Fermentation is nothing new to most of us. We’ve either used it with our surpluses for natural food preservation, or we’ve taken advantage of the probiotics, those beneficial bacteria, that fermenting something creates. As health-promoting element of our diet, its importance is not up for debate; as a part of industrialized lifestyle, its absence has now been recognized as a serious flaw in the system. Luckily, for those just learning this, we can ferment at home right away.
Video: Probiotics Explained Simply
What hasn’t been nearly as well documented, at least not on social media or wellness websites, is the fact that those with chickens can and should be fermenting their feed as well. For all the benefits that fermentation provides humans, it also does the same for animals. In other words, it helps aids in digestion, strengthens the immune system and both maintains and multiplies vitamin content. That, of course, is great for the birds, but it’ll also make a difference to human footing the bill for the feed (yet another way fermentation is good for people).
Wicked Seeds and Grains
Seeds and grains, despite all the good they do, have a deceptively malicious side. In an effort to make into germination unscathed, they’re designed with mechanisms to preserve the vital proteins, minerals and fats that’ll go into growth. Those mechanisms equate to bad news for those of us who eat them, animal and human alike. Ingested, they are anti-nutrients, blocking our ability to absorb the nutrition we’ve given ourselves.
Video: Soaking and Sprouting Grains, Seeds and Nuts for Best Health
Sprouting and/or fermenting the grains and seeds works well in diffusing the nutrient blockade. Instead of the seeds holding tight to their protective barriers, soaking them in liquid suggests that it’s time to release all those inhibiting enzymes and phytates, such that the nutritive content of some foods—grains, seeds, legumes, and nuts—become available to those eating them. In short, this means that those eating sprouted or fermented seeds, grains and nuts are getting more of the health benefits they provide.
Why Ferment When I Can Simply Sprout
It’s true that both fermentation and sprouting can get rid of the inhibitors in certain foods, and with sprouting being the much quicker and more foolproof of the methods, it might seem to be the better options. However, fermentation does a lot more than stripping down the unwanted aspects of seeds and grains. It actually adds a lot to the feed.
Video: Sprouted Grain for Animal Fodder
The process of lacto-fermenting enhances nutritive content of the feed. It produces a slurry of B vitamins, vitamin K, and enzymes. But, probably the largest benefit of fermentation is the introduction of probiotics, positive bacteria, into our food, which transport it into our guts (or the guts of the chickens), where it keeps our digestive tract functioning correctly and maintains our immune systems. Healthier guts equate to healthier animals.
How All This Reduces the Cost of Chicken Feed
Using either sprouts or fermented feed equates to much more bang for the buck. For one, a bag of grain or seed is cheaper than a bag of animals feed. But, even for those accustomed to using only seed or grain, obviously adding liquid to the seed will result in increased weight and volume of the feed. Some farmers add probiotic powder to feed, and this will obviously no longer be necessary. Plus, because the food is absorbed better, the chickens actually eat less.
Video: How and Why to Feed Your Chickens Fermented Feed
In either instance, sprouting or fermenting, the practice can also be a major help in reducing the cost of feed because the chickens will get much healthier from their food. Fermentation improves feed conversion (over dry mash), helps the birds thwart pathogens, and is said to increase egg weight and shell resistance. It also increases weight gain for meat birds. In other words, the improved chicken feed also creates a better result from a better bird.
Simple Steps for Fermenting Chicken Feed
Soak whatever grains, seeds or legumes meant for chicken feed for one night in chemical-free water. Add them into a bucket with an optional bit of dry bran. Mix everything up well, then cover it with water. Be aware that the feed will soak up the water, and that, in order to prevent problems with mold and bad bacteria, the feed will need to stay submerged. Stir feed and water mixture. To make this process faster, an existing culture—juice from homemade lacto-ferments, like sauerkraut or a bit of water kefir—can be added.
Video: How to Ferment Chicken Feeds
Once the concoction begins to bubble a little and smell slightly sour but not unpleasant, the lacto-fermentation is happening, and the benefits are available. This will generally take a couple of days. It can be feed to the birds in the appropriate amount, but leaving a little of the cultured feed will aid in keeping the fermentation cycle ongoing by simply aiding new, dry mix to it, filling the fermenting vessel again with water.