Fermenting Chicken Feed: A Straightforward Method

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This article is in the series Natural and Healthy Chicken Keeping
Fermenting is a simple process which involves soaking chicken feed then feeding it to your chickens. It is similar to a sourdough starter! And there are so many benefits!

The Benefits
  • It is easier for your chickens to digest, especially if you are feeding them pellets or crumbles. Even grains get softer after soaking.
  • Your chickens will eat less. Soaking expands the food, and chickens also digest the fermented feed more thoroughly.
  • It is harder to spill than dry food. But even if a bit is spilled, the chickens will gobble it up. Sometimes it takes them a while to get used to fermented feed, but once they do they love it!
  • Tests have shown that chickens who eat fermented feed lay more eggs and they have thicker shells. By this I mean female chickens; roosters won't lay eggs no matter how much fermented feed you give them! ;)
  • Fermenting brings out probiotics that strengthen the chickens' immune system, making them less likely to get sick.
  • It adds more nutrients! Good for gut health too!
  • The chickens have shinier feathers, look healthier, act healthier, and are healthier. Some people even claim that they poop less and that their poo is less messy and smelly when they are fed a diet of fermented feed!
  • As said before, the chickens love it!

Now you're probably thinking, "how to I get this marvelous food?" Hold your horses, I'm getting there!

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How To Do It
First, gather all your suppplies. You will need:

  • A bucket
The size of your bucket depends on how many chickens you have. I use a one-gallon bucket for my flock of 10-20 chickens, mixed standards and bantams. If you have a very small flock you could probably just use a kitchen container.
  • A loose-fitting lid for the bucket
Make sure the lid is not tight! If it is, it will explode and make a mess. As long as a bit of air can still go out you should be good!
  • A stirring stick
Currently, I'm using a brand-new paint stick. It is a bit flimsy, but food doesn't stick to it and it is just the right size. That should give you an idea of what to look for in a stirring stick!
  • A shallow container
It is nice (but not necessary) if your chickens can reach in without standing on the rim or jumping in, but the sides should still be tall enough to keep the food in.
  • A scoop
I like a 1 cup scoop so I can easily keep track of how much my flock eats per day. But if you don't care about that kind of thing, it doesn't matter.
  • Water & chicken feed
The water should be drinkable. More about chicken feed later!


1. Put your chicken feed in the bucket. I wouldn't dare fill the bucket any more than half-way with feed. You still have to add water, and the feed swells a lot!

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Feed in the bucket.

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Water has been added.

Add enough water that it is about two inches above the food. Stir and set the lid on.

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Loose-fitting lid on bucket. You can also see my stirring stick and scoop on top.

2. During the first day, check it at least twice to make sure you have enough water. After this, try to keep the water level about one inch above the food.

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This feed needs more water!

3. Around day 2-4 it will be ready (by "day two" I mean 24 hours after you started fermenting). I have been told that finished ferments have a smell that is hard to describe (the best adjective somebody gave me was "sort of fruity"), but because my nose doesn't have a good sense of smell, I judge the bubbles.

When you stir normal chicken feed in water, a few bubbles are sure to come up. But when the ferment is ready, it will bubble excessively at the slightest of pushes from the stirring stick. You will know it when you see it, but if you are new to fermenting it might just be easier to go by smell.


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A healthy ferment! Notice all the bubbles.

4. Once your ferment is ready, scoop some out into your shallow container. I drain most of the juice in the scoop back into the bucket.

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Fermented feed in shallow container.

I don't have a set amount that I feed my chickens. I prefer to scoop out less rather than more, because my chickens won't eat dried fermented feed. If they are still hungry, I can always come back to serve more.

After you scoop out some chicken feed, add some dry feed into the bucket. Here is a secret: you can control how full your bucket is by how much dry feed you add every morning. If your bucket is too full, add less feed. If your bucket doesn't have enough, add more feed.

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Dried chicken feed on top of the ferment, ready to be stirred in.

Anyways, check the water level. As mentioned in step 2, from now on you want to try to keep the water level about one inch above the feed. I add more water every couple of days. Once you are done with this, put the lid back on and head out to the coop!

5. Once you are in the coop, let the chickens at their feed! It may take them a couple of days to get used to their strange new food, but once they do they will forever adore it! I have never met a chicken who does not like fermented feed!


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It is a race to get to the feed every morning!I

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Sometimes the smaller birds will jump into the bin and eat. The only disadvantage is their muddy feet.


After the chickens are done eating, I take the bin and give it a quick rinse. This just makes cleaning easier in the long run.

Repeat steps 4 and 5 every morning!


