Recently, a coworker asked if I had ever heard of fermenting chicken feed. Honestly, the only thing I’ve ever purposefully fermented has been barley, hops, water and yeast after brewing beer. Fermenting helps preserve foods and the microbes involved break down tough to digest food components by producing enzymes making minerals more available and even increasing protein. I’ve heard that feeding chickens fermented feed will cut the amount of feed by possibly 1/2, which would be incredible. I’m going to give it a go and ferment some chicken feed for the poultry we have on the ranch and also see if the crickets respond well to it. Fermented feed can supposedly help laying hens increase production and I wonder if that is true for the crickets? We’ll know some of these answers soon! As I get better at fermenting, the ultimate plan is to experiment with fermenting the crickets themselves after harvest. Since crickets have a high iron content, my hope is that a fermented cricket based fish feed might be able to make that iron a little more available to the plants in the aquaponic system. That would be pretty cool. The only thing I’ve added to the system in the last 6 months or so has been some iron to get it to about 2ppm. I do that about 2- 3 times a year.
You can use any sort of glass vessel with a lid to ferment. I am using two gallon glass jars filling the jar about 3/4 of the way with feed and then adding water until there is about an inch of water on top. The feed really soaks up the water so you probably have to fill it up and then come back to make sure the feed is submerged before putting the lid on top. You can wait around a few days for the natural bacteria to come get the work done. Or, you can start with a culture to jumpstart things if you’re an impatient person like myself. Either way you start it, you can keep your culture going by saving the excess liquid and adding it to the next batch to ferment.
My first go round with this shows that I didn’t use enough water to start or I used too much feed. Or maybe, I added just enough because everything seems to have fermented. It has a nice smell with just a hint of sour sort of like yogurt, but grainy. As you can see in the photo, the feed swelled up to the top and I lost my 1 inch layer of water. I’m going to use some of this feed and see how long the rest of it lasts over the week to test the preservative properties of fermenting the feed. After I take some out, I’m going to add some more water to get that 1″ layer back in hopes of keeping it preserved.