email, as far as my experience SOC product is the fastest for fermentation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think, if I understand correctly, that you are using a lactic bacteria starter? If it is a lactic bacterial starter, it should be a great addition! We refer to that as LABs or Pro-biotics.

      Sometimes, when I stir new dry feed into my "already fermenting" feed in the container, it is only in there 3-4 hours before I feed from it. It does get the benefit of the microbes that are already in the jar in the liquid!

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  40. I am new to chickens and we are getting our chicks at the end of the week! I am planning to start them on ff right away as it makes sense for so many reasons. I do have a couple of questions about feeding grit and DE. The starter feed kit I am purchasing includes both. Do I need grit and DE if using the ff method? If so, do you recommend sprinkling them on top of the ff?
    I appreciate your help :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All birds should have access to grit right from the start. Grit helps them break down all the foods they eat.

      Personally I'm not a fan of DE. I'll sprinkle some in my bulk storage for grains to keep moths and weevils from breeding and thriving in there, but I don't use it really aside from that. DE looses its effectiveness when it gets wet, so feeding it is not likely to deter internal parasites. Garlic and cayenne pepper are some of the best things to put on the feed and Apple Cider Vinegar in the water. Your chicks won't be likely to be exposed to parasites until they are out of the brooder.

      Check out our "Article Index" page (link at the top) and look at the "chicks" section as well as anything else you might like to read about. All our articles are organized and accessible through the Article Index page. :-)

      Best wishes with your new chicks!!
      Leigh

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    2. Thank you for your expertise! I appreciate it as I jump into this new chicken world! I have found your site extremely helpful.

      Delete
    3. You are very welcome! HERE is another place you can ask any question you may have. Don't feel you have to read the whole thing before posting! Just jump right in and your questions will be answered by many of the folks who contribute to this blog with good, natural, old-timer wisdom. (You'll have to join BYC if you haven't already.)
      Leigh

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  41. Hi, I hope this question isn't a repeat, but can I use my whey from raw milk? I ferment food for my family this way, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I *think* so, but Sue should answer this one. Unfortunately she is away for a few days. Best thing to do might be to join our new forum and post your question on the FF topic. Here's the link: Fermented Feed Thread
      There are others on the forum who know more about this than I do.
      Leigh

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    2. On Whey -
      I've found that if you put the whey in the ferment container that will be perpetuated over the long-run, it can cause it to go putrid much faster depending on several factors. While I have plenty of whey from cheese making and yogurt, I only use plain water when fermenting feed. It will work very well without anything else added and stays "clean" for the long-term.

      I DO feed whey from cheese or yogurt making directly to the chickens and have also mixed it into dry feed which will be fed directly...either right away or let set overnight. When using whey I always feed the whole amount of feed that I mix and don't let it continue as a perpetuating ferment.

      Delete
  42. Wow, did someone plagerize this site ?

    http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/05/why-and-how-to-ferment-your-chicken-feed/comment-page-2/#comments

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fred - thank you for your concern. I read the article in question, (found Here) and while it does seem that it could possibly be a recreation of our own article on fermenting, we are going to take the high road on this one and simply say we are happy to see people are reading and affording their own chickens a healthier life. Yes - it certainly would have been nice to at least get a mention.
      We at Natural Chicken Keeping will continue to strive to provide, good, well researched articles and hopefully by doing so our own readership and sponsor base will grow. Anyone coming across both articles in the same day will see the approximate dates both went live - either at the top or in the comments - and come to their own conclusions.
      Thank you so very much for being one of our readers, and we hope you will suggest our blog to others interested in a more natural approach to chicken keeping.
      Leigh

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  43. Is everyone giving their hens fermented food every single day?
    I have been wondering this, but haven't seen the answer anywhere. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do and I think most folks do, but a great place to ask would be on the Fermented Feed section of our forum! Check it out HERE!
      (We have a lot of great people out there happy to answer all kinds of questions and share - )
      Leigh

