Drunk Chickens

Life on the farm for the chicken can be dull and routine except for the occasional discovery of a large grub all for herself. She might live in a dreary coop most of her days, she may find herself regularly chased by the neighbor’s dog, she might witness a serial killer raccoon wipe out her household or endure relentless daily torment from a bossy hen above her on the pecking order.

How is a chicken to get away from it all, get some R&R? You know really let loose?

I submit to you, The Chicken Speakeasy.

Imagine 25 chickens tipped and hopped up. The poultry party could go on all day and the barnyard full of poultry drinking songs. You may have extra chickens showing up at your doorstep asking for vacancies.

What? Yes, sort of, but I seriously doubt they are drunk.

 

In my search for cheaper feeding of my working laying birdies, I ran across great information on self-feeders, maggot breeding stations, cracked corn, and rotational grazing. All of these methods are pretty good and all merit attention. Someday soon I will be making the maggot feeder. What caught my eye was the “wet feed”. When you feed your poultry the standard pellets they are dry. The theory is that the chickens will consume more food if it is dry and then drink great quantities of water. Simply add water to the feed pellets and they are fuller faster and eat less. If we stopped right now and this is all you took away from my article, you would be a blessed poulterer indeed. Because it is true. I know it is because I have seen this myself. But wait a minute there is more.

 

Further study started to reveal some interesting information. Folks were adding apple cider vinegar to the birdy drinking water to reap lots of benefits. They were also sprouting or fermenting the grains they were throwing out to their poultry. Oh yes. First thought I had was, “These people must worship their chickens.” And they may actually do that, what do I care. But the fact is that the reduced food consumption may outweigh the costs of spending so much money on grain. On our place we do not worship or pamper the ducks and chickens. No grain. They get Layena, kitchen scraps and forage to their little hearts content. Pretty good, I think. I started mulling all these ideas around and eventually thought- What if I fermented the Layena pellets? Turns out that I am not the girl genius who first thunk it.

 

In any case, I followed the basic instructions a gal gave for fermenting her grains she threw to her Cornish Cross meat birds. A couple days later I had some seriously rockin’ poultry feed ferment going on and decided the party was going to begin.

 

Upon my approach to the coop that morning I was greeted with hello songs. When I poured the slop in the pan, they were looking at me like I forgot something. No one touched it. Sigh. Whatever… you can just stay in there until you eat it. No foraging for you! Next day I waited until afternoon to check on them just to make sure they had gotten hungry enough to eat the food. I got my customary happy greeting and when I dumped more hooch in the pan they all dove for it like there was a sale at their favorite store. Wow. These birds were already hooked. Even my ducks liked it. The Chicken Speakeasy was in business. Since I began this I have seen my feed rate drop to an unscientific guesstement of about 60% of what I used to shell out. Around these parts a 50lb bag of Layena is $18 and I fully expect that price to skyrocket this year with the corn issues and drought. This is why I searched for answers in the first place. The bonus is that my birds are healthier, happier and the coop smells better too.

 

Okay so how does it work?

This project will take you 5 minutes and $10. Less if you have stuff lying around.

1 – 5 gallon bucket $3

1 – 5 gallon Lid $2

1 – 2 gallon bucket (free at the bakery)

1 – quart bottle Bragg’s ACV $5

1 – Drill

Water

1-100 Chickens who want to party

 

Basic instructions are you start with a plastic trash can and a 5 gallon bucket, if you have a large flock of birds. Smaller operations can just use a 5 gallon bucket and a 2-3 gallon bucket. Whatever the case, you will need a lid for the larger container to keep out the unfriendlies.

 

Drill a lot of holes in your smaller bucket bottom and up the sides. You need small holes or too much feed comes through. Plenty of holes will ensure enough water escapes when you lift it. You’ll see why soon. Dump a couple cups or a quart of apple cider vinegar (ACV) into the larger bucket/trash can. The ACV must be unpasteurized. The most commonly found brand is Bragg’s. Fill your bucket or trash can no more than half the height of your smaller bucket. Now fill your small bucket about half full of feed: grain or pellets or a mix. Push it into the water ACV until it floods through the drilled holes. Looks nasty? Just wait, it gets worse. Put a lid on that thing and I recommend you put it in your garage. I let my lid breathe it a bit.

