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Posts Tagged ‘fermented chicken food’


It.

I’m using *it.* 😆

If you know me, not only am I not prone to falling victim to fads, but I also research things endessly, which often puts the kibosh on something I might think is a fad. I like to give new ‘things’ the benefit of years of existence and research before hopping on board.

In this case, once I started researching, I learned that it’s actually been around for a while, but is only now coming back into fashion, as backyard chickens have become a new “in” thing.

I heard the rave reviews. I read about the supposed “benefits.” My curiosity was piqued. BUT. I remained skeptical.

I mean, if this was as good as everyone was saying it was, why is it not mainstream news? Apparently, I’m a bit ahead of the curve, because I’m writing about it, too, since there are so many who have not yet heard about it.

Seriously, though, I’m not reinventing the wheel. I’m not the first to discover it; and I’m certainly not the first nor probably the last to write about it. I figured, though, I would write and share my experience in the event anyone finds it interesting and/or useful.

The “it” that I speak of is fermented feed for my chickens. I know, right? {Go ahead, roll your eyes. I’ll wait. 😆 }

When I first started reading, I read all the kinds of way to ferment food. I read about all the the various tools/containers/apparatus “needed” to ferment. I read about all the ingredients one “must” have to ferment.

And while I was fascinated, I thought, “This is definitely not for me. It’s too complicated; too time consuming.”  But I kept reading because I couldn’t understand why folks would do this work unless the results were miraculous.

And then, I stumbled across a thread of the Backyard Chickens website, that got me thinking maybe- just maybe- it wasn’t all that complicated after all. Maybe it would be worth losing a bucket of feed to try.

I mean, after all, who wouldn’t want to feed their feathered friends a super-food full of probiotics; one that makes it’s own new vitamins, and that not only makes their poo smell less and gives them awesome glossy feathers, but one that actually cuts your feed bill?

I love my chickens, but just the thought of a less stinky coop combined with a lower feed bill? Well, that was enough to convince me, especially since I read about a way to use a single container and have a never-ending-bucket of feed.

I read about two-bucket methods, whereby you drill a hole in the one which allows the SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Yeast and Bacteria) to drain out the bottom of the one bucket to be used in the next batch; etc etc etc. Not only did this seem labor intensive, but it sounded messy and involved. I am all for easy. 😀

When I read about a lady using a cooler, I knew this would be the method for me. She had hers outside in her coop, and a while later, she moved it inside because her SCOBY had gone dormant in the brutal winter temps. I knew I at least needed to get my feed fermenting inside.

I brought my 60 qt wheeled cooler into the mudroom.  cooler I added my feed and ***water.  {***You’ll want to dechlorinate your water so it won’t kill the good bacteria. If your water supply is chlorinated, as city tap water is, you’ll want to leave the water you plan on using for your fermented feed- out in the open, so the chlorine can evaporate; which usually takes about 24 hours. }

For good measure, I threw in some apple cider vinegar (ACV) {unpasteurized, and yes, I know it’s better with the ‘mother’ in it- it was all going to ferment, and make new mother anyhow, so I wasn’t worried. 😉 } I use ACV anyhow; I figured a few glugs couldn’t hurt.

And then I waited.

I stirred a few times a day.

I left the lid cracked so the stuff flying around in the air could inoculate my feed with all the goodies {this is an anerobic process in an aerobic environment, this fermenting and getting the SCOBY}. I knew that my feed would grow in size; basically doubling, so I was cautious and watched to make sure I would have some trying to escape. I’ve read of folks who used glass jars, screwed on the lids, only to have them explode from the gas build-up in the jar. {Fermenting food will create gas, so if you hear burping, things are going well.  😆} I also know of someone else who is keeping her feed in the shower, in the event she has another mess. 😆

About 4 days later, I decided my feed had adequately fermented and was ready to use. 20131208_162208

In my reading, I read about folks whose chickens didn’t like the fermented feed. Surprisingly, there are people who tell you their chickens won’t eat things like watermelon or spaghetti, which blows my mind. But that there were some whose chickens didn’t like fermented feed, well, I think they were probably just picky chickens.

I have never had picky chickens, and I wonder if it’s because of their free ranging time. I mean, when they are out eating everything, something new is nothing to eschew. It gets inhaled in minutes, before they have time to think about whether or not they should try it.