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  44. with over 150 chickens of various ages and a big feed bill, I was excited to find this as a way to cut feed costs with the added health benefits. I expect making enough FF for a large # of chickens like that on a continuous basis is going to be difficult so what % of their diet really needs to be FF for them to get the health benefits and for me to see significant decrease in overall feed consumption and do you have any special tips for making/feeding FF to a quantity of birds that large?
    I have another question, seems that you can ferment just about anything and it sounds like you can mix different items in the same fermenting bucket. I buy just one feed for all birds, a high protein grower and leave out calcium for those laying. I am planning to use this commercial feed. I am thinking about also adding some alfalfa pellets to this commercial feed in the fermenting bucket. Is there any cons to my plans of mixing in some alfalfa pellets or cubes to the commercial feed in same bucket? Thank you for this great article and this very informative website!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Any Fermented Feed you can give them will certainly give them a boost! It's not a bad idea to start out small, and once you see how easy it is you can ferment as much as you like. Some folks are fermenting in large, plastic trash cans for their larger flocks.

      You will also see some cost savings by simply wetting the feed as you feed it.

      Alfalfa is a very good thing to add to FF! Go for it!

      Also - if you have more questions, we have a number of folks who can answer on the Fermented Feed thread of our forum. See it here.

      Delete
  45. Hi. Thank you for the advice. I had already discovered how much they love wet feed by accident. I am feeding a mash and they always eat the tiny corn pieces out and other grains that they see leaving a powder that they don't want. They often scratch out large amts of the feed just to get these special morsels. In anycase, by the time they pick through the feed to get what they want, a large quantity of still usable feed is left. I started wetting this leftover down to get them to eat it and they loved it. The food pan that had been ignored becomes surrounded by excited chickens practically fighting over what only a few moments before they had no interest in! lol I have also put powdered animal milk replacer in the "soup" for a special treat. Sometimes a good portion of the mush would be left overnight and by the next day I believe it was beginning to ferment because it would sometimes have a sour smell. I would then pour the rest out onto the ground and it wouldn't be long before it was all gone. All that feed that they would have wasted before was now gone! So I think they have already been introduced to "fermented" feed to some degree. My chickens look good and I have already seen my feed bill reduced just by having them eat that leftover powder. Now time to do this on a bigger scale!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad we have been of help! I know of one person who ferments feed on a very large scale. He uses plastic trash cans and a paint mixer attachment on his electric drill to stir it - LOL. Pretty brilliant in my opinion.

      Let us know how it goes!
      Leigh

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    2. I had the same experience when I was feeding the dry mash. TONS of wasted feed.

      Fermented feed has totally solved that problem :D

      Delete
  46. I'd like to invite EVERYONE who wants to keep on discussing the fermented to go to the top of this page in the tabs and click on the "forum" link.

    Join the forum and we can discuss fermented feed together!

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hello I just want to asked if you know what is the process in fermenting a lactobacillus with soybean leftovers that will going to use. Thankyou I hope you can help me in my problem I really need answer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Soybeans are toxic to chickens in their raw state and should not be fed in any form unless the beans have been roasted. Even roasted, soy beans contain anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors. In humans, soy has been shown to block thyroid hormone production as well. In short, soy products should not be fed to chickens or eaten in large amounts even if they are roasted.

      That being said, if the beans are properly roasted, they can be fermented in the same manner as stated in the articles above.

      For more information on the anti-nutrient properties of soy, you can search for soy on the Weston A Price Foundation website which contains many articles on the dangers of soy for humans and animals alike.

      Here is an article that may be of interest on soy regarding human consumption.



      Please join us on the NCK forum to discus fermented feed or other topics that may be of interest to you!

