Chickens like milk, but they love clabber. Like buttermilk, yogurt, or kefir, any thickened milk ferment is haute cuisine to your farmyard chicken. We find that fifteen or so Rhode Island Reds will clear up a half gallon of clabber per day, leaving nothing to attract flies in the meantime, and lay more eggs to boot.
Likewise, while our hens won’t even look at commercial crumbles if there is any sort of whole grain to be had — our standard mix includes wheat, oats, barley, millet and sunflower seeds — what they really go crazy for is fermented grains, that is, whole, rolled, cracked or crimped grains that have been soaked in water for several days. We fill a five gallon bucket three-quarters of the way with our mix, top it up with water, and shove a cover on it for three or four days before we start to feed it out. Actually, we make two buckets, because you want one fermenting while you’re using the other, so you don’t run out. Smells like a distillery or worse, but modern noses need exercise, and a break from petroleum-derived scents that probably predispose you for cancer anyway. And the chickens just love it. Maybe commercially compounded soy-corn crumbles will induce a bird to lay a maximum of eggs — and maybe they won’t, we don’t know — but fermented grains and dairy clabber are fresh, whole and local, not to mention a sight more natural than post-industrial processed-food waste and GM soy and corn.