Feed Fermenter

By Demosthine · Nov 11, 2012 · Updated Nov 11, 2012 · ·
  1. Demosthine
    Feed Fermenter

    After reading ShadowMane's thread on Fermenting Feed for Meat Birds, I decided to use the same method she mentioned from BeeKissed for my flock that is laying hens. Several of the references in her thread have shown marked improvements in egg size, yolk size, shell thickness and overall better health in the hens when layers were fed this fermented feed. In addition to that, they eat less actual feed, thus saving you more money. In response to the request of a "visual learner" in the Arizona thread, I'm writing this to give everyone a quick and easy method for doing this.


    2x 5-Gallon Bucket - $2.78
    1x 5-Gallon Bucket Lid - $1.28
    1x Eye Bolt - ~$1.00
    1x Figure 9 Carabiner - ~$3.00

    Poultry Feed - Approximately 1.5 Gallons
    Apple Cider Vinegar "with Mother"


    The buckets and lids were found in the paint section at Lowe's, but they have them at Home Depot also. I used the standard paint buckets, but they sell food-grade versions for a slightly higher price. I opted for the standard grade for several reasons. First, the banding at the top of the bucket was not as thick compared to the food-grade ones, so it allows the top bucket to sit farther down inside the bottom bucket. This allows more feed to be kept using less water. An optimal situation for me. Second, the food-grade bucket only had an extremely heavy duty gasket lid that is inappropriate for this task. The buckets must be able to breathe freely since the fermentation process will off gas.

    Bucket Preparation


    To start, choose one bucket as the strainer bucket. I used an 11/32" drill bit and drilled dozens of holes in the bottom of the bucket. If you would like it to drain faster, you can add additional holes on the sides of the bucket, but I found that was unnecessary with the current amount of feed I have in there, about five-cups for experimentation at the moment. It took approximately 60 seconds to drain completely.

    Wash both buckets and the lids out really well with soap and water. Be sure to rinse everything to get all of the soap off. Then, simply nest the strainer bucket inside of the water bucket. Dump an appropriate amount of feed in to it, only filling the bucket about 1/4 full.


    After adding the feed, I shook the top bucket really well to make sure the holes were not too large. The Start & Grow Feed that I purchase for the chicks always has a selection of powder that settles to the bottom. In this photo, you can see all of this powder fell through the holes in to the water bucket. This is perfectly acceptable, as it just provides more food for the bacteria to ferment.


    Here, you can see the two buckets nested together. Fill the buckets to cover the feed and add an additional six inches or so. As the feed ferments, the water is absorbed and the feed will expand. Next, add one tablespoon of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. This will probably specify "With Mother." By far, the most common brand is Bragg's. I found an organic version at Target for the same price as their regular vinegar.

    Cover the bucket loosely with the lid or simply drape an old towel over it to keep the insects out. Store it in a cool place, ideally between 72*-80* from the reading I've found so far. After approximately eight hours, you should see bubbles forming on top of the water. This is a sure sign that the fermentation process has started. Wait at least a full day for the feed to ferment before giving it to the animals. For me, it will be sitting in the climate controlled laundry room in between the washer and dryer.

    If you choose to skip the apple cider vinegar, allow the process additional time. This will very depending on your environment, but the cultures should start developing in approximately 24-hours, according to BeeKissed. Regardless, stir the mixture once or twice a day to ensure oxygenation and distribution of the water.

    Draining and Feeding

    As far as my research has shown so far, each hen will eat approximately 1/2 cup of fermented feed per day. As of this writing, I've just started the process and have not fed it to my three 8-week old pullets yet, so that is an arbitrary number, for all intents and purposes. There are several methods that have been mentioned for how to remove the fermented feed. Each will be highlighted briefly below.


    The first method is to use a small wire-mesh strainer or colander. Ideally, find one that has handles that will sit across the top of the bucket. This allows you to do other things while the water drains. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate or fancy. I'll be going to Goodwill to find one when the opportunity arises.


    The next method is to cross-drain it. Remove the strainer bucket most of the way and tip it sideways. Carefully balance the top bucket on the rim of the bottom bucket. I recommend against this method because when your animals decide they want food now, it will cause a large mess and the process must be started over.

    The method I prefer is to use a pulley system to elevate the strainer bucket above the water level and secure it to itself. This allows you to walk away without the concern of a precariously balanced bucket system being knocked over.

    To start, I installed a small eye-bolt in to the cross beam of my porch. This can be a very small eye bolt, since you aren't supporting more than twenty pounds. Cut a length of rope slightly more than twice the distance from the top of the bucket to the eye bolt. Secure one end of the rope to the bucket.

    Next, loop the rope through the eye bolt and back down. Rise the bucket until the base sits just inside of the water bucket's rim. Use a Figure 9 Carabiner or similar device to secure the loose end to the taught line and allow the water to drain. These types of carabiners can be found at many automotive stores, as well as the big-box stores.

    Component Replacement

    After each feeding, add an equal amount of dry feed in to the bucket and stir well. This will continue the batch fermenting. Always re-use the water that was drained out. This is called back-washing and you are keeping all of the beneficial bacteria in the water bucket to continue the process.

    Periodically, you will need to top off the water as well, due to absorption and evaporation. Each time you refill the water to approximately six inches above the feed, add another tablespoon or so of the apple cider vinegar. Although this isn't strictly necessary for the fermentation process, it continues adding the other beneficial elements of the acv to their diet.

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  1. CoopDeViIIe
    What type of feed do you use so it doesn't fall through the drilled holes? I'm guessing crumbles won't work and you are using pellets?
  2. LeslieDJoyce
    Thank you so much for digesting this information down for us! The pictures of the drilled bucket are particularly helpful.
  3. scrapingran
    What kink of feed do you use? Does chicken scratch work?
  4. lbrtyldy
    And, this is really cool, I just might have to try it, especially when I am raising chicks or meat birds that are not free ranging. Thanks!
  5. lbrtyldy
    It says 1 tbsp of ACV
  6. Ullie
    Great article and photos.
    Wondering if anyone has any suggestions on what kind or type of grains to use would be helpful.
  7. TallChickMagnet
    It doesn't tell how much Apple Cider Vinegar to use. Can you help, please.

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