Turning Layers Pellets into a Crumble or Mash
1: To make layers pellets into a 'dry' layers crumble:
A blender, food processor, or grinder can work well (if you only keep a handful of chickens).
If using a food processor it can be easy for the pellets to become too fine and powdery, so go slow (e.g. 2 - 1 second pulses of a food processor).
Better still, you can use a hand operated grain mill, a hand operated corn/grain grinder, or a hand-operated meat grinder.
All of the above can be bought for around £30-£40 and upwards.
*If using a meat grinder, remove the forming blades from the hand powered meat grinder. The forming blades are round disks with small wholes in them. They are located on the end of the grinder where the meat comes out. Leave the cutting blade in the grinder.
**Do not use electric grinders. Electric grinder’s clog easily with pellets and the motor will burn up.
***A simpler, but slightly more labour intensive option (if you only have a few birds) is to put the pellets in a large ziplock bag and crush them with a rolling pin.
2: You can create a mash by soaking layers pellets in water.
Simply put some pellets in a bucket or dish, add warm/hot water and soak them overnight. The following morning, give the mixture a good stir, and then use your hands to crumble the pellets. This will make a lumpy mash that chickens will love! If left for a while the soaked mix can go stiff, but just crumble it up again before you feed it to your chickens.
Images courtesy of Three Wondrous Acres Homestead first published on 19th August 2018.
Please Note: Only give as much soaked feed as your birds can eat in one day.
This soaking method also puts moisture in the birds system. Laying birds need alot of moisture, and in cold weather they dont want to drink much, whereas in hot weather they will drink a lot more, but may still need aditional moisture.
*Did you know you can also save money just by soaking your chickens’ feed? Simply soaking their feed overnight makes the nutrients more digestible, reduces waste and actually stretches your feed further because your chickens don’t need to eat as much.
In addition to saving money by soaking the pellets, chickens are much healthier- most certainly a great benefit. The process of soaking feed allows chickens to utilize the feed further, conditioning them far better.
Soaking layers pellets can also lead to less food waste. You always see your chickens scattering their food all about. However, soaked feed isn’t going to kick or fly around like pellets or crumble does. This thick, cat food-like slurry will stay right in the feed pan, especially a heavy duty one, and your birds will end up consuming most of it, with little wasted!
It is also worth noting that there is no difference between pellets and crumble once they've been soaking for a few minutes.
Another consideration is to leave a feeder with just pellets in it (for the 'in between' times when you are feeding the soaked feed). This may encourage your chickens to eat the pellets as an alternative, and in time they may get used to enjoying the pellets as they are (if that is your goal).
Benefits of Soaking Chicken Feed:
✔ Soaking feed does not cost you anything.
✔ Your chickens will outperform themselves.
✔ Your chickens will prefer the soaked feed over dry.
✔ You will save so much money in the long run, especially during winter!
4: If you want to take it a step further, you could also use layers pellets to make 'fermented feed'.
Fermenting, or more specifically, lacto-fermentation, gives your hens a whole host of additional benefits.
In addition to making the feed more digestible, it adds probiotics, promoting gut health and giving your chickens extra protection against harmful bacteria like e-coli and salmonella.
Studies have shown that a fermented diet increases egg production and also aids the weight gain of meat birds.
Lacto fermentation not only makes the vitamins in the feed more digestible to the bird, but it has actually been shown to increase the vitamin content in the feed. That means healthier hens, and more nutritious eggs!
Fermenting significantly increases the digestible protein in the feed.
To Ferment your Feed:
1: Fill a non-metal container 1/3 – 1/2 way with feed.
2: Fill with non-chlorinated water almost to the top of the container.
3: Add a lid and let the feed sit until it starts to look bubbly. This is the start of the fermentation process, which allows good bacteria to colonize the feed. This can take 1-4 days.
4: Stir the mixture daily and replace the lid.
5: The longer the mixture sits, the higher the chance for mold growth, and it also becomes more sour and less tasty for the chickens, so when it starts bubbling feed it immediately.
6: Like normal unfermented soaked feed, you should only give as much feed as your birds will consume in one day.
Due to the increased nutrients, chickens eat significantly less fermented feed than they would dry. Plus, there is less waste since the feed is stuck together and the chickens can’t peck through it. Even the small fines that would normally end up on the ground will get eaten when your feed is fermented.
Tips for Fermenting Chicken Feed:
When fermenting chicken feed, make sure to follow these tips:
1: Only give your chickens what they will eat: Remove uneaten fermented food promptly, since it can become moldy.
2: Choose the right container: Use a container with plenty of room and a lid that does not fit too tightly. You want gases to be able to escape. Make sure to use a glass or plastic tub that is food-grade quality or at least BPA-free.
3: Use high-quality water: You can use filtered water, good-quality well water, or tap water that has been sitting for at least 24 hours. Do not use chlorinated water. Never add yeast or vinegar, as this can create alcohol. Do not allow the feed to dry out. Keep adding as much water as needed to keep the water level above the feed.
4: Keep an eye on the fermentation process: Store the container in a cool, dry location and stir multiple times a day. Keep an eye on the mix and look for bubbles. When you see bubbles, usually after about three days, the mixture is fermented and ready. The fermented feed will have sweetish smell. If mold develops or if it smells rancid, throw it out and start a new batch.
5: Save the water: After you have made your first batch of fermented feed, hold onto the water you strained out. You can use this to jump-start a new batch!
The Benefits of Fermenting Chicken Feed:
✔ It is easier for your chickens to digest, especially if you are feeding them pellets or crumbles. Even grains get softer after soaking.
✔ Your chickens will eat less. Soaking expands the food, and chickens also digest the fermented feed more thoroughly.
✔ It is harder to spill than dry food. But even if a bit is spilled, the chickens will gobble it up. Sometimes it takes them a while to get used to fermented feed, but once they do they love it!
✔ Tests have shown that chickens who eat fermented feed lay more eggs and they have thicker shells. By this I mean female chickens; roosters won't lay eggs no matter how much fermented feed you give them! ;)
✔ Fermenting brings out probiotics that strengthen the chickens' immune system, making them less likely to get sick.
✔ It adds more nutrients! Good for gut health too!
✔ The chickens have shinier feathers, look healthier, act healthier, and are healthier. Some people even claim that they poop less and that their poo is less messy and smelly when they are fed a diet of fermented feed!
✔ Chickens love it!