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What is fermented chicken feed?

 
Rebecca Norman
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Somewhere on this forum I saw somebody saying that ever since he gives his chickens fermented feed, there's no ammonia smell in the henhouse. Now I can't find it. Any clues?
 
Jay Green
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Yep, that was me and I'm not a fellow....I'm a chick! Here's a thread on BYC that will answer all your questions and it's advisable to start at the beginning where all the links to studies are posted. Another fellow and I had started this thread when we were exploring ways to raise meat birds more efficiently with less feed costs and increased nutrient absorption. The thread sort of blossomed from there and has grown into people using it for layer flocks, water fowl, quail, peacocks and pets even, with many devotees to the fermentation method.

I'm still doing it and won't ever be going back to regular feeds, Lord willing.

http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/644300/fermenting-feed-for-meat-birds

Here's a link to the permie thread on which the info was discussed, with pics of egg comparisons and the fermented feed itself:

http://www.permies.com/t/22320/chickens/Thoughts-deep-bedding-conifer-needles
 
Rebecca Norman
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Posts: 1032
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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Wow, thanks, (Ms) Jay!
 
Jay Green
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If you try it, maybe you could start a thread here of your progress and what changes you notice, if any, in your flocks?
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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So this is about fermenting seed. Would the same apply to silage (cut fermented fodder, think kimchee for cattle)? The agents of fermentation are likewise environmental. I might get as many as four silage harvests off the former lawn and unused garden sections of my front and back yards, and so that's how I'm going to go about it. It would be very nice if that meant that the time of year where there would be minimal forage, close conditions (in the coop in bad weather), and the only time I'd intentionally encourage a deep litter culture, I could do so without worrying about smell.

-CK
 
Jay Green
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Some are attempting to ferment alfalfa along with their feed/grains but I've never tried it. My birds find green forage all year round with the presence of white dutch clover in the garden, even during the coldest months, so I don't see the point in fermenting forage ahead of time.

I use deep litter all year round as I am trying to establish a coop environment that will encourage balance among parasites and bacteria that go hand and hand with the presence of poultry manure and existence.
 
Chris Kott
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That sound great, Jay. Where are you, and how large a space is it? I am a 20 minute bike ride away from downtown Toronto in an almost 20'x35' urban backyard, with neighbours' houses about, oh, ten feet apart from eachother. I am still concerned that any ups or downs with the deep litter process will cause too much smell. It isn't technically legal to do what I am planning, so I'm trying for as small an impact on the sensory environment as I can manage, which means, for instance, that I don't think I'll be able to chicken tractor my flock on the front lawn, even supervised, and that the best I'll be able to do in terms of renting/bartering for use of growing space on neighbours' plots is a polyculture pasture mix that will have to serve a decorative function as it grows, and I'll have to harvest it myself. I appreciate the advice with regards to white clover. I'm actually having difficulty sourcing most of my green manure in-store (I'm probably not going to the right stores). Whenever I mention actually planting yarrow, clovers, or vetch in my lawn, for instance, they look at me like I'm discussing the culinary merits of eating baby. The answers I normally get range from, "Huh?" to a slighly more eloquent, "Uh, what?" and occasionally some employee of the month-type will state with confidence that, "Oh, we don't carry weeds. But we have spray that'll kill 'em!" So I'm still looking. I have alfalfa, daikon radish, and sunflower, along with a bean/lentil/garbanzo mix, but that's only because my local health store has them in stock as seed for sprouts. I can't find clovers or buckwheat, and I'm having to order from online seed catalogues, it looks like, to get my March planting (onions, peas, kale, and spinach) done before April.

I am also thinking of supplementing with sprouts I can grow on trays either on my deck or on the roof, or maybe both, and I was wondering if there might be any benefit to adding sprouts to silage, or if they're better for the chooks fresh. Any thoughts?

-CK
 
Jay Green
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The deep litter will actually cut down on the smells in your coop, rather than not. The thing to remember about smells in the coop is that good, plentiful airflow is the key, while the deep litter can help process that manure, keeps the fly population down and will compost your manure right where it is until you need it. The fermented feed will also aid in smell and fly control, as well as providing more nutrients from the feeds you are currently feeding. Deep litter is not difficult to manage properly and one can learn it if they observe the changes in the humidity of the coop and bedding as the seasons progress, add dry or moist additives to accommodate the changes and provide good aeration for the process.

