Posts Tagged ‘FAQ fermented chicken feed’

Bear with me, because this will likely be looonnnngggg. πŸ˜€

So, I’m still using. I’ve also been involved with a FB community for chicken folk.

What? Don’t look at me like that. You knew this would prolly happen. πŸ˜†

So anyhow, I’m blabbering online, and invariably, the issue of fermenting chicken food comes up. Not surprisingly, many of the same questions get asked over and over and over. And for good reason. There is a link out there that many people start with, that has some misinformation going on. So those are some points that folks get confused on, and actually seem to create more questions.

In the interest of keeping fermenting chicken feed SIMPLE, here are some answers to some of the questions I see asked the most. You’re welcome. πŸ˜€Β  πŸ˜‰


Fermented food? Huh? What is it?

“Fermentation in food processing is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions. Fermentation usually implies that the action of microorganisms is desirable. The science of fermentation is also known as zymology or zymurgy.” {http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermentation_in_food_processing}

Stop right there. If you’ve read more, take your mental white-out and purge that next ditty bit from your brain. You are not making alcohol. I repeat: YOU ARE NOT MAKING ALCOHOL.Β  If you want the complicated, sciency answer, leave me a comment and I’ll give it to you. But this is going to be a long post and I don’t need people falling asleep yet. πŸ˜€



Why not? πŸ˜† No, seriously.

1) Superior nutrition Β 

Fermenting creates new vitamins; specifically B vitamins, and new nutrients. Some of those nutrients are amino acids. The soaking and fermenting also breaks down the anti-nutrients and toxins in the grains that prevent the digestion of available nutrients.



Β Bacterial fermentation produces lysine, often increasing its concentration by many fold and making grains nearly a “complete protein”, i.e. one that contains the ideal balance of essential amino acids as do animal proteins (11, scroll down to see graph). Not very many plant foods can make that claim. Fermentation also increases the concentration of the amino acid methionine and certain vitamins.
In addition to the reduction in toxins and anti-nutrients afforded by soaking and cooking, grinding and fermentation goes much further. Grinding greatly increases the surface area of the grains and breaks up their cellular structure, releasing enzymes which are important for the transformation to come. Under the right conditions, which are easy to achieve, lactic acid bacteria rapidly acidify the batter.”Β  {http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/645057/fermented-feeds-anyone-using-them/2220 }Β 

So, your birds are going to be healthier.

2) Less waste

This alone was appealing to me, not including the expansion of the feed, so it goes further than dry feed. The feed isn’t kicked all over the ground and lost to the subterranean trolls that hover and wait for scratched out nuggets of goodness.

I’m seriously still saving AT LEAST 2/3 on my feed bill, even with adding 14 more babies.

3) Less stinky poo

It’s always about the poop, isn’t it? πŸ˜† Not only is the poo less stinky, it’s more solid. Cecal poops are always going to be cecal poops, so we can’t get rid of those. BUT. The other ones- even more solid, and drier. This makes cleaning *a lot* easier because less the cecals, you aren’t dealing with a ton of smearage.

I haven’t noticed the no smell like some report, but I do agree that they definitely don’t smell as much. And guinea poop, OH MY STARS, smells absolutely DELISH compared to regular feed poops. That stuff was toxic, I’m tellin’ ya. Now it’s tolerable and doesn’t require the HAZMAT suit and re-breather. Whew.

4) Glossier feathers

I’m not aware of any studies that measure feather glossy-ness, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. πŸ˜† And, they grow back faster.


How?Β  What ingredients do I need to use?

Water + feed + 3 to 4 days for initial ferment. Stir. Wait. Stir. Wait. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you’ve been strolling around the WWW, no doubt you’ve found a boat load of recipes for chicken foods to be fermented, and those using multiple buckets with holes drilled in the bottom; rotating them in and out so they always have a batch going.

Ya. That’s not going to happen on my planet. πŸ˜† Ain’t nobody got time for that here!

So. Let me repeat.Β  Water + feed + 3 to 4 days for initial ferment.Β  Whatever you’re feeding now- ferment that. Add some water, stir, wait 3 to 4 days, stirring a few times a day. That’s really all there is to it.

I like a 1:1 ratio of food to water, which makes a nice, thicker consistency. There is no need to strain or keep it covered by inches of water. It’s also not as sloppy as much wetter feed. You are welcome to keep it soupy, but I go for easy and the least labor intensive as possible. But, I’m lazy like that. πŸ˜†

Now, if you want to complicate things and make it involved, have at it. πŸ™‚


I’m on chlorinated city water. Is that ok to use?

