Fermented food for chicks

ProFitJess

In the Brooder
Mar 7, 2018
5
0
12
New Hampshire
New chicken mommy here and planning for our 8 chicks arriving in April. I am considering fermented food for our chicks. How do I know how much to make at a time? And if I make it, how long does a batch keep if they don’t finish it all? If I’m using chick starter crumbles, do I strain off the mash before giving it to them or just scoop it out and serve as is? Thank you in advance for your sage chicken wisdom!
 

Kusanar

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 30, 2014
3,128
7,567
426
Roanoke area, Va.
First off, welcome to BYC, glad to have you here asking questions.

Have you read any of the Fermented feed thread yet? If not, I would recommend popping in there, LOTS of good info there to check out. https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/fermented-feeds-anyone-using-them.645057/

As for your specific questions, I'm not sure how much to start with, but it doesn't really go bad, it just gets deeper fermented as it ages, so start with something that sounds reasonable and then go from there.

If they don't finish it, it won't go bad, but it will dry out and be harder for them to eat since it will cake to the dish, so, after a while (a few hours, before the next feeding, etc) just scrape the stuff out of the dish and if they haven't pooped in it or otherwise made it gross, just dump it back in the bucket of FF and give it a stir.

A lot of people start their ferment off as a peanut butter type consistency. If it is too moist, just add more feed without adding water. You will get a feel for how much water your specific feed will absorb. You certainly CAN make it wetter and strain it out if you want, but that's just more work and mess to deal with, so it's probably easier to just start with a thicker mix to begin with.

One thing I have seen about feeding chicks FF is that if they can get IN the dish, they will, things like matted down feathers happen frequently and with wetter mixes, chicks have drowned in the feed. That is another reason to keep it on the dryer side and feed it in one of the chick feeders that they stick their head in until they get big enough you don't have to worry about them trying to go swimming.

I'm going to tag a few people that are currently active on the big fermented feed thread so they can come over here and chime in as well.

@Beer can @Gramma Chick @lazy gardener
 

Foster's Freehold

Songster
6 Years
Jun 7, 2013
346
458
182
South Central KY
I feed fermented to chicks. I have 3 barred rock pullets and 3 Buff pullets. Here's how I do it.

I got a "bag keeper" plastic bin designed for whole bags of flour or meal or sugar. Filled it 1/3 full of starter crumbles, added 1/3 of water and waited for it to soak that water up. Add water again until the mash is about like thick oatmeal or grits, the spoon slowly falls over. You can leave it uncovered for a few days to harvest wild yeast that is the ferment catalyst or add a couple of pinches of activated dry yeast. Keep it in a warmish spot, say the top of the fridge.

Stir it a couple of times a day. If you are familiar with rising bread dough, you'll understand. After a couple of days (depending on warmth) it will be ready. I use the bottom part of the round mason jar chick feeder. Take it apart, fill with mash, add top part back. I put a 4 oz jelly jar in the middle with water. That way, any water spilled will just sit in the mash and that's ok.

Add fresh crumbles back to the bin, add water and stir. Keep adding water until it is again about like oatmeal. Stir, serve, repeat.

It takes a long time to get gross. If you make it three days before you get your chicks, then you should be good. Just refilling so that you always have almost a whole bin will keep it fermenting and fresh. Don't forget to stir.
 

ProFitJess

In the Brooder
Mar 7, 2018
5
0
12
New Hampshire
First off, welcome to BYC, glad to have you here asking questions.

Have you read any of the Fermented feed thread yet? If not, I would recommend popping in there, LOTS of good info there to check out. https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/fermented-feeds-anyone-using-them.645057/

As for your specific questions, I'm not sure how much to start with, but it doesn't really go bad, it just gets deeper fermented as it ages, so start with something that sounds reasonable and then go from there.

If they don't finish it, it won't go bad, but it will dry out and be harder for them to eat since it will cake to the dish, so, after a while (a few hours, before the next feeding, etc) just scrape the stuff out of the dish and if they haven't pooped in it or otherwise made it gross, just dump it back in the bucket of FF and give it a stir.

A lot of people start their ferment off as a peanut butter type consistency. If it is too moist, just add more feed without adding water. You will get a feel for how much water your specific feed will absorb. You certainly CAN make it wetter and strain it out if you want, but that's just more work and mess to deal with, so it's probably easier to just start with a thicker mix to begin with.

One thing I have seen about feeding chicks FF is that if they can get IN the dish, they will, things like matted down feathers happen frequently and with wetter mixes, chicks have drowned in the feed. That is another reason to keep it on the dryer side and feed it in one of the chick feeders that they stick their head in until they get big enough you don't have to worry about them trying to go swimming.

I'm going to tag a few people that are currently active on the big fermented feed thread so they can come over here and chime in as well.

@Beer can @Gramma Chick @lazy gardener
I really appreciate your feedback! I did spend some time nosing around the fermented feed thread but had a hard time finding the answers I was looking for. I will definitely go back and look through the threads some more. I am going to start the feed in a chick seater with the little holes in it so hopefully they won’t be able to make too much of a mess or climb into it. And thank you for tagging other users!
 

