Why I Use Milk Kefir for My Chickens {Recipe Included}



For years, I have been interested in culturing and fermenting in some capacity. It pretty much started with kombucha, then I tried water kefir (I killed my grains, ugh), then fermenting zucchini pickles and carrot sticks in salt brine, then dilly beans—all (but the water kefir) turned out great, and I was pretty much hooked.

Why I Use Milk Kefir for My Chickens

Within a few months of moving into our new place, I made a new friend, Stacey. She introduced me to making milk kefir. I had experienced kefir as a child and loved it. It wasn’t the homemade kind, but the store-bought already-flavored-with-fruit variety, which I really liked a lot. I had also experienced making my own yogurt in years past, which I also liked, but it was too labor intensive for me at the time. So when Stacey shared kefir grains with me and how easy it was to make, I gave it a go.

I was able to make my batches quite easily, and my kefir grains grew nicely enough, even using pasteurized cow’s milk (Stacey uses raw goat milk, which I don’t yet have regular access to). I had no idea what to do with each batch, so I ended up just mixing the whole quart with bird feed and feeding it to the chickens. Heck, I wasn’t losing anything by giving it to them, really, and I’d heard it was good for them. BUT….

I had no idea that it would affect their laying.

And honestly, I don’t have any real scientific proof that it does help them to lay more, but on the weeks I fed milk kefir to my laying hens, they tended to lay roughly a third more eggs than when they didn’t have it. Like I said—no science, just my own mind blown.

Here’s (in what I hope will be a nutshell) what I’ve learned from the research I have been doing on formulating my own chicken feed: laying hens need somewhere between 16 and 18 percent protein in their feed. According to Dr. Jacquie Jacob of the University of Kentucky, layers need a couple of percent more protein than pullets or any other non-laying chicken. At the time I started feeding them the milk kefir, I was already giving my girls a 16.2% protein feed, so my guess is that the extra protein boost was the reason for the boost in laying power.

Now here’s where I need to say to you: THIS IS ONLY WHAT WE DO. I don’t know enough to tell you that you should also do it this way, but this is working for us right now, and it’s just one way that I am supplementing the needed protein that doesn’t get into my homemade whole grain chicken feed. Since I haven’t been able to find out what percent protein milk kefir is (I’m sure it really depends on what type of milk is used amongst other factors), I can really only use it as a protein booster along with my 16% protein feed.

In addition to being a protein booster in my chickens’ diet, milk kefir (like yogurt–which many chicken owners tout as a wonderfully healthy addition to their girls’ diet) provides a substantial amount of probiotics to “the table” (ha ha, see what I did there?). Many people add probiotic powder to their homemade feed, or even their chickens’ waterer. Adding it to the feed is a fantastic idea if you can afford it (it’s expensive around here, something like $14/lb), but if your water feeder is huge (like mine is), the probiotic powder tends to cloud up the water and form a film on the top of it and inside the waterer before the chickens empty out the dispenser. Not cool. Because of the cost and “film-factor”, I have chosen to work with milk kefir because it’s cheaper than the probiotic powder, and if mixed with feed, the chickens gobble it up. Win/win for us and our girls.

Oh, and you don’t need to give them the full quart every time–that’s just what I do sometimes. If I were to give it consistently (or have kefir consistently–I don’t), I would do about a Tbsp per day per chicken. There’s no real rule that I know of. I have read around that many others give their chickens kefir to boost their nutrition from places like BackYardChickens.com and blogs that I’ve read, but there’s not really a hard and fast rule or “dosage” that I’ve been able to find.

milk kefir for chickens
My friend Stacey even treats her livestock with it when they have GI issues–she says it “fixes them right up”.  I also ran across this article that talks about how kefir saved someone’s dog. I’m starting to look at my milk kefir as a medicine as well as a great food for myself and my livestock.

If you are interested in trying to make some kefir for yourself and your chickens, here’s how I make mine.