Sure! You’ll want the chlorine to evaporate first, though. I’ve seen a few people say they use chlorinated water without issue; common sense tells me chlorine kills bugs, and fermented feed has live cultures; aka “bugs.”. Usually, overnight should work, but to be sure, 24 hours is ideal. Just leave it in a bucket or uncovered, and the chlorine will evaporate.

The bigger issue here, though, is chloramine. Many city water supplies have gone from chlorine to chloramine, and they are NOT the same. Chloramine is a compound of chlorine bonded with ammonia. It will not evaporate. There are way to treat it, say, if you have a fish tank. I wouldn’t recommend that treatment for chickens, though.

Many folks have home water filters or reverse osmosis {RO} systems for their drinking water. If you have one of these and know your city uses chloramine {this should be included in your annual water report, or you can call the water department and ask}, be sure to check and make sure the filter says it will remove chloramine. If so, you’re home free. πŸ˜€ If not, your best option may be to use bottled water.



Can I use it if I don’t want to wait the 3 to 4 days to ferment?

Do you want actual full benefit? Yes? Then leave it alone for 3 to 4 days. I know, it’s hard, isn’t it? If you already have chickens, you’re feeding them something else already anyhow. A few more days won’t hurt.

I say 3 to 4 days because ferment is based on temperature. You can use hot water to kick start things, or, you could wait an extra hour. πŸ˜† {Seeing as there appears to be controversy over what constitutes “hot,” why don’t we say 99-ish degrees, Fahrenheit. It is, after all, living internally in the gut….}

“Optimum growth temperatures for 9 strains of S. thermophilus and 10 strains of L. bulgaricus ranged from 35 to 42 degrees C for S. thermophilus and 43 to 46 degrees C for L. bulgaricus.” {That’s 95 t0 104 degrees for us non-mertic folks. ;)} {http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3805441}

Many folks have read that when it starts bubbling, that means it’s fermented and all done. Nope. It needs time. Those bubbles are a great start, and proof that fermentation is happening. If you want your whole batch thoroughly inoculated, do yourself a favor and wait. If you are backslopping, the better your initial ferment is, the better every subsequent batch is going to be, and the faster they will ferment.


Do I have to stir it?

I do. I like to mix it all around; making sure my SCOBY gets consistently distributed throughout the batch. I know folks who don’t, and have no issues. I’ve heard of folks who didn’t stir the initial ferment for a few days and ended up with some black and green mold. I don’t quite know how that happened, since it usually takes a lot longer than 2 days to get mold, but it was some ugly stuff.

How about, there is no harm in stirring. πŸ˜€ If you have a very dry mix, stirring helps keep it moistened. In my case, as you’ll see in pictures below, I usually end up with a juicy layer in the middle, which I like to mix around to even out the consistency before I feed.

Our primary resident expert, Bee, says, ” ……stir at least once a day when ambient temps are very warm and humid. I only stir mine once a day right before I feed and when I’m gone for days it doesn’t get stirred at all and it doesn’t grow mold but it does grow the fuzzy white yeast.”


Do I have to use a food grade bucket?

No. You don’t “have” to. You want to stay away from metal, as the lower ph will eat it, but other than that, you can use pretty much everything.

Folks have found used food grade buckets all over; some from big-box stores that have, well, food in them, like pickles or mayo, etc. Some find them at bakeries that had fondant or frosting etc in them and have been discarded. Some have gotten them for a few dollars at the deli/bakery at Wal-Mart. Some have used the orange buckets from Home Depot.

You don’t want to use a used car oil pan, or a plastic paint can, etc. Food storage containers are ok. I use a 60 qt cooler.

A lot of people have read to use glass, and keep the lid on. Here’s a word of warning: glass will explode if you do that. Yes, it really will, I promise.

Fermenting creates gas; which creates heat and pressure. The pressure especially can cause your sealed glass jar to explode.


I read that you have to keep the feed covered by several inches or it will grow mold?

This is probably the one I hear the most, and the one people argue over the most. They are convinced that not only will you grow mold, but you’ll make alcohol, too.

