We’ve been feeding our chickens this homemade fermented chicken feed because it’s a natural source of probiotics. Also, feeding your flock fermented chicken feed wastes less, costs less, and they love it! Come get the recipe below.
You’ve probably heard that hens that eat fermented feed are much healthier and produce yummy eggs.
This is because of the high probiotic content of fermented chicken feed.
But of course, healthy chickens are ones that can free roam, eat lots of yummy worms and bugs, and get their fair share of grass too.
If you don’t have free roaming chickens, or maybe you do but you also supplement with chicken feed, then this post will help you understand what chickens eat and how to increase their health through fermented chicken food.
What to Feed Chickens
If you are new to chicken keeping, you may be wondering where to start when it comes to feeding your backyard chickens.
There’s store bought chicken feed, which of course is what we started with when we first got our backyard hens several years ago.
You can also provide them something called scratch grain, which is a combination of black sunflower seeds, sometimes cracked corn, and other nutritious grain for the chickens.
There’s also healthy treats, such as meal worms (we like Grubblies), and leftover healthy human food like lettuce, eggs, fruit, melon rind, cabbage, herbs, and leftover clean meat.
Chickens can eat many things, but there are a few foods that you should not feed chickens. A few common ones are avocado, anything with processed sugar, and of course no moldy or rotten food.
Here’s more info about what to feed chickens if you’re just getting started.
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The Science Behind a Chicken’s Diet
According to Amy Fewell’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook, an adult laying chicken’s diet should be 15-18% protein, vitamins including A,D,E,K, and more, and minerals like calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and more.
Commercial chicken layer feed can be a great option. But you can also make your own chicken feed by combining some simple ingredients. And like us, you can even make your own fermented food which is much better.
Hens also need good bacteria for a healthy digestive tract, just like humans do. This is why we starting fermenting chicken feed.
For the entire hen’s diet (pulled from the Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook) you’ll want:
Cracked Corn (20-25%)
Oats (no more than 15%)
Black oil sunflower seeds (5%)
Mineral premix (1-2%)
Free choice of sea kelp, grit, cultured dry yeast, fish meal, and calcium source such as eggshells, oyster shells or aragonite.
Watch: How to Make Fermented Chicken Feed YouTube
Benefits of Fermenting Chicken Feed
- Less waste = saves money. If you’ve ever fed chickens a dry feed, you know that they will just kick it around and it’ll get all over your nice backyard. This happened to us a lot and is one of the main reasons we starting fermenting many years ago. Because the fermented feed is wet, the chickens can’t scratch it around the yard and waste it. They eat all of it most days with no scraps in sight. Dry food on the other hand is messy and constantly gets mixed in with dirt, etc.
- Healthy beneficial bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria present during the fermenting process is what encourages growth of gut-healthy bacteria, which checks off the requirement for probiotics in a chicken’s diet. Also, the lactic acid bacteria present in fermented feed helps to prevent growth of bad bacteria such as salmonella. As result, feeding fermented feed to your flock keeps them healthier and less likely to develop infections.
- Happy and full chickens. The fermentation process expands the grain because it is soaked in water, so they get full quicker with fermented foods than with dry food.
- Huge, dark yellow yolks! Chickens fermented feed will produce yummy eggs with dark yellow yolks. Now good fermented chicken feed is only part of the equation. The other part is of course, FREE ROAMING. Free roaming chickens are truly the best. When spring comes around and all the worms are active in the yard, the chickens produce eggs like crazy. And they have big, dark yellow yolks. YUM!
Our Homemade Fermented Chicken Feed Recipe
Before making your own chicken feed mixture, make sure you do your research into what your chickens need. Here is a great article to start with if written by Lisa Steele from Fresh Eggs Daily on homemade feed.
Here’s what we add to our fermented chicken feed mixture. In a half gallon mason jar combine:
25% (meaning, a quarter of the jar) organic layer feed
20% organic scratch
10% organic rolled oats
10% cracked corn
Half cup dried or frozen peas
Two scoops Fresh Egg’s Daily Kelp Feed Supplement
Two tablespoons chia seeds
One tablespoon garlic powder or Brewers Yeast with Garlic Supplement
Top with water (should be at least 25% water)
Variation on this Recipe
I am updating this post a few years after I originally wrote it to add one variation to this recipe that is easy and works just as great.
