To ferment or not to ferment, convince me.

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by earlyredrooster, Sep 5, 2014.

  1. earlyredrooster

    earlyredrooster Songster

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    So toying with the idea but unsure.
    Does it save money?

    Improve health and fitness?

    My birds free range, is that a problem?

    Can you use scratch or just corn?

    Let the debate begin.
     
  2. pdirt

    pdirt Songster

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    There are whole topics devoted to this debate. If you read the first 10-50 messages of any of the massive "fermented feed" threads, you'll learn a lot of the debate aspect.

    Briefly, I'll tell you WHY I do it, the how is a whole other topic.

    #1 Reason: Probiotics (improves digestion and immune strength in any animal, IMO and is my main reason for fermenting feed)
    #2 Improved nutrition (enhanced nutrient bioavailability, increased vitamin content, easier digestion because it's wet food)
    #3 Chickens love it
    #4 Seems to reduce my feed cost slightly

    IMO, if you want to do one thing to improve the general health of any animal, give them some probiotics. It will enhance their digestion and immunity and therefore help them better resist some diseases. If chickens are free-ranging, they are getting a good amount of probiotics already from any plant material they eat and perhaps from small animals like mice (I'm not sure if insects' GI tracts contain probiotics, but I imagine so). But if they're cooped up, they aren't getting really any at all. At least for humans, most probiotics do their job on the way through the GI tract and do not "colonize" the GI tract, contrary to popular belief. I have seen how probiotics have improved my own health (better digestion and mood) and have seen at least one soft-shell laying chicken be temporarily improved by increased probiotics (I had to keep up the probiotics at a high enough level to keep her shells firmer). And as far as I know, it's rather difficult to overdose on probiotics in food form. You could probably do so if you were taking probiotic pills and say perhaps took a whole bottle of them (would probably just give you gas or diarrhea or constipation), but it would be hard to eat too much probiotic food.

    I am not going to try to convince you of the "improved nutrition" aspect. There are TONS of books and web links out there going over the topic. Basically, the more I read about soaking grains, fermenting them, sprouting them, etc, the more and more I am inspired to base more of my own diet upon them. It just makes sense to me to do it for the chickens as well. I don't also sprout any grains (some people do), I just do the FF for now.

    As for #4, I haven't been able to calculate well this year, as our flock size has fluctuated a lot in the past 9 months. Last year when I had a more stable sized flock I did calculate out a few months and I think I was saving 10-15% or so in feed costs. Not a huge savings and not the main reason why I do it. I think some folks claim 25% or more feed cost savings. But I think this has more to do with rationing out feed vs. ever having free feeding available (feed always available whenever they want it). You could ration out dry feed and notice a huge cost savings difference, because the chickens are less likely to waste feed.

    Unlike some who feed a diet of 100% fermented feed (with or without free ranging), I choose to feed about 10-20% of their daily intake of formulated chicken feed (with free ranging in spring-fall) as fermented feed. The remainder of their chicken feed is just plain dry feed. The main reason for this is I don't think it's normal to feed any animal a diet of 100% fermented foods. I know some people do it and swear by it, but it's never made sense to me. It's also a lot of work to ferment feed (the way I do it) for 50+ chickens if their only feed source is FF.

    There is some work involved, especially the way I do it. I make batches at a time vs. a continuous fermenting process. Everyone out there will have their way, their reason, for why their method is best or better. IMO, the "best" way to ferment your feed is to just do it. Do it in a way that works for you, or makes sense for you. Try different methods out and see which one fits you well, or makes the most sense to you. Some people will want the least labor intensive method possible and will get "good enough" nutrition from it and others (like me) would rather put a little more effort into the fermenting process and get higher quality nutrition from the feed. It depends on what matters to you most and that will determine what method is "best" for you.

    I've not given you any links to follow up on, just my own experience. And since you and I don't know each other, I don't expect you to believe a word I say. But perhaps some of this will inspire you to learn more about probiotics and fermented feed in some way.

    But a question for you: Why are you even considering fermenting feed? What do you hope to gain from it?
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2014
    1 person likes this.
  3. earlyredrooster

    earlyredrooster Songster

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    Thanks you actually have been a lot of help. My main concern is the health of our birds. A friend of mine works for a dairy company, and gives me all his outdated products (they are still good, just passed its freshness date,) so they get all the buttermilk, yogurt, and cottage cheese they can eat. 15% savings is nothing to sneeze at either. I just worry about them being hungry because every time I go out they flock around my feet to the point of tripping me, and follow me around the yard like puppies.
     
  4. pdirt

    pdirt Songster

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    Chickens will often act hungry or follow you around...they've associated you as a source of tasty foods like buttermilk! If you're actually concerned if they're getting enough to eat, check to see how full their crops are before they go to roost. Their crops will be bulging if they're eating like little piggies.
     
