Sprouting Grains for Chickens: Fodder for Thought

My flock enjoys the many benefits of free-ranging all year long, but in winter, their green, lush, nutritious plant supply is often buried underneath unreasonable amounts of snow, so I decided to experiment with supplementing their diet and their daily entertainment docket with sprouted grains. Sprouts are whole grains or seeds that are grown with water before being fed to the chickens. Sprouting grains is an easy way to provide chickens with fresh, nutritious greens any time of year with very little effort.
My flock enjoys the many benefits of free-ranging all year long, but in winter, their green, lush, nutritious plant supply is often buried underneath unreasonable amounts of snow, so I decided to experiment with supplementing their diet and their daily entertainment docket with sprouted grains. Sprouts are whole grains or seeds that are grown with water before being fed to the chickens. Sprouting grains is an easy way to provide chickens with fresh, nutritious greens any time of year with very little effort.
Sprouting grains is an easy way to provide chickens with fresh, nutritious greens any time of year with very little effort.
Sprouting grains is an easy way to provide chickens with fresh, nutritious greens any time of year with very little effort.Sprouting can also be an economical way to stretch a feed budget, however, this article addresses the basics of sprouting grains for the average backyard flock as an occasional supplement to their diet, not as the primary feed source. Endless resources are available on the topic of growing fodder for chickens and ruminants as the chief diet component, a smattering of which I have cited below.

Growing Sprouts vs fodder for chickensSPROUTS vs. FODDER
It took me a long time to wrap my head around the subtle differences between sprouts and fodder. The terms are often used interchangeably, but the Sprodder Police get upset when we do that, so…let’s not go there. Sprouts and fodder are simply different stages of the same germinated grains. Sprouts are germinated seeds grown to less than four inches in height, fodder is grown from the same germinated seeds to a height greater than four inches. While the process for growing sprouts and fodder is similar, fodder obviously takes longer to grow, which presents the risk of dangerous mold growth.Growing fodder requires slightly different sanitation procedures, often involving bleach or hydrogen peroxide. There are subtle nutritional differences between sprouts and fodder, but I have not been persuaded that growing grain to the fodder stage for use as a feed supplement is worth the time, effort or limited risk for a chicken supplement. Additionally, I worry about the length of fodder causing crop impaction in my birds, so I’ll stick with sprouts. I like to sprout wheat grains to the four or five inch height, which takes a mere six days.

Wheat is one of the most common and easily sprouted grains for chicken fodder
Hard red winter wheat grains.

BENEFITS OF SPROUTING:
The best review I found of the nutritional benefits of sprouts can be found here, but a summary of some of the benefits includes:

  • Year-round access to fresh greens regardless of the weather
    or outside growing conditions.
  • Entertainment for bored chickens
  • Makes the vitamins, minerals and proteins in the grains more bioavailable to the chickens. Think of grains as a nutrition packet wrapped in protective packaging. When eaten as-is with the seed packaging in place, the grain is prevented from being fully utilized nutritionally. Sprouting removes that packaging, freeing up the good stuff to break down and transform into even better stuff.
  • Sprouting improves the enzyme content, making it more easily digested than grains; after sprouting, a grain becomes 40-50% more digestible to the bird, which means that they are getting more nutrition and fiber than from the same amount of unsprouted grain
  • Sprouts are loaded with chlorophyll and beta-carotene, resulting in darker yolks and more nutritious eggs.

Growing sprouts for Chickens, fodder at day 7Tips for Success

  • Acquire the grains from a reputable source, ensuring that they have not been treated and are fresh. Health food stores, feed stores and online merchants are all sources to consider.
  • Always use clean containers and clean, fresh water.
  • Sprouting can be done on the kitchen counter. No special lighting necessary.
  • Room temperature should be between 45°F and 69°F.
  • No special equipment is necessary, but someone is always happy to take your money for special growing trays.
The chickens eat every part of the sprout, which means there is ZERO waste!
The chickens eat every part of the sprout, which means there is ZERO waste!

HOW TO SPROUT GRAINS
The method for sprouting grains is incredibly simple: rinse, soak overnight, rinse twice a day, drain well in between rinsing. Got it? Good, let’s complicate it.
Sprouting tray for fodder can be made from virtually any plastic container in which holes can be madeWheat sprouts for chickens, fodder by day 7MATERIALS NEEDED

  • A plastic container with drain holes in it (any inexpensive container will do- round, square, rectangle)
  • Whole grain wheat and barley are the two most commonly sprouted grains, but sprouting can be done with oats, sunflower seeds, alfalfa, lentils, clover, mung beans, soybeans, etc.
  • Fresh water.
I grew this fodder in blown eggshells and fed the entire thing, shells and all, to the chickens.
I grew this fodder in blown eggshells and fed the entire thing, shells and all, to the chickens.

THE PROCESS (blink and you’ll miss it)

  1. In a large bowl, cover the grains with fresh water and soak a minimum of 8 hours to a maximum of 24 hours. (I soak mine overnight)
  2. Create holes in the chosen container that are small enough that the grain doesn’t fall through them.
  3. At the end of the soaking period, drain grains well and spread them to  ¼”- ½ inch deep in chosen container.
  4. Place container over a second, slightly larger container to allow the water to drain off the grains fully.
  5. The sprouts should be watered and then drained fully twice each day for six days. By day six, the sprouted grains are ready to be fed to the flock.

Quail like fodder too!

Sources & further reading:

Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®

Order your copy of my bestselling book,

The Chicken Chick’s Guide to Backyard Chickens!

Available now on Amazon!

Comments

avatar
Melissa Derrico
Guest

Do you know if Quinoa would be ok to sprout for the chickens?

Jacquie
Guest

What are your thoughts on fermented chicken feed?

Wendy Lynn
Guest

Im so gonna try this..I think my ladies would really appreciate it.

Lisa N Lee Schmitt
Guest

Another thought on the fodder is that 1 pound of seed turns into 5-7 pounds of feed, so there is a great cost savings. I offer this as a treat, not as the sole source of food.

Lisa N Lee Schmitt
Guest

I have been growing barley fodder for years during the winter. I even grew my own barley in the field last year to use for winter growing. Bleach or peroxide is NOT necessary. I do a batch every day, that way the girls get fresh greens daily.

Kristina Inglis
Guest

Definitely want to do this!!

Mystik'l Bullmastiffs
Guest
Mystik'l Bullmastiffs

Just bought some organic seeds to try sprouting. I have been wanting to. )))

Jill Nolen Calhoon
Guest

Looks easy enough, will try!!

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