Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by hellbender, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. DesertChic

    DesertChic Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 13, 2014
    Southern Arizona
    I tried feeding my most recent hatchlings the FF from the start with horrible results...mainly mess and lots of leftover food at the end of the day. I found myself bathing the feet of my chicks for an extended length of time as I tried to soften and wash off hardened FF, so I switched back to my dry organic starter feed until they were older. Now that they're 4 weeks old I give them FF feed part of the time and dry feed part of the time as they seem determined to have something to dump out and dig after in the brooder. I did notice that a couple of my smaller chicks eat the FF with tremendous enthusiasm and are now quickly catching up to the others in size and weight, making me wonder if they were just not getting enough of certain nutrients from the dry feed that they now get with the FF. All of my birds get a variety of foods including produce scraps from the kitchen, sprouted grains, a variety of fresh greens I grow for them in my garden, meal worms, every bug we can find for them, etc. plus both dry and fermented feed. I guess I'm just big on variety. [​IMG]
  2. gjensen

    gjensen Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 22, 2011
    Midlands, South Carolina
    I have experimented with a number of feeding methods through the years. The best method that I have found thus far is to find the best commercial ration that you can reliably get fresh. If it has been sitting on the shelf for two months, in an unconditioned space, in the summer, it is not fresh. Fortunately this is not as big of a deal as it used to be with all of the poultry keepers out there. It still pays to monitor your supply.

    It is my opinion that is the best starting point. We do no wrong if that is all we do.

    Commercial bagged rations are short on fat. Fat and oil goes bad fast. The birds can use a little more oil than what is in the bagged feed. This can be supplied by some wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds (I prefer hulled sunflower seeds), etc. etc. I feel this is more important for conditioning birds, during breeding season, and during the molt.

    I do not think that anyone would debate that birds allowed to range, and that have access to green forage are in better shape for it. If they do not have access to fresh greens, we should consider bringing some to them. The best supplement I ever found was opening the coop door.

    I like to throw them some whole grains periodically. Corn, wheat, oats, etc. I do not waste my time or money on cracked grains.

    My NHs were never big on oats unless they were soaked. I never soaked them more than a few days, and I would add a little red cell. My Catalanas devour dry oats. They hit it as hard as they would corn or wheat.

    I have "cut" their feed with oats, soaked or not, in periods of maintenance. I prefer oats over the other grains, but my hang up is the hulls. Soaking them as DR mentioned, may help.

    They get our kitchen scraps, and garden extras.

    A lot of ideas, come and go. What was old, becomes new again. It is helpful to remember that the science of poultry nutrition has come a long ways. What is in those "cursed" bags is better than poultry has ever had in any other age. They are not all the same though. Some rations are better than others.

    Sprouts or fodder have become new again. There was a time when that was common place, but they also did not have the quality of feed that we do now. Fresh, young, tender greens (which is all sprouts are) was even more important then. If I lived in the desert, or the frigid north, I might consider them. We can have greens all year around here, so I do not see them as worth the time, money, or effort.
    I am not saying that anyone should not do them. We all end up deciding what is worth the effort or not. If I was to do them, I would be more likely to plant them in trays of sand where they would not be so prone to mold.

    With all of these supplements, a little goes a long ways.

    I learned to be wary of trying to save money too much. I like to save money, but we should be cautious about what the cost of saving that money is. Usually, our birds are the most cost effective with a good balanced ration. When they are in the best possible condition, is when they perform the best for us.
    On the other hand I have learned not to buy everything that sounds good. I may try something, but I am not wealthy enough to give my money away. There are a lot of things that sound good.

    Time and labor is part of the cost. How much is our time and labor worth? Could we be getting a better return from our time and effort?

    I do not have an educated opinion (on a practical level) on fermented feed. I dabbled a little with it last year, and will again this next year. I told Bee that I would share my thoughts on it with her. I cannot draw a definite conclusion off of a single trial. I have another way that I want to compare. I am not bothering with comparing layers. There is enough commercial studies on that. They all show a small reduction in feed consumption, and no change in the amount of eggs laid. Commercial studies never remark on health and condition. That is difficult to quantify anyways.

    I do believe in probiotics. Particularly with birds on bedding. I do not believe that probiotics need to be given daily. It amounts to maintenance. Possibly daily to start, and then semi regularly there after.

    All of the good stuff in the world means nothing if they do not get sunshine, fresh air, clean ground, and exercise. Many health problems can be attributed to the ground that they are on.
    3 people like this.
  3. Dead Rabbit

    Dead Rabbit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 28, 2010
    From my experience. And going on the word of much more experienced and knowledgable men than me there is no better grain than oats. But the hulls is the downside.
    To overcome this , soak the oats for about three days. Plain water will work fine. But to take it to the next level you can add red cell or a product called vit-all. It's vitamins and minerals. Water soluble meant to go into drinking water. But I'm not a fan off using drinking water to administer this type of thing. I think soaking it into their actual food has a lot more advantage. They actually consume what you want them to.

