We all want the best for our chickens - that goes without saying. There are some mixed reviews around the internet about whether fermenting food for poultry is good for them or not.
In this article I'll untangle the pros and cons so that you can decide for yourself whether it's a good idea.
And in another article, I'll show you how to do it, step by step.
If you've ever eaten yoghurt or cheese, you've eaten a food that's gone through a fermentation process.
Fermentation is simply a system of steeping solids in a liquid to release naturally occurring bacteria which are good for the health of the gut.
You've probably heard of probiotics - that's exactly what fermentation produces.
As well as making it hard for "bad" bacteria to survive in the gut, they make food more digestible and increase the supply of protein available. At the same time, the process increases the amounts of Vitamins K, C and B.
As you might guess from the information above, the answer to that is a resounding "Yes!", for both humans and chickens (and other animals too).
Bacteria are a vital part of our ability to digest and use foods. These days, medications such as antibiotics and the availability of fast foods can deplete the number of "good" bacteria our guts make naturally.
That means food is not absorbed as well as it might be and our body loses out on the nutrients it needs to function healthily.
The net result is that we become more prone to infection and illness.
Fermentation increases the number of bacteria so that our guts are literally teeming with them. While that may not sound very pleasant, the fact is that it's exactly what we need.
And it's no different for chickens.
Here's what studies about the benefits of the fermentation process specifically for chickens have concluded:
Probably the most important benefit of fermentation is the resistance to infection which fermented foods provide.
In fact, they're so efficient at preventing infection that in commercial livestock rearing where antibiotics aren't allowed or aren't wanted, fermented foods are used as a matter of course to keep animals healthy.
A lot of "facts" you'll find on the internet are often people's individual views, often based on inaccurate information repeated from poor quality sources.
The information I provide in this article and others is based not just on my own experience, but on evidenced facts from scientific, peer-reviewed research and evidence from highly respected and experienced poultry keepers such as Gail Dammerow.
Some of the sources I have used are these.
(1) Engberg et al : 'Fermented feed for laying hens : effects on egg production, egg quality, plumage condition and composition and activity of the intestinal microflora'. Pub U.S. National Library of Medicine, March 2009.
(2) Beal, Niba et al : 'Potential of bacterial fermentation as a biosafe method of improving feeds for pigs and poultry'. African Journal of Biotechnology, May 2009.
(3) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US : 'Why does Alaska have more botulism?'