    Milk Kefir

    Ingredients:
    1 quart mason jar
    30 oz (approx) milk of your choice
    4 tsp milk kefir grains (affiliate link)

    Other things you will need:
    plastic measuring spoon (tsp)
    paper towel
    canning ring or rubber band
    small, fine mesh strainer (all plastic)
    plastic lid that fits your canning jar

    To make it:
    Fill clean mason jar with milk, leaving 1-inch headspace. Stir in kefir grains. Lay paper towel over the top of the jar and secure it to the jar with a canning ring or rubber band. Store jar at room temperature out of direct sunlight, allowing it to ferment until thickened. If it runs around 70 degrees in your house, your kefir should be done in 24 hours. If it’s hotter, it will ferment quicker; cooler, and it will ferment slower. Check it after 24 hours to get a feel for how kefir ferments in your house/in your kitchen. When it’s thickened to your liking, strain kefir into a glass jar, stirring gently in plastic strainer until just the grains remain. Refrigerate your kefir and use within 2 weeks (I keep mine longer, just FYI) and stir your grains into a new jar of milk to make more kefir.

Do you use milk kefir for your chickens or other livestock? Your family?

Shared at Simple Life Sunday, The Art of Homemaking Mondays, Homestead Blog Hop, Our Simple Homestead Hop, From the Farm, Old Fashioned Friday. Front Porch Friday, Farmgirl Friday, Simple Saturdays Blog Link Party, Simply Natural Saturdays



 
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Kristi Stone

Kristi Stone

Honestly? I'm the author of this blog...sometimes. My family and I live in Sunny Southern California on a one acre hobby farm where we are working diligently to one day produce our dairy, eggs, and produce. That takes A LOT of work, so if you don't hear from me as soon as you'd like, give me a shout out in the comments and I'll chat back as soon as I can between the garden, goat kids, chickens, husband, human kids, and playing with my grandboy, Kieran. And in the mean time, if you'd like to see more frequently what goes on at our farm, please feel free to join my Facebook group (see the right column) where I am more active. I'd love to get to know you! 🙂
Kristi Stone

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Comments

  1. Interesting!! I will be trying this! We make lots of kefir and sometimes I can’t keep up with it. This is perfect! Thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays this week 🙂

  2. Hi Kristi, joining you from Sunny Simple Life Hop. I use milk kefir weekly for my dogs to keep them in good health. One of them was having a bad issue with over growth of yeast similar to a candida infection which caused her to itch constantly for years. Now I rotate giving her kefir, yogurt, (they have different good bugs) and pro biotics meant specifically for dogs. She is itch free and super healthy. I have read that this works for chronic ear infection in dogs as well. Certainly worth a try as medications are VERY expensive and can be toxic over the long haul.

    • Great points made, Patrica. I am starting to use it for my dog too–just a Tbsp in her food every now and then until I can get a possible food allergy issue worked out. She loves the flavor. My cat, on the other hand, gets diarrhea if I give it to him, so I don’t do that anymore. I haven’t tried it out on the goats or rabbits either, not sure they would benefit due to their systems being different, but if I find they will, they will get some too! I do hear that goat milk kefir is good for any animal that has GI issues, but I would still need to research that. Thanks for your comment and for your visit, Patrica!

  3. melissa says:

    so interesting 🙂
    I am curious as to what you mean by Kefir grains?
    I would love to make this just need that missing ingredient 🙂

    • Hi Melissa! There are some grains that you can purchase (or get from a friend if you have one who makes milk kefir). They are kind of like little bits of gelatin that you put into your milk to make the kefir. I added a link in the post so you can see what they look like. Also, Amazon has many other choices if you don’t like the one I linked to. If you purchase some from Amazon by clicking my link, I will make a very small percentage of the sale, but you don’t pay anything extra. However, there’s no pressure to do that AT ALL, I just have to share that with you by law. 🙂

  4. Hi kristi , how can i use milk kefir for my poultry form ( total strength is 75 thousand) ?
    Is this possible to feed them

    • I am not sure what you mean about ‘strength’? I think it would be possible to use it every day, maybe a tsp each? But I’m not sure that if I had many chickens that I would use it except when needed (medicinally). I don’t give it to my chickens in this volume anymore because I use my milk kefir for so many of my other animals.

  5. Phylicia says:

    I just started using milk and now I am going to kefir it and feed it. I also use a whole grain feed and I have begun sprouting and foddering it for them so they get more nutrient value than the seed alone. I add the Diatomaceous Earth to the sprouts right before feeding for obvious reasons. I have some healthy birds!

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