    The soaking of oats this way not only softens hulls so they are digested better, but adds moisture to their system, and you can use this method to add supplements. I don't think this is necessary for a typical layer flock or for a meat flock. Because they don't live long enough to benefit from all this extra time and money. But if I was into showing fowl or was into extensive breeding programs like I used to be I would incorporate this method. Not fermenting but a good soaking.

    As a matter of fact I have recently started feeding a grain mixture. I feed it both dry but usually soak it for a day or two. It has no oats so it's easier to digest. A long soak isn't necessary. And I don't add any supplemental powders. It's mainly for variety and it does give them a little varsity plus a good strong digestive system is a healthy thing. Grinding grains make a strong craw, in turn good digestive system. I've all but cut out corn so I wanted something to replace it. A good healthy grain mixture is my theorized answer.
  4. Dead Rabbit

    Dead Rabbit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 28, 2010
    To check on how they are digesting grains or oats in particular check their droppings. If oats are fed dry I guarantee u will find undigested hulls. Droppings tell a lot about the birds and their health. Runny loose droppings can't be read other than they are loose which in my opinion isn't optimal health. This is why I'm not in favor of fermented grains and without experimenting with fermenting ration my initial thought is its not the best route to go on.

    Soaking grains and putting water over ration crumbles/mash/pellets is a happy mediun between dry and fermentation. But truthfully you can't go wrong with a good dry ration. I'd feed dry before fermenting till I either prove otherwise to myself or I read test results by others I respect and trust
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
    1 person likes this.
  5. Heron's Nest Farm

    Heron's Nest Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 11, 2011
    INteresting. I do not have runny loose droppings. That being said my feed is really exceptional. Comprised of many grains it is not pelleted. I think this makes a difference. Also, my hens range and get abundant leftovers from the neighboring farms, including our own. I also give a small ration of dry in the afternoon most days.

    This was a great post that really got me thinking. Thanks.

    Gorgeous photos!
    At what cost? Depends on what your using chickens for I suppose. My chickens have never failed to thrive. I raise birds for eggs though. My fermented mash is put into the fermenting bucket each night. It is really not sitting for days fermenting much. It has all the live flora infused in it. I am not sure how partially pre digesting the proteins and moistening the food would deter growth? I think because we ferment so much (we make fermented food products) I am comfortable with the process. I will say that my food is really infused with the good bugs and has fermented very little. Seed coats are softened (as seed coats are meant to resist digestion, so beginning the process is advisable), moisture intake is increased (water levels are crucial in egg production), it's hard to fling food so loss is less, and the infused herbs makes for good intestinal health in ranged birds.

    All this being said, when I raise meat birds I simply moisten the mash when I can. Frankly they eat is faster than I can keep up with and meat birds don't waste-they just ingest! LOL

    Just catching up on all these great posts. There has really been a crazy amount of great info that everyone has posted and I am thrilled. Actually thinking of going back and cutting and pasting into a word document much of the amzing knowledge everyone has shared.

    I have 100 hatchery chicks that just arrived. RIR, americanas (for my easter egger project), Delewares (OK, I just wanted these. Always have), and I made the plunge on the black minorcas. I will be breeding all the early layers. These are my egg birds.

    Of course I still have my various orpington projects, those are SOP with a focus on egg production.

    Dear Newbie to the thread,
    Don't become frustrated with our sometimes noncommittal responses. Folks here will share what they have been doing in a polite way so that you can spread your wings and crow your own way. We are a polite bunch who enjoy sharing, believe we have not arrived, and will enjoy your journey!
  6. KittieChick

    KittieChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2014
    Wake Forest, NC
    I got 6 CornishX last March at 3 weeks old from a friend. They were very large, not active, and had horrid smelly, runny poops. I moved them to an outside she'd and heat lamp as soon as possible. :lol:

    I discovered the FF thread, and decided to ferment the chick starter from TSC. Put the chicks on it. They didn't care for it at first, but being hungry.... Within 2 weeks, these chicks were starting to range, they were looking for stuff to eat in the yard. I fed them once daily. We processed them on July 4th weekend, way past the time (I think they were about 16 weeks old). Our carcasses weighed out between 5-6.5 pounds dressed. The morning of processing they were running around catching June bugs. Oh! Their poops were normal within a week.

    I'm feeding my current flock FF every other day or so. They don't care for the oats so much, and they don't like the pelleted food fermented. I have hard red wheat and BOSS with oats fermenting right now. The Dorkings kind of turn their noses up, but birds are suspicious of new stuff, so I'm not worried.

    Anyhow, I've had really good results from FF, and haven't seen a downside to it. Of course, I also have a really nice quality feed for my layers as well.
  7. gjensen

    gjensen Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 22, 2011
    Midlands, South Carolina
    Oats has a good amino acid profile, and more complete than the other grains. As a supplement, the hulls are not a problem. Heavy, regular, and prolonged feeding, oats probably should be soaked.

