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Fermented Feed and how to make it is a must! Everyone who has chickens is familiar with the term chicken math. And for those of you just looking at getting chickens, you will soon learn about chicken math.
Essentially, most chicken keepers start out with a modest little flock and somehow that flock seems to just exponentially multiply. While chickens, overall, are pretty simple to care for, quickly growing numbers of chickens can cause one yucky consequence – Large Feed Bills!
When we started expanding our flock, we started looking at how to cut feed costs. We buy organic feed and it is not cheap. The cost to feed chickens can lead to quite a bad case of sticker shock.
Our layers already free range, so they get to find themselves lots of extra goodies. They also get garden scraps and some left over food from our meals.
However, the (at the time) flock of 17 was still going through about 3 – 50 pound bags of feed a month. You can figure out how much food your chickens will need a month to figure out your estimated feed cost.
We were just going through way more feed than we wanted to. So, here is where fermented feed entered the picture.
Upon first reading about fermented feed, it almost sounded too good to be true. Not only is it more healthy for the chickens, but they eat less and waste less leading to a decreased feed bill.
It did take a while for us to make the leap to fermented feed because, for some reason, it seemed so complicated to do (it really is not!). We have cut our feed bill in half since starting with fermented feed.
Plus, there are lots of other benefits: there is virtually no waste with chickens scratching the feed out of the feeder, the chickens are able to better digest the feed, their poop seems to be less in amount and grossness, and, did I mention it cut our feed bill in half?!
Need some help keeping your chickens health and care taken care of? Check out the Organized Chicken Keeper for an easy to follow system.
How to Ferment Feed Step-by-Step:
Fermenting feed seemed at first like a big task, but it really isn’t. If you are ready to start fermenting, here is a quick how-to:
1) Get your containers
Get some jars or containers to store the feed. We bought 1 gallon pickle jars and emptied them out to have some nice, large glass containers for cheap.
We have since switched to a large 5 gallon food grade bucket. We can make more feed less often and is not as fragile as glass jars.
2) Get a scoop
Get a spoon specifically for the fermented feed. You can use a large cooking spoon or ladle to use. Trust me, the fermented feed can be messy and smelly and you will want a spoon dedicated specifically for this use.
3) Fill your containers
You will put the dry feed into your jar (a canning funnel cuts down on the mess), add water to cover the feed plus an inch or so, stir and cover. The feed will expand….A LOT.
We started with about half the amount of dry feed we usually fed. We did have to adjust amounts a little until we got the right amount.
You don’t want the chickens to leave excess feed out, but also don’t want them to eat it all and still be hungry. If you keep an eye on them, you should be able to find the right amount after a few feedings.
4) Track the fermentation process
You want to always keep water up over the line of feed, so you may need to add additional water and stir once a day or so. It is important to make a habit of this. If the container goes too long without being opened it can build up too much pressure.
If the container has too much pressure, in the best cases it will start to leak stinky fermented feed juice from under the lid. Worst case, it can crack your jars and create a glass hazard.
5) Set a schedule
We do things on a 3 day rotation. One jar is enough feed for one day – morning and evening feeding. So, as we empty the jars at night, we refill with feed and water. This way, since we have 3 jars, when we use the feed it will have been fermenting for 3 days at the time of use.
If you’d like to see the step-by-step process, check out our YouTube video (and don’t forget to subscribe!):
If you need more help with taking care of your chickens, check out The Organized Chicken Keeper for a complete system for managing their health through keeping their supplies stocked and coop clean.