Feed & Fines – Maximizing Value with Fermented Feed!

Feed & Fines – Maximizing Value with Fermented Feed!

Ferment toolsOne of the most frequently asked questions we hear is, “Why are there all these fines in your feed and how do I get my chickens to eat it?”

This question is important as it identifies one of our core philosophies as a company; we believe that a raw, whole grain feed is nutritionally superior to highly processed products. Most mills producing poultry feed use a combination of heat and water to process their products into pellets and further into pellet crumbles, reducing the shelf life and nutrient content of the grains, unless preservatives are added. At Scratch and Peck Feeds, we focus on providing a product that is as raw and natural as possible; something we would want to feed our own animals.

The ‘fines’ in our balanced organic feeds consist of the added protein, probiotics, vitamins and minerals that support an animal’s health and development. Although fines can sometimes accumulate, many of our customers feed our products dry, as is, without issue. Recommendations for helping the flock to eat all the fines include: Adding the accumulated fines to the top of the newly added feed, using a trough style feeder rather than a gravity feeder, raising the feeder to the height of the bird’s back, collecting fines to include in yogurt or an oatmeal treat, or simply adding moisture to the mix prior to feeding to help the fines bind to the whole grains. For even better results, we recommend taking these recommendations just a bit further and fermenting the feed!

Fermenting Scratch and Peck feedsLacto-fermentation has been used for thousands of years for human and animal nutrition. Lactic acid bacteria, like the probiotics you find in Greek yogurt, is beneficial in making the feed easier for the chickens to digest and it improves the overall bioavailable nutrients. Studies show fermented feed has increased levels of Vitamins B, C and K, along with increased protein as well! Higher levels of digestible protein can can also help with egg production.

The simple process of soaking the organic whole grains before feeding helps to release the stored nutrients by breaking the dormancy in the now softened, potentially sproutable whole grains. Because digestion becomes more efficient, fermenting the feed stretches your feed dollar further because less feed is needed per serving. Whether fed daily or used as a treat, the fermenting process for Scratch and Peck poultry feeds is as easy as adding water and letting the feed soak for approximately 3 days, depending on climate. Really – it’s just that simple! Nature has the amazing ability to create complex nutrients from very simple ingredient combinations. As an added bonus, providing wet, fermented feed instead of dry feed helps your flock with better water management as less additional water will be needed for the digestion process!


Getting Started: Container Selection –

To get started with fermenting feed, you will need to choose containers based on the number of birds you are feeding. If you have a smaller flock, you will likely do just fine long term using quart or half-gallon sized Mason jars, or even a repurposed water pitcher. If you have a larger flock, food grade buckets or bins will be a better choice once you get the hang of the fermenting process. Many small production growers have had success with modified 55 gallon drums where they pop in PVC piping as spigot to easily fill a trough with fermented feed. Make sure the container you choose has a lid that can be loosely fitted. As CO₂ gasses are a natural by-product of the fermentation process, the fermenting feed should never be tightly sealed or pressure will build up, damaging the container and creating a potentially explosive mess. Whatever type of container is chosen, some experimenting will be necessary to get the best results as the fermentation process will be faster in warmer environments and much slower if it is cold.

Make sure the fermenting feed is completely covered in water!

Mad Scientist: Chicken Feed Mixology –

Once a container has been selected, simply measure out the estimated amount your flock will consume in one day and place it into the container. (We estimate an adult chicken will consume approximately ¼ lb of dry feed per day.) Add unchlorinated water at about 2 parts per one part feed. Make sure to leave room in the container because the mixture will expand. Especially for the first few batches, it is important to check the mixture after 30 minutes to make sure enough water is being provided to cover the feed after initial absorption. Once the ferment batch has been prepared, move the container to an area with a consistent, moderate temperature away from sun exposure. For the next 3 days (more or less depending on the temperature), let the mixture sit with a loose fitting cover, stirring the mix once a day. You will know the fermenting process is working when little bubbles start appearing on the surface!

 

 

Mixing prior to feeding is important! Fermented feed will naturally settle into layers with fines at the top.

Picky Chicky: Feeding Consistency and Feeder Type

After a few days, the fermented feed should smell slightly sour which is a good indication that the process has been effective and is ready to serve to your flock. Before feeding, check the texture of the ferment. Keep in mind, if the fermented feed is too soupy, the chickens will not want to eat it. Ideally, the texture will be closer to clumping than runny. In our experience, a trough or open bowl is best to use for feeding a fermented mash rather than a gravity style feeder.

