A family of hatcheries...

Why Fermenting Chicken Feed is Better for Your Flock

A woman gives fermented chicken feed to her chickens.

If you own chickens—whether in your backyard or on a farm—you want to provide the best possible care for them. They have a safe place to roam freely, fresh water daily, and a clean chicken coop and run. All in all, you’re doing a great job at caring for your flock. But one way to help your chickens further is by fermenting chicken feed.

Much like humans consume fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha for their taste and health benefits, fermented grains for chickens provide a plethora of good, healthy probiotics that aid in digestion and produce better egg quality. The healthier your chickens are, the healthier the eggs or meat will be for you, your family, or your customers.

Learn more about how easy it is to make a batch of fermented feed, all the health benefits it will bring to your flock, and how it can help save you money. At Freedom Ranger Hatchery, we believe that healthy chickens are happy chickens, which is why our free-range birds produce exceptional baby chicks for families and businesses alike. Get started today by ordering baby chicks of your own!

Should You Ferment Chicken Feed?

Yes, fermenting chicken feed is a great idea to add additional nutrients and reduce the number of grains needed to feed your flock. Our family of hatcheries believes fermented chicken feed is better for your birds. Here are some of the benefits of fermented grains for chickens:

  • Improved Nutrition: Fermenting chicken feed helps improve digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall health by adding natural probiotics. The lactic acid produced by the fermentation process blooms many beneficial bacteria for your chickens, promoting good gut health. It also helps form a natural barrier against disease-causing microorganisms, such as e-Coli and salmonella, and adds extra B vitamins, such as folic acid. With this healthy bacteria aiding digestion, fermenting your chicken feed improves the feed consumption to production ratio of your flock.
  • Reduces the Amount of Feed Needed: Dry feed is soaked in water during the fermenting process, naturally expanding as it absorbs the liquid. This process makes the food softer and easier on the stomach, and because it’s grown in size, the birds remain satisfied for longer. In addition, it can also help increase the feed’s protein content, so your chickens can get more beneficial protein without consuming more feed (and saving you money).
  • Better Egg Quality: Chickens who eat fermented feeds will produce heavier eggs and have a thicker shell. Grains, seeds, nuts, and other legumes in the food you feed chickens contain phytic acid, a nutrient blocker. Fermentation causes the grains to sprout and release some of that acid through the soaking process, so chickens can better absorb the nutrition. The better food your birds have, the bigger and better-quality eggs and meat they produce.
  • Cost Savings: Since chickens can absorb fermented chicken feed more easily, they’ll consume less of it than dry feed. With food being a chicken grower’s most expensive input cost, buying less of it results in cost savings for you. In addition, the beneficial bacteria, yeasts, and probiotics help your flock build up a strong immune system, so you’ll spend less money on medical care for sick chickens.

What Kind of Feed Do You Ferment for Chickens?

Chickens love fermented crumble, pellets, whole grains, and seeds, including chicken starter feed. Fermenting grains gives them a new flavor profile, like when you ferment cabbage to make sauerkraut. The best grains to ferment for chickens include whole oats, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds. It’s also great to ferment layer feeds to get those healthy, strong eggs you want.

However, rather than concoct a homemade grain mix, it’s best to stick with fermenting chicken ration because it already has the vitamins and minerals that your chickens need. You’ll miss out on these valuable nutrients if you try to create your own blend of fermented chicken feed. Plus, more fermented feed is utilized for energy and nutrition, so you want to ensure it’s chock-full of the healthy vitamins your chickens need. A bonus is that with more food going toward energy in your chicken, less waste is produced.

You’ll also want to make sure you use dechlorinated water for the fermentation process because chlorine kills both good and bad bacteria. Filtered water is preferred, but you can leave tap water to sit out for 24 hours at room temperature to let the chlorine evaporate.

How Do You Make Fermented Chicken Feed?

Fermenting chicken feed is surprisingly simple, with only two ingredients and three tools needed. With this process as easy as it is, it makes sense to ferment chicken feed regularly for your flock to improve their nutrition and immune system and decrease your feed costs. Here is a step-by-step approach to making fermented chicken feed:

  1. Mix Feed and Water: Choose a large glass jar, ceramic container, or BPA-free plastic tub because the feed is slightly acidic and can break down other types of containers. The container should be big enough to hold about two days’ worth of grains, plus extra room for water, expansion, and stirring. Add the dry chicken feed to the bottom of the clean container. Pour your dechlorinated or filtered water into the jar until the grains are fully submerged.
  2. The Fermenting Process Begins: Cover your container with a loose-fitting lid to keep out other contaminants and bacteria but allow gasses to escape. Let it sit at moderate temperature for three to four days, stirring it each day and adding additional water, if necessary, to keep the water level consistent and the grains covered.
  3. Drain and Feed: Drain off the excess water when the feed is ready for your chickens. You can either save the water to kick-start a new batch of fermented feed or discard it. Then, simply feed your chickens the fermented grains.

How Long Do You Ferment Grains for Chickens?

Fermenting chicken feed takes about three to four days. You’ll see tiny bubbles begin to appear on the surface by day two or three. That’s a sign that the fermentation process has started.

The mixture should smell slightly sweet, tangy, or sour—like yogurt, yeast, or sourdough bread. The water may look cloudy or foamy. However, if you notice mold developing or putrid odors, throw out the whole batch and start over.

How Long Can Fermented Feed Last?

The fermented feed gets sour the longer it sits, so your chickens may not like it past four or five days. In addition, the feed will spoil faster when it’s no longer in the brine, so be sure only to put enough food out that your chickens will eat in one sitting.

If they finish eating and there’s fermented feed left, discard it or return it to the brine. You can also refrigerate the unused portion to halt the fermenting process and preserve it for an extra day or two, stretching your food dollar even further.

Start Fermenting Chicken Feed for Healthier, Happier Birds

When you have chickens, you want the absolute best for them. Here at Freedom Ranger Hatchery, we recommend fermenting chicken feed. Not only will your chickens love this version of their favorite food, but it will also improve their nutrient absorption, aid digestion, create bigger, stronger eggs, and create significant cost savings for you.

Now that you know more about the fermentation process and how to select the best grains to ferment for chickens, you can start trying this process for your flock. Remember that the best grains to ferment are chicken starter feeds and chicken rations because they already have the necessary vitamins and nutrients. Some chickens are more particular than others when it comes to their food, so try feeding them fermented feed at various stages in the fermentation process to see when they like it best.

The best way to keep a healthy flock is to start with healthy baby chicks from an NPIP-certified hatchery, like Freedom Ranger Hatchery. Whether you’re looking to add to your broiler farm, want high-quality egg-laying chicks for your backyard, or would like the best of both worlds with our dual-purpose breeds, you can count on us to provide you with healthy, happy chicks from day one.