I always advise those living in close quarters with chickens to deep litter their coops and runs so that the soil culture is not overloaded with feces and parasites and does not become compacted with foot traffic. A spongy soil can be self cleansing, while allowing the normal flora and fauna to thrive under the litter to process the nutrients from the manure and the breakdown of the organic material of the bedding.

I use the white dutch as a cover crop in the garden, between the rows and also in our orchard. It will usually stay green all winter~even after snow and freezing, although the nutrient value is lower in the plant. It's like curing hay on the stem except it's still green.

Sprouting is good but fiddly and must be attended to, difficult if you have to go anywhere for a few days and leave consistent food sources for the chooks. Winter time crops that are cut and come again are kale, some types of spinach, mangle beets(which can then be fed when the tops are past growing).

If you can collect pumpkins in the fall for storing in the winter, allowing them to ferment, and then feeding them can provide multiple nutritional benefits, both from the gourd and from the seeds. Pumpkins are often a free feed source if you know many people who decorate with them in the fall but have nowhere to dispose of them later.
 
Chris Kott
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They do a pumpkin walk in the park by my house every year after hallowe'en . I do the same with Christmas Trees for ramial wood chips and pine/conifer straw (I'm not too picky, though tinsel's a bitch). I'm using a mobile coop and large tractor system for when I'm not there, and stock panels for when I am to cordon off their use of the yard into quarters the short way. I suppose, though, as I need to plan for a sacrifice paddock anyway (or a sacrifice area in half of one), perhaps I'll put up an open-air walk-in enclosure with a corrugated roof, probably enamelled steel, but something I could close up tight for the night, and with proper planning, something relatively easy to climate control. There I would totally put in deep litter. We have raccoons. I'd really like to set up fake "easy" entrances for the predators, with direct and easy access to a kill trap, but because of cats, I think I'll need to use a live capture one instead. If I get them alive, I will probably have to either release it in the closest forest or urban approximation, or call animal control, where they might take it as far as the Don River Valley, just the other side of downtown. If I could get them dead, though, I`d hang the carcasses upside down inside the sacrifice area and introduce BSFL. Predator becomes chicken feed!
But back to deep litter, I want as much of their paddock space to be growing their food, so that the fermented food/sprouts/silage is a healthy alternative in case they burn through all the growies and edibles, and as a signal to me if my paddocks aren't producing enough forage.
Should I innoculate stored wood chips/bedding with something? Would that help or hinder?

-CK
 
Jay Green
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The bedding will eventually pull spores from the air and if tended correctly, will attract all the necessary bugs, worms and bacteria that you will need for good composting.

Be careful of experiments with hanging rotten meats for attracting flies and the resulting maggot production...at least one very well known author (Harvey Ussery)and permie killed his chickens with botulism in this manner. Unless you know what that animal was carrying, I wouldn't risk hanging it in the coop with the chickens nor let them eat any maggots that fed off it.
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Thanks for the heads-up. We have a lot of people around here, normally called hippies or yuppies, or sometimes hipsters, who would all be permies if they knew, and the raccoons all live off our green bins, so they're probably healthier than most people. But I wasn't actually considering that. The squirrels, now... Well they actually live off my garden from what I can tell of what they leave me, so I'm thinking it would be fitting.

In all seriousness, I thank you for the reminder. I don't think I would actually do that. Black Soldier Fly Larvae can be produced from kitchen and garden scraps that don't go straight to the chooks, and there are always mealworms, as long as you have the time to wait. Also, I have one existing hugelbeet that I'm building a pallet box around and topping up, and I'm getting a Manitoba Maple chopped up, and I'm going to have it left on property. I'm going to have bins and bins of ramial wood chips! I'm also going to build a suntrap hugelbeet, also boxed in, and all that wood to decompose will probably mean that if I make some proper traps, I'll be able to use sow bugs (wood lice, pill bugs, potato bugs, cheesybobs, all other names for Armadillidium vulgare) to augment their forage.

-CK
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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