While many birds will have no problem transitioning to fermented feed, we do hear from time to time that some owners may have a difficult time convincing their flock to eat wet feed and may choose to stay with a dry feed. Even chickens have opinions and can get set in their ways! Fermenting feed may not work for every flock or situation but it can be a great way to add additional nutritional benefits to your flock and help to save on your feed bill over time. Give it a try!


Fermenting - Dry Feed

Dry Feed

Fermenting - Feed soaked 3 hours

Feed Soaked for 3 Hours

Fermenting - Feed soaked 3 days

Feed Fermented for 3 Days

Fermenting Feed Tips:

• Start small! Even if you have a large flock, practice with a small batch or two to get a feel for the ferment process and feeding texture before moving on to using larger containers.
• Do not use chlorinated water! If you only have access to chlorinated water, fill a container with just the water and leave it sitting on a counter for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate.
• Always use clean containers and stirring implements when you first begin the process to prevent mold and contamination. Once a successful ferment occurs, reusing the same container will allow the active microbes from the previous batch to assist in making the next batch.
• Do not put fermenting feed in a sealed container.
• For best results and to prevent mold, make sure there is enough water to cover feed during fermentation process.
• Stir or shake the fermenting feed mixture once a day.
• Can’t tell if it’s fermenting? During the fermenting process, small bubbles will move up through the mix! If there are no bubbles occurring, try adding more water as the consistency may be too thick.
• Mixing prior to feeding is important as fermented feed will naturally settle with fines at the top and heavier ingredients, like oyster shell, at the bottom.
• Ground mash feed, like Naturally Free Organic Starter, will absorb more water than a whole grain mash product and may involve more trial and error to get the best results.
• Don’t worry – the couple of days it takes to lacto-ferment the feed will not lead to intoxicated chickens! Lactic acid fermentation is not the same as alcoholic fermentation.

To download our Fermenting Feed Guide or Fermenting Feed Slideshow.

 

Originally Posted April 2015

Post updated February 2017

44 Comments

  1. Patty December 11, 2016 at 11:59 am - Reply

    I love this they are eating their food again!

  2. Nostalrius December 12, 2016 at 12:16 am - Reply

    Really cool article. I read your posts all the time and you always do a good job articulating
    the whatever topic you’re writing about. Btw, I shared this on LinkedIn and my followers loved it.
    Keep up the great work!

  3. Brandi Morgan January 8, 2017 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    This may be a silly question but do you have to use the fermented feed right away or can it sit a few more days? I guess what I’m wondering is can you make a big batch to last a few days or should I be making a new batch every day?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds January 9, 2017 at 1:33 pm - Reply

      Hi Brandi,

      Once a ferment is done, you want to serve it right away. It is best to underestimate how much ferment is needed and just feed some additional dry if more is needed. The next time you ferment, do a little more until you dial in how much your flock needs. You can then hone in your rotation of containers so you always have a batch that is ready to serve into a trough and just fill back up with more feed and water to sit until fully fermented.

  4. Wan Chang-Hamachi January 17, 2017 at 8:29 am - Reply

    My girls love their fermented feed and they prefer it on the drier side so I strain the feed before serving. Also, in winter, below freezing temperatures tend to freeze the clumpy feed they don’t eat right away so I make sure to really strain the feed. I re-use the fermenting liquid several times but after a while it gets really thick and starts smelling as if it is “turning”. My instinct is to discard it and start over with fresh water yet that seems like such a waste of good fermented pasty liquid.

    Do you have suggestions on how to use that pasty liquid?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds January 17, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

      Hi Wan,

      Good question. The best way to get the right texture when feed is fermented is to add some dry feed if it is too runny. You want it to be a gravy or cooked oatmeal texture. You can then add more feed and water to the same container you were fermenting the feed in to start the process over again. It’s like a sourdough starter that way. You might be able to cut down on the initial amount you are fermenting then to ensure that you aren’t fermenting too much at once. Once a ferment is ready, you will want to serve it all that day for freshness. Let us know if you have other questions!

  5. Wan January 18, 2017 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Hi and thank you for your response.

    I think what is causing my fermenting liquid to thicken fast is not only the quantity I am fermenting but the presence of those delicious fines some of which I am losing so I am happy to try your suggestion. The sourdough analogy is very helpful.