      Delete
  48. I have started my mixture and gave some to my chickens after two days, maybe not enought time, and I added more food to the water. My question is do I need to wait 2-3 days each time I add the food? Should I take out larger portions enough for 2days to wait till the other is fermented? I have 22 chickens, do I give it to them every day, every 3 days? Thank you for your help.
    Judy jlblvn@gmail.com

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    1. Judith, when I ferment I keep using the same container. When I take some out, I put more in - usually at the end of the day. If I don't need to add more, I wait till I do.

      It's okay to feed after having it just set overnight. If you keep using the same liquid, it will ferment quicker each time.

      A great way that some folks use is to have a couple of buckets going at a time. They put in each bucket enough for several days. You would feed out of one until it's low, then stir in more and set it aside to ferment while feeding out of bucket 2. Bucket 1 gets a several days of fermentation before feeding from it again. You just keep switching back and forth between the buckets so that it gets to ferment a bit more before using.

      The main thing in that system is to keep the same liquid in each bucket. When you add more dry food, put it right into the liquid that is remaining in the bucket, add water and stir, set it aside while you're feeding from the other bucket. You keep repeating, switching back and forth. You can stir the fermenting bucket from time to time and be sure that it keeps some water over the top for lactic fermentation.

      As I get more chickens, that is the system I'm planning on using.

      Please join us on the NCK forum to discucss fermented feed or other topics that may interest you! There are lots of great folks to interact with over there!

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  49. Just double checking.... You can include any grain or lentil on this process? I don't want to buy chicken feed anymore. I want to truly know what's going in it. I think buying each grain or lentil separate would be cheaper in bulk. But things like quinua, beans, chia, seeds, are all good to go? Awesome post by the way!!

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    1. There are some beans (legumes) that cannot be fed to chickens at all; some can't be fed unless they have been roasted first. Soy is one in particular the must be roasted or it is not safe for consumption. It seems that one of the main considerations in feeding legumes is the level of trypsin inhibitors.

      From what research I've read, lentils and spring seeded field peas are safe to feed raw and therefore would be okay for fermenting and feeding.

      On a personal note, I've found that when feeding the legumes, my chickens will eat them if they are coarse ground, but avoid them if they are left whole.

      Here are some links that may be helpful in deciding what to include as you begin to create your own feeds:

      Feeding The Homestead Flock

      Common Grains in Poultry Diets


      There are also several articles here on the Natural Chicken Keeping Blog on the topic of mixing your own feed. Go to the top of the page and click on the article index to find them :D

      Please join us on the The Natural Chicken Keeping Forum to discuss fermented feed or other topics that may interest you! There are lots of great folks to interact with over there!

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  50. Leigh, could you clarify the reason for not wanting to ferment a feed with higher protein? I feed Dumor 20% starter to all my birds because my flock which is kept together is of mixed ages and I don't want to have to bother with keeping but one type of feed. I keep oyster shell avail for the layers. I just began fermenting and I am using this 20% feed although I mixed some scratch in with it. Thank you, Debra

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    1. Debra - good question! The reasons we generally suggest the protein be kept lower are; a) Most commercial feeds only use plant protein and not meat protein - chickens do better getting their protein from meat because they are designed to be omnivorous - b) certain breeds (like Orpingtons) can gain too much weight from higher protein feeds, and this can shorten their lifespan - c) birds can develop joint and foot issues and even gout if they are too heavy and receiving too much protein.

      Free ranged birds are a different matter provided they are active and not just hanging out in the dust bath area all day. Active birds will use the protein and still stay fit from running about chasing bugs.

      I also ferment a 20% all-flock feed for my gang (free range). I have mostly Swedish Flower Hens... they are a landrace breed and they tend to RUN everywhere they go. Needless to say, they are at lower risk of becoming too fat than many other breeds.