{And while we’re talking about diet, I will tell you- they are NOT vegetarian in their normal habitat. They will eat anything that moves if they can catch it. Don’t be bamboozled by “vegetarian eggs.” I’m pretty sure that’s an impossibility, because you cannot tell me there are no bugs where the battery hens are.

My chooks have eaten moles, voles, mice, frogs, bugs, horse food, snakes, and prolly tons of other stuff I’m forgetting about. They’ll also eat scorpions and black widow spiders, too. The point is- they’re natural omnivores and should be eating darn near everything- and mine do.}

I did keep some regular food out once the fermented feed had been gobbled up, as a means of making a slower transition, but honestly, they never gave it a second glance. Now, when I take their feed bowl out, they rush me. On the one hand, it’s hilarious to hear a flock of chickens stampeding toward you; on the other hand, it’s a bit disconcerting, and makes me glad every single time that they aren’t bigger, because I know *I’d* be on the menu, too {Good golly, don’t let me fall, don’t let me fall, don’t let me fall!!}. :mrgreen:

Because hanging feeders are designed for dry food, I got the idea to try my redneck feeder, which is a $6 10ft vinyl gutter cut into sections with end caps on the ends.20140116_090403

I needed something everyone could eat from that would also be portable. We cut 4 sections; 3 of which we regularly use. I also leave the bowl out because even if it’s empty, they still peck at it.  20140116_090352

So. What have I observed in all of this?

DEFINITELY their feathers are glossier. My birds have always looked really good; nice, shiny feathers. But with the fermented feed, they are downright glossy, and they all have a gorgeous sheen.

The poo smells marginally better. It makes a HUGE difference with the guineas, though, which compared to the chickens, the chicken poo is like smelling daisies. So that’s another win in my book.

I have always had very healthy birds {knock on wood} so time will tell if it has made them healthier. I will say that they have weathered the surprising winter weather marvelously, although we are very much looking forward to spring.

Where I’ve noticed the biggest difference is in my feed bill. No kidding, y’all, I’m saving a boatload of $$$ on feed. I’m documenting so I’ll know for sure for sure, but at this point, I know for certain I’m saving 2/3rds on feed. What I was going through every two weeks,  is now taking 6 weeks. That is *huge.*

I’m going to continue to document and observe, because I think there may be something to the thinking that there is a subtle difference in between pellets {which I use for dry food} and crumble {which makes a mess and is more wasted dry, imo} because of the binding agent to make the pellets. I’ll update once I know for sure. At this point, there is a difference in volume in the bags, and when I use more crumble, they don’t eat as much. Because I’m using my winter feed mix, come spring, I can isolate and figure out if it was crumble that made the difference or if it was the protein.

One thing I have noticed in my reading is that some folks are convinced you need a ton of ingredients {like pickle juice or sauerkraut, for example, or even apple cider vinegar} to get the feed to ferment. I knew the theory behind  the lack of need for these things, but hadn’t actually tested it myself. Because WE HAVE CHICKS!!!!  SQUEE!!!!, I went ahead and fermented chick starter just for them. I used ONLY their feed and water; again, left the container cracked to get the floaty air-borne stuff, and I’m happy to report it has fermented just fine, and smells just like the stuff for the big kids.

The biggest thing I love is how easy it is. Yes, that’s what I said; easy. 😆 It is a bit more involved that shoveling food into a dry feeder, but overall, it takes minutes to make up a new batch. Once I get down to the bottom of the cooler and have just a layer there, I add my feed and my water, mix it up, and I’m good to go.

Because I have a layer of SCOBY already, I can see the bubbles {aka fermentation} starting as I’m mixing in the new feed. It’s that fast. Depending on how cold it is {they eat more when it’s cold}, a typical  batch lasts 4 days. I just give it a stir to mix it back up before feeding because there’s the drier, thicker, fluffier stuff on the top, then a layer of the liquid, which needs to get mixed back in. Scoop it into the bowl and take it out.

I cannot say how impressed I am. I will NEVER go back to traditional dry feed. I am pretty sure the feed manufactures don’t want this secret getting out because their profits would take a dive. But ya. NEVER. GOING. BACK.

If anyone asks you about fermented feed, you can tell them you know a user. :mrgreen:

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