May 21, 2017

Fermenting Grain for Chickens (& Ducks)

Do you remember my "Sprouting Grains for Goats" post? Well, Goatldi mentioned in the comments about fermenting grain and sent me some information. I decided to give it a try.

Fermented chicken scratch.

What do I mean by fermented grain? I mean lacto-fermented grain, similar to sauerkraut (how-to for that here.) or kimchi. Lacto-fermented foods are rich in probiotics and are higher in vitamins and digestive enzymes than non-fermented foods. Our critters benefit from these too!

I started with a small batch to see how well the chickens liked it, because apparently, some chickens like it better than others. Mine loved it! Now I'm making it in 5-gallon buckets. We fill a 5-gallon bucket with about half full with chicken scratch, then cover with water. Some people add vinegar, and some use plain water.  I add a little whey to kick-start it. Unlike sauerkraut or other lacto-fermented foods for human use, no salt is necessary. When it begins to bubble, it's ready.

Bubbles mean fermentation! This usually takes a couple
of days, but it depends on temperature. Warmer = faster.

We scoop it out with a soup ladle and let it sit in a colander on top of the open bucket to drain. Then it's tossed into the chicken yard like any chicken scratch.

It gets stirred every time we scoop some out, and occasionally we add more water to make sure the grain stays covered. If exposed to air the grain will start to mold, smell yucky, and must be discarded. The sour, acidic soaking liquid keeps it safe. Sometimes a white film forms on the surface, as it often does when lacto-fermenting food. The white film is not mold but wild yeast and is not harmful. You can remove it if you wish.

5-gallon bucket of fermented chicken scratch. The key is
to keep the grain covered with water so it doesn't get moldy.

We keep a bucket going all the time now. The longer it sits, the more sour it gets, but both chickens and ducks like it just as well at the end of the batch as they do at the beginning. Like the sprouted grain, the fermented grain seems to go further too, so it's definitely a win-win for all of us.


Judy said...

What do you do with the liquid after you have emptied all the grain for that batch? Would a cup of the juice be good for jump starting the next match?

Judy said...

Sheesh! Batch not match.

Leigh said...

Blogger needs a way to edit comments!

Yes, some of the old is starter for the new. And sometimes I need to add water to the bucket because between losing some from scooping and evaporation, we have to keep an eye on the liquid level.

Mama Pea said...

We do kind of the same thing for our birds, except Papa Pea mixes up two separate mixtures for them.

In the morning they get chicken mash supplemented with whole millet, buckwheat and field peas. This is mixed with a kefir/whey/warm water mixture in a bucket. About 1-1/2 cups kefir/whey and enough water to make a thoroughly moist mixture. It's fed out in several flat pans so everyone has access to some.

At night we feed whole grains (corn, oats, barley and wheat) which have been soaked in a bucket with 1/3 cup vinegar and water, again to make a slurry-like wet mixture. (Set out in pans again as in the morning.) We feel the whole grains (especially in the winter) give the birds more body heat as digestion takes place over night.

All our ingredients are organically raised and the birds go crazy over both mixtures as soon as they're set out.

Don't cha wish someone would take the time and effort to put in front of US such healthy mixtures as we do for our birds?? ;o)

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, thank you for sharing that! You've got me thinking about taking this to another level. I hadn't thought about putting it out in pans with the liquid. It would certainly be beneficial! A better variety would be healthier as well.

Living Alone in Your 60's said...

What is the advantages of doing this? .

Leigh said...

For chickens? Lacto-fermenting creates probiotics which promote digestive and immune health. The increased nutrients and digestive enzymes I mentioned speak for themselves, I think. The soaking swells the grain somewhat so that less is needed, plus being more nutrient dense, are more satisfying. Does that answer your question?

Ed said...

It never occurred to me to do this for chickens or other animals.

Unknown said...

When I was a little girl, my daddy always had a bucket going. He kept it covered with cheesecloth to keep bugs out, and stirred it twice a day. I can remember the sweet-sour smell of the mash like it was yesterday. He would use a colander and scoop some out and take it to the runs - and the chickens loved it. I am sure he didn't know the "scientific" benefits of it, but he swore the mash was what kept them in good shape with healthy plumage.

Leigh said...

Me either! But that's why the internet is such a great resource. :)

Leigh said...

Interesting! And he was right because the science of it confirms everything he said. Dan was wondering this morning about fermenting the layer pellets, that would truly make a mash (or mush) but it would probably be healthier.

We definitely need to try your cheesecloth idea. The fruit flies love this stuff, but I figure that poultry eats insects anyway, so so what. :)