      Do what works best for you and for your chickens. Don't be afraid to experiment with feeds and protein levels. If you do have heavier breeds, you can also create an area only the babies can access and put their higher protein feed in there. You can do this quite easily by using a fence with spaces only large enough for the younger birds to come through. Too big to fit through = too big to need higher protein feed. :-) And a fence is only one idea - you can also use a box or dog house with the door partially blocked off or a Rubbermaid container with just the right size door cut into the side. (Keep the top of the container, cut the middle out and zip-tie welded wire on it - lets light in but keeps big birds out. (Get creative :)

      Leigh
      Leigh

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  51. Debra - good question! The reasons we generally suggest the protein be kept lower are; a) Most commercial feeds only use plant protein and not meat protein - chickens do better getting their protein from meat because they are designed to be omnivorous - b) certain breeds (like Orpingtons) can gain too much weight from higher protein feeds, and this can shorten their lifespan - c) birds can develop joint and foot issues and even gout if they are too heavy and receiving too much protein.

    Leigh, that brings up something I hadn't thought about...the Orpingtons getting fat. A portion of my flock is show quality Buffs but I too have a bunch of SF and the SF are definitely much more active. All have access to a good sized grassy lot to forage on but while the SF and some of the other breeds take advantage of it, the Orps tend to stay closer to the feed pans! lol Yes, a "creep" feeder is an idea to control who gets what. Thanks! Debra

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  52. I use banana trees and cabbage to be made in poultry feed and the result is good, what do you think the response friend of a friend? if anyone has ever tried.? Indonesian food in my country it is usually given to broiler chicken feed. more popular in the call with broiler chickens or organic bronik. excess chicken feed to be frugal and very low cholesterol content

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    1. We don't have a lot of banana trees in the US, so it is not a common food for chickens. I have tried to give my chickens the banana fruit, but they don't like them very much. If your birds are healthy eating what you are feeding them, then I would say you are doing something right. The only thing I would add is meat protein like eggs or meat scraps. Of course if they are eating plenty of bugs, you will not have to feed as much meat. Bugs have lots of healthy protein for chickens.

      Welcome to the blog! We are happy have so many people from so many places!
      Leigh

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  53. So to clarify, I can take my bagged feed (17% layer) from the feed store and use this to create fermented feed?

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    1. Yes - you can ferment pretty much any feed at all. :-)

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  54. Can you clarify something for me please? Does fermenting delay the sprouting process? It doesn't sound like it kills the grain but slows the growth process. Does this mean it can still grow after removing from the liquids (is that hooch?)?

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    1. I would say that the acid in the ferment would hinder the seed's ability to germinate depending on the length of fermentation. But you could always try an experiment and see if it would work.

      Why not just sprout them in the first place if you want sprouts rather than fermenting? The sprouting process also reduced the anti-nutrients in the seeds and is another good way to prepare your grains. Take a look at the article on easy ways to sprout for more information: http://naturalchickenkeeping.blogspot.com/2012/12/easy-ways-to-sprout-seeds-for-your.html


      The liquid left after fermentation wouldn't be "hooch" if you're doing lacto-fermenting as you're not making alcohol. In lacto-fermenting the liquid would have predominantly lactic acid and the lactic acid bacteria along with a few other items in balance. Think of a jar of fermented pickles or sauerkraut..the juice isn't alcohol.

      If you were fermenting for alcohol, you'd use yeasts rather than the LABs. In the articles above, see part 2: A Tale of 2 Fermentations for a brief explanation of the difference between lacto-fermentation and alcohol fermentation.

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  55. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  56. Hi guys quick question for ya'll I started FF for the first time Friday afternoon it's now sunday. I came out this morning and noticed my FF had separated so crumble on bottom and then water and then a crumble like looking stuff on top(its very light and fluffy).

    I have eggs hatching tonight/tomorrow and would like to start them on this but I'm worried something is wrong it doesn't smell like alcohol so I know thats a good sign!

    When I stirred it back up it returned to the exact same state.

    Any Insight would be helpful thanks again

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  57. Megan - that is perfectly normal! Different feed brands or mixes will behave differently due to the variety of ingredients. Some sink, some float... but the key is they all ferment. :-) When you scoop your feed out to feed to your chicks, scoop right to the bottom if you can - so you will get a good combo of all the ingredients in there.