“The water over the feed won’t “keep bacteria out of the feed”, so you can dispense with all those ideas in the future.Β  Same with keeping the lid on….water is not a bacteriostatic agent nor is it a bactericide.Β  Nothing wrong with placing water over the feed at first to allow for absorption into the kernels and ground feed, but to maintain water over the level of feed to “keep out germs” or to do “lactobactic fermentation” is not based on facts and you can put those worries out of your mind.Β  You will get lacto fermentation anyway, no matter if you cover it with water, use a lacto starter or not, etc.Β  You will not grow bad bacteria if you don’t cover the feed with water at all times.Β  Trust me.Β 


Bacteriostatic agent

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A bacteriostatic agent or bacteriostat, abbreviated Bstatic, is a biological or chemical agent that stops bacteria from reproducing, while not necessarily harming them otherwise. Depending on their application, bacteriostatic antibiotics, disinfectants, antiseptics and preservatives can be distinguished. Upon removal of the bacteriostat, the bacteria usually start to grow again. This is in contrast to bactericides, which kill bacteria.[1]

Bacteriostats are often used in plastics to prevent growth of bacteria on surfaces. Bacteriostats commonly used in laboratory work include sodium azide (which is acutely toxic) and thiomersal (which is a mutagen in mammalian cells).”Β  {http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/645057/fermented-feeds-anyone-using-them/2340}

Many of the fermenting folks I know have a consistency similar to my own: peanut butter, cookie dough, oatmeal {before it sets and thickens}, and mine is the consistency of grout at mixing; thicker when it gets to working.

My secondary ferment looks like this:


Overnight=Β  cracklyfeed

Popped gas bubble from fermenting=Β 
f bubble1
Hidden juicy layer = juicylayer
Do you see the difference? Do you see any mold?Β  πŸ˜€ It’s a good idea to scrape down the sides, or they can get a bit yeasty. In the event you do grow some mold, you can scrape it down in there, and the good bugs in the ferment will gobble it right up. {And lest you snarl your nose up at that, I’m going to send you images of stinky cheese, poop, and other things chickens eat…… it’s not toxic and it won’t harm them in small amounts, in the event something manages to survive in the ferment, which is unlikely anyhow……}


Help! I see all this white stuff on the top and on my lid. What is it? Do I have to start over?

So, you’re probably on day 2 at this point, and you open your container and try not to freak out. Or maybe throw up. Either or, get to stirring! That’s your SCOBY- the Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. That’s the good stuff.

Now, if you are terribly concerned that I’m off my rocker, because it looks fuzzy and your mama told you not to eat anything that is fuzzy, here are some pictures of actual molds compared to yeasts.

Fuzzy white yeasts:Β  https://www.google.com/search?q=fuzzy+white+yeast&client=firefox-a&hs=npN&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=6KELU9WTMOPp2AXsjoHoAg&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAg&biw=1138&bih=501

Fuzzy white mold, with some colors thrown in:Β  https://www.google.com/search?q=fuzzy+white+mold&client=firefox-a&hs=HD3&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=mqILU7bxGM7RqQGNgYGYCA&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAg&biw=1138&bih=501o


If you’re still convinced I’m an escapee and my oars aren’t in the water, please do go and read this whole page, which has a variety of information sources:Β  http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/645057/fermented-feeds-anyone-using-them/2310#post_12893023.

Really. Read that page. And then read some other pages before, and then some pages after. If you’re really motivated, subscribe to the thread and to the site if you aren’t already. Stop in and say hi. It’s free. And this is where all the brainiac fermenty folks are. πŸ˜€


Can I feed my chicks fermented feed?

Yep. Sure can. I start mine off from day 1 on unmedicated chick starter. Chicks like to stand in their food, and because it’s wet, you’ll want to keep an eye out and make sure it doesn’t get caked on the bottom of their feet. Some like to use muffin tins; some like to use ice cube trays; some like to use troughs with a length of wire over it so they can stand on top to eat and not stand *in* it. I’m using a sandwich container. I haven’t noticed mine with caked feet, but mine is also not sloppy wet, which I think is more of an issue than the drier feed.


What about medicated feed? Won’t I kill my chicks with cocci if they don’t have the medicated feed?

Probably not. The amprolium in the medicated feed is going to get diluted, which basically renders it inert. The thing is- cocci is everywhere, and it’s always in the gut anyhow. The issue is the OVERGROWTH of cocci that causes the problem.

Because you’re changing the gut flora and PH of the gut by feeding fermented feed,Β  cocci will have a lesser chance of overgrowth and causing issues. The key here is also keeping things clean and dry, so the chicks can build their immunity.

If you are hatching from your own flock, you may notice mama encouraging the babies to eat her poo. This right there- that’s why.Β  It helps them get exposed to the stuff in their environment and start protecting against anything that could cause problems. {You can also give them a hunk of dirt from your yard, too, to help them get started…..}


What kind of starter do I need to use?

