One thing I've noticed is that when I empty the waterer outside, it almost always has a bunch of their feed in it (these chickens are VERY messy!). But not only that - as soon as I empty it out in the run, those birds come running and jut gobble up that soaked feed as quick as they can.
I'm just curious - has anybody tried to soak feed intentionally? I suppose this wouldn't work for commercial feeds but it would for actual grain feed. I'm tempted to (next year maybe) do an experiment where I raise some batches of chickens side-by-side and feed them the same grain mix only soak for half of them and see what happens. I know for HUMANS, soaking grains very much increases the digestability and nutrient absorption rate, so I'm wondering if it would do the same for chickens and if that would in turn result in a higher production level, whether meat or eggs.
I don't think it would be feasible on a large scale, but for a small farmer with 25 chickens it might be doable (assuming it did actually result in a production increase).
Dayna Williams wrote:Funny that this topic just came up again - several people have been discussing soaking (with mother vinegar) chicken feed on this Deep Bedding Thread, as well as this more in-depth one: Fermented Feed thread at Back Yard Chickens. It sounds like it's been incredibly successful, at least for Jay Green and a few others.
Dayna - Do you eat fermented or sprouted foods? It's really not any difference whether for mankind or beast/fowl...more nutrition, less intake, better health, prevention from illness, longevity...
People have been feeding pigs in this manner for centuries.
Funny thing happening now, humans are "rediscovering" the health benefits of fermented foods when old country folks have never lost the knowledge in the first place and have been using them right along.
After reading all you had to say on soaking and fermenting chicken food, I decided to do it with my 6 turkey chicks. I found they ate the soaked starter very well. Also, it retained some of the crumbly texture & did not turn to mush, as I had feared it might. Also, in the brooder stock tank set up we have 2 red heat lamps & when I placed the soaked warm food near the heat lamps in the tank it stayed very warm & seemed to be continuing to ferment even as they ate from it.
I'm pro ferment but if anyone could respond with some certainty about needs being met by a one size fits all method I would love to chase the back of my mind fear away. I guess this subject mainly stems around winter so it would be an end all solution, I solve the anemia years ago in some of my ducks with ground beef so I've had my share of "I dunno what I've done wrong and now it's causing suffering". During the time where there's no insect or vegetation inputs I've hope what I give them is really being unlocked in it's potential as food. But if I think about eating kimchee for a living because all I'm being reared on cabbage, I'd presume im going to die after loosing weight and feeling great for a period. I take that back i'd die on eating cabbage for 2 weeks, so your right fermenting is extending their life no matter what you have as feed. I'd rather have fermented gmo dried corn than eat it off the cob.
I was going to delete my post because I've answered my own question, but if it stimulates deeper discussion please have at my first statements.
How do you know the poultry are eating less vs simply not liking it? Are they offered a conventional alternative taste test after a week eating the ferment?
Well, I guess it takes a little common sense to figure that out and a good familiarity with your flock. I know what amounts my flock, or just about any dual purpose breed, will eat in a dry feed and maintain good conditioning.
I don't normally experiment with other feeding methods and have just fed dry layer mash and whole grains for many years to my flocks and have never had any issues with health or nutrition. When I tried the FF, it was with the understanding that it isn't a big stretch or any wild and new thing...fermentation of grains for livestock is as old as time. My granny used to do it for her pigs and the chickens would steal some of that feed as well. I chose to try it because feed prices are rising and my income isn't. It's been a successful venture, I might add.
Now, when I feed the FF~knowing the total feed volume in the scoop measure is actually less than when fed as dry~and they clean it up as quickly and as eagerly as they do the dry, I know they are eating less while still "liking" it. Actually, since they've grown accustomed to the FF, they really don't clean up dry feed (yes, I experimented with this) as quickly as they do the FF. More importantly, they maintain excellent condition on the amounts given, so eating less but still maintaining good body condition equals less feed for the same end result~healthy conditioning.
Then, when I have to give less actual scoops of feed than I used to have to do when feeding dry, and get the same result, I know I am, again, feeding less feed and the birds are maintaining the same conditioning. When I am buying less feed and less often, I know I am feeding less feed~and the birds are still fat and sassy.
It isn't hard to maintain a good ferment if you monitor smell, color, etc. That is something that comes with experience but one will never gain experience if they do not even try.
In the end? I've never seen any feed that my chickens have not liked if they are hungry enough. I feed once a day, so they are hungry enough each and every day. Chickens pretty much eat anything that resembles chicken feed, so the issue of their "not liking it" is a non-issue. Taste tests? Those are for humans, these are chickens. Chickens will eat maggots out of cow pies...they just aren't that picky of eaters.
In conclusion...when my chickens maintain good body condition and good health and I am having to dish out/buy less feed, I know they are consuming less feed vs. just not liking it.
