What are peoples experiences with feeding their birds spent grains? It seems like a lot of people are unfamiliar with it still.
I get spent grains from a nearby brewery. The chickens gobble up as much as I give them, but I keep it to maybe a tenth of their feed.
Several things. The protein is pretty high (about 22% if I remember right), but the amino acids aren't in the right balance. Also, I've read, but not observed, about digestive issues with too much spent grain. And it's a PITA to store and handle in large quantities.
Well I have the ability to get and feed spent grain in large quantity and have made it around 70% of my chickens feed for the past couple months and have had high egg production and no weight loss. I know there can be problems if you let the feed sour, but I'm wondering if anyone has actually experienced problems from feeding spent grains long term. It has been a massive reduction to my feed costs.
We brewed a batch of beer last week, and I've been putting out about 4 cups a day (for 5 pullets) of spent grain since then. I've just been putting it out in their 'treat feeder' in addition to whatever table scraps I have. They're also getting their regular starter feed. They are not laying yet so I can't speak to effects on egg production, but I haven't noticed any changes in appearance or behavior one way or another. They do seem to like it though--they eat all the grain and less of their regular feed.
I've seen a couple posts on the forum in which people expressed concerns over the yeast or feeding their animals fermented foods. In my experience brewing, the grains are not fermented with yeast or any other microorganism. They are steeped in water to make a wort, which is kind of like grain tea. After the fermentable sugars have leached out of the grain, the liquid is removed from the grain (or the grain from the liquid, depending on how you're doing it) and it is the liquid wort that is fermented with yeast. The grains are discarded and do not come in contact with the yeast. Maybe it is different in a big brewery, but I don't think so. The issue with making it a sole ration seems to be that some of the nutrition has been removed from the grain. Also, we mostly brew with extracts and a small amount of grain--I don't know how I would store a larger amount of spent grain.
I'd love to hear more about people's experiences. Brewing is awesome but it does produce some gloppy waste. Chickens are awesome but they sure eat a lot. It would be nice to solve two problems at once.