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Cultivate Simple 61: Fermenting for the Flock

January 13th, 2014

In this week’s episode we discuss fermenting your own feed for your chickens and other animals.

fermented chicken feed
Why should you consider fermenting chicken feed?

  • it increased availability of nutrients for the chickens
  • it actually increases the amount of vitamins in the feed and produces new vitamins
  • makes the food easier to digest because it’s soaked and soft
  • provided beneficial probiotics to help chickens absorb more nutrients from their feed and keeps them healthier
  • decreases risk of diseases like salmonella and healthier digestive tracks
  • decreases the amount of feed chickens are consuming and they produce less waste
  • makes poop small and less stinky (I know amazing).
  • egg yolks are bigger and shells are stronger.
  • your chickens will be healthier and happier!

Here’s a post from Scratch Cradle with all the scientific studies linked – etc.

In fermented feed phosphorus levels are increased and sugar level decrease, fermenting the feed also increases protein content in the feed by about 3%.

There have been studies to show that hens fed fermented fed develop more villi in their intestines and thus absorb more nutrients from their feed making them more efficient at feed conversion.

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17 Comments to “Cultivate Simple 61: Fermenting for the Flock”
  1. Lemongrass on January 13, 2014 at 9:22 am

    am enjoying some home-brewed fermented ginger, lime, tarragon juice:-)

    Reply to Lemongrass's comment

  2. DebbieB on January 13, 2014 at 11:12 am

    I don’t have chickens yet, but when I do get them, I will absolutely ferment their food. Excellent info here, and what a great thing to do – nutritionally AND financially.

    This is a good reminder to me that I haven’t yet ventured into fermenting our food. Time to drag out the Nourishing Traditions book! (Speaking of books, I snagged a copy of the Practical Skills book…)

    Reply to DebbieB's comment

  3. Melissa on January 13, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Very interesting today! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us! Do you do the same fermenting process for your ducks? Do you think feeding the same ratios of wheat and oats would work for them? No chickens here (yet) but am very interested in using the same techniques for my ducks.

    Reply to Melissa's comment

    • Susy on January 13, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Yes, all birds get the same feed.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Ben & Rita on January 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Susy,

    We’ve tried fermenting our grain for our chickens and pigs but got mold on the top of the water. I skimmed off the mold and fed them the grain anyways (it smelled ok). Do you have any suggestions to prevent the mold forming on the top? Thanks and we love the podcast.

    Ben & Rita

    Reply to Ben & Rita's comment

    • Susy on January 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      I’ve never had issues with mold, but like sauerkraut and other fermented food just make sure you keep a good layer of water and skim off the mold. As long as the grains don’t smell off of moldy you’re fine!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Wendy on January 14, 2014 at 1:04 am

    I haven’t been able to finish listening to the podcast yet, but wanted to say thanks for taking the time to answer my question about potatoes. I wanted to place my seed orders today (and did), but held off until I could see if you gave me any advice :) I went with Peaceful Valley for my potatoes, since we’re near the Oregon Coast. I’m still going to look into some of the other companies you suggested for next year. Thanks again!

    Reply to Wendy's comment

  6. Lauren on January 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    I have been fermenting our chicken feed, an eleven grain scratch from the local feed store for the past few months after hearing you guys talk about it a few months back. I am so happy with the results. They are consuming a good bit less feed and seem healthier and are still giving me good egg production through the winter. I would really like to switch to an organic feed but have not been able to find anything locally. After listening to the podcast yesterday you have eased my mind about making my own feed. The recipes I have researched in the past would cost a fortune to make for 25 plus birds. I think I will order the organic wheat and oats from Azure Standard next month and try that out. Also, I was curious what are your thoughts on feed for chicks and meat birds? We will be pasturing 50 meat birds this spring and adding in a few more dozen laying hens, guineas, and turkeys as well. I would love to stick with fermenting feed for them as well since we have seen such great results. Thank you guys for your time and inspiration.

    Reply to Lauren's comment

    • Susy on January 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      I fed this mix to our meat birds this summer and they did well, if your birds have access to pasture you have to worry much less about what you feed them as that really rounds out their rations. I have fed ducklings and guinea keets with success but haven’t fed it to chicks yet. I’m guessing they’d do equally well on it.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. Kendra on January 15, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Great podcast!
    I listened in the car on the way to work and had so many questions, but the only one I can think of at the moment has to do with amounts…

    I use Countryside Organic soy-free feed and am going to do some experimenting with the FF. However, I have NO idea how much to start with. This feed is loose grains and such and they waste a TON of it, so I don’t think I can accurately figure based on the amount they have been eating.
    I only have 4 hens (one of which is a bantam) so do you have any recommendations on a good place to start for an amount per bird? Like 1cup, etc.
    -Oh and how often do you feed them the FF per day? And no other feed available during the day, other than free ranging or what have you, but no extra freely available dry feed, right?
    I’d really love to do this if only to cut down on the waste, it’s pretty extreme by one hen in particular.

    Reply to Kendra's comment

    • Susy on January 15, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      I’d try fermented one cup per chicken. You can do a batch that will cover multiple days, or if it’s easier get half gallon mason jars and just ferment the daily amount in each jar. In the summer I only feed once a day in the evening, that makes them forage all day long. In the winter I feed some in the morning, some in the evening. You’re right, I leave no available feed in the coop for them. In the winter I make sure to feed them extra so they don’t go hungry since they can’t forage for their own food when there’s snow on the ground.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Adriana on January 16, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Susy and Brian,
    I really enjoyed the podcast week, thanks! Last year I read a fair amount about fermented chicken feed, homemade chicken feed, etc. and felt like for the most part it was way over complicated and thought there had to be an simpler way. I, however, gave up on the whole thing and continued to feed commercial feed (organic, locally produced here in VT), I tried fermenting the commercial feed, but had mold problems and also gave up on that. This week’s podcast has made me want to try again!

    Reply to Adriana's comment

  9. WhitT on February 19, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for this podcast. I had been reading about making our own feed, trying to save money to be able to make a profit at our egg business. Then the idea of wet feed struck and I was thankful for an in depth discuss to listen to.

    Am left with one question though, that I can’t seem to rectify. When making your own feed, is there a specific wheat to look for, since protein content in wheat strains vary greatly. Some of the softer wheat is only 9%, while hard wheats can be 15%. Or does it really matter for a free ranging flock?

    Reply to WhitT's comment

    • Susy on February 21, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      Yes, you want hard wheat if possible because of the increased protein. But if your flock free ranges in a large area all the time they should be able to glean a good amount of their own protein. You could also supplement with other kinds of protein – sunflower seeds, milk, meat scraps, etc.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  10. Miranda & Pocket on June 11, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    hee hee – my first time listening to your podcast – i’ve been reading your blog since 09 and would even call us ‘friends’ on the internets…. but hearing your voice is kind of funny ;)

    Reply to Miranda & Pocket's comment

  11. Laurie Smallwood on December 30, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I have tried fermentation… I used laymash..equal part’s water and mash. I don’t seem to get a good bubble… I let it sit for 4 day’s . What temperature should it be?

    Reply to Laurie Smallwood's comment

    • Susy on January 20, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      Room temperature is fine, it probably won’t bubble too much.

      Reply to Susy's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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