Fermenting Feed for Sourdough Nerds

yakitori

Songster
Jun 22, 2020
545
888
171
New York
I wanted to write this to help anyone who had the same question I did when I first got into fermenting feed. I'm an avid fermenter (is that a word?), I make my own sourdough bread, kefir, saukraut and other fermented foods. However, the concept of fermenting chicken feed was new to me.

Most of the writing on making fermented feed consists of 2-3 days of fermentation and submersing feed in water. This wasn't ideal for me, as I'm not an organized person, and would likely forget to prepare food for my chickens 3 days in advance. Draining the liquid also seemed like a chore. Being familiar with ferments, I had a nagging thought, that is, ferments that are up and running generally need less than 24 hours to do their magic (ie. milk kefir - 12 to 24 hours, sourdough starter - 6 hours max), so theoretically the same could be done for chicken feed.

After looking into it a bit, the concept really isn't hard to understand - chicken feed is mostly made of grains, and grains are fairly easy to ferment. So by this logic, I should be able to use my sourdough starter (a grain ferment) to ferment chicken feed right? As I couldn't find *any* information on this on BYC, so I decided it was time to experiment.

I used my active sourdough starter to kick start my fermented feed one night. I added just enough water so the feed was moist, but not mushy. Lo and behold it was smelling just like a sourdough starter in a couple of hours. By morning, it actually had a layer of hooch on the surface - 8 hours was more than enough. I decided it was ready and fed it to my chickens. The benefits were pretty instant, my chicken's poop didn't smell as much by the evening and seemed firmer than before.

When I got to the last bit of my first batch of fermented feed, I used it to start the next batch by adding more water and dry feed. This time I placed it in the fridge, and let it ferment overnight in the refrigerator. This worked better - it had a good aroma and did not exhibit signs of over fermentation (hooch/alcohol layer on the surface).

Since then I've pretty much sustained the same formula (I'm about a month in). One batch typically lasts my 8 birds 3 days. When it runs low, I simply add more water and feed. I eye the amounts I use - the same way I feed my sourdough starter. My sourdough starter has never gone bad, so I have no reason to believe that my fermented feed starter will. Some where along the way, my ferment has taken on a very nice smell, a little bit sweet and almost yoghurty. I've been tempted to taste it myself more than once!

So yes, with a boost from my sourdough starter, I've found that feed can be fermented without being underwater, and fermentation can be done in under 6 hours (if you leave it at room temperature). The chickens seem to be reaping all the purported benefits of a fermented feed.
 

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LCG Chicken Coop

Songster
Sep 18, 2019
104
718
166
Lafayette, CA
Thank you for this post; I’ve been using the water I rinse out my starter container each feeding and adding it to my fermenting vessel, and even that little bit of starter in the water seems to boost the fermentation of my feed—it definitely looks different and fluffier when I do that.
 

leliadax

Songster
Aug 1, 2015
173
63
141
Arkansas
I'm interesting in trying fermented food too. Would using homemade kombucha tea instead of water work?
I have used kombucha that has over fermented and also used the whey leftover from my milk kefir when making cheese and yogurt. The chickens absolutely love it. I dont drain my liquid off though, I mix in layer feed and chick feed to soak up the liquid and make it dry. They gobble it down. Every so often I use dry kitten food to soak up the liquid and they really love that too.
 

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