It's dinnertime at Southampton Homestead!
Jeff moves his chickens daily onto fresh pasture, and gives them their daily feed ration that they need, in addition to the pasture grasses and insects, to grow strong and healthy. The chickens eat a mixture of fermented grains, with meat meal added to reach the ideal protein levels needed for meat bird growth.
The fermentation process makes the nutrients more available in the grain and easier to digest so the chickens feel fuller faster, and don’t need to eat as much food to get their daily nutrient and energy requirements. Not only does fermentation preserve the vitamins in the grains, it also creates new vitamins, primarily B vitamins like folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin. Foods produced by bacterial fermentation are enriched in short-chain fatty acids, so the fermentation process actually creates these, which are then available to the chickens to feed their gut microbiome, which then feeds their bodies.
Jeff has also noticed that in the middle of summer, on fermented feed, the chickens water intake was much lower than when using dry grain, and they looked happier and more comfortable in warmer temperatures. He thinks this is because the fermented grain is full of water, and the chickens are eating less of the grains. When they eat lots of dry grain, the digestion process creates internal heat, which heats up their body temperature and makes them drink much more water.
When we visited, the chickens were definitely keen to get into those feed buckets, so fermented grain must taste good too!
The pasture has definitely benefited from the animal impact the chickens have made on the ground - the pasture they have grazed over is regenerating with lush broad leaved grasses that will then be grazed by the Southampton cattle herd.