Chickens / Fermented Feed / Management

Fermented Feed v2

My first attempt at fermented feed was successful but became a bit stinky.  I filled a medium-sized trash can with dry feed, ACV, some yeast, and dechlorinated water.  I scooped out what I needed using a sieve on a handle and stirred in some more dry feed.  It worked well, but the smell grew more and more sour day by day.  The chickens didn’t seem to mind – they all loved the stuff – but it made my mud room smell.  And if I can smell it, it must be strong.  I have a terrible sense of smell.

Anyhow, for version 2, I decided to use a smaller version of the original idea on the BYC thread I posted before.  I would use two buckets – one with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage set into another bucket.  I drilled a bunch of holes in the bottom of a dollar-store trash can (check the bottom; I bought some that just broke when I tried to drill because the plastic was to thin) and set it into another of the same size.  I put in a few scoops of feed, filled with dechlorinated water until covered, added a glug of ACV, and gave it a stir.  I covered the bin to protect it from flies (and my dog, who also loves FF) with a thin washrag and a rubber band.

I had drilled a screw part of the way into the old wooden bookshelf that sits beside the FF bins.  The next morning, I simply lifted the top bucket (with the holes) and hooked the lip onto the screw.  The liquid slowly drained from the feed while I went about my business.  When it was through, I dumped my food into my new dollar-store troughs (washpans) and put the sieve-bucket back into the bottom bucket.  The liquid rose through the holes, and I dumped in tomorrow’s food.  I added a bit more dechlorinated water, gave it a good stir, and covered it up again.

Today’s mash smelled sweet and good.  I like the all-in/all-out system, and I will see how fast the water and small bits that fell through the bottom become sour.  I am thinking I might reuse the liquid for a week and then start fresh with ACV and new water.  We’ll see.  It’s just version 2. 🙂

Update: A reader correctly pointed out in the comments section on this post that the “sour” smell is desirable – this is from the lactic acid fermentation.  A sweet smell is indicative of an earlier stage in the process.  You do want a sour smell like sourdough.  You do not want it to smell rotten.  In my case, the smell was beyond “sour” and was too strong for my mudroom which is the entry to my home. 🙂

Fermented Feed Posts:

#1: Fermented Feed

#2: Fermented Feed v2

#3: Science of Fermented Feed

#4: Microorganisms at Work

#5: 10 Foods to Ferment for Chickens



13 thoughts on “Fermented Feed v2

  1. My two bucket system that I made out of 5 gallon buckets from the home store has been working great. My son did comment about how strong the sour smell is getting so I was planning on just dumping all but about a quart of the liquid into the compost pile and then topping up with water.

  2. I got a couple of buckets and started fermenting some feed. They do like it and I think it might also help keep them hydrated in this heat. Thanks for posting this info!

  3. Pingback: Science of Fermented Feed « Scratch Cradle

    • The sour smell you get is good – not bad! And “sour” is different than “rotten”.

      The point of fermenting is to create an “acidified” product – thus “lactic fermentation” is an acidification of your feed. Think pickles or sauerkraut. The acid is what preserves the food you are fermenting and keeps undesirable bacteria and certain yeasts from growing in the feed.

      If your feed smells “sweet”, you are soaking your feed but not fermenting it.

      One concern:

      I use fermentation on a regular basis in other venues (pickels, sauerkraut…. I’m also a cheesemaker) Based on my knowledge of lactic fermentation, one thing concerns me that I’m reading out there (BYC and here) about fermenting feed that I want to mention.

      They have stated the use of “bakers yeast” (the kind you use when making bread) as a start for the fermentation. From my understanding, baker’s yeast would NOT be suitable for lacto-fermentation.

      The process for fermenting feed is the same as fermenting an item such as pickles or sauerkraut. You can add the ACV, a little whey from cheesemaking, or a lactic culture if you want to encourage it to ferment faster. (You could actually get a recipe for sauerkraut or fermented pickles and use the recipe/method there for fermenting feed.)

      Baking yeast, however, is a different chemistry with a different result that would not be recommended for items that you are eating raw. (Have you ever picked up a piece of yeast-rising bread dough raw and eaten it? If you do, you won’t like the effects!)

      Thanks for the info from the fermented feed studies!

      Anyway, I think this is something that needs to be clarified for folks – and for the health of their flock!!

      • Thanks for bringing up such interesting points! It sounds like you are knowledgeable about fermentation. The baker’s yeast would definitely be a different form of fermentation. I looked in the articles to see what the purpose might be. Baker’s yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, not the candida that we should definitely be cautious of. Several of the studies only inoculated the food with Lactobacillus plantarum. Bifidobacterium is also mentioned and is apparently found in fermented milk products. The Enberg study used whatever cultures were caught from the air which included “E. coli, lactic acid bacteria,
        enterococci, yeast and mould,” (p. 231). However, Yu, Dong, and Wu used a number of cultures specifically including Saccharomyces cerevisiae:

        “A one in 1000 dilution of bacterial cultures, containing Saccharomyces cerevisae (CGMCC No. 2.1793), Lactobacillus acidophilum (CGMCC No. 0842), Enterococcus faecalis (CGMCC No. 1.130), Bifidobacterium bifidum (CGMCC No. 1.1853), Bacillus licheniformis (CGMCC No. 1.813) and Bacillus subtilis MA139 (Guo et al. 2006) were inoculated into the soybean meal fermentation feed,” (p. 167).

