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.
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.