    As an alternative method, could I strain and save the fines, ferment the feed, and add the fines back right before serving?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds January 18, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      We recommend fermenting everything together. You could strain the fines before fermenting, but you should be able to ferment fines and grains all together. You’d then have a lovely texture to serve to your chickens that they will love and you won’t be left with any waste.

  6. Erin Nicole Smeeding January 20, 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    I have started to use a nut milk straining bag to drain my fermented feed and it works really well. My girls will not touch the fermented food if it is too runny. You can really squeeze excess water out of the seed and the fines stay, it makes a sort of cake. I reserve a small amount of the previous ferment liquid (couple tablespoons) for the next batch to cultivate the wild yeasts in the air. We recently ran out of feed early before the next bag arrived (the chickens were eating thier ‘reserve’ feed which is just in case we run out) so I had to discard the ferment water and I noticed that when I started again I was not getting the same level of fermentation as quickly. In a few weeks I will have a good batch running again, I also use the three jar system with a three day ferment period.
    Overall the nut milk straining bag was the key to get my chickens to eat fermented feed.

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds January 23, 2017 at 6:58 am - Reply

      Ah, that is a great technique to know about. If the feed is too runny after the ferment, you can also just add some dry feed into the ferment to get it to the right texture before feeding. Whatever method is easiest, that’s the ticket. So glad to hear you are fermenting, Erin! Your girls are getting so many extra nutrients, and so are you from their eggs!

    • Steph March 27, 2017 at 11:02 am - Reply

      I would think that you are losing the water soluble nutrients if you are soaking and then straining the feed, no? I think that’s why just adding in a bit more dry feed to get the consistency right is a better option.

  7. John January 27, 2017 at 10:03 am - Reply

    At what age can you start fermenting the feed? I’m a newbie and getting chicks in a few weeks…….

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds January 30, 2017 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Hi John, good question! You can start fermenting right away with baby chicks — make sure you’re using the appropriate feed for the age group (Naturally Free Starter for your chicks). Ferment very small amounts if feeding to chicks as you want to feed and serve what you ferment the day it is ready. You could always feed a container of fermented feed in a container right next to dry feed — that way they get exposed to and receive the nutritional benefits the fermented feed and have access to dry feed if they need more food. Congrats on joining the chicken club! Feel free to email if you have questions along the way: info@scratchandpeck.com.

  8. Megan January 31, 2017 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    Would this work for Muscovy ducklings as well?

  9. Edith Emerson February 25, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Can I add DE to the fermented ready to feed once a month for worming? I add it to my dry feed but would like to add to the fermented product. I would add it the day I feed it.

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds February 28, 2017 at 5:42 am - Reply

      Hi Edith, good question. Yes, you can add DE to fermented feed just like you would to dry feed.

  10. Madeline April 10, 2017 at 10:41 am - Reply

    How much would you suggest making for 6 baby chicks and do you screw lid on jar tight?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds April 10, 2017 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      We’d recommend starting with one cup of feed for the chicks and adjusting as needed once you get a gauge on the amount of fermented feed. You don’t want to screw the lid on tight — keep it loose. CO₂ gasses are a natural by-product of the fermentation process and pressure will build up, damaging the container and creating a potentially explosive mess!

  11. Sara H. April 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    Just got our six chicks yesterday! (My first time, ever, having chickens!) Your feed arrived today (we were feeding a name brand organic feed until it arrived), and I just read this article. I started a batch right away!! We have been making kombucha for ourselves, and I feel this is very similar. I used a quart jar and just put a piece of cloth over the top and then screwed on the jar ring to keep it in place. Looking forward to feeding this to them – they really went to town on the dry food when I mixed Scratch N Peck’s Starter in with what they had been eating! Thank you!

  12. wandonlang April 15, 2017 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    Hi I am wandon,right now am having 24nos of layers.Every day I used to give .120gm/bird/day so if I apply this process of yours then how much I have to add the feed?will it be lesser then before?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds April 18, 2017 at 11:50 am - Reply

      Hi Wandon, with dry feed, you typically use about .3 lbs (or 3/4 – 1 cup of dry feed) per bird per day. When fermented, the whole grain absorb the water and the nutrients in the grains also increase. You will still feed the chickens about 1 cup of fermented feed (again, per bird per day), but because of the increased water and nutrient intake, you are using less feed per meal than if you were feeding the birds dry feed.