    Congrats on your hatching eggs! I have some that are hatching right now. They are under a mamma out in my broody coop (with 3 other broodies and their chicks) - the freezing temperatures freak me out a little bit, but I know mamma will keep them warm and toasty.
    Leigh

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    1. Thank you Leigh for the response...I feel better now I know chickens are hardy but didn't want to take a chance with the babies. I wish I had a broody hen as much as I love hatching the incubator is such a pain!

      Thanks again and have a wonderful day!!
      Megan

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    2. Also - if the floating items don't sink within a couple of days, you can just skim it off the top. It's best not to have anything floating on the top as it makes a good substrate for yeasts/mold to grow as it's exposed to the air.

      If you skim it off, put it right into the feed bowl for that day! As long as it doesn't smell of yeast or mold it's fine to feed as a soaked item :D

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  58. Hi, I came here today via a link from the Chicken Chick - just a quick question, I understand that you don't recommend using whey from yoghurt or yoghurt cultures because they normally need a higher temp to work, but is it an ok culture to use if I'm making use of my yoghurt maker to get the temp in the right range? Or are there other reasons this isn't a suitable culture? FYI I've been giving my hens presoaked oats (prepared the previous morning with boiling water and kept in a thermos overnight) - for sometime now, and everyone always comments on what great condition they're in. I also just realised that they haven't been ill since I started giving them these pre-soaked oats!

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  59. Glad you found us! Did she have an article on fermenting on the blog?

    Yogurt whey IS okay to put into your regular feed bucket if you want to use something as a starter. It just won't grow as quickly at the lower temperatures but it won't hurt. I, personally, wouldn't recommend heating your fermented feed bucket to that warm of temperature. I'd just go ahead and use the whey if you want to at whatever temperature the room is that your fermenting container is in.

    Just soaking those oats overnight like you have been doing is a really good thing! If you saw the article here on sprouting it discusses some of the benefits of just soaking to reduce the anti-nutrients. They can absorb so much more of the vitamins and minerals in the grains and it really does make a difference!

    Be sure that when you start fermenting that your container can "off-gas". Whatever lid you put on it should allow the gasses to escape by being "ajar" or cracked a bit or loosely fitted.

    Another thing I plan on trying in the future is some of the pro-biotics sold for poultry in powdered form which should be a great addition to the ferment bucket (or other feed). It makes sense that they would be a good starter if someone wanted to use one. I can't recommend them yet, however, as haven't tested that out!

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  60. so i can ferment pellets and crumbles as well?

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  61. This all sounds awesome. We are new to raising poultry and have our new chicks and ducklings on the way as we speak. We want to get everything off on the right foot so I started my lacto-fermenting yesterday after reading your article. I do have a couple of questions. First, my girls are both sensitive to gluten and so I would like to make our own feed that does not contain wheat using other grains etc. that can be found locally here in Indiana to help keep my costs down, organic preferred. Any recipe ideas? Second question pertaining to Lacto-fermenting. How do you keep the feed from freezing inside the feeder during the winter months? Thank you for your help and this wonderful site and everyone who contributes on it.

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  62. Hello! I am also in Indiana and I make my own feed. There is an old-fashioned feed mill about an hour away from me where I can get either organic, non-GMO, or regular grains by the 50 lb. bag. I originally started by having them make the feed and now I just keep the ingredients so I'm making it fresh.

    I feed my fermented feed in a shallow glass pan sitting on top of a heater that I took from a heated dog bowl. Others feed theirs in heated dog bowls with a dis sitting inside it. I try to keep the opening into the wet feed somewhat restricted so that wattles don't get in it and cause frostbite.

    I'm hoping you will come over to the forum side and I can post some photos for you to see - and give you more details on making your own feed. If you are in my part of the state, I can direct you to where to purchase the grains too!