If you don’t have the ingredients needed for homemade chicken feed, simply buy a high quality feed from the store and follow the directions below to ferment it. It’s that easy.
We like the organic scratch-and-peck chicken layer feed, and it ferments well.
I just fill a large jar about 3/4 of the way to the top with the feed, and then stir in water until the water reaches the top. Let it sit on the counter for 2-3 days until fully fermented. Stir at least once a day and add more water if the top is dry.
Our chickens have been thriving on this for several years now!
How to Make Fermented Chicken Feed – Process
Mix all the ingredients in the half or gallon mason jar with a large spoon. Leaving at least a quarter of the jar empty, fill with water and stir. The grains will soak up a lot of the water.
Leave several inches at the top of the jar for the chickens fermented feed to expand (it will expand..big time).
Loosely set a lid on the jar and place in a baking pan or dish to catch overflow. The fermented feed expands a lot, so make sure to leave lots of room.
Make sure all the chicken food is under water. Mold may grow if the water level isn’t high enough. Monitor the fermenting chicken feed mixture to make sure there is plenty of water.
Leave on the counter or in a warm spot for 2-3 days, or until mixture has significantly expanded. You’ll know when you come down one morning and it’s overflowing that it’s done! Make sure you put the jar in a dish to catch the water.
Pour the excess water out of the top of the jar, stir, and refrigerate.
For our two backyard hens, we serve two scoops per day. Keep in the fridge and make a new mixture when chicken feed gets low.
In addition to this fermented feed, our hens also get organic layer crumble, scratch grains, oyster shells, grit, Grubblies and healthy treats. Sources for all listed below.
Fermented chicken feed overflow – this needs stirring! Also, this is why you always place the feed on a dish.
What else we Feed our Chickens
In addition to the homemade fermented feed, here’s what else we feed our chickens for happy, healthy eggs:
Organic Scratch Grains
Sea Kelp Supplement from Fresh Eggs Daily
Healthy scraps from the kitchen
New to Chicken Keeping?
- In a half gallon mason jar:
- 25% (meaning, a quarter of the jar) organic layer feed
- 20% organic scratch
- 10% organic rolled oats
- 10% cracked corn
- Top with the following:
- Half cup dried or frozen peas
- Two scoops Fresh Egg’s Daily Kelp Feed Supplement (optional)
- Two tablespoons chia seeds
- One tablespoon garlic powder or Brewers Yeast with Garlic Supplement (optional, could also use garlic powder)
- Top with water (should be at least 25% water)
- Mix all the ingredients in the half or gallon mason jar with a large spoon. Leaving at least a quarter of the jar empty, fill with water and stir. The grains will soak up a lot of the water.
- Leave 2-3 inches at the top of the jar for the fermented feed to expand (it will expand..big time).
- Loosely set a lid on the jar and place in a baking pan or dish to catch overflow. The fermented chicken feed expands a lot, so make sure to leave lots of room.
- Make sure all the food is under water. Mold may grow if the water level isn’t high enough. Monitor the mixture to make sure there is plenty of water.
- Leave on the counter or in a warm spot for 1-2 days, or until mixture has significantly expanded. You’ll know when you come down one morning and it’s overflowing that it’s done! Make sure you put the jar in a dish to catch the water.
- Pour the excess water out of the top of the jar, stir, and refrigerate.
- For our 3 backyard laying hens, we serve 1-2 cups per day. They should have access to food at all times. Store in the fridge and make a new mixture when feed gets low.
- In addition to our chickens consuming fermented feed, they also get organic scratch grains, oyster shells, grit, Grubblies and healthy treats. Sources for all listed in the blog post.
This is a lacto-fermentation process meaning you only want the natural bacteria found in food to interact and break down the food. Do not add any alcohols such as apple cider vinegar or yeast to the fermenting feed mixture.
If your fermented feed develops mold, do not feed it to your flock. Remember whatever your hens eat you also eat as so you never want to feed them any rotten or moldy food.
As a variation on this recipe, you can also use 100% organic chicken layer feed and follow the same instructions. Just fill a jar 3/4 full with a pre-bought feed mixture, and then fill with water. Stir and add more water as it absorbs the liquid. Let sit 1-2 days on the countertop until fermented, then store in the fridge.