    Sunflower seeds have a similar issue. As a supplement, they are fine. These birds are just not high fiber animals. This is why I prefer hulled sunflower seeds as a supplement. What I want is the oil, not the shells.

    The only time I think to soaking is during unusually cold snaps (for us). When it becomes difficult to keep water in front of them all of the time, then it should probably be done. Fortunately, it is uncommon for us to have freezing temperatures all day here. Come tonight, we will have a couple days like this. I will keep dry feed in front of them as always, but I will be giving them some wet feed to.

    I throw them whole grains for the same reason that you mentioned. Again, for me, it is a supplement.

    The old timers often spoke of a percentage of water. They had what they called "wet" feeds, and spoke of water weight. Then they called grains etc. a dry feed, and a concentrate. They saw the wet feeds as necessary for vitamins and minerals (the greens) etc. They wanted to limit it however, and emphasized the "concentrated" or dry feeds like grains. Water takes up space (volume), and has little nutritional value. The birds drink to meet the need for water, and the commercial ration is certainly a concentrate.
    I do not mention this to discredit soaking grains or any other method. I mention this (to the general reader) because I think the perspective is interesting. The time frame that I speak of did not have the commercial rations like we do today. They were good feeders of what they had available to them.
  8. gjensen

    gjensen Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 22, 2011
    Midlands, South Carolina
    For the different testimonies on this or that, I cannot take them to heart. I cannot accept that this is good or not just because someone said that it is. The only way that we can ever really know is if we trial with control, genetically similar birds side by side.

    I hear claims of increased performance etc. all of the time, but as the reader, there are a lot of unknown variables. Then whether we like it or not, perception rules, and is often not accurate. If we think that we have something good, then we have convinced ourselves that we do. Unless evidence by comparison is proven, the testimony does not amount to much. Just because someone says that they have realized an increase in egg production does not make it true. There are too many variables to consider, and we have to assume that the writer accurately tracks the eggs laid over an entire year. Year after year. And without a control, how is it proven? There are many things that can explain a claimed upswing in the egg laying. Then we cannot examine the condition of the birds, or know of their care and condition beforehand. Sometimes there is an improvement, but sometimes the birds were not well managed beforehand. To be even more confusing, all of our birds are not genetically identical.

    I have listened to claims that this or that works well, and then visit the person. Sometimes, once we see and feel the condition of the birds we find another story. Sometimes they are too fat, too thin, or just in poor condition. Sometimes they are in decent condition, but the egg shells are thin. Increased performance? Compared to what? Then how long has this person been keeping poultry. 1, 2, 5, or 10 years?

    There has to be evidence before I will accept it. I have found for myself too many times that who I was listening to, was someone that could use a refreshment course themselves.

    I am not saying that we should never listen to anybody ever, or any other silly thing. What I am saying is that we should approach everything with a healthy does of skepticism. If we try something new, we should evaluate it thoughtfully, and have something to compare it to. I cannot say how many times along the way, I thought that I was doing something good, to realize later that I was doing nothing at all. I certainly do not want to repeat it and convince someone else of it.

    For the record, I have not been convinced that fermenting feed could not be a benefit. I do not believe some of the more outlandish claims. I have heard some say that they have saved 50% on feed. Really? Increased egg production? All of the commercial studies in controlled settings with quantities of birds, show no increase in egg production. They do show a reduction in the amount of feed consumed with no drop in egg production.
    There are some things I wonder about. Can a cheaper feed be improved by the process? Does it have to be fermented as long to receive a similar improvement? Can making a wet mash, and adding probiotics be an equivalent? etc. etc. etc.
    There is too much evidence out there in controlled studies to dismiss the idea altogether. On the other hand, there is some risk involved. I am skeptical, but I am not ready to dismiss it altogether. I see Bee as a credible source, so I will consider it on that alone.
    I will play with it a little bit again this year. I am not devoting my flock to it though.
    2 people like this.
  9. Beer can

    Beer can Chicken Obsessed

    Aug 12, 2014
    Upstate NY
    What was the method used for fermented feed? Been reading up on it and I've read that it should be fermented by lacto fermentation, like sauerkraut, not acetic acid fermented with the use of unpasteurized vinegar. This could explain mold issues also, the acetic acid ferment I would imagine would inhibit the growth of bad bacteria, anyone that has made saurkraut and I've made plenty knows salt is what inhibits the bad bacteria, the good gut flora bacteria is highly salt tolerant. And chickens cannot have salt as far as I know. I'm still interested in trying lacto fermented scratch grains, but maybe more as a daily supplement and not their main meal. What method did you all try for fermenting?
  10. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    Here's a link that can get you started. You'll find that it doesn't matter how you start your ferment, the LABs will dominate the mix anyway and the acetobacter take a back seat when that happens. No matter how or what you use to start your ferment, acetic acid is a byproduct of the grain fermentation, so acetic acid will be a fact in your mix no matter what.
    1 person likes this.

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