  (The set up before ACV & water)

Some folks love the smell of ACV- I am one of those “interesting” people who do too. When you check the fermenting feed in a couple days, it should be ready to feed your eager birds. You know it’s ready if it is bubbling. Give it a gentle stir just to see what going on. Yep, it smells stronger. Perfect. Carefully pull your small bucket up and let it drain out as much liquid as you can. You could lay a couple sticks across your larger bucket and set the draining bucket on that to save your fermentation liquid. Come back in 20 minutes. My first attempts at draining were NOT with my revolutionary-amazing-super stick trick. Hah! I made a mess of it those times. More holes drilled into the side of the smaller bucket also help drain off the hooch. Add more water to the larger bucket if you need to, possibly every day.

   (Your ferment could look either way, but pic#1 is ideal)

After the first batch, you will get faster results because you have more fermented liquid to work with. One day should be fine to complete fermentation. Keep the stuff out of the cold weather to speed up things. You do not need to empty all the fermented feed out of the bucket before adding more pellets or grain to start working.

 

If you like the small 5 gallon bucket size and want to have more feed available for use you could always make more than one system. They are small and store anywhere.

OR go bigger- and use a half sized outdoor trash can. Get one of the shorter types so you can reach in easily. The interior bucket could be the 5 or 6 gallon size. Be sure to drill plenty of holes as this will be heavy to lift out. Either that or you will end up scooping with a nice strong colander. Nothing wrong with that. Just plan ahead.

 

When we get any other livestock (working animals) we plan on fermenting anything we give them too. Fermented and cultured foods are extremely beneficial for people. Now folks are giving it to their animals so they may share in the benefits. This has been a huge success for our farm and we want the success to continue.

 

Now that you know, what are you waiting for? Make your own Chicken Speakeasy!

 

 

 



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Chris Parks (Chris Parks)

January 9th, 2013 at 10:33pm

LOL. I have a problem with squirrels eating their way into my coop and feed bins... Do you suppose if I try this they will stumble about and be easier to catch?

We feed scratch and chick starter for the protein, but let the birds wander where ever they want during the day... I think I feed more squirrels than I do chickens.

Neal Ward (Neal Ward)

January 9th, 2013 at 11:38pm

We soaked some grain in bourbon and fed it to the rooster, it was funny til it tried to fly off the barn and killed himself. The boss's wife saw no humor in losing her best rooster.

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

January 10th, 2013 at 6:30pm

I'm not sure that bourbon would ferment anything. It may "preserve" it though.
Sounds like the rooster was having a great time. Guess he forgot the old addage "everything in moderation".

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

January 10th, 2013 at 6:36pm

@ Chris Parks

I have an immmense dislike for squirrels. They steal bird food and chop off my sunflower tops. As a result, many squirrels have met their maker on my place.

May I suggest an automatic closing/opening feeder? This guy makes one for a decent deal or you can get plans to make your own treadle style chicken feeder for free in a few places on the net.
http://www.thecarpentershop.net/mediumplywoodchickenfeeder.html

Catherine Lyon (Catherine Lyon)

January 11th, 2013 at 1:04pm

Or just start a batch of Yeti's JAOM(Joe's Ancient Orange Mead) and feed it to them, they LOVE it, or should I say L_O_V_E it!!

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

January 12th, 2013 at 12:04pm

Fermenting their feed saves you big money and makes your poultry healthy.
I hope some Earthineers will try it.

chad Myers (chad Myers)

January 13th, 2013 at 7:38pm

i plan on it this spring thanks for the imfo

Susan E. (Shakerag Susan)

January 15th, 2013 at 1:40pm

I think I'll give it a try. Thanks for the information.

Jenna Jenna-Lee (Jenna-Lee)

January 17th, 2013 at 5:45pm

I LOVED this blog! While we don't have chickens and I'm starting to work my thinking around to one day having them (long story about childhood chicken phobia), I think we'd definitely want to try this if/when we get there. Thanks for the info!

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

January 19th, 2013 at 1:39pm

Jenna-Lee
Chickens can be scary to a small person especially if it is a cranky rooster.

