Join Waitlist We will inform you when the product arrives in stock. Please leave your valid email address below.
Chickens,  Fermented Foods

How to Ferment Chicken Feed for Better Hen Health & Eggs

It’s no secret that our chickens are darn spoiled. As beloved pets that also happen to provide us fresh organic eggs to eat, giving them top-notch nutrition and care is high on our priority list! One of the many special things we do for them is ferment their chicken feed. If you know us, that shouldn’t come as a surprise either! Here at Homestead and Chill, we sing loud praises to fermented foods. Sauerkraut, kombucha, sourdough… you name it! Just like human food, fermented chicken feed packs a long list of health benefits.

Read along to learn how to ferment chicken feed, and why it is so stellar for your bird’s well-being. It is easy to do, only takes a couple minutes to make, a few days to soak, and can actually help save you money on feed! Not to mention, they love the stuff! I have yet to meet a chicken that doesn’t prefer fermented chicken feed to plain old dry grains. Plus, you’ll reap the rewards in more nutrient-dense eggs.

But first, how about a quick primer on fermentation…

What is lacto-fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation occurs when beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus) that is naturally found in the environment (like in soil, on vegetables, or your chicken feed grains) interacts with food in the right controlled environment. To ferment chicken feed, that controlled environment is as simple as a mason jar, bucket, or large glass bowl with water. The lactobacillus converts starch and sugar in the food into lactic acid bacteria (LAB). This encourages the formation of natural probiotics, lowers pH, and prevents growth of harmful bacteria in the feed. Healthy yeasts are also present in “wet mash” grain mixtures such as a fermented chicken feed. 

Why ferment chicken feed?

There are a number of reasons to feed your flock fermented chicken feed, either regularly or at least on occasion. In a nutshell (uh… I mean eggshell) it can help improve their digestion, absorption of nutrients, and overall health by adding probiotics to their diet. Even more, it is a very efficient way to feed your flock! Fermenting chicken feed can reduce the amount of grains needed to keep your flock full – cutting costs for you. Last but not least, it can even lead to better egg quality!

Four chickens are investigating around a raised stone island full of plants for pollinators. Trailing rosemary is creeping over the edge of the stone border and one of the chickens is standing on the edge of the island and rosemary. The setting sun is peaking through a tree in the background and there are various fruit trees along the perimeter of the yard. An apple, fig, and lemon tree being the most prominent.
Our happy healthy hens


1) Increased Digestion and Nutrient Absorption

The process of soaking chicken feed grains makes them easier to digest. In the most obvious way, the softened feed is more gentle on the stomach – or in a chicken’s case, their crop and gizzard. Yet there’s more to it than that! All grains, seeds, nuts, beans and other legumes contain something called phytic acid and other enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid can impair the absorption of certain nutrients and minerals, and is therefore often referred to as an “anti-nutrient”.

However, the process of soaking, sprouting, and/or fermenting grains and legumes vastly reduces the phytic acid content – thus makes it easier for chickens to utilize all the good nutrients they’re consuming! That is one reason we love to sprout seeds and grains for our chickens too, including alfalfa, barley, corn, sunflower seeds and more. Last but not least, fermentation has also been shown to enhance the content of certain vitamins in foods, such as Vitamin B.

A close up image of a quart mason jar 3/4 full of fermented chicken food. The feed is still submerged in water by an inch or two and there are visible bubbles throughout the feed illustrating the fermentation that is occurring.
Whole grain organic layer feed, fermenting and bubbling away!

2) Added Probiotics and Immune Health

As lactic acid bacteria work to ferment chicken feed, beneficial bacteria populations bloom! The resulting probiotics are stellar for digestion, immunity, and improved gut health. As explored in our “Health Benefits of Fermented Foods Explained” article, gut health is directly related to total body health. 

Studies show that animals who receive a steady intake of probiotics through fermented feed have a more robust immune system than those on a standard dry feed diet. Even more, this study found that the levels of lactic acid bacteria in fermented chicken feeds lowers the pH of chickens intestines enough to ward off acid-sensitive bacteria like E.Coli and Salmonella. Meaning, chickens consuming fermented feed are less likely to develop infections and other diseases, and live longer, less complicated lives. For you, that means less stress, vet bills, and also healthier eggs!

