Our flock of chickens free range all year. Grazing grass, chasing bugs, and digging in the dirt for anything they find tasty not only is the best diet, but also keeps the chickens entertained and happy. In the winter when grass is buried in snow, there aren’t any bugs to chase and the ground is too frozen to dig in, feeding grain sprouts is a good way to supplement their diet. It’s a way to add something fresh to their diet, plus it adds something interesting for them to do when it’s too cold to go out and scratch around.
Feeding sprouted grains is also a good way to stretch the feed budget. Buying grain in bulk is usually cheaper than buying premade feed. In addition to that, sprouted grain contains more protein, vitamins, minerals, omega 3, and amino acid and has a higher enzymatic activity than unsprouted grain. The digestibility of the grain nearly doubles so the chickens eat less which means you feed less.
Sprouting grain is very simple to do. The most popular grains for sprouting are barley, oats and wheat. We use wheat because it’s the easiest to find in our area and the cheapest. First, I fill the bucket with the amount of grain I want to use. I don’t really measure, so it varies each time.
Then I rinse with water by filling bucket half full and stirring the water and grain in order to get most of the dirt and debris off.
Next I pour off the water and refill so that the water is level with the grain.
I then put it in the feed room of the barn with the other buckets and line them up with the oldest closest to the door, and the newest furthest from the door.
Every day I give each bucket a quick stir. The grain in the buckets from the previous days should have soaked up most of the water. Since I don’t measure out the grain and water each day I will sometimes not add enough water and sometimes add too much. So when I stir, I check the moisture level and add or pour out water as needed. The grain should be wet, but there shouldn’t be any water standing in the bottom of the bucket. It’s very important that it’s stirred and the moisture is right otherwise it can get moldy.
I feed when the wheat has formed small shoots picture below.
In the summer when it’s hot it only takes two or three days for it to get to this stage so I only use three buckets in the rotation. As the weather cools, it can take anywhere from an extra day to several extra days to get to this stage, so I add an extra bucket or two to the rotation as needed. In the winter, sprouting has to be done in the house otherwise it freezes and doesn’t sprout.
Some people like to like to let the sprouts grow on for several more days to the fodder stage. To make fodder, the grain is soaked overnight then spread several inches thick into a tray with holes on the bottom. It must be rinsed and drained several times a day, to prevent mold, and will eventually form a mat with dense grass and roots in about a week. I started out growing fodder for the chickens but found that they usually just scratched the sprouts off the mat and ate those, leaving the grass. Plus rinsing the fodder several times a day was too time consuming and keeping up to seven days of pans took up too much space in the house. After having to throw out quite a few pans of moldy fodder due to not rinsing it often enough, I decided I had to find an easier way which is how I came up with the above method.
The chickens go crazy for it….
In fact they go so crazy for it that if I don’t have it dished out on the mats when I turn them loose, I have an angry mob of complaining chickens following me around until I put some out. I intended on sprouted grain being just a winter time thing for them but they of course, think they need it every day. So every day it is… because who am I kidding to think I could win an argument with an angry mob of complaining chickens?