You can do this one without help. I'd bet it would be a good project for the newbie to a self sustainable lifestyle or a quick family project.

Jenna Jenna-Lee (Jenna-Lee)

January 21st, 2013 at 10:36am

I was definitely small (same age as my daughter now- 2), and I had never previously been scared of the chickens (used to help gather eggs, and I think that's what I was doing, trying to get some eggs to make my mom breakfast- I started cooking early-, probably about the time that she was due with my brother or had just had him), but it was definitely a cranky rooster! Nearly killed me, a tiny fraction of an inch closer to the temple and my mom said he would have had me, instead I just got a few scars in a few different places on my head, including one really *cool* one that looks like a terrible case of acne gone wrong on my cheek. Needless to say, my dad went out and blew him to kingdom come ;-).

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

January 21st, 2013 at 2:58pm

Your dad is awesome!

Roosters, Drakes and all manner of male poultry are hopped up on hormones in the spring. Even my "puppy doggy" like muscovey drake turns into the incredible hulk in the spring. Muscoveys are real big like geese. I get challenged almost everyday and sometimes a couple times a day in the spring. Just keep them penned up more during that time and keep an eye on any male who nonchalantly sidles up to your feet for no apparent reason. He's up to trouble. Whenever I hold a broom, I never get challenged so I keep one with me a lot in March, April and May.

But frankly, ANY rooster or drake that goes after my kids gets "owned" in a serious way. If they did it in a season not in the spring, I'd end him just like your dad did. I won't put up with it.
I don't use a firearm, I use my tree loppers.

Last spring the drake went after one of my littles, she was 5 years old. I had to teach her to chase him down, grab his neck and hold him down to the ground and ruffle his feathers. You should have seen her face the first time she had to do it. She was really scared but she did it. The girl is a TRUE FARM CHICK now. I am pretty proud of her for facing him off like that.

Jenna Jenna-Lee (Jenna-Lee)

January 22nd, 2013 at 4:10pm

Pretty sure it was mid to late summer, and my mom says he was just a really mean rooster that she didn't mind not getting to eat ;-).

What a great thing to teach your daughter!! We moved off our farm when I was 8, but because we lived there as long as we did and had a variety of different animals (sheep, ponies, chickens, pigs- they didn't last as my mom did most/all of the farm work and hated them, a cow, a goat, dogs and cats), I feel like I at least got a pretty well-rounded start to life! The sight of a cow being slaughtered never has fazed me, or a whole pig on a spit, or new-born lambs needing bottle-feeds etc. As a result, I've always understood where real food comes from and the labor that goes into food production.

AJ Farmsteader (AJ Farmsteader)

January 22nd, 2013 at 4:10pm

Great Savings tip, we sprout organic Barley seed from Azure Standard, our Hens love it, and has low cost. AJ

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

January 23rd, 2013 at 9:43am

Yes, I mentioned that in the article.

Roger and Bretta Elmore (Elmores5)

January 24th, 2013 at 7:16pm

Hahaha!! Love it!!! One question though....how old should they be when they eat this??? We are getting our first (ever!!) batch of chicks (6 total) in March!!! =)

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

January 25th, 2013 at 8:55am

Congratulations on your move to be more self sustainable!

To answer your question- Any age.
You can use the Flock Starter Crumbles you see in feed stores. Keep in mind that the crumbles start off smaller rather than the pellets. Your feed should ferment a tad faster because of that.

Make sure you have plenty of holes drilled up the sides and bottom. Going back to add more is a pain. I had to.

Jeannine Mom2Alina (Mom2Alina)

January 30th, 2013 at 1:01pm

How many are you feeding and how much do you feed on a daily basis? I have six hens, split into two groups right now because of age and size difference. Curious how much to feed them each day.

Thanks ;-)

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

January 31st, 2013 at 5:43pm

Right now I am only feeding 9 birds. I don't use measuring cups, I use a scoop. Nothing scientific or precise. I give them approximately 3 cups of fermented feed a day if they are cooped up all the time.
Before I used fermented feed, I went through a ton of feed... easily 6 cups a day. (What a waste of feed and money! If only I could go back in time!)