  13. wandonlang April 19, 2017 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your respond and my layers they seem to love this new way of feeding alot.Next month I’ll bring new batch of layers total 60nos of them they will be one month old I want to know if its fine to introduce with this process of feeding right away?

  14. Regina kennedy May 2, 2017 at 4:05 am - Reply

    Hi, what are “fines,” and can I ferment crumble feed? I think I attempted some fermented feed last year, and my chickens liked it, but didn’t keep up with it. The store I buy my chicken feed from, normally, said they didn’t see much benefit from it. Are there any recipes that add salt, like when we humans add sea salt to fermenting vegetables?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds May 2, 2017 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      Hi Regina! Thanks for getting in touch and great questions.

      The “fines” – is what we refer to as all the items in the feed that are not the whole grains. It is still super nutritious and matter that is important for the animals to eat and why we recommend fermenting so that none of those fines get wasted. It can be a mix of vitamins and minerals, flax and sesame.

      Whole grain and unprocessed feed works best for fermenting. Most pellets and crumbles are a mix of highly processed grains that have been broken down into meals – not the best option for fermenting. The easiest way to get an active ferment started is to either activate probiotics by adding water to a feed or to add an item that has live cultures like whey or yogurt. Scratch and Peck adds probiotics to our feed so all you need to do is add water and a little time and you will have a nice active fermented feed.

      We think there is tremendous benefit from fermenting feed. There are many studies on the benefits of adding good bacterias for optimal gut health, but it doesn’t stop there. Fermenting feed also has these benefits – no wasted feed, reduce the amount of feed you use by about 30%, increases the protein level of the feed, reduces manure odor, reduces water management as animals are consuming water with their feed, just to highlight a few.

      Starting a ferment with salt is an excellent option when fermenting vegetables. Because we add probiotics in the feed, just adding water is the best option to get a nice active ferment.

  15. Kalee June 14, 2017 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    I love this article! Very helpful. I am curious though, I have dairy goats too. Recently my one doe no longer wants to eat the grain. She was wasting all the fines so I started adding water to combine ingredients which did work until recently. I tried sprouting the grain but have not had much success because I don’t have a great setup for it at the moment. I’m just curious what I can do to help my goats eat this wonderful grain. Thanks in advance.

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds June 15, 2017 at 10:49 am - Reply

      Hi Kalee, glad to hear you enjoyed the article! Sorry to hear that you have a picky doe. We have a couple of questions we’re hoping you can help with. You mention adding water to the feed and that worked for a while. Where you getting a true ferment or just mixing in water to mix the fines in with the grains? You also mention sprouting the grains. Were you trying to sprout or ferment the feed? Animals really enjoy the taste of a fully fermented feed and you could get a totally different reaction than to feed that has been wetted down. They do also enjoy sprouted grains, but sprouting does take a bit of a set up. We find fermenting to be an easy setup and process. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  16. nolongernurse@yahoo.com June 17, 2017 at 8:10 am - Reply

    I have a mixed flock 2 chooks and 2 ducks I have “free” fed them since I have had them having a 3 gallon feeding bucket. I know my ducks eat more than the chooks so how do I start feeding the fermented way? Thanks for all the GREAT information and I can’t wait to get my new products for my girls… also I want to start a grass patch for them since our area is mostly clay and very little grass. How is the best way to do this and where would I get quality grains to grow? Any suggestions??

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds June 21, 2017 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      Hello, you may want to start small with fermenting to get an idea of how much your ducks and chooks will eat. You can follow the instructions in this blog post to kick off the process and have some fun experimenting with smaller quantities before moving onto the larger gallon buckets. Regarding the grass patch — we do have 10 lbs bags of Cluckin’ Good Organic Wheat and Cluckin’ Good Organic Barley available. They are ideal for sprouting to get some fresh greens for your flock. You can learn more about sprouting, and how to do it, here: https://www.scratchandpeck.com/sprouting-for-feed-or-fun/.

  17. Martina June 27, 2017 at 7:26 am - Reply

    Hi there. I’m the proud mom to my first two chicks, now 8wks old… waited 30years for them!! (32, but who’s counting?) I’m very interested in your feeds and the fermenting process. My question is does fermenting change the digestibility of the feed that much? Reason I’m asking is that I live in HOT & HUMID Florida and have been reading that scratch type feeds are advised against in hot weather as it takes longer to digest, which raises body temps. With these two being my first and also being so young, I’m very cautious. Would love to hear your thoughts on it. Thanks!!