        “Saccharomyces cerevisae was included to consume the oxygen inside the fermenting bag to promote the growth of anaerobes including L. acidophilum, B. bifidum, E. faecalis and Bacillus,” (p. 169).

        The Chen et al. study also specifically looked at baker’s yeast:

        “The major probiotic strains include Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces, Bacillus, Streptococcus, and Aspergillus(Tannock, 2001). […] Diets supplemented with Bacillus subtilis, which secrete protease, amylase, and lipase, can improve growth performance (Santoso et al., 2001). Saccharomyces with protein digestion and high acidic capacity could prevent antimicrobial-associated diarrhea (Surawicz et al., 1989; Bleichner et al., 1997). […] Diets supplemented with yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) cell-wall components can improve growth performance in chickens (Karaoglu and Durdag, 2005; Zhang et al., 2005). […] Therefore, this study investigated the beneficial effects of combined 2-stage fermentation feed inoculated with high proteolytic capacity Bacillus subtilis var. natto N21 (Bac) in the first stage, and high acidic capacity Saccharomyces cerevisiae Y10 (Sac) in the second-stage fermentation,” (p. 309).

        However, the results of the study found no specific benefits for the S. cervisiae alone; it’s benefits were found in conjunction with other fermentation. “Therefore, FBac+Sac must be made using 2-stage fermentation using B. subtilis var. natto Bac in the first stage and S. cerevisae Y10 in the second stage to obtain the increased growth performance in broilers,” (p. 313). The feed inoculated with probiotics alone in this study did not increase weight gain in the broilers.

        So, it looks like the baker’s yeast is included to help the other beneficials along by removing oxygen. The Chen study also says that it can help with the poops and improve growth performance.

        I’ve made mine with apple cider vinegar starter. It does smell sweet while it ferments for the first few days, but **you are totally right** – what we want is the later stage with high levels of lactobacillus. The Yu article says that is achieved after 3 days. I’ll update the article to include that information!

        “According to Canibe and Jensen (2003), feed fermentation can be divided into two phases. The first phase is characterized by low levels of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, high pH and a blooming of enterobacteria while the second is characterized by high levels of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, low pH and low counts of enterobacteria. Based on the counts of lactic acid bacteria, yeasts and enterobacteria during fermentation, the present trial also achieved a similar pattern, indicating a successful fermentation. It appeared that a steady state can be reached after 3 days of fermentation at 25 ± 5C,” (p. 169).

        Thanks so much, Leah’s Mom! What an informative discussion!

  4. does anyone know if I can ferment Beans? I.e. pinto , black, etc. just dried beans. I’d like to feed them to the pigs. Right now I have to cook them first they wont sprout. but, if i could ferment them,… so much easier. I inherited quite a lot of beans and rice. Can you ferment rice too? would the chickens eat them?

    • You can ferment it all. Just make sure to use enough liquid and let it soak long enough that it gets all the way through the bean. If you are fermenting whole, dried beans, I would start with a very soupy wet mix and leave it for a longer amount of time than grain, perhaps 4 days or so. If you can grind the beans down a bit, then I don’t think it would take any longer than fermenting grain. Both the chickens and the pigs would enjoy them!

      • Sept. 24th answer to which organism to use for fermenting totally confused me. Do I use yeast or not? I have Kombucha mothers that I was thinking of using also. Have you ever tried them with your chickens?

  5. Pingback: 10 Foods to Ferment for Chickens | Scratch Cradle

  6. So, this system you use only a one day fermentation? Am I understanding that correctly? Because in the first article you said it needed to sit for at least three days, but here it sounds like you put in food, and the next morning it’s fermented well enough to feed the chickens. Is that because you’re using the liquid from a previous batch? If that’s the case, when you dump the water and start over (because the smell is too strong or whatever) do you then have to wait three days again?
    Sorry, this is the first time I’ve really started looking into fermented food for our flock and I’m a bit confused by it all.


  7. Hi. I’ve been looking at fermenting my chickens’ food for quite awhile but have been kind of afraid because there’s seems to be a bunch of differing opinions. I’m therefore fearful that I might do something wrong to the detriment of my girls. Reading parts of some of the studies is difficult for me to understand and only confuses me. You seem to comprehend all that info. Would you please help me by encapsulating it into simple terms about what’s best to actually put into the mix to get the most for your chickens? I would truly appreciate it enormously!!!!! Thank you from a very confused grandmother.

  8. Hello Heather, if I may be so informal, and thank you for providing such wonderful and useful content! I am hoping that you are still checking this blog from time to time… I’ve noticed that your posts mostly date from before your big move to WV (hope that is going well!).

    My question is this: do you have any information – either academic, anecdotal, or experiential – on applying this same fermentation technique to feed for waterfowl? My own homestead is still under construction, but my plans are to run a few muscovy ducks, rather than chickens. I plan to free-range them in my food forest and to feed them from a black soldier fly digestor, but surely I will want to supplement with some grains and/or commercial feed as well.

    Any feedback will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, and blessings to you and yours!

  9. Hello again. I also noticed the following, on which I hope you might comment:

    You explain above that you switched to the small batch fermentor design in order to minimize odor, calling this your v2.0. But in your post here…

    …which I notice was posted more recently, you indicate that you have since switched back to a single batch design. What prompted the reversion to your earlier method?

    Thanks again : )

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