3) Better Quality Eggs

According to a study published in the Journal of British Poultry science, chickens that were fed fermented chicken feed showed increased egg weight, shell thickness, and shell stiffness over chickens on dry food. When chickens have nice firm eggshells, they’re far less likely to have issues with laying soft-shell eggs or becoming egg-bound; both of which can be life-threatening!

Also, keep in mind that what goes into your hens also goes into their eggs. If they receive superior nourishment (including eating fermented feed), the eggs laid for you will be supremely nutritious in return. That is why pasture-raised and backyard chicken egg yolks are so deeply golden compared to their factory farm counterparts.

DeannaCat's hand is extended while it holds four fresh chicken eggs. One is light brown, one is light green, one is dark brown with even darker brown speckles, and the last one is light blue.

4) More Bang For Your Buck

Okay, this isn’t exactly a ‘health benefit’ per se… but valuable nonetheless! As chicken feed grain soaks in water to ferment, it also expands in volume – so your birds will get full faster. They aren’t being cheated out of anything in the process though, like filling up on junk food. On the other hand, they’re getting more nutrients than ever! That said, fermenting chicken feed is an inexpensive way to improve the nutritional value of basic dry feed while also consuming less of it.  

When and How Much to Feed Chickens Fermented Food

How often you decide to feed your flock fermented chicken feed is totally up to you! There is no “overdoing it” – the more often, the merrier! I know some chicken keepers who give their chickens fermented feed exclusively, while others do it only as a periodic treat. While it is very easy to do, fermenting feed admittedly takes a couple extra steps than simply leaving out a large feeder of dry grain for the week. 

Depending on our schedules, we try to make a batch at least once or twice per week. For us, one “batch” is two days worth of fermented feed – so that means our girls receive it about four days per week. Other times we fall off the wagon and do it less. However, when our chickens are molting, stressed, or seem a little under the weather, we keep the fermented feed in ample supply! They need all the extra nutritional support they can get during those times. 

Offer about the same amount of fermented chicken feed as you would their normal food. Check the serving recommendation on your feed. For example, our favorite Scratch and Peck organic layer feed suggests ¼ cup of feed per bird. That means putting out about a cup for our flock of four per day (measured prior to fermentation). Again, because fermented chicken feed may keep them more satiated and also expands slightly in volume after soaking, they may eat slightly less than usual. See what your flock will consume and adjust as needed.

DeannaCat is holding out a bowl of freshly fermented chicken feed. There are four chickens huddled around the bowl, one of them has their head inside the bowl for a closer inspection. There is trailing rosemary cascading over a raised stone border in the background.


Step 1: Mix Feed & Water

Find a suitable container to ferment the feed in. Great examples include a large glass jar, bowl, or bucket. Because fermentation makes the feed slightly acidic, it is best to choose glass, ceramic, or BPA-free plastic. It should be large enough to hold a day or two worth of feed for your flock, plus extra room for water, stirring, and expansion. 

Add enough chicken feed to the container for one or two daily servings for your flock. We usually ferment two cups of feed, enough for two days. You can ferment crumble, pellets, or whole grain chicken feed (though grain feed holds up the best; the others expand more and get a bit mushy).  You can even ferment scratch as a treat, though it shouldn’t replace their layer feed. 

Now, pour dechlorinated or filtered water over the top of the feed. Add enough so that the feed is fully submerged and has a couple inches of room to expand. Chlorinated water may inhibit healthy fermentation. If needed, simply leave a glass of city tap water out at room temperature overnight to allow the chlorine to dissipate. 

Step 2: Let It Ferment

Cover the top of the container with a loose-fitting lid, plate, or other makeshift lid. It doesn’t need to be air tight! The idea is to prevent drifting mold spores from floating in, but also allow the fermentation gasses to escape.

Set the container in a location with moderate temperatures for three to four days to ferment. We leave ours on the counter. Check and stir it each day. Add additional water if the feed has absorbed it all.

By day or two or three, you should see small bubbles on the surface and/or within the feed mixture. That is a sign that lactobacillus is hard at work! It should smell slightly tangy, sour, and sweet – similar to yogurt or yeast. Ours smells a tad fishy too, only because the feed has kelp meal in it. The liquid will also get increasingly cloudy. If the fermented chicken feed develops mold or putrid odors, do not feed it to them!

