How to soak chicken feed overnight

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How to soak chicken feed for better health and performance in your backyard chickens and an important safety check against toxic feed that could prevent them from laying.

There’s been a lot of fuss in the alternative news lately about certain brands of commercial chicken feed discouraging chickens from laying eggs.

As the mainstream media predictably scrambles to discredit citizen journalist stories, so have the dozens of videos on social media showing the before and after results of egg production on the farm, having replaced the spoiled feed with freshly ground versions became, quite convincing! (1)

These stories are certainly worrying, especially as numerous egg factories are mysteriously burning down and egg prices have more than doubled. (2, 3)

Why should you soak your chicken feed?

There is a simple solution for those of us who keep a small flock of chickens to provide our families with excellent quality eggs and some level of food security.

Soak your chicken feed overnight!

I find soaking the feed for 8-12 hours or overnight to be the easiest method compared to fermenting for several days.

You will get all the benefits listed below without any additional investment of time.

More on that later.

Soaked vs. wet food

Before I get into the benefits of soaking your chicken feed, let me be clear that soaking is not the same as wetting.

Moisturizing feed simply means adding water before giving it to the chickens.

Wet food offers chickens no advantages over dry or fermented food and can even reduce heat tolerance. (4)

Soaking the feed is similar to what you would do to yourself with a pot of overnight oats.

They add filtered water and give the mixture enough time to start the fermentation process.

Never use chlorinated tap water to soak the food.

This chemical threatens the viability of the naturally occurring friendly bacteria present in the feed. Soaking encourages reproduction for the benefit of your chicken’s health.

While some people let the wet mix sit for 2 days or more, I only soak it overnight to reduce the risk of mold since I live in an environment that is fairly humid for most of the year.

Even with an overnight soak, the chicken feed will definitely start to ferment. In the morning I notice a slight bubbling at the top of the mixture. This indicates probiotic activity.

If you live in a dry environment and want the soaked feed to ferment longer, I recommend two or at most three soaking tanks. The first is soaked food for “Day 1”, another for “Day 2” and so on.

Next, let’s go through the benefits of overnight soaking feed for your backyard chickens!

More nutritious eggs

Research shows that fermented feed for laying hens gives them a more digestible diet, which leads to better eggs.

In a study of nearly 500 pullets, those fed the fermented feed gained more weight.

They also laid heavier eggs with harder shells…indicating better overall quality…than growing hens fed non-fermented commercial chicken feed. (5)

better health

Soaking chicken feed overnight to allow the probiotics to begin to thrive also has chicken health benefits.

They have a more acidic upper digestive tract that protects against pathogens E. coli, salmonellaAnd campylobacter. (6)

Reduced feed costs

As chicken feed prices go up, it’s good to know that the small amount of time it takes to slightly ferment the feed by soaking it in filtered water overnight reduces the amount of feed the chickens eat. (7)

The same thing happens to us! Whether you soak oatmeal overnight or soak flour for pancakes, the result will be that you eat less because you get full faster.

So this small investment of time serves to reduce your feeding costs and save you some money!

Tests if feed is safe

With reports of contaminated feed circulating on social media, perhaps the best part about soaking your chicken feed before feeding it to your hens is that it is a test of its safety.

In the video below, a woman soaking her chicken feed shows how the spoiled feed that is keeping her chickens from laying does not absorb water, unlike freshly ground feed and unspoiled pellets.

How to soak chicken feed

Now that we’ve established that soaking chicken feed at least overnight is a good idea, let’s discuss how to do it.

Type of feed to be watered

While you can soak any type of chicken feed, whether it’s crumbles, pellets, or freshly ground feed, I recommend freshly ground feed best.

There are two brands that I have used consistently over the past decade that are excellent:

If you prefer pellets, I recommend Modesto Milling Organic and Soy Free Stratified Pellets as the best value.

I’m sure there are other good brands to use. These are just the three I’ve tried over the years and have been consistently happy with.

Mix feed with water

Once you have a good feed ready, place the right amount for the size of your herd in a sturdy container.

Each chicken eats about 4-5 ounces of feed per day. (9, 10)

To save myself the hassle of measuring out the right amount every day, I simply marked a container with the appropriate fill line. You can see this in the picture at the top of the article.

The first line is for the 24 ounces or 4 ounces of feed for 6 chickens (the size of my flock). The second line indicates where to fill the container with 30 ounces or 5 ounces of feed per chicken.

Depending on how much the chickens are eating (they eat more at certain times of the year), I fill the container to either the first or second line.

Then I fill the container about 2 inches above the top of the feed with filtered spring water.

You can stir the food and water if you want, but it’s not necessary.

What if you forget to soak the feed?

Note that if you forget to soak your food before bed, don’t worry.

Just feed the chickens dry food the next day.

Dampening it in the morning and giving it without soaking for at least 8-12 hours has no benefit and can even be harmful in hot weather.

Let the mixture sit overnight

After adding the water to the feed, I put a sturdy cover over it and leave it on the kitchen counter overnight.

The lid does not need to be tight.

The next morning you will find that the excess water has been completely absorbed and the forage size per grain has swelled significantly.

The picture at the top of the article shows how much the feed increases in volume overnight!

I also keep noticing a few bubbles percolating at the top of the mix, indicating probiotic activity.

Your soaked feed is ready to use!

Pour the soaked feed into a shallow container

The next step is to feed your chickens the soaked, slightly fermented mixture.

I put the food in a flat container and put it on the ground in the freewheel area.

Be sure to place it in a spot protected from chicken hawk bombing overhead.

We use an old trampoline as a large “hawk cover” in our main chicken run.

Here I place the food so that they can eat in complete safety.

Chickens eat soaked, slightly fermented feed in a shallow container

Rinse and repeat

When the hens go back into the coop at dusk to settle for the night, I take the shallow container, hose it down and set it aside to use with my next batch of soaked feed the next morning.

That’s all there is to it!

I think you’ll find that if you take the few minutes to soak your chicken feed overnight, you’ll observe a healthier flock that eats less and produces more stable eggs.

You can also rest assured that the feed hasn’t spoiled as it absorbs water properly and begins to ferment with probiotics. With feed that is impure or unsafe in any way, this probably would not happen.

Layers eat soaked and fermented chicken feed


(1) Chicken farmers blame spoiled feed after chickens stop producing eggs

(2) Who is burning down America’s food plants?

(3) Egg prices have almost doubled. Why are egg prices so high?

(4) Effect of feeding wet feed or fermented wet feed Bacillus licheniformis on growth performance, histopathology and marker genes for growth and fat metabolism in broilers

(5, 6, 7) Fermented layer feed: Effects on laying performance, egg quality, plumage condition, and gut flora composition and activity

(8th) Toxic chicken feed does not expand when soaked

(9) chicken feed per shift per day

(10) How many stratified pellets per day?

(11) Should I ferment or soak my chicken feed?

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