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Choice of Feed
I don't know a ton about feed choices, but I'll give you my best!

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Whole grains from Big D Ranch!

Gains are best to ferment, because they have more nutrients than pellets. When grains are fermented, they open up to allow more nutrients

Pellets (and crumbles) work, but they are not the best. Fermenting pellets is like putting greens into a smoothie; yummier, but with about the same nutrients.

Corn is not the best either. It is not as nutritious as other grains. It works, but it could be better.

Kahm Yeast
After just a few days of fermenting, you may find a thin white film of something mold-like on top of your water. Upon discovering it, most people (including myself) think it is mold.

Don't panic! After some research and advice from friends, I found out this is Kahm Yeast. Its a yeast, not a mold. It is harmless, though I have heard that it can affect the taste a bit, and can make the ferment pretty smelly.

Kahm Yeast is white and grows like a film on top of the water. It almost always has bubbles trapped under the film. On the first day it is very thin with a few bubbles here and there. After that it rapidly gets stronger until it looks like a bunch of wrinkly, gray film.


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Day one of Kahm Yeast.

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Day two of Kahm Yeast.


When I find Kahm Yeast, I skim the majority off and throw it away. This is one reason to keep the water an inch above the feed; to make it easy to remove the Kahm.

Over time, the Kahm Yeast smell grows. When it gets to the point where my family start pestering me (so every couple of months) I let my ferment die our by not adding any food and completely start over. I dump out all the old water and give my bucket and stirring stick a good scrub. This helps keep the Kahm down in the next batch.

I have also heard that cooler temperatures aren't quite so suitable to Kahm Yeast, though I have not done any tests on this.


Additional Notes
  • I take care of my fermented feed in the morning, because that is when I feed my chickens. I don't allow my adult chickens free-choice unless I am on vacation. If you want, you could feed your chickens twice or even three times per day; it is just personal preference.
  • If I am going on a short trip, I put extra water and feed in the bucket and let it be, but if I am going on a long vacation I let my fermented feed level in the bucket drop lower and lower, then start over when I get back.
  • I ferment feed outside during the summer and inside during winter. My family makes me keep it in the garage because of the smell from the Kahm Yeast.
  • I have not yet dealt with mold in my ferment, but if I ever do I would completely restart and wash my bucket very well.
  • Recently my feed bin tipped over on top of one of my pullets. The first time this happened I was near and lifted it off her. The second time I did not find her until several hours later. From her death, I have learned to stay near my chickens while they are eating from a container that is tippy.
  • As I mentioned before, it might take a while for the chickens to get used to fermented feed. If they refuse to eat, cut off all access to dry feed. If they are used to having access to food 24/7 it will take them a couple days to learn they should eat all they can at your one or two designated meal times. Be patient with them and don't lose hope!
  • For future reading you can check out this thread: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/fermented-feeds-anyone-using-them.645057/post-8695537
  • Remember, everybody's method is different. And that's okay! I would love to know what you do in the comments!

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About author
PioneerChicks
I keep chickens, pigeons, cats, bees, and a rabbit!

I love nature and am working on becoming more self sufficient. I also love using my chicken knowledge to help other people!

If you have any questions or feedback about my article, please comment below or send me a PM. Don't forget to rate and review!

Latest reviews

Fermented foods are great for our wellness-- they normalise the level of acidity in our tummy, give digestive system equilibrium, aid in the absorption of nutrients and counteract toxic compounds.

In chickens, it has actually been found to have comparable impacts- aiding with their digestion as well as intestinal tract wellness as well as enhancing their egg weight, shell weight and density.

Fermenting maintains all the vital vitamins in your chicken feed grains, and also produces new vitamins such as folic acid, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin- all which assist promote far better total wellness in your chickens!
Thank you!! This was very informative and actually answered the last few questions I had in my mind after the research I'd already done myself. I actually have my first batch of fermented feed ready for tomorrow morning. I'm hoping they will get acclimated to the new feed w/o throwing too big of a fit. Lol They are quite the spoiled little flock...they are picky and give me grief if things aren't just right. If I'm late with their treats, they, along with the ducks, come to my sliding glass doors and peck at the glass, the roo will crow and the ducks quack...until I give them their afternoon veggies. 😂 Again, thank you!!
This is great information compiled in an easy manner to read! I was just thinking about sopping up my ladies meals with warm filtered water. Enjoyed the digestive benefits for them, with the cold hoping it will help with production! Thanks for the tip! -Mrs. Cluckle Berry
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Comments

I have wondered if it would be ok to have dry feed available for them 24-7, then giving a small amount of FF every morning, rather then feeding only FF twice a day ?

