Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brewers Grain

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.


  1. What a delightfully informative post. I do so enjoy your blog. As I read about the high protein but low carbs I was thinking "cracked corn" to myself but of course you're on that line of thinking already. I have some friends that used to home brew. I think I'll ask around to see if any of them still do, or know someone that does.

    If the barley goes bad it would possibly make good mulch for the garden. What do you think?

  2. I receive free grain weekly from a local brew pub; about 25 gallons. I share five gallons with another chicken farmer who has a small flock and the rest I feed to my sixteen hens. I live in a hot desert but my chicken yard is a shady oasis. My grain starts to smell pungent after a few days but the brewer assures me that it is just fermenting in the heat. The chickens seem to enjoy it more as the week progresses (no wonder). I tried using grain as a main mash but after two weeks my production slowed by half. Now I feed two cups of laying mash in the am and a cup after they roost since I don't like to get up too early to let them out. The rest of the day, they eat grain or weeds that I've pulled and their production is back up to par. Mine eat about 2 gallons of wet grain in a day. Hope this helps.

  3. Anonymous10:44 PM

    My husband is an avid home brewer and my six chickens love the spent grain. I feed it on brew day but then freeze ziploc bags of it to offer up thawed at a later date.