The first time I ever heard about fermented chicken feed, I wondered why anybody would want drunk chickens. Ha! Though drunk chickens would probably be hilarious, fermented feed won’t get them sloshed. Fermenting is a process, and at the stage in the process when you give the feed to your chickens, it won’t be alcoholic. You’ve just given the right atmosphere for probiotics to grow.
Our chickens went through a pretty hard molt last year and were hardly laying at all. Out of six hens, we were only getting one egg every other day. I broke down and bought eggs FROM THE STORE. You know, the ones with the pale, runny yolks and zero flavor.
I love my chickens as much as the next person, but I was sorely tempted to make a large batch of chicken soup if something didn’t change soon. I decided to give the fermented feed a try.
It worked! Within three days, we started getting two eggs each day. A week later, we were getting 4-5 eggs per day. All this despite being in the middle of winter.
The specifics of fermenting chicken feed can be found here, but here’s a general overview of the process.
Get three or four empty mason jars. We use half-gallon jars, and it gives just the right amount of feed for our six hens. You can use laying crumbles or pellets, or any chicken-friendly grain, really, as long as they are getting a complete diet. Probiotics aren’t substitute for good nutrition; just a healthy extra to get the laying process going.
Start with just one jar, and fill it up with feed halfway, then pour enough water in to cover the feed. Don’t over fill the jar, because it expands as it ferments. Make sure you leave your empty cottage cheese containers on the counter as this is crucial to the process and adds a special quality to any photos you might take of the process (don’t judge me I’m lazy).
Cover the jar with a lid, but don’t make it airtight. After 3-4 days, it’ll be ready to feed to your chickens.
To keep a steady supply up, fill the next jar up the day after you start the first one, and so on until you have a steady stream of 3-4 jars in the various stages of fermentation. As soon as you empty one jar, start another batch.
As a bonus, chickens love it! Ours come running from across the yard to get their breakfast of fermented feed and table scraps.
One thing to consider is that when we first began fermented feed, the days were starting to get longer here in Virginia, last February. It’s possible that the jump in egg production came from more sunshine and not just fermented feed. Regardless, our chickens seems to be healthier, not to mention that the fermented feed fills them up faster, which helps cut down on the feed bill.
This winter, we haven’t been as consistent with the fermented feed, and we are still getting a pretty pitiful one egg a day from five chickens.
Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!