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds June 27, 2017 at 2:01 pm - Reply

      Hi Martina — welcome to the world of being a chicken mama! So excited for you! For warm/hot weather, you do want to be cautious of feeding your birds foods that will cause body temps to raise, such as corn. Corn is a carbohydrate that will increase body temp during digestion. Our feeds are whole grain and our Naturally Free line of feeds (Naturally Free Organic Starter, Grower, or Layer) do not contain corn. Fermenting our feeds is actually beneficial in summer months because the fermented whole grains absorb water, which then helps chickens stay hydrated (you always want to have fresh water for them every day, whether you’re fermenting your feeds or not). Hydration is essential. You can read a bit more about what to feeds your gals during different times of the year here: https://www.scratchandpeck.com/protein-vs-carbohydrates-the-when-why-and-how-to/. Let us know if you have other questions!

  18. Stephen Cyr-Paulson July 10, 2017 at 5:24 am - Reply

    My chickens love your feed, and I love the health benefits and that they no longer waste any now that I’m fermenting it. We are going on a 3 week trip this fall. Can I ferment quantities of feed in advance and freeze the strained daily servings so our chicken-sitter can put one out daily without learning the process?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds July 10, 2017 at 4:49 pm - Reply

      Hello and thanks for the kind words! We’re happy to hear that you’ve delved into fermenting! Regarding your question, you can ferment and freeze ahead of time. You don’t need to strain the daily servings, though. Instead you can just have your chicken sitter stir in some dry feed to the thawed fermented feed to ensure it is thick enough, but all fines are mixed in. Just a heads-up that the ferment might change texture after sitting in the freezer and then thawing out, so we’d recommend doing a test and see what texture you get.

  19. Willow July 16, 2017 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    I’m so excited to find this how to and start fermenting my chicks food. Currently I have seven birds ages 10-13 weeks…if I understand correctly a grown hen would consume 1 cup per day so should I estimate less For my birds? Also is this something that I would free feed or feed morning and night only? Thanks!

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds July 17, 2017 at 9:20 am - Reply

      Wonderful! Yes, you’ll want to estimate less feed for your birds if you’re fermenting because the feed will expand when it absorbs the water. You can feed your flock in the morning and night. Good questions!

  20. Debby August 26, 2017 at 11:18 am - Reply

    Hi there – we ferment our scratch n peck feed to our girls all the time. My question is, how many times can we re-use the strained water from the mash? So far, we use it about three times then dump the water and start over again with fresh declorinated water. How many times can we use the used water?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds August 28, 2017 at 11:51 am - Reply

      Hi Debby,

      As long as the water itself does not become contaminated, it is continuously usable. Think of it like a sourdough starter that helps kick off the next batch. Smell the water when a batch is ready to get a sense of what the ferment should smell like. If it develops an off odor at all, it’s time to start fresh. Rule of thumb, if there’s any doubt, throw it out.

  21. Gary September 1, 2017 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    Can you give an approximate adjustment for feeding pigs dry vs fermented in weight/ In other words, if I was feeding 8# dry, can I reduce that to 6# dry before fermenting for equivalence?

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds September 5, 2017 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Hi Gary,

      You are correct in that you will use less dry feed if you ferment it. That is because the feed absorbs water, plus more nutrients are released from the grain during the fermenting process. You may want to start with a little less dry feed — maybe 5# — and see how the consistency is once it’s fermented. You can always add a little more dry feed to the fermented feed if it ends up too watery. It’ll be a little bit of trial and error until you hone in on the correct amount of dry feed to ferment for your pigs, but start small and go from there.

  22. Christina September 19, 2017 at 5:49 am - Reply

    Hi S&P
    I have ducks and they don’t care for the cracked corn we supplement with in the winter to help keep them warm during extra cold nights. Can I ferment the scratch and corn mix to make it more appealing? Since it would not be their main food source, just an additional winter treat, what would be a good amount to start with per duck?
    Thanks!

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds September 20, 2017 at 7:53 am - Reply

      Hi Christina,

      That is a great question! We don’t have probiotics added to our Scratch n’ Corn, so we recommend adding 1 Tbsp of whey, yogurt or raw apple cider vinegar to the Scratch, plus water to get a ferment culture started. Fermenting our Scratch ‘n corn is a great idea!

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