I don't think anyone is calling this a one size fits all method. One can feed whatever nutrition one likes, whatever feed you like, whatever additives, grains, etc. that you like with this method. Your feeding choice is your choice and fermenting your choice does not make it a standardized feed method. It simply just makes whatever you feed more available to a monogastric animal and also provides good probiotics for their digestive and immune system health. That doesn't adjust your method to a standard, one size fits all feeding method at all, but merely enhances what you are already feeding so that you are getting the optimal amount of nutrients from it.
It's like a take it or leave it situation...it's good info and it has benefited many but no one is going to twist anyone's arm to try it. Usually if I find something that is a good thing and has helped me along the way, I like to pass it on. YMMV
Once most of the grain sprout I slow the watering and they keep going, forming a solid mat. I rip off strips of the mat and toss into the coop. My hens don't attack the sprouted mat but they clearly prefer it to their feed pellets and it is shredded apart by the next day. Right now, in spring time, I have given up for a while because the hens really just want to get out to the goodies in the paddock. I figure I begin again in August when things dry up around here.
I really like Jay's post, it 'seems' to cover most all the high-points with few downsides. I don't think FF is necessarily meant to be a one-all-end-all, but it is pretty complete, and could be, if it was needed to be. Could we suppliment to it, sure. How about getting a BSF generator/harvestor going and freeze, then dehydrate for winter storage, if you think you need to have more protien available. Raise other insects, if you'd like...look into various meals that you might be comfortable with...
Now I feed only GMO free grains, and I do a lot of sprouting for my chickens and the goats. Both relish the sprouted oats, and thrive on much less feed than they normally would require, as apparently it does boost nutritional content and make digestion easier. They much prefer the sprouts. For beans, I only feed those to my chickens and feed well cooked beans or lentils only, soaking them first; just about any kind I can get at a reasonable price. Organic is what I use exclusively and unfortunately, it is pretty pricey now. Looking at other options for feeding them and I leave a lot of boards (untreated rough cut poplar) lying on the ground in their rotated runs and kick one or two over when I go out and it has those rolly pollies and earthworms and some other bugs usually living under them.
Back in the day, long years ago, when I once fed commercial soy based chicken feed to my chickens, there came a hard, blowing rain one day while I was at work and the feed in the feeder got wet. It was hot weather and apparently the feed soured. Next day all my chickens were dead.
I'd venture to say that, in this incident, the feed was not fermented, but it may have grown some harmful bacteria in those temps and moisture. Some people report such things happening in hot weather/climates from their waterers, thus they keep their water acid by using ACV in it during the summer months. A good cultured ferment should contain enough LABs and AABs to inhibit the overgrowth of harmful pathogens.
I've been sprouting small quantities of wheat and rye for my hens because that's what I have -- I have a hundred pounds or so of 'chicken wheat' that I got cheap because it has a lot of weed seeds in it, and a friend have me a barrel full of rye that he grew last year. Again, it has a lot of chaff, weeds, and some dirt in it (floor sweepings from around the cleaning equipment), but is fine for poultry. Now I'll have to try fermenting their feed, and see how they do on that. I can use kefir grains to get a starter going.
But I'll summarize some important notes:
I source my wheat berries from a local grower. Ask for "animal grade" grain, or if she provides a chicken blend. You don't need to buy "food grade" wheat berries, which would be anything bought at a grocery store in bulk. I've purchased animal grade grain for less than $0.25 cents/lb.
Mix the grains up! I try to alternate in 6 lbs increments between wheat and rye per chicken. I also sprout peas, but they need to be cooked.
The chickens will need a constant source of grit and oyster shells (or some kind of calcium source).
I have backyard chickens (without access to pasture), so I also provide fresh dark greens, scraps of fruit & veggies and fermented dairy products.
I do have questions about some of the posts here.
1- why is it bad to sprout milo?
2- why would sprouted peas need to be cooked? If the birds were in your garden eating weeds etc, noone would cook the clover or peas or alfalfa they might find.
I don't even bother with a feeder--I just throw the sprouted grains and any kitchen scraps into the pen and they have a ball scratching it up, along with any weeds, seeds, or bugs that might be there. (We do provide oyster shells).
I did try the soaked and fermented thing--it just got rancid and nasty. So now I do the 4 day soak/sprout routine someone on the permies forum had given a link to. My method includes, for 16 hens, 4 cups mixed grain (roughly equal parts wheat, oats, barley, milo, and sunflower seed), 2 cups whole corn, and, added the second day, 2 cups whole soaked peas. By the 4th day, when I feed it out, the grains and peas have more than doubled in size, and have little tails starting to grow. I think my hens are thriving on this mix, and giving lots of delicious eggs.