Kusanar

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 30, 2014
3,128
7,567
426
Roanoke area, Va.
I really appreciate your feedback! I did spend some time nosing around the fermented feed thread but had a hard time finding the answers I was looking for. I will definitely go back and look through the threads some more. I am going to start the feed in a chick seater with the little holes in it so hopefully they won’t be able to make too much of a mess or climb into it. And thank you for tagging other users!
No problem!
 

lazy gardener

Crossing the Road
7 Years
Nov 7, 2012
27,615
27,076
917
CENTRAL MAINE zone 4B
There is a FAQ article in my signature. That should help you a lot. It was written by @Tikijane. For your small brood of chicks, I'd start with about a quart of FF. That would translate to about 2 cups of feed, and about 2 cups of warm water in a 2 qt container. It will take about 3 days to get your first ferment going. After that, if you feed it out in the morning, and renew it, it will be ready to go the next morning. As they grow, and you assess their needs (which will always be changing) you can increase the volume of your container. I do not let my ferment get very ripe, generally wanting to feed it out by day 3 if I have a good culture going. I rotate (2) x 5 gallon buckets for my flock of 28 adult birds. Every day, I feed out one bucket, save back a cup or two, and add fresh water and feed. The next day, the FIRST bucket is ready to go.

I always start my chicks on dry crumble, sprinkled on the floor (a paper plate, paper towel, or box lid works great for this.) I find that if chicks walk through their feed, they are apt to eat more! I also put out a feeder full of dry feed.

After they are eating well, I introduce the FF. Initially, they get just a tiny bit which is either plopped onto a piece of cardboard or small dish. As they "discover" the FF, I then increase the feed dish size accordingly.

It's super important to not put out too much or have it wet enough that they can do a face plant in it. If it's too wet, it would be possible for a chick to get trampled into it and drown. My favorite chick feeder after the age of 2 - 3 weeks is a trough style made of a piece of plastic gutter. Feet screwed on the bottom, end caps or wood cut to fit the ends, and a dowel across the top that will spin if the birds stand on it. For adult birds, I simply raise the dowel higher.
 

ProFitJess

In the Brooder
Mar 7, 2018
5
0
12
New Hampshire
I feed fermented to chicks. I have 3 barred rock pullets and 3 Buff pullets. Here's how I do it.

I got a "bag keeper" plastic bin designed for whole bags of flour or meal or sugar. Filled it 1/3 full of starter crumbles, added 1/3 of water and waited for it to soak that water up. Add water again until the mash is about like thick oatmeal or grits, the spoon slowly falls over. You can leave it uncovered for a few days to harvest wild yeast that is the ferment catalyst or add a couple of pinches of activated dry yeast. Keep it in a warmish spot, say the top of the fridge.

Stir it a couple of times a day. If you are familiar with rising bread dough, you'll understand. After a couple of days (depending on warmth) it will be ready. I use the bottom part of the round mason jar chick feeder. Take it apart, fill with mash, add top part back. I put a 4 oz jelly jar in the middle with water. That way, any water spilled will just sit in the mash and that's ok.

Add fresh crumbles back to the bin, add water and stir. Keep adding water until it is again about like oatmeal. Stir, serve, repeat.

It takes a long time to get gross. If you make it three days before you get your chicks, then you should be good. Just refilling so that you always have almost a whole bin will keep it fermenting and fresh. Don't forget to stir.
Great, thank you!
 

ProFitJess

In the Brooder
Mar 7, 2018
5
0
12
New Hampshire
There is a FAQ article in my signature. That should help you a lot. It was written by @Tikijane. For your small brood of chicks, I'd start with about a quart of FF. That would translate to about 2 cups of feed, and about 2 cups of warm water in a 2 qt container. It will take about 3 days to get your first ferment going. After that, if you feed it out in the morning, and renew it, it will be ready to go the next morning. As they grow, and you assess their needs (which will always be changing) you can increase the volume of your container. I do not let my ferment get very ripe, generally wanting to feed it out by day 3 if I have a good culture going. I rotate (2) x 5 gallon buckets for my flock of 28 adult birds. Every day, I feed out one bucket, save back a cup or two, and add fresh water and feed. The next day, the FIRST bucket is ready to go.

I always start my chicks on dry crumble, sprinkled on the floor (a paper plate, paper towel, or box lid works great for this.) I find that if chicks walk through their feed, they are apt to eat more! I also put out a feeder full of dry feed.

After they are eating well, I introduce the FF. Initially, they get just a tiny bit which is either plopped onto a piece of cardboard or small dish. As they "discover" the FF, I then increase the feed dish size accordingly.

It's super important to not put out too much or have it wet enough that they can do a face plant in it. If it's too wet, it would be possible for a chick to get trampled into it and drown. My favorite chick feeder after the age of 2 - 3 weeks is a trough style made of a piece of plastic gutter. Feet screwed on the bottom, end caps or wood cut to fit the ends, and a dowel across the top that will spin if the birds stand on it. For adult birds, I simply raise the dowel higher.
That article is pure gold. Thank you!
 

lazy gardener

Crossing the Road
7 Years
Nov 7, 2012
27,615
27,076
917
CENTRAL MAINE zone 4B
See the FF FAQ article in my signature. Fermentation improves the digestibility, produces lysine and methionine, and some B vitamins. It breaks down the antinutrients. It also results in a healthier gut as evidenced by increased villi seen in gut cross section.

You can tell that it's gone bad by the smell. Good FF has a pleasant, sometimes tangy, grainy, yeasty smell. FF will not grow botulism as that is a microbe that is grown in an anaerobic environment.
 

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