I only feed them when their "half bucket" is empty or near empty. We also throw out kitchen scraps to them.
Most of the year they free range nearly all day and the feed ratio goes down even more then. Obviously right now is winter and they are not out all day long or they'd rip up every plant I have.

lynn rushing (lynn rushing)

January 31st, 2013 at 6:05pm

Can I use this to ferment (dried) beet pulp? or cracked corn?

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

February 1st, 2013 at 2:03pm

Yep! You bet it works. So would any whey you had from kefir, yogurt or sourcream.

Bumpkin PiEMm (Bumpkin PiEMm)

February 20th, 2013 at 12:41pm

Ha! LOVE this feed! Only, I have a cranky rooster, too. Hasn't spurred me for a long time, but he has BIG spurs, and I do not trust him to not become a mean drunk. :) (Imagine 2-2.5" poop-germ-covered spurs in your calf. Nasty wound!) But then, he IS a GAME rooster, from ?Fighting chickens?- They were free. I only feed my cluckers scratch and grass and household scraps. I lost many chicks last year to rats. Oh, how I hate rats. They would run out from under the blackberry bushes and grab a chick right before my eyes! I live out in the mountains, and my place has been taken over, basically, in the last two years. OF course, the dog-food on the porch and the chicken feed in the coop (I have to keep the cluckers in the coop because of my rotten, unbreakable dogs killing them if and when they get too close to their run.) So, no more free-ranging for us. And, they have tunneled into the pen floor, now, so I have to poison their holes. Lost a good hen once from missing a few d-con pellets that I had failed to see in the dirt just a short ways into the hole- turned out she could reach it. I thought I had shoved them all deep into their hole, but found a couple more blue pellets while trying to figure out why she died. And, the rooster killed a couple of gift-hens. He let them live for a season in their pen, then went off the rocker and killed them. Could tell by their wounds, and by catching him beating one to death. Tried to save her- too far gone. So, I am down to 4 hens, and the old, mean rooster. Cleaning out around the coop will be a year-long project for this gal. It DOES occur to me that the rats will not have quite the same feast if I ferment the scratch, since it would be harder to fill rat-cheeks and haul it to their houses for storage if they are drunk! I will try it! Still have to clean out the blackberry bushes around the coop, and the plum thicket that has sprung up inside the coop! Then, I can go around the base of the coop with chick wire or hardware cloth to hopefully keep the baby chicks inside. They pop out of the coop all day, and raptors, etc, get many. I sure wish I could go back in time to when the ex-spouse had built the coop for us. I would have insisted on fine wire around the bottom of it!

Lauren Dixon (Nature to Nurture)

March 8th, 2013 at 1:29pm

I love this!!!! I am going to try this today with my birds. Just a quick note to the author, though: You mentioned that you were going to do this with your future livestock. A word of caution to you: don't do this to your ruminants. Goats, sheep, cows, etc. should NOT eat fermented food. It can cause acidosis and kill them, as their bodies are already designed to ferment their food internally, and giving them fermented products seriously disrupts their digestive system. The barnyard omnivores, like fowl and pigs, however, will thrive!

V Sacha (Spun Gold Farm)

March 8th, 2013 at 7:28pm

Don't use decon around the animals. Put instant mashed potato flakes out dry and give them a good water source. Mice and rats will eat the flakes, drink the water and go down into their holes before the flakes expand and explode their little guts. Safe for the chickens etc. but you may not want it too accessible due to cost love the fementing idea! I have been doing sprouts.

bill Carpenter (bee wrangler)

March 9th, 2013 at 11:02am

My Uncle had a dary farm in Syracuse New York and he fed beer grain to his cowsin stead of milled grain. He got it from the brewery after they had made beer from it. it smelled not good as it was ferminited but the cows ate a lot of it and made sweet milk. he had over 100 head of milkers.

sue hege (sue hege)

March 11th, 2013 at 11:32am

Oh gotta try this!! I don't need drunk chickens but it'll be fun watching them LOL
I have a Roo story to tell! We had a RIR Rooster just starting to feel his oats and used to challenge my 18 yr old daughter. Of course, she wasn't afraid but it used to get on her wrong side-NOT a great idea :) One day she came home from work, bad day, and here he comes. He jumped and she wapped him with her purse-or should I say-saddle bag! He flew about 50 yards, got up, walked over to her and just looked at her. She stomped her foot and he took off never to challenge anyone again. He became the friendliest roo I've ever had!! True story :)

