Fermenting Feed: How We Do It At Aisling Farms...
This is a pretty simple blog post due to fermenting feed is alot easier than people make it out to be! There are a ton of health benefits to fermenting feed and plus the chickens love it and it helps stretch out that lovely feed bill! I know for the amount of chickens I have that stretching that out some does help tremendously on the farm budget!
Health Benefits of Fermented Feed: The main thing is that when we ferment food for human consumption is has tons of added vitamins and helps with digestion and our gut due to the probiotics that come to life during this process. Same goes for chickens! So you might not see the benefits but you can know it is good for them. If you want to read more about it here are some of the sources I recommend to educate yourself on.
http://www.ajol.info/index.php/ajb/article/viewFile/60378/48610 (this tells the benefits of doing this with pigs as well however that is alot for me to take on so I haven't done it)
Instructions on how I ferment feed:
*FYI: I do mine on a larger scale but you can do it on a smaller scale with the same instructions just use less feed.
1. Pour dry feed (usually a full 50lb bag of their normal crumble layer feed is what I give) in a black plastic trash can that is located inside of their fenced run.
2. Hose water into it til the water is about 2-3" above the feed. I stir and if I need more water I add more. (You want to make sure there is more water than feed because the feed will soak up all that water and turn into like oatmeal consistency as pictured below. It stinks, kind of like a warm beer, vinegar type of smell, but don't worry your chickens wont get drunk off fermented feed! Just wherever you place it you want it where the smell wont bother you. I have had it in my garage before in 5 gallon buckets and it stunk!)
3. Stir again and then just cover it with the lid and make sure it is a lid that can seal so no predators get in. Make sure it wont overflow so dont get too small of a bucket or you will have a big sloppy mess OUTSIDE of the container cause it overflowed once it expanded. (No one told me this so I learned the hard way)
4. "Burp" it daily at least once. I tend to burp it while I am cleaning the coop and then sometimes when I lock up for the night. It will begin to ferment and bubble some which is perfect and when you burp just give it a stir as well so that "mother" gets stirred around.
5. Repeat step four for 2-3 days and then it should be kind of thick and go ahead and plop into a serving container for your chickens. I know you want to know how much to give but you kind of have to see what they consume? For my flock I give 4 scoops daily in the morning and the container is 1 gallon. They eat it throughout the day but usually mid day it is gone. Tip: If they happen to not eat it the first day sprinkle some dry feed on top or some meal worms and they will quickly understand it is good stuff. Do small amounts the first few days if they are just jumping for joy when they test it.
6. I serve them this batch without adding any other feed or water into the container (as long as there is about 1/2" of water at the top I dont add, if there isn't I will add just enough so it keeps fermenting). When it is about half used up (usually day 3) I add more feed and water to the existing batch as it will just keep fermenting indefinitely in the same container and I feed from this the next day cause it already had some "good stuff" in there so just adding more feed and water it doesn't need to set for 2-3 days before serving. (Kind of like how you make yeast if you have ever done that)
Tip: If it is too thick it is ok to add water and if it is too thin it is ok to add some dry feed and stir it around and serve as it wont hurt or mess up anything.