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
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!