This is another question that has gone around the block several times. You can either read waaaaaay up at the top, or- nevermind- I’ll just say it again- water+ feed+ time is ALL you need.

You don’t need yogurt.

You don’t need pickle juice.

You don’t need sauerkraut.

You don’t need kefir.

You don’t need fancy culture starters you buy in a jar.

You really just need air. {Which goes very well with the next question, too.}

When you stir, your feed is going to grad the stuff in the air. No, really, it will. At some point, it’s all going to equalize anyhow, which isn’t profitable from folks trying to sell starters or anything else to “help” your feed along. That $$$$ stuff you bought is going to get taken over by the stuff in your personal air. Now, if you want to spend your money, of course, have at it. Since at some point it’s going to be moot, I’d rather pass and use what’s going to be the end result right from the beginning. Clear as mud?


Do I need to keep a lid on it?

As we covered ^^^^Β  there, glass that has a sealed lid can explode. Fermenting grabs the stuff in the air for its cultures. You will want to have it exposed, yes. The question is, how much? Some folks cover with cheese cloth; some cover with a tea towel. I have the lid cracked for initial fermentation, but I confess to closing my lid on secondaries some of the time. It is still getting air because I’m stirring a few times a day and having the lid open so I can feed my buggers. And, of course, it’s a cooler, so the lid closed doesn’t make it air tight anyhow. I have noticed that my feed ferments better after backslopping and refreshing if the lid is closed. It seems to help keep the gases in and really gets it going. As my feed gets closer to the bottom and therefore stronger, the lid is closed more.


Wow, it smells. Should I throw it out?

Nope. It’s going to be fragrant and aromatic. πŸ˜† If you’re a super smeller, it might cause you to wander around with a clothes pin in your pocket. My kids hate the smell. I don’t think it’s terrible, but I don’t want to stick my head all the way in the bucket, either, especially on day 3 or later.

It should have a decidedly sour smell. Some will depend on what you’re fermenting. Just feed can get strong; feed with ACV will be stronger yet. It may even peel some paint if you let it go real long. πŸ˜‰

For my nose, I like to refresh on night 3, which will help tone the aroma down. If you’re finding your batches are lasting longer {which isn’t a bad thing}Β  but are clearing your sinuses more than you’d like, I’d suggest trying a smaller batch and see if that helps.


How often should I feed this compared to my regular dry food?

I confess, I don’t much understand why folks would not feed it all the time. Somewhere along the line, someone said it wasn’t good for them to have fermented feed all the time, and I’d love to see the science on that. Because you are giving superior nutrition, why would you dumb it down at all? When you revert or regress to non-fermented feed, you are lessening the GOOD effects of the probiotics and good gut PH. In a pinch, sure; don’t starve your chooks.

Certainly, do what you want. I, personally, think giving dry feed undermines the point of fermenting and lessens the benefit.


How much do I feed at one time?

I don’t know that this has any hard and fast rule as an answer. I’ve seen folks give anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup one to two times a day. The goal is that they eat their fill in about 30 minutes. Remember, it’s super nutrition. They are getting CONSIDERABLY more nutrition from the food, so they need LESS of it.

A concern has been freezing in the winter- again, you can feed what they can eat in 30 minutes to an hour, before it freezes. Some have said that the heated dog bowls work well. On the rare occasion I’ve had frozen feed, I’ve traded out troughs, taken the frozen one back inside, and then when thawed, added it back to the bowl to re-ferment.


Ok. Got it. What the heck am I supposed to feed it in?

Obviously, your regular feeder won’t work. Don’t pitch them, though. You can use them for your oyster shell, grit, and scratch in the winter.

I use a gutter. I got a cheapie 10 ft section of vinyl gutter at the Lowe’s, got end caps for the number of sections I wanted, and then we cut the pieces. The end caps were a bully wooger, though, and needed Hunny’s manly hand strength.


This is Silver, by the way, my silkie girl from the It’s Broken post. As you can see, she’s made a full recovery and eats out of the same trough as every one else.

I have several sections, as I mentioned, and I transport from a bowl to the trough. I always leave some IN the bowl because for some reason, they really seem to love it right from the bowl of goodness and all things yummy. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to have another feeding station.20140116_090352

I’ve seen all kinds of troughs; homemade wood ones; big bowls; PVC piping sliced to make a trough, etc. If you can dream it, you can do it! πŸ˜† Seriously, though, you could slop it on the ground and they would gobble it up. At least mine will. πŸ˜€


Great! I’m on day 4 and ready to feed- what now? Do I run out and then start a whole new batch and wait those days again? Do I add new feed every time I take some out?

