Su­per food for chick­ens

Turn any food into a Kom­bucha. Kim­chi. Ke­fir. Fer­ment­ing food is all the rage for hu­mans, and now it turns out it can be of great nu­tri­tional ben­e­fit to your flock too.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

How one DIY method can save you money, pro­vide more nutri­tion and im­prove the health of your hens.

he new diet sweep­ing the chicken world is fer­men­ta­tion, but is it a fad or a use­ful ad­di­tion to the diet of your flock? And is there any sci­en­tific ev­i­dence to say it’s ben­e­fi­cial?

Ev­ery so of­ten a new ‘diet’ comes along which claims to be the an­swer to gain­ing weight (or los­ing weight if you’re a hu­man), the most eco­nomic, or some­thing else that will help your chick­ens live a long and happy life.

Fer­ment­ing hu­man food to im­prove its qual­ity and to pre­serve it for a longer pe­riod of time has been around for hun­dreds of years and it’s de­li­cious stuff: think sour­dough bread, pick­les, cheese, beer and wine. Ba­sic fer­men­ta­tion is a pretty sim­ple process too, steep­ing solid ma­te­rial in a liq­uid to re­lease nat­u­ral­ly­oc­cur­ring bac­te­ria or pro­bi­otics which are good for the gut.

As with hu­man food, there’s a par­tic­u­lar process to fer­ment­ing poul­try feed. Get it right and the up­side is the cre­ation of ben­e­fi­cial nu­tri­ents that oth­er­wise would not be avail­able from the food in its dry form. The pro­bi­otic ef­fect it then has on the gut flora im­proves birds’ im­mu­nity to dis­ease, and re­search has shown it can also im­prove egg qual­ity, shell strength, and the num­ber of eggs your bird pro­duces over a year.

There’s also an eco­nomic ben­e­fit be­cause if it’s done right, your birds will get more nutri­tion from less feed, giving you bet­ter feed ef­fi­ciency. Ad­di­tional ben­e­fits have been shown to be a drop in ma­nure lev­els, firmer poo, and less water up­take as birds are re­ceiv­ing ex­tra mois­ture in the feed.

The down­sides can be the mess of deal­ing with wet, sloppy feed, the daily stir­ring and mix­ing, pos­si­bly the smell of the fer­men­ta­tion process, and that the birds do get messy while eat­ing, es­pe­cially if you are feed­ing it to ducks. The ba­sic process is to cover feed in­gre­di­ents in water and let them stand for 24 hours to four days to al­low a process

Ini­tially you should mea­sure out the nor­mal daily feed al­lowance for your birds (any­where from 110-140g or so for an adult bird, de­pend­ing on its size and breed) but even­tu­ally you should find that be­cause there are more nu­tri­ents in the fer­mented feed and it sat­is­fies their ap­petite more quickly, you should be able to use less feed. Some pro­po­nents of this method have no­ticed a sav­ing of up to 50% on food costs, but it’s im­por­tant to make sure your birds are stay­ing in good con­di­tion and ad­just how much you feed ac­cord­ingly.

The right amount to feed out should take your birds about half an hour to fin­ish, but an­other way is to watch for when the greed­i­est of birds are full and walk­ing away. There should still be enough for timid birds to eat.

Place the food in a trough. Plas­tic gut­ter­ing is ideal as it’s easy to clean so it won’t at­tract flies, and be­come in­fested with mould or bac­te­ria – and you can also get long lengths so there’s plenty of room for all your flock to eat from it at the same time.

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