Soaking, sprouting and fermenting grains has been a part of ancient cultures, as a way to release nutrients from hard grains such as barley and wheat, so they are more digestible. We've been soaking and sprouting grains for a long time for the chickens and found that not only do they eat less grain, but they also thrive on the additional nutrients, so they need less grain to satisfy their nutritional needs and appetite.
Winter is perfect for sprouting grains when greens are not as readily available and more difficult for chickens to scratch at through ice and snow. You will need a frost free environment however to sprout grains. The kitchen environment is typically a good place for sprouting and even better if you have a window for light to encourage the sprouting.
Soaking grains can be done anytime of year and are ready to use in 12 to 24 hours. Soaking grains is not the same as sprouting grains, soaking releases the nutrients, however it may take up to 5 days for the grains to sprout depending on how warm the environment is and how much light the grains receive.
Fermenting grains, is the same process as soaking the grains, and only requires the addition of an acid. That acid can be vinegar, or juice from a fermented vegetable (ie: sauerkraut), but in this case I'm using whey.
Whey is the by-product from cheese making, and used for making ricotta cheese, but it is also the liquid that rises from your yogurt, sour cream or cottage cheese. The whey itself has many health benefits and can be used in baked goods for a light fluffy texture, can be used in meat marinades to help tenderize the meat or added to smoothies for the extra pro-biotic benefits, for healthy gut, in humans and animals.
So if you've been pouring the whey down the drain, stop and use it for it's many pro-biotic benefits to you and your chickens as well as other animals. At the very least, stir it back into your dairy product as it rises to the top, or add whey as part of the liquid in your baked goods for moist and tender results or use it to marinade meat for your next barbeque (see link below).
What you need:
Whole grains (Wheat, Oats, Barley etc.)
Whey (drained from cheese making, yogurt or cottage cheese)
Cheese cloth (muslin or towel will work as well)
There are no specific measurements, I just spread out enough grain to cover the bottom of my container, then pour enough whey over the grain to cover. Spread the whole grain into the container. Pour whey over the top, cover with cheese cloth or towel and allow to sit at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
The grain should have a pleasant yeast smell, not a rancid or spoiled smell and definitely should not be moldy. You'll notice that the whole grains expand. That expansion releases the healthy nutrients making them readily available so the benefits are immediate.
The fermented grain is ready to give to the chickens, or you can place a lid on it and put in the refrigerator to slow down or stop the fermentation process.
Note: I recently came across data presented by #PoultryScience.Org. In their experiments, soaking the grains helped increase weight and overall growth in the broilers, without the need of increased amounts of grain. So if you are raising dual purpose birds or birds intended for table meat, consider soaked grains or fermented grains for the added benefits without the need to increase the feed ratio to bring those birds to a proper table weight.
Follow the links for additional ways to use Whey:
To soak grains, refer to the link:
To sprout grains, refer to the link: justfowlingaround.weebly.com/chicken-coop-chatter-blog/chia-fodder-for-chickens-and-healthy-for-humans
How to grow Fodder:
To use Whey for marinating meat, refer to the link:
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