In commercial poultry production, especially broiler chickens, it is the feed that contributes up to 70% of the total production costs. So minimizing the cost of feed should be every farmer's priority.
I must stress, however, that while in some situations it's cheaper to formulate your own chicken feed using various grains such as soybeans, maize or corn, sunflower seeds, sorghum seeds and the like, in most cases, going this route usually turns out to be more expensive and time consuming than to simply buy commercial feed at your preferred poultry shop.
So, besides formulating your own poultry feed, which is out of the scope of this lesson, you can also use commercial chicken feed to lower your cost of production. All you have to do is to simply ferment the feed for 3 days. That is what we are going to talk about today.
Fermentation is the process of covering foods in liquid and allowing them to sit, which creates probiotics that assist in digestion and gut health. Both crumble and whole grain feeds can be fermented. Feeding fermented products has been commonly practiced in the pig nutrition arena for many years. Also bear in mind that fermenting feed is not good for chickens only, but for all poultry livestock, including turkeys, geese, ducks, quails, birds and chickens themselves.
When fermented feed is consumed it provides natural probiotics to the body, packed full of good bacteria and yeast. Lacto-fermented foods and feed is able to be consumed by all living creatures; including dogs, cats, and even ruminants. Because your chickens are getting more accessible nutrients from their feed, after a few weeks, they’ll start to eat less of it.
Sometimes there can be confusion with the idea of fermenting grains and sprouting them, as both involve the addition of water to grain. In the case of sprouted grains, water is added and rinsed off daily until the germinal root appears and there is significant growth of the green sprout. The grain, sprouts and all, is fed to the chicken, and some flock owners claim this is a beneficial way to feed grain.
Fermenting chicken feed is so easy and much healthier for your flock. The fermented whole grains provide good gut health, requires less feed per serving, and is a way to extend the nutrients of the grains. Not to mention, fermented grains can also be fed to water fowl, guineas, turkeys, and quail. When organic chicken feed is fermented, especially whole grains, there is no healthier option to offer.
The fermentation process involves using naturally occurring bacteria to partially break down the food-improving its enzyme content and increasing its levels of vitamins B, C and K. This helps to make the food easier to digest and gives its usable protein content a major boost. It will rid of all the bad bacteria, leaving only the good bacteria behind!
Apart from improved nutritional properties, fermentation normalises the acidity in chickens' stomachs, provides digestive balance, aids in the absorption of nutrients and neutralizes toxic compounds in your poultry's digestive system. Fermenting chicken feed makes nutrients more readily available, feed requirements lessen, and there is also less waste because the chickens love it and the feed particles enlarge in size after being soaked in water for days. The nutritional benefits of fermenting chicken feed are also great:
Some of the advantages of feeding your poultry fermented grains or fermented commercial feeds include:
1. Increase in egg weight. When you start using fermented feed, you start getting bigger eggs with thicker shells.
2. Boost in intestinal health, forming a natural barrier to pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella. Your hens will also be far less likely to be mortally hurt by diseases and pests carried by the local wild birds.
3. It increases beneficial bacteria in their guts. It also decreases pathogens in your hens’ digestive systems
4. It Improves digestibility of feed and nutrient absorption. your chickens find it easier to digest and absorb fermented feed more effectively.
5. Lower feed consumption,there is less feed per serving. If your chickens have been eating, say 10kg or 10 lbs feed per day, after fermenting the 10kg or 10 lbs usual feed for 3 days, you will realise that the feed will almost double in size and that the chickens will eat that feed for 2 days.
6. Increases water intake as water is consumed with the feed.
7. Providing and preserving vitamins and minerals found in fermented whole grains; B vitamins such as folic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin. It also makes protein more available to your chickens.
So this is how the actual fermentation process takes place. Start by fermenting about 66% (or two-thirds) of what you have already been feeding your birds on a daily basis. For instance, if you have been giving your chickens 1kg of feed in the morning, 1kg in the afternoon and 1kg towards evening, this brings the total to 3kgs for the whole day. Or, if you have been giving your chickens or ducks 1.5 lbs of feed in the morning and 1.5 lbs just before sunset, that means they get a total of 3 lbs every day. this is the total we are talking about. if 3kg or 3 lbs is the total that you give your chickens throughout the day, then start by fermenting about two-thirds of that, which in this cage will be around 2kgs in the first example or 2 lbs in the second example.
In my case, I ferment about 10kg of free range chicken crumbs. you could use whole grains, chicken mash, chicken crumbs or even chicken pellets, all
Make your mash from whatever grains, seeds, or feed that you use for your chicken feed using non-chlorinated water. City tap water contains chlorine and other additives that are meant to kill off bacteria. That would be bad news for the healthy bacteria needed to start the lacto-fermentation process in your feed.
Cover with water so the chicken feed is completely submerged. Cover your container and let it sit for three days. Strain the liquid and give the solid chicken feed to your birds. Only feed your chickens what they will eat at one sitting to prevent moldy feed.
Stir the mixture up a couple of times a day. This helps to incorporate oxygen and speeds up the fermentation process. keep covered with water, adding as needed.
When you start to see a layer of bubbles on the surface of your liquid, guess what — you have lacto-fermentation in process. The bubbles are the off-gassing of carbon dioxide by lactic acid bacteria.
The first day of soaking your grains greatly improves their digestibility by reducing the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors found in all grains, seeds and legumes.
By the second day, lactic acid bacteria begins the process of fermentation by consuming the sugars in the grains and multiplying in great numbers, producing lactic acid. The lactic acid, in turn, makes the environment unsuitable for bad bacteria, leaving behind only beneficial microbes.
You can start feeding it to your chickens right away, but it won't become truly fermented until you start to see bubbles in several days.
Remember to always keep at least 2 inches or 5cm of water covering the feed to help protect it from harmful bacteria growth.
Clean up feed containers at the end of the day to avoid risk of mold growth and ingestion.
Avoid using metal containers at all as the high acid content of the fermented feed can sometimes interact with the metals and cause contamination of the feed.