While fermented chicken feed will be effectively preserved (due to the low pH) and safe to consume beyond day three or four, it gets more sour the longer it sits. Therefore, it can become less palatable for your spoiled chicken’s taste buds. We took a survey among our backyard residents and found that our flock prefers their feed fermented for three days. 

Step 3: Drain and Feed

Chow time! If the fermented chicken feed hasn’t absorbed all of the water, you can either drain it off into the bushes, or reserve the liquid to jump start a new batch! The lactic acid bacteria in the “brine” will be happy to feed on more fresh grains, and can actually put the next batch about a day ahead of schedule. 

Speaking of schedules, you’ll need to figure out your own little fermented feed groove. Since it takes a few days to ferment, some folks start staggered batches every day or two (date the containers) in order to have fermented feed available at all times. Or, you could start one batch after another and not provide fermented feed every day.

Note that the feed will spoil faster when it is no longer submerged in its liquid “bath”. Therefore, if you ferment a hefty amount to feed a larger flock over the course of two days, simply scoop out half on day three and then drain/use the rest on day four. If they gobble it up on both days, that is great! Because we make a two-day supply at a time BUT our girls don’t eat it as readily after more than three days of fermenting, we refrigerate the unfed portion to halt fermentation until using the rest the following day.

A four way image collage of the process of fermented chicken feed, the first image is watermarked with a "0" in the lower right corner indicating that it's the initial start of the process. There is a quart mason jar halfway full of whole grain chicken feed. The remainder of the jar is full of water, leaving the feed submerged. The second image is watermarked with a "1" in the lower right corner. The feed has expanded some, the remaining water is slightly darker in color and there is about two inches of water above the feed. The third image is marked with a "2" in the lower right corner indicating that it is the 2nd day of fermentation. The feed has expanded even more and the water is slightly more cloudy. There is about an inch of water covering the feed. The fourth image is watermarked with a "3" showing that it's the third day of fermentation. The feed has expanded even more, leaving only about a half an inch of water covering the feed. The feed looks to be more melded together compared to the previous images.
From start to finish, a 3-day ferment

Simple, effective, and worthwhile!

In short, making fermented chicken feed is an easy and inexpensive way to give your girls a boost! It can lead to healthier chickens, better quality eggs, and potentially lower feed costs. What’s not to love about all that? I hope you found this article helpful and interesting. If so, please spread the love by sharing this post! Above all, I hope your chickens enjoy their new feed!

You may enjoy these related articles:

Print Recipe Pin Recipe
4.91 from 11 votes

How to Make Fermented Chicken Feed

Fermenting chicken feed is an easy and inexpensive way to improve the nutritional value of your chickens food, leading to overall better health – and quality of eggs! It takes very little supplies and time to do. Come learn how!
Prep Time5 mins
Fermentation Time3 d
Course: Chicken Feed, Fermented Foods
Keyword: fermented chicken feed, fermented feed, fermenting chicken feed


  • Large glass jar, mixing bowl, bucket, or other container (BPA-free preferred)


  • 1-2 servings chicken feed of choice (for the whole flock) including whole grain feed, pellets or crumbles


  • Check the serving recommendations for your chicken feed (e.g. 1/4 cup per chicken per day). Then, choose a large enough container to fit one or two daily servings of feed for your flock, plus some extra room for water, expansion, and stirring.
  • Add enough chicken feed to the container for one or two days servings for your flock. We usually ferment two cups of feed, enough for two days.
  • Pour dechlorinated or filtered water over the top of the feed. Add enough so that the feed is fully submerged and has a couple inches of room to expand. (If needed, simply leave a glass of city tap water out at room temperature overnight to allow the chlorine to dissipate.)
  • Cover the top of the container with a loose-fitting lid, plate, or other makeshift lid. It doesn’t need to be air tight.
  • Set the container in a location with moderate temperatures for three to four days to ferment (such as out on the counter, in the garage, etc).
  • Check and stir it each day. Add additional water if the feed has absorbed it all.
  • After 3 to 4 days (our chickens prefer day 3) give them the fermented feed. If it hasn’t absorbed all of the water, you can either drain it off and discard, or reserve the liquid to jump start a new batch of fermented feed.
  • Repeat as desired, and develop a schedule. Since it takes a few days to ferment, some folks start staggered batches every day (put a date on the container!) in order to have a finished batch of fermented feed available at all times. Because we make a two-day supply at a time, we refrigerate the unfed portion to feed them the next day and also start a new batch.

