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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 it 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!

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4.86 from 7 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


    • Dave

      Hi…great article. Lots of good info! I’ve been feeding my flock fermented grains for a pretty good while now…they love it. I also give them some form of green every day. Late December in Virginia and still finding chick weed and other stuff. I’ve been wondering….could I offer a bit of the fermentation fluid to them to drink? Seems like it would be beneficial if I skim the foamy stuff off of the top.

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        Hello David, I don’t see how that would be a problem as long as their regular water is still available to them. You could always try and reuse the liquid to restart your next batch of fermented feed as well if you found yourself tossing out the remaining liquid. Hope that helps and good luck!

      • Dave Niques

        4 stars
        Feeding them the fermentation fluid is a great idea… You know its a fermentation process so it tends to be a bit alcoholic and your chicks will have some corn beer, and dance for you while at it! Am definitely trying this! Cheers and happy new year from Nairobi, Kenya!

  • Vanessa

    5 stars
    First of all, thanks for all the super helpful info. I turn here first when I’m trying to figure out something garden/ferment/chicken related. Do you see any problem doubling the 2day recipe and refrigerating the second half instead of staggering batches?

    My 5 chickens are thanking you.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Vanessa, Thank you so much for the kind words. Refrigerating the left over portion will work just fine. We often have some fermented feed left over after feeding and refrigerate the remainder until we feed them the following day. Good luck and your chickens should be thanking you!

      • Tammie J Canet

        Currently I’m only fermenting the layer pellets. But I add whole grains before feeding. Should I be fermenting them as well? Will they get soggy? My girls love the stuff, but I had an Aymi rooster that wouldn’t let his girls eat it. So weird

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hello Tammie, whole grains can absolutely be fermented as well, our layer feed is mostly made up of whole grains and the chickens love it. Thanks for reading and good luck!

  • Elizabeth

    My chickens don’t seem to like the fermented pellets. Should I take away their dry pellets so they will eat the fermented, until they get used to it? We usually have pellets in a hanging feeded available at all times.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Elizabeth, I would not take away their regular unfermented feed only to force them to eat the fermented one. It may be something that takes them a little time to get used to. We found that our chickens prefer whole grain chicken feed whether it is fermented or not compared to the pellets. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Pandora Fox

    Hi there! Trying this for the first time. Day two and I have bubbles galore! Just one question: Is it normal that it smells like sour milk? Thanks for the great article and recipe!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Pandora, not entirely surprising at all! The ferment will definitely have a slight aroma to it though it will vary depending on the type of feed that you give them. Good luck!

      • DeannaCat

        Hi Nick – We feed our girls organic “Scratch and Peck” brand, their naturally-free layer feed. We get it at a local farm supply store and it’s also available online. We haven’t ventured into making our own grain blend yet since there is this awesome option that hits all their nutritional needs already. Plus… too busy writing, haha! Thanks for reading!

  • Janet

    I use my discard from sourdough and just plop food in, mix with water, leave overnight. Feed. Leave a little bit in container and do again, I refresh discard every week.
    Love all your hints on EVERYTHING. Thank you

    • DeannaCat

      Hi Meredith – No, not necessarily. It will continue to bubble for several days. It isn’t “wrong” to feed it to them on day 2, but there will be even more beneficial bacteria (probiotics) on day 3. Thanks for tuning in!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      I don’t see any issue with that and it should help kick start the fermentation process. Our chickens love it when we feed them pieces of SCOBY.

  • Kathleen W.

    I give my chickens kombucha pellicles as a treat and they LOVE it. Do you see any reason not to use the liquids from a pellicle hotel to start the feed fermentation?

    • DeannaCat

      Great question! Any age! I assume they’re not on layer feed yet, so you can ferment the grower/chick feed they’re on.

      • Kerri W.

        Hi, thanks for the article. Great information. I’m going to give it a try. I feed mine Bar Ale ultimate layer. I believe it is similar to the scratch and peck. Lots of seeds and peas. Things like that. Would it be ok to ferment that kind of food? What type of feeder do you feed them in and do you give them their feed just once a day? I have 38 birds and feed twice a day. I also throw down a little scratch for the evening feed in the winter.

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hello Kerri, your feed of choice does sound very similar and should be just fine fermented! We leave out regular dry Scratch and Peck layer feed in their run and occasionally give them fermented feed in a separate container in addition to the free choice feed. For feeding a large flock fermented feed, it would be easiest to ferment the feed in a 5 gallon bucket and pour it into a few larger containers when it is time to feed the birds. Hope that helps and good luck!

    • Bonnie Barclay

      I’m going to try this with my chickens
      Question#1: can you ferment layer mash or does it need to be grains, crumbles, or pellets?
      Question #2 Anyone ever give fermented feed to Guinea fowl? Could I use game bird feed pellets for them?

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        Hello Bonnie, you can absolutely ferment layer mash, just keep an eye out as the ferment times may not take as long as whole grain feed. Possibly only 24 to maybe 48 hours at most? I don’t have any experience with Guinea fowl or game bird pellets but I don’t see why you couldn’t ferment their feed as well. Start off with a small amount and see how your flock takes to the feed. Hope that helps and good luck!

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