Fermenting feed- what am I doing wrong

packleadr1

Hatching
Aug 31, 2020
2
0
7
So I decided to try fermenting our chicken feed. I'm doing it mainly to increase the health and immune system of my chickens. The reduced food usage and cost savings is just a side bonus. I currently use a good quality layer pellet from my local feed/ garden store at about $14/ 50lb bag. I have 12 hens and 2 roosters of the Barred Rock variety and they all eat the same food, which I know is debatable but I don't have the time or ability to separate their food and feed the roosters separately. We allow them to free range the yard each day, provided it's not raining, for a couple hours a day. We also throw them out some treats daily, whether it's scratch, bread, veggies, whatever. They seem to do well and are very happy, in the summer time we get 11-12 eggs daily, right now it's been very cold and rainy and we're getting 6-7, which I think is reasonable considering the change in weather.

So I watched a lot of videos and did my reading and figured out our daily usage at about 3.5 lbs of the feed, I get about 2 weeks on average out of a 50lb bag. So, I measured out 3 lbs and put it in a food grade, black bucket. I covered it with water to the top of the bucket, we are on well water so no chlorine. The way I understand it is, it takes 3 days to get to the right 'age' and ferment to the ideal level. So, the next day I did a second bucket the same way, my idea was to have 3 buckets going at a time so that one is 'ready' each day. I also stirred the buckets twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. I put a lid on each to keep out any bugs or other creatures but I did put a piece of paper between the lid and top so it didn't close down completely. I didn't want the gases building up inside with a closed lid on top. So, I did this and I got NOTHING. None of the tell tale signs of bubbles, it just looks like dirty water in a bucket. I think I did everything correctly but don't know why it didn't bubble up like it should. When I smell it, I get a slight sweet smell from it like I think I'm supposed to. It smells kinda like wet graham crackers.

So a couple questions:
1) Does temperature matter? I'm doing this in my garage but it's still been pretty cold, at least for us. I'm in South Carolina and it's been around 50-70 during the day and down in the 30-40s at night on some days. It's also been VERY VERY wet and rainy outside so we've had a very high humidity for the past 4 weeks.
2) What else should I have done? Where was my mistake? I want to try again and get it right.
3) Can I still use the feed? It's been submerged in water for about 6 days now, but it's been completely covered by water. It looks like mush but doesn't look or smell bad. I don't want to throw it away if I don't have to. I assume, even though it won't accomplish my goal of fermenting it's still ok to feed it to them. I just don't want to make them sick.

Any help would be appreciated before I kill my chickens, lol. Thank you.
 

linguini

Songster
Jan 8, 2021
351
698
188
Bridgewater NJ (Central NJ)
I think you are doing fine - the sweet smell seems right. It's ok to feed them. I tried like you did with a pipeline going for a couple of weeks, I left the buckets in front of the heater outlet for warmth. They loved it the first week, and for some reason they weren't too interested in the FF after the second week. I also noticed a sudden drop in weight of all of their eggs. (not sure it really was related to the FF, someone said the weight is more related to their water intake) I stopped fermenting the feed, simply add water to the pellets. They seem to like that better! They also have access to the unlimited dry pellets from the PVC auto feeder, but they'll definitely go for the watered pellets as their first choice. Won't touch the dry pellets unless I starve them.
 

kerbotx

Crowing
5 Years
Aug 29, 2016
481
1,030
251
Northeast Texas
Temperature was too cold - try a smaller batch on the kitchen counter, using only a pound or so of feed, and only enough water to cover by 1/2" or so. You may have to play around with the water level - some chickens like it soupy, some like it more crumbly. You can drain off excess water with a mesh strainer; some folks reuse the water to kickstart the next batch, but I prefer to start fresh.
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
5 Years
Jul 3, 2016
19,761
40,920
1,112
WA, Pac NW
My Coop
My Coop
I agree it's too cold for it to ferment well. I keep my ferment indoors and it's still slow in winter. Because I do mine indoors I leave the lid off so it can breathe - and as I've gone immune to the smell of it it's not a bother.
 

Sally PB

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
Aug 7, 2020
11,902
56,585
1,053
Belding, MI
I agree it's probably too cold. Something else that may get it "started" is some liquid from another fermented item. Like kombucha tea or a raw, unfiltered vinegar that says it has "the mother" in it.
 

tigger19687

Crowing
5 Years
Jun 27, 2017
1,925
2,300
302
Metrowest- Massachusetts
My Coop
My Coop
Each group of hens is different. Somewhere in 2017 or 2018 there are some posts on FF that I asked a bunch of questions. Mine were on and off of it for a while. They did seem to like just wet feed too. They also would go on and off their dry feed too.
:barnie I couldn't win with those fussy girls
I miss my hens, can't wait to get them again soon
 

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