Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fermenting Feed


I know I failed to do a blog about my chickens... but I have chickens! I have 6 at the moment, but if your on BYC than you know that only 1 of those count, so I need more! I have 5 silkies and 1 hamburg. Of those silkies 3 are still chicks, one is a rooster, and the other is my only laying hen. The hamburg is a hen who has yet to lay =) (the only one that counts according to BYC'ers is the laying one)

BYC was my tool in all information chicken related, and it is there that I stumbled on fermenting feeds. I also consult other sites like Natural Chicken Keeping and The Chicken Chick. Here is a quick explanation of fermented feeds and the benefits from Natural Chicken Keeping.

The fermentation process uses naturally occurring bacteria to partially break down the food, improving its enzyme content and increasing its levels of vitamins B, C and K. It also makes food more digestible, and boosts the "usable" protein level by about 12 percent.

The other benefits to using fermented feed:
  • Feed consumption and waste will drop by 1/2 to 3/4 (this will save you money)
  • Poultry on a diet of fermented feed are generally healthier and less likely to contract disease
  • There is almost zero waste as chickens don't scratch through it, kicking it out of the feeder
  • Stools become more solid and many people report less smell in the coop and run!
  • Egg yolks of eggs laid by hens on fermented feed will become noticeably larger, and shells will be more solid.  
Additional studies note that:
  • Wet feeding increases the feed intake and growth rate of Chickens.
  • Pre-soaking of broiler feeds for 12 and 24 hours significantly increased dry matter digestibility and body weight gain in male broilers (25-40 days of age) compared with dry feed.
  • Bacterial fermentation of barley and wheat whole meal flours with b-glucan-degrading LAB (Lactic Acid Bacteria) has improved growth and early feed-to-gain ratio in broiler chickens.
Regarding Chicks:
  • Early access to semi-moist diets for day-old chicks stimulates gastrointestinal (GI) development and prevents dehydration during transport from the hatchery.
  • Rapid GI tract development after hatch is essential for optimization of digestive function and underpins efficient growth and development as well as a full expression of the genetic potential for production traits. 
  • The moisten capacity of the crop of chicks during the first weeks of life is also believed to be a limiting factor for the optimal functioning of the gut when standard solid diets are fed.
  • Benefits of wet feeding have been attributed to decreased viscosity of gut contents, greater development of the layer of villi in the digestive segments and reduced crypt cell proliferation. 

So I didn't read ANY negatives but a long list of positives. What originally made me interested in it was that BYC users were saying that it created less food waste and their chickens devoured it! It wasn't until I researched it that I found MANY benefits. 

The first time I tried to ferment feed I got one good batch and a couple moldy, so I stopped for months. I began wetting my chickens feed prior to feeding to stop as much food waste and because the chickens prefer it; now if I feed dry they will peck at it a little than leave it and just look at me, sometimes even bhach at me like whats this nonsense! 

Since I know all the benefits I decided to try fermenting again. I talked to some BYC'ers who had success and they told me it was really simply but it needed to STAY covered in water to prevent mold growth. I had read somewhere else equal parts water and feed. I made a batch a few days ago and it turned out PERFECT. The chickens love it!

Here is an image of what it looks like fermenting feed:

Today I started 3 new batches of fermented feed =)

I may need to scoop off the top of all three and start a fourth. My fermented feed is actually a mix of 4 different feeds. I have all flock crumbles, layer pellets, wild bird seed, and a few rabbit pellets that were left over from when my Isabella died =/, I also have a powder vitamin formula you see on the window I sometimes add in!

If you have children, and especially if you have multiple feeds like me than they will LOVE making this stuff!