Help! My Fermented Chicken Feed Smells Like Vomit!

When you want to add more nutrition to your chicken feed, lacto-fermentation is the answer. One of the best things about fermented chicken feed is that it’s something you can do at home.

But what do you do if your fermented chicken feed smells like vomit? For sure, that’s not supposed to happen.

This article will discuss what affects chicken feed’s smell and how specific ingredients can help. I’ll also discuss the benefits of fermenting the chicken feed and what to avoid during the fermentation process.

chickens eating chicken feed out of a red plastic bucket

What Should Fermented Chicken Feed Smell Like?

Fermentation is a metabolic process that chemically changes organic substances via enzymes. When you ferment your chicken feed, you essentially create probiotics for your flock. There are numerous benefits of giving fermented feed to your birds, but only if the feed is properly fermented (you can add even more nutrients to fermented chicken feed by adding molasses – click here to learn more).

One of the best indicators of whether your fermented chicken feed is good is the smell. During the fermentation process and immediately after it’s finished, the chicken feed’s fermentation should have a tangy, almost sweet, and often yogurt-like smell.

Occasionally, a light vinegary aroma could also occur. All of these mean that you have a healthy fermented feed in front of you.

What Causes Fermented Chicken Feed to Smell Bad?

If the fermented chicken feed smells like vomit or something equally rancid and horrible, you shouldn’t give it to your chickens.

While it might be challenging to pinpoint the exact reason why the fermented chicken smells bad, several reasons could be behind the nasty odor.

Mold

When the fermented chicken feed has an off-putting smell, the usual suspect is mold. Ironically, if you have mold in dry chicken feed, fermentation is the recommended fix because the lactobacillus bacteria will kill it and make the feed safe again.

However, it’s an entirely different situation if the mold develops during the fermentation process. This tends to happen when the fermentation slows down for one reason or another. Mold grows if the grain or pellets swell over the water line in the container.

black and white chicken feeding on ground

It’s unlikely that you’ll find mold deep in the water or the fermentation “soup.” When you open the fermentation feed container and a vomit-like smell hits you, be sure to look for mold.

If there’s not too much of it, skim it off, add some water, and stir. If your fermented chicken feed contains grains that float, such as sunflower seeds, make sure to mix it well with the rest of the feed.

Rodent Excreta

This is another potential reason why your fermented chicken feed smells like vomit. If your fermentation vessel isn’t covered correctly, or if you’re storing it in a room where rodents could get to it, then it’s highly probable that your batch is contaminated.

Even the most negligible amounts of rodent feces could completely ruin the fermented chicken feed and cause it to smell horrible. If there’s the slightest chance that rodents got to the feed, your only option is to throw it away and start over.

Plastic Containers

The most important guideline when choosing the right container for fermentation is to pick food-grade quality. In most cases, this means glass jars, stainless steel, or BPA-free plastic. However, even plastic of the highest quality can cause issues with fermentation.

It’s easily scratched, and if foreign bacteria develop, it can ruin your fermented chicken feed. If you’re continuously experiencing a terrible smell coming from fermented chicken feed stored in a plastic container, then perhaps it’s time to switch to glass or stainless steel.

chickens standing around bag of chicken feed pellets

Sun Exposure

When you’re fermenting the chicken feed, you should never leave it directly in the sunlight. The goal is to avoid fluctuating temperatures as much as possible, as they can impair the fermentation.

It can either slow down or expedite the process and as a result, your feed could sit fermented too long and develop an unpleasant smell.

Other Ingredients Cause the Smell

You don’t have to add anything to your chicken feed when you ferment it. Some poultry farmers have experimented with apple cider, yeast, or even vinegar. The issue is that these ingredients will promote the creation of alcohol and even gas.

You might not smell vomit specifically from your fermented chicken feed, but you’ll still get an unpleasant smell. If there’s a whiff of alcohol in it, then you definitely shouldn’t give that fermented feed to your chickens.

The use of blackstrap molasses with fermented chicken feed is a well-known strategy that has many benefits. But you only add molasses after the fermentation is over, not during. Otherwise, you’ll also get the gassy and alcohol-like smell in your feed which will not be good for your chickens.

Tips on How to Prevent Fermented Chicken Feed From Smelling Bad

One thing is certain – if your fermented chicken feed has a rancid smell, you need to throw it away and start over.

Store it in a place where rodents can’t reach it and make sure to check for mold. Here are a few other tips to keep in mind to avoid your fermented chicken feed going bad:

  • Cover the feed with several inches of water
  • Stir the feed several times per day
  • Check for bubbles regularly, and don’t let the fermented feed sit too long (usually three days)
  • Make sure to drain the feed after it’s done and save the water for the next batch
  • Use de-chlorinated water. Well-water or store-bought filter water works too

In Summary

The DIY fermented chicken feed can quickly become a routine. Your chickens will appreciate the extra probiotics, and you’ll love the fresh and nutrient-filled eggs. But the fermentation can go wrong for many reasons, resulting in the stench.

Your chickens can’t eat fermented feed that smells like vomit, and you have to get rid of it. It could be mold, foreign bacteria, or any number of reasons.

Hopefully, you’ll now be able to avoid the disappointment of a ruined batch in the future and produce chicken feed with a sweet, sourdough-like scent.