Would the smaller amount of FF each day still be enough to give them all the healthy benefits of FF ? :confused:
 
I have wondered if it would be ok to have dry feed available for them 24-7, then giving a small amount of FF every morning, rather then feeding only FF twice a day ?

Would the smaller amount of FF each day still be enough to give them all the healthy benefits of FF ? :confused:
I think that would work just fine! As long as they eat some FF I think they would still get the benefits.
 
I can't see why not, but I don't know for sure. Maybe the benefits would be a level lower? Maybe it would be exactly the same? I'm sure it would do something. You can try posting in the FF thread, the link is at the bottom of the article.
O ok Thank you, I will have to do that a little later. I would think it would be ok feeding them that way, but always nicer to have more input from the other more experienced Peep's then myself! :)
 
This was such a great article. Thank you for writing it. I think I am going to give it a try! I currently feed pellets but am trying to get away from it. Is there any way you can link to the feed you are using?
No problem! Glad to get you started!

I use Big D Ranch (http://bigdranch.com). I highly recommend it, though it is a small family run business and I don't think they ship. If you are somewhat nearby it is well worth the drive.

I don't know of any other brands that sell whole grains feed, but I know their are some. However, if you can't find any you could get away with pellets with some grains mixed in. ;)

Good luck!
 
Yes! I’ve been adding fermented feed to
My chicks diet for about a month and a half now to get them through the winter with some more support. They are in love with the fermented food. I use yogurt containers to fill and they devour them. I’m always so surprised they usually don’t knock the containers over.

the reason I added fermented food was because something seemed off with my girls. They were having some foamy poop that looked like coccidiosis and kind of less..chicken-y acting. It took a few weeks but I honestly think the fermented food helped them! IGave them corrid, but their poop was still foamy. Keptgiving them the fermented food and no more foamy poops!

I will continually do this!!
 
Thank you for this article! I started a very small FF jar to see if my girls like it - today was day 2 it had a few bubbles! I have a question... A majority of the year here it is 90+ degrees sometimes gets up to 110-115 for several days in a row. Will the FF go bad or tend to mold in extreme heat like this if I keep it in our outdoor shed? Will it need to be in the house where it’s cooler?
 
Hello, I haven't fermented grains (I feed layer pellets) but I do sprout lentils (started because I had a bucket of them and my family won't eat them. They get the second hand goodness from our chicken eggs though -- I hope!) Our Cuckoo Marans and Jersey Giants have all-day access to pellets via a Rat Proof Feeder (it seriously works, though took some training). I have a large metal dog-dish where I dump leftover household greens and the sprouted lentils once a day. They can't get enough of them, completely clean the bowl, which helps with keeping the pests away. However, I did read that sprouts can carry salmonella. Has anyone else heard this? And do you think the sprouted lentils have similar nutritional value as the fermented grains?
 
Thank you for this article! I started a very small FF jar to see if my girls like it - today was day 2 it had a few bubbles! I have a question... A majority of the year here it is 90+ degrees sometimes gets up to 110-115 for several days in a row. Will the FF go bad or tend to mold in extreme heat like this if I keep it in our outdoor shed? Will it need to be in the house where it’s cooler?
I was just wondering the same thing. I live in central Iowa and the summers get hot and very humid. ???
 
Thank you for this article! I started a very small FF jar to see if my girls like it - today was day 2 it had a few bubbles! I have a question... A majority of the year here it is 90+ degrees sometimes gets up to 110-115 for several days in a row. Will the FF go bad or tend to mold in extreme heat like this if I keep it in our outdoor shed? Will it need to be in the house where it’s cooler?
I was just wondering the same thing. I live in central Iowa and the summers get hot and very humid. ???
I need to update this article with more information.

It is true, the cooler the weather, the less kahm yeast gathers. In weather that hot it would probably be a good idea too keep it as cool as possible to help control the yeast. Just make sure it doesn't go below freezing. I'm not sure if warmer temps would allow mold to grow faster.
 
Hello, I haven't fermented grains (I feed layer pellets) but I do sprout lentils (started because I had a bucket of them and my family won't eat them. They get the second hand goodness from our chicken eggs though -- I hope!) Our Cuckoo Marans and Jersey Giants have all-day access to pellets via a Rat Proof Feeder (it seriously works, though took some training). I have a large metal dog-dish where I dump leftover household greens and the sprouted lentils once a day. They can't get enough of them, completely clean the bowl, which helps with keeping the pests away. However, I did read that sprouts can carry salmonella. Has anyone else heard this? And do you think the sprouted lentils have similar nutritional value as the fermented grains?
No, as far as I know, sprouts cannot carry salmonella.
 

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