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

March 13th, 2013 at 5:32pm

To answer a question--

If you get a layer of pale greyish matter on the top of your mash, it is okay.
It is NOT mold or mildew.
That, my friend, is a pretty fine culture. So don't throw it out and start over. Keep it and keep making the wonderful food for your birds!

dave Dave (Dave)

May 20th, 2013 at 11:43am

I have a friend who make his own beer and occasionally a small batch of 'shine. Is it ok to feed the left-over mash to my animals?

V Sacha (Spun Gold Farm)

May 20th, 2013 at 12:32pm

Did anyone pick up on the rat poison tip? I haven't seen where anyone is raving about the rats being gone. Instant potato flakes are NOT toxic to the pets or chickens and deadly to rodents, whose intestines can't handle the sudden swelling when they drink water after eating the flakes. I had a problem when I lived near a surface spring that attracted rats and used this to eliminate them. They die in their tunnels and block the tunnels with their rotting little (or not so little) corpses.

William Free (ShadyGlade Farm)

May 20th, 2013 at 3:24pm

Dave, mash is fine for birds & critters. It's tough to find a micro-brewery that has mash available, the owners or buddies use the mash for feed.

dave Dave (Dave)

May 21st, 2013 at 2:48pm

Thanks. My chickens and pigs will be enjoying the new item on the menu!

Jewel Mankin (H&H Acres)

September 20th, 2013 at 12:19pm

We will be trying this for sure!!! We have 3 Black Copper Maran Hens and One Roo that are 7 months old now , Blue Orpingtons that are 8 weeks old and 9 new babies that are 2 weeks old ( 2 orpingtons, 4 light brahmas and 3 cochins) We buy our local Organic feed from Coyote Creek Mill ( 35bucks for 50lbs) But they are all free range, (but still get feed) except for the Babies they are still in the house. We bought our property back in Feb 2013 and within the first month we had bought our first batch of chickens . We are both very new to the 'In the life of a chicken' day to day routine but we both love the entertainment aspect of it all and this will be perfect for our Flock . Cant wait to have them all under one Coop and have a night of Fermented fun for all ... Thanks ! Cant wait to try

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

September 20th, 2013 at 3:11pm

Keep us posted on your success!

Lisa Russell (Lisa Russell)

March 28th, 2014 at 10:51am

Thank you for the article and the comments. I hate those darn barn rats!! And I have potato flakes. I've just started a fodder System for my birds.. duck,s chickens and guinea fowl but am still feeding grain. I'll give this a try. Thanks

Georgia Neefe (Georgia Neefe)

April 1st, 2014 at 5:34pm

I may try this with my meat birds!

Cricket McGraw (Cricket McGraw)

April 2nd, 2014 at 2:00pm

Hi, thank you for sharing this. I live in Ohio and raise chickens. I had thought about planting wheat for them but so far I have not had the time. After reading your article here I think this is a must for my girls. I have a friend who is also raising chickens I am going to share this article with her as well. Thank you so much. I will let you know how it goes.

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

April 6th, 2014 at 9:59pm

I am glad this information is helping so many people. It really does create a healthy flock and stretch your dollar farther as a bonus.

Heather Long (Heather Long)

June 16th, 2014 at 9:41am

So I am getting ready to do this :) I have been researching it for about 6 months and today is the day. I am only going to have 12 meaties and plan on using the 5 gallon bucket recommendation. How long will this food last if I make too much-waste is my main concern. And do you feed for 23 hours or 12 hours on and 12 hours off?

Louis Mathis (Louis Mathis)

June 18th, 2014 at 4:34pm

We will try it as soon as we get some ACV would love to cut our feed costs

Chamomile Fields (Chamomile Fields)

June 19th, 2014 at 6:58pm

@ Heather:
I free feed my poultry the fermented feed 24/7.
Meat birds eat a lot more than dual-purpose hens or layers so I cannot give you an estimate on how long your feed will last... but it will definitely last much longer than regular dry feed. Give your birds a day or two to warm up to their new feed, they will love it.