Free Lunch for Chickens
A few weeks back a friend offered me the barley that was left over from his beer making. I know brewers grains have a good amount of protein but less carbohydrates than before the process. I had done a bit of research about the amount that can be fed to chickens, but I thought I would just try free feeding it alongside their layer pellet and see what happened. I received a 5 gallon pail of the leftover barley. My friend said he had started with about 11 lbs. of barley. Of course it was much heavier than that because what is left over is wet.
My plan was to see how much they ate, whether it affected their egg laying and how long the wet brewers grains would keep to see how practical and useful this free source of feed would be.
I free fed layer pellets and I added a 2nd feeder and free fed the barley. 18 chickens consumed the entire pail of barley in 7 days. I saw no change in the amount of eggs. They really liked the barley and ate more of it than their layer pellets. I often found the barley feeder empty. I know animals often eat more of a feed that is novel, but they did seem to like it quite a bit.
When I first got the barley it smelled really good. I was sorry I carried all into the chicken coop before saving some to try cooking with myself. After 7 days the barley did not smell as good as initially but it did not smell bad yet. It seems that it would not have kept too much longer without spoiling though. Temperatures were cool but above freezing. I would have liked to tried drying some for longer storage, but they ate too quickly and the weather was not good for drying anyway.
I really need to do a lot more experimenting and I eventually want to determine if it would be worth getting in larger quantities from commercial brewers. if I can not dry it easily then it may not be worth searching for larger quantities for a small flock of 18, but in home brew quantities of 5 gallon pails from a nearby neighbor it is definitely valuable and cost effective and the chickens really loved it and ate it before it spoiled.
I do wonder if it may be a bit short of carbs in winter, but I did think of providing some extra corn with it if I start feeding it for longer periods.
I'm also thinking about how I can add it into my meat birds feed. I won't be raising more meat birds until warmer weather so those experiments will have to wait.