Do you want the easy way or the complicated way? Some folks have a bucket for every day of the week; started a day later than the last. When the bucket is empty, they move on to the next one; re-starting a new batch in the empty bucket.

I am kind of too lazy for that. πŸ˜† I, personally, personally, prefer to use a higly technical method called BACKSLOPPING. πŸ˜† When I get down to only having about a single serving left in the bucket, I add new water, stir, and then start mixing in my feed. That’s backslopping. πŸ˜€ I try to do it so I’m backslopping and mixing the new feed in at night so it’s ready to be fed in the morning, but once your ferment is solid {one of the reasons you’ve waited the whole 3 to 4 days initially}, it will be ready to feed in several hours. Of course, as you let it continue to ferment in the next few days while feeding, the ferment will again, continue to get stronger.

It really is that easy. This highly technical method of backslopping results in another highly technical term; the “never-ending- bucket.”Β  πŸ˜†


What if I go on vacation and will be gone for a while?

There are various ways to tackle this issue. The obvious solution is to stop going places. There is nothing wrong with being chained to your farm, er, home.

What? You don’t want a staycation?

Well, you can go a few different routes. You can show whoever is taking care of your chickens how to refresh and feed. If it’s a few days, you can leave out however much you would feed them in the time you’ll be gone. You can make a super-duper big batch for whoever is watching your chickens. You can finish your fermented feed and feed dry food while gone. You can save your fermented feed while gone; not use it; feed dry while gone, and then backslop/refresh and feed when you get home. It will be *strong* though, I’ll warn you.

Fermenting chicken feed shouldn’t be labor intensive. You don’t need a multi-bucket system where you need to drill holes from one to the other. You don’t need elaborate recipes with a gazillion ingredients. You don’t need to spend $$$$ on fancy starters. Certainly, you *can* do all those things. You can buy a portable cement mixer if you wanted to; or designate a hand drill for mixing. But – you don’t HAVE to. It really CAN be easy; using the feed you already have and containers you probably already have on hand at home.

Our online community of fermented feeders compiled a running list of pros and cons:


Climate changes that dictate a need to keep FF at a temp that promotes good fermentation. (If done in bulk quantities, it keeps very well in weather that is at freezing and below freezing temps, though slower to metabolize)
Cannot be dispensed in continuous feeding type feeders.
Five minutes more time needed to replenish feed bucket on days when this is necessary…on other days, no more time is spent on feeding than if feeding dry feeds. Say, once a week, a person would spend 5 extra minutes.
Equipment changes that require minimal, if any, expense. Those already feeding in troughs need make little change. Buckets are often found free at local delis and restaurants.


Increases protein usage by 12%(according to scientific studies)
Changes proteins and sugars to a form easily digested and utilized by a monogastric animal~amino acids.
Less feed waste due to more utilized at the point of digestion and also from feeding a wet feed.
Less feed consumed due to total nutrients increased in the feed~resulting in a decrease of total feed costs by nearly half.
Intestinal health and culture increases, intestinal villi lengthen thus increasing total absorption area and blood flow to the intestines.
Increased immune system function.
Increased parasite resistance.
Increased yolk size/weight.
Increased rate of lay.
Increased feather quality and growth, increased rate of molt recovery.
Increased scale, beak quality due to increased nutrient uptake(some have reported correction of cross beak after using FF).
Less undigested matter in the feces~resulting in less nitrogen in manure, less smell of the fecal matter, less attractant for flies, less ammonia production as there is less break down needed of waste material.
Less water consumption due to feeding wet feeds.
Less incidence of pasty butt in young chicks, faster weight gains, faster feathering of young chicks as well.
Thicker egg shells.
Less feed waste to rodent predation.
No changes in winter warmth issues as core temps do not depend on rates of digestion of feed~no more than it does for any other animal or human.
Increased mild flavor of eggs, removal of sulfur or “eggy” flavor.
Increased mild flavor of meat, removal of “gamey” flavor.
Increased overall health and appearance noted and reported with continuous use of FF.
Prebiotics and probiotics available in feed increase resistance to disease/illnesses such as coccidia, e.coli, salmonella, flagella, etc.
No raw chicken stink.
Less inclination for dogs to eat the poo since the sugars and grains have already been pre-digested.

And, there’s nothing saying you HAVE to continue if you decide it’s not for you. No harm; no fowl foul. πŸ˜€

So, there you have it. If you’ve got questions I missed, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it. :mrgreen:

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