DeannaCat signature, keep on growing


  • nicole

    5 stars
    HI! Do you only feed them once a day with fermented feed? Do they eat it all at once? Or do you put it out in the morning and they come back and eat it throughout the day?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Nicole, we typically try and feed them enough of the fermented feed for them to consume in on “sitting” while still offering their typical dry feed as another option. You don’t want to let the fermented feed to sit out for too long throughout the day as it may mold in time. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Rafael

    We recently started fermenting chicken feed for 36-48hrs. pleasent smell and was eaten well by our 12 week old chickens.
    However after 3 days of feeding several have bloody diarrea, with 3 mortality within flock of 20.
    Has anyone had a similar experience?
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Rafael, that is too bad to hear about your chickens but I would look into other causes than fermented feed (especially so since it had a pleasant smell) as I don’t see that being the issue with your flock. If you are concerned about the fermented feed you can alternate feedings with dry food so they don’t always have fermented feed in their crops. Also be sure that the feed was fermented properly and that there is no mold present. Have you looked into worms or coccidiosis as that can come on quickly and can be deadly to chickens.

  • Chelsea

    Hi! Thanks for the article!

    Can you tell me which brand of chicken feed you use? I’m just curious!
    Also, how long should you leave each feeding out for the chickens? If it’s not all consumed in a day, should it be discarded?
    Should you essentially feed them in the morning and then discard the rest that evening if it’s not all consumed?
    Also, if you make enough feed for two days, what do you do with the second feeding? Leave it in the jar still covered with water and lid until ready to use?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Chelsea, we use Scratch and Peck Naturally Free Layer for our hens. In regards to the amount of feed, I would try and get the amount of fermented feed down a little better so that their feed is gone by the end of the day. If there is still some left over at the end of the day, try fermenting a little less until you find the right amount for your birds. If you ferment enough for two days, just leave some submerged in the liquid to ferment another day or pour off the remaining liquid and store the fermented feed in the refrigerator until you are ready to feed your birds. Hope that helps and thanks for reading.

  • Chelsea

    Question. I started fermenting feed for our flock about a week ago. Before when we placed the same amount of dry feed out it would last at least 24 hours. Now when I feed the same amount fermented, it’s gone in less than 12 hours. Is this normal? Should I give them more? It is not being consumed by other animals either as I’ve closely monitored it to make sure that wasn’t what was happening. I am also adding brewers yeast, omegas and garlic with their fermented feed. Thank you for your guidance!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Chelsea, I guess your chickens really like the fermented feed! It is probably something new and interesting to your flock so they may be eating more than necessary? Chickens that eat fermented feed are supposed to eat less feed compared to dried as the nutrients are more available for absorption. I think you should stick to the recommended amount of feed per hen which I believe is around 1/4 cup (depending on the type of feed) and see if they continue to eat it all or return to the normal amount of feed. Let us know how it works out and what changes or doesn’t change in the next couple weeks. Good luck!

      • Lori Cote

        My chicks and keets will be on shavings, what happens to whatever fermented feed falls in and is lost….afraid of mold or bugs….

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hi Lori, I would try and use a large plate or even a piece of cardboard if you have a larger flock to keep their feed container on to catch any of the feed that ends up falling overboard just to be safe. Afterwards it should be easy enough to remove any excess food before it finds its way into the shavings. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Amanda

    What feed do you use? I’ve been using pellets because it’s the only thing TSC carries, but it’s definitely messy and impossible to drain off most of the water without losing feed.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Katie that is likely just residual stuff from the feed, you can add it with the feed or strain off the liquid before giving it to them.

    • Stephanie

      Hello! We are new to the world of raising chickens and your blog is incredible! Thank you for the time and effort you pour into it. We are looking forward to starting our chickens on fermented feed but to piggy back on a previous question, with the feed going in bowls, will they not walk on it and waste food? Thank you for your thoughts!

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        Hi Stephanie, your chickens may likely step on the bowl which could result in wasted food if they don’t eat it off the ground. Give them a trial run on the fermented feed and see how they handle it and if they end up wasting the feed or not. Good luck and hope your hens like their feed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating