Grow Chicken Fodder For Your Flock
Chicken fodder is a great way to give your flock some greens in the winter! If you don’t have any colorful foods for your hens to feast on, their egg yolks will be pale…like grocery store eggs. Once you’ve had eggs from free range or pastured hens you’ll turn your nose up at store bought! It can be tough to provide enough vitamin rich kitchen scraps during the winter, so why not supplement their grains with chicken fodder?
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What Is Chicken Fodder?
The dictionary definition of fodder is any ‘foodstuff’ for livestock, often referring to dried hay or other coarse, dry feed. However, in recent years there has been a move toward growing sprouts or micro-greens for chickens and other livestock. Researchers have found reason to believe that sprouted grains are healthier for humans to consume.
It stands to reason that our livestock will benefit from sprouted grains too. Some of the health benefits discovered by researchers include increased nutrition and digestability of the grains.
You can find links to the research articles here.
Seeds To Sprout For Chicken Fodder
You may sprout just about any grain for your chickens: barley, wheat, oats, buckwheat, sorghum, corn, quinoa, amaranth, and millet are all fine for growing chicken fodder. You may also sprout lentils, radish, broccoli, alfalfa, and other salad greens.
NEVER sprout dried beans for your chickens! Dried beans contain a chemical called phytohaemagglutnin, a naturally occurring toxin that affects chickens as well as humans! Because of this, you should not sprout dried beans for your flock. You also shouldn’t eat raw beans.
In addition, NEVER use packets of garden seeds for sprouting unless the packet is marked as being organic and/or free of any fungicidal treatments. It is best to avoid using any seeds from garden seed packets, just in case the seeds were treated and the packet is improperly marked. Fungicides may be toxic, even in small quantities.
How To Sprout Chicken Fodder For A Small Flock
You may use the same systems to sprout chicken fodder as you would use to sprout seeds for your own salads! There are numerous products available in a wide price range for sprouting seeds in your kitchen. Of course, these systems are best for sprouting smaller amounts for a few chickens.
I have been sprouting wheat for my chickens off and on for several years. I’ve also sprouted lentils and alfalfa for them. They enjoy these treats in the winter when there isn’t much green stuff in their diets. Here are the basic instructions for sprouting chicken fodder:
- Soak seeds in clean water for up to 24 hours
- Drain water off and spread seeds on sprouting tray
- Rinse seeds several times a day with clean water
- When sprouts green up (at about 7 days), they are ready for your chickens!
Be sure to rinse the sprouting seeds a minimum of twice a day. It is best to rinse them 3 times or more to prevent them from getting slimy. If seeds get moldy, throw them in the compost instead of feeding to chickens. Mold can be toxic to birds.
Soak and sprout a new batch of seeds each day for a steady supply of chicken fodder. You’ll have to get into the habit of starting a new jar or tray each day. It also requires about 7 trays or mason jars to start a new batch every day.
I like to give the sprouts a couple of extra days to get nice and green before feeding to my hens. This increases the chlorophyll content and helps to color up those egg yolks!
Sprouting For A Large Flock?
The methods I’ve used work fine for small flocks of a dozen hens or less. You may start extra jars or trays of sprouts on your counter to increase production. Or you could check out some diy fodder growing systems. These may require a shelving unit, growing trays, and a watering system. Here is a website with instructions on setting up a hydroponic fodder growing system.
How Much Fodder Should Your Hens Eat?
I’m not sure about replacing chicken feed with an all fodder diet for your flock. It may work out if you give them supplemental vitmins and minerals. However, I have not tried this. During mild weather, chickens with a large area to free range will be able to supplement their feed by foraging. Fodder may be all they need under those circumstances.
Quality layer feed contains all of the nutrients your hens need to produce eggs and stay healthy. Adding a tablespoon or two of fodder to their diets each day will give them a tasty treat. Too many treats may cause hens to store fatty tissue in their abdomens. This leads to lower egg production. It also encourages them to eat treats instead of their feed, which may lead to nutrient dificiencies.
As more research is conducted on the health benefits of feeding sprouted grains to chickens we may find that a large serving of fodder can be fed to your flock. Most likely there are sites out there that recommend switching over to all fodder. Personally, I’d like to see the science behind it before doing so.
Chicken Fodder As A Treat
Although there is a great deal of research into the health benefits of eating sprouted grains for humans, we still have more to learn. It is difficult to find much research on the benefits of feeding sprouted grains to chickens. Until we know more, I feel best recommending sprouted grains in moderation for your hens. If you have a supplement to feed along with fodder, that could very well provide the best of both worlds!
Let me know in the comments if you have switched your poultry to an all fodder diet, and share your secrets!
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I shared this post on Going Green 🙂
In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.
The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.