    The link for the Fermented Feed thread is here: http://naturalchickenkeeping.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=313

    You can also send a personal message there once you're a member :D

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  63. Hello Leigh! Been reading the article and i find it really helpful and informative. I'm from Philippines, I will start my broiler chicken raising in a month, what really discourages me in doing so is the fact that chicken feeds in this side of the world is too expensive, I'm willing to try this FF when I start my business, I got some questions hopefully you can help.

    1. Will it affect the growth of the chickens if I feed them FF because I will have to give them less feed?
    2. Will it lessen the days of my broiler from a day-old to its marketable weight?

    In addition, do you have any information when it comes to feeding FF to broiler chickens?

    Hoping to get some info from this.

    Thanks a lot.
    Micko

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    1. Micko - the popularity of fermenting feed picked up here in the US after it was discovered that broiler chickens were healthier and matured faster when fed this kind of feed. Many say that fermented feed WILL lessen the days to market weight. It didn't gain popularity among those of us who raise chickens for eggs until later.
      Of course there are other factors at play which have to do with the quality of the feed you are able to find in the Philippines. Yet - regardless of what you feed, I think you will find that your chickens will get more from the feed if it is fermented.

      Sue is the brilliance behind this article. I will have her weigh in also as she has done an amazing amount of research on the subject.
      Leigh

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    2. Take a quick look at the links in the articles above on the studies. Most of those were done on meat birds!

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  64. What a great post! Now I recognize that the egg is not a cholesterol food, but it gives increase intestinal health and forming a natural barrier towards infection.

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  65. I was so excited about using fermented feed for my new flock arriving this spring until I spoke to a local organic feed producer here in VT. He said that over 85% of grains contain mycotoxins that increase dramatically when wet. He also said that no amount of good bacteria can rid the grains of these mycotoxins and feeding animals wet feed with such an increase in mycotoxins on a regular basis could be dangerous and very unhealthy. Do you have any information about this? Do you think this is true? The benefits of fermented feed make so much sense to me but what he said definitely has me wondering if it is such a good idea for my chickens. Say it isn't so!

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    1. bubfish - Great question and Sue (who wrote the above article) will be commenting in the next couple days when her work schedule allows. In the mean time, I have done a bit of research and as it turns out, fermentation is often used as a natural means of decontaminating grains of mycotoxins! Who knew? Yes - the beneficial LABs and bacteria can cleanse grains of mycotoxins.

      From THIS LINK:

      "Fermentation is one of the easiest and cheapest means of food preservation in addition to imparting nutritional and organoleptic benefits to fermented foods. Fermentation is effected by the natural microbiota of raw materials, microorganisms attached to the fermentation equipments or from externally added starter cultures. Yeasts, especially S. cerevisiae and Candida krusei, and lactic acid bacteria (LAB) occur as part of natural microbial population in spontaneous food fermentation and as starter cultures in the food and beverage industry [22]. In addition, yeasts have been fed to animals for more than a century and commercial yeast products are being specifically produced on a commercial scale for animal feeding [23]. Hence, yeasts and LAB have immense potential as tools in tackling the problem of fungi/mycotoxins in cereal-based foods and in animal feed."

      So - ferment with an easy mind!
      Leigh

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    2. Looks like Leigh has put out some good information there. The main thing is that you are lacto-fermenting and your ferment should have a tangy/sour smell to it.

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    3. Sorry. Not a complete response before it posted!

      I was also going to add that dry grains and feed products can contain mycotoxins that are not obvious to the eye even on the dry grains. So the possibility of feeding grain-based feed that is contaminated is always present.

      The beauty of PROPERLY FERMENTED feeds is that it can actually help reduce the effects of the contamination that would have been fed if not fermented.

      So - fermenting is a win-win in this case. Anti-nutrients reduced, bio-availability of nutrients increased, levels of mycotoxins potentially reduced. Three wonderful benefits and it costs you nothing but a little water and a container!

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    4. Thank you so much for your reply's. I am looking forward to trying FF with my new flock this spring!