  5. Noodlynoo

    Noodlynoo In the Brooder

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    Im trying fermentation but it doesnt seem to be fermenting. Its just sitting in a bucket! I dont think its gone off, but its not bubbling though it is nice and 'mushy'. I added some live ACV but its been over a week now and no sign of fermentation. Also, chickens dont seem too keen on it either.
    Does that mean its off? I seem to have very picky birds at the best of times, so is it possible they just dont like it?
     
  6. Mtn Laurel

    Mtn Laurel Songster

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    Don't know how many chickens you have but, if your flock is fairly small, it would be easy to try it for a while and see if you like it. There are ton's of threads here regarding fermenting feed and the benefits but the best way to tell is to just give it a go.

    I've been fermenting feed for about two years and my girls love it. I ferment a mix of about 80% layer feed, 10% crimped oats, and 10% BOSS. I add water with a "glug" of unpasteurized ACV, get it to a consistency of sloppy oatmeal [that's how my girls like it], cover the bucket with a towel, and it will raise almost like bread in about 24 hrs. It will take on the smell of sourdough bread dough.

    Remember to stir it up a few times a day and that's it. My girls don't like it too "sharp" so I keep adding to it so it doesn't get too strong. Give it a try and see if both you and your flock like it. That's really the only way to tell.
     
  7. pdirt

    pdirt Songster

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    Just give it time. It won't go "bad" or the chances of that are pretty unlikely. How much ACV did you add? If you added more than a glug (1/4 cup or so per 5 gal bucket), there's a small possibility that you added too much. ACV is NOT necessary and adding too much can slow down (it won't stop) the fermentation process. If you added a LOT of acv, you may have made the feed so acidic that the chickens are not pleased with it. In that case, just split your 5 gallon bucket of fermented feed into two buckets and dilute with plain feed and water. ACV does not have the necessary bacteria to make fermented feed, but it does have some beneficial enzymes and will lower the pH a bit. Somehow it's become the gospel of fermented feed here on BYC, but it's not necessary. Just use your fermented feed as is. Don't try to force it upon them, though, give them options and chance to build their taste for it. Once you've used up perhaps 7/8 of your bucket (a very nearly empty bucket), add some more feed and water WITHOUT anything else. If you want to add a few cabbage leaves, those could help speed up the fermentation. A bit of whey (1/2 cup or so per bucket) could be helpful (instead of the cabbage leaves) if you were to start a brand new batch, but I wouldn't add any to your current bucket, if I were you.

    The feed starts fermenting the moment it makes contact with water. The short story is...your feed is fermenting. You just can't see it. Foods can ferment without bubbles or any obvious activity. If your feed has truly gone "bad", you will know it. It will be the most foul smell you've ever smelled. If it smells like wet mush, mild sour, strong sour or vomit, you're on the right track. If you get white fuzzies on top, it's either yeast or mold, but 100% of the photos I've seen of "mold" on BYC are actually yeast. Mold is not desirable, but it's not the end of the world and most fermentation enthusiasts simply stir in the mold and let the good bacteria take care of it.

    Don't toss your feed, it's good stuff. It will probably pick up steam and you may never see bubbles, or you might...it's not necessary. It's already good stuff and will get better with time. However, if you ever do decide to start a new batch and want to speed it up, add a 1/2 cup (per 5 gallon bucket) or so of blackstrap molasses to the mix (dilute it in hot water first), as well as mixing in a few cabbage leaves. The fermenting bacteria are already on your feed, but cabbage is especially rich in them (think sauerkraut) and could help speed up your ferment, as will the molasses. The molasses is a very quick energy source for the yeasts that will get them propagating faster. Again, not necessary, but helpful in kickstarting a new batch.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2014
  8. Noodlynoo

    Noodlynoo In the Brooder

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    Thanks for that pdirt - thats very helpful. I only added about 1/4 cup of ACV - if that so wondered if I hadnt put enough in!
    It cetainly doesnt look or smell bad so I guess its doing ok. I'll put a cabbage leaf in though as that sounds like a brilliant idea.
    Our summer is coming to end here in the UK though we having warm days. Ive moved my fermentation bins to the greenhouse to keep it warmer but its probably slowing it down a bit dont ya think?

    I'll be patient and see what happens!
    Thanks. :)
     
  9. zarafa121

    zarafa121 Chirping

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    May I jump in here and ask about mold? I've thrown batches away (on the compost so it's not totally wasted) because I didn't stir it enough when it was hot and humid. I'm hearing it's ok to feed it? They've been off of it the last few days, and I am wonder if it's because it's too strong. I recycle the leftover liquid, and it might be getting a little too "ripe." Thoughts? Thanks.
     
  10. earlyredrooster

    earlyredrooster Songster

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    Harrisburg, Ar
    Well they aren't going hungry then they all look like they have swallowed a baseball, and the ducks necks almost rub the ground. My N.H. hens and the ducks were bought in February. The hens weigh in at eight to nine pounds.
     

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