My chickens get a fairly diverse diet. Is that because I’m all into optimum chicken health? or is it that I’m obsessed with maximizing egg production? The answer to both of the above questions is an absolute resounding definite kinda maybe. Yes I care about my chickens health and yes I get bummed on slow egg days but neither of those issues independently drive my choices in feed. I find that as I get older I am becoming more concerned about sustainability. The most fascinating thing I have discovered about sustainability is that it meshes nicely with my deeply ingrained cheapness. The best lesson my Grandpa taught me was it is better to buy a good thing once rather than replace crap constantly. For some reason that lesson transmorphed in my head into a system that classifies things as either things that are “worth it” or “luxury” items that aren’t. Refined processed expensive Lay pellets have found their way into that “luxury” slot in my noggin.
About 50% of my flocks diet is coming from fermented feed. I have a 35 gallon Rubbermaid garbage can with a tight-fitting lid that gets filled up with whatever falls into my “worth it” slot while wandering the feed store. Currently there is Scratch, a little sweet feed, some 8% Grain Feed mix, and a little whole grain pigeon feed in the can. Sometimes my Sweety, Karen, gives me a bag of parrot food of one kind or another. It doesn’t really matter it just all gets dumped in. My fermenters are two sets of two 5 gallon buckets nested inside of each other. The inner buckets have a butt load of 1/8″ holes drilled all over the sides and bottoms to turn them into large colanders. Each bucket gets loaded with 5 scoops of the custom designed mix in my Rubbermaid garbage can, the scoop I use is that nifty one from Starbucks that I told you al about in my post Starbucks Rewards and the Outriders of the Alien Invasion. The hooch in the buckets never gets dumped out it just gets replenished with dechlorinated water when necessary. The orange bucket was originally inoculated with my homemade IMO and Lacto-Baccillus culture, while the blue bucket was inoculated with Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar which has the “mother” or active Lacto-Bacillus cultures. You can definitely tell that there is difference in the micro-organisms working on the feed in these buckets. The Braggs one has a very strong sourdough smell while the IMO one has a bit of an earthy sweet hint to the strong sour smell. Neither one has an off, bad, or funky smell though. According to my very basic understanding of fermented feed the idea is basically to predigest the feed to make the nutrients more bio-available to your chickens. The blog Scratch Cradle some very informative posts on the science of this process. I have tried fermenting other stuff but always find myself drifting back to whole grains, why? I don’t really know other than that mash and pellets get really gooey. In the winter I do add cooked rice I get from a local Asian restaurant but once it warms up it seems to jump-start the brew a bit much.