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  66. Can you lacto-ferment sprouted grains?

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  67. Yes you can.

    But....sprouting confers many of the same benefits as fermenting so it's not necessary to do so before feeding sprouts. It also reduces the anti-nutrients and makes the nutrients more bio-available.

    Take a look at our article on simple sprouting to see the benefits.

    Also - join us on the forum in the fermented feed thread or sprouting thread for more interaction!

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  68. PLEASE JOIN US ON THE FORUM IN THE FERMENTED FEED THREAD FOR MORE INTERACTION AND INFORMATION...AND USUALLY A QUICKER RESPONSE :D

    http://naturalchickenkeeping.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=313

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    1. Here's a clickable link if the one above doesn't work. LINK

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  69. Anyone experimented with feeding fermented feed to broilers? I just put some feed & water in a jar. Waiting to test it out. In hopes for meaty birds.

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    1. Yes! In fact fermented feed gained popularity with folks raising meat birds before it went mainstream. Those raising broilers report better health and growth in birds fed fermented feed. :-)

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  70. Thanks for this great article. I am looking forward to experimenting with fermented feed this year. I really want to cut down on wasted feed that they bill out looking for their favorite parts and increased nutrition is a great plus. My question is: What temperature range do you recommend for this? Just trying to get an idea of where I will need to be doing the fermenting different times of year (in a warm basement, in a shed out by the coop, etc). Thank you!

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    1. I ferment indoors in the coldest months. Ferment will slow in temperatures under 45-50 F, and of course the feed may actually freeze at 32 F or below. While fermentation will be slower at 45 F, it will still ferment. You'll get the best ferment at 60 F or higher.

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  71. I feed screenings which include wheat, oats and pes

    can I use something like milk kefer as a starter or perhaps sour dough starter?

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  72. I feed hen scratch and chick scratch as a morning treat for my birds, purchased from the co-op. Is this a good mix for beginning to lacto-ferment? The chick scratch is all broken up prior to being bagged by the supplier.....is it necessary to use the whole grains or will crushed grains work too?

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    1. That would be GREAT! My feed is very much like the consistency of what you're describing. I like to have the grains broken because they ferment inside more quickly than when they're whole. So I'd say that's a perfect product to start with!

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    2. Oh...and I've found that when you start with just plain grains, adding a very small amount of salt to your original batch can help keep the kham yeast from developing and helps the LABs become established. That is only if there isn't any added mineral mix in with the grains. If there is a mineral mix added it will already include salt.

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  73. thank you Leahs Mom, you sound familiar, I am CynthiaM, smiling. Anyways, I have lots of that stuff I am going to add to the bucket today, I am beginning with wheat, that was began yesterday. So getting onto the rest of the addition today, have a wonderful day!

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    1. Cynthia - are you possibly a subscriber to "chickens in the road" forum? I used to hang out there a lot but haven't been around in awhile.

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  74. Do you know if the grains that are left after making beer wort are considered "fermented?"

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    1. Beer making uses a different kind of fermentation. It is fermenting for alcohol rather than fermenting for lactic acid. The process uses yeasts rather than Lactic Acid Bacteria.

      Some folks do feed spent brewers grains to their livestock. I, personally, prefer to use lacto-fermentation for feed - especially for small creatures like chickens.

      When there is alcohol involved, you have the possibility of liver stress/damage and since chickens are such small animals, it wouldn't take a lot of alcohol to affect them.

      Just my personal opinion and practice :D

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  76. Can you add a bit of Sourdough Starter to speed up the fermentation or is this the wrong type of fermentation (my sourdough starter has been going for about 4 months). I'm expecting new chicks tomorrow and added a teaspoon of it to the fermenting chick starter feed before realizing I should have asked you first. the feed is covered with water and i simply stirred the teaspoon of sourdough bread starter in (it was created using just whole wheat flour and water ... its a traditional starter). THANK YOU SO MUCH!

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