sprouting seeds & other creative chicken feed ideas

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I have an interest in supplementing my chickens' feed with better quality things, since they are getting commercial scratch & mash, and who knows what's in there! I only have a small flock of 17. Has anyone had experience in sprouting seeds for their flock? How much do you sprout at one time? What kind of seeds do you use? Would you do this on a flat or in a jar? I already scrounge around at the local markets for their throw-aways, and I buy day-old bread as a special treat for them, which they love. Anybody else get creative with this? Thanks, dh in nm

-- debra in nm (dhaden@nmtr.unm.edu), February 14, 2001


Debra, I've sprouted both wheat and alfalfa this winter to give the ladies something green. They love both. I used plastic gallon size jars from the local dollar store, with a clean knee hi nylon stretched over the opening. I placed them in an old two-piece dish drainer, next to the sink. If I could figure out a way to rig up a flat, I would do that. The only problem I have is the wheat tends to tangle up into a wad, and also tends to sour if you don't rinse many times a day. I don't know the relative food value of the two seeds, so I use it as a treat and tonic, more than as a serious part of their ration. I also give some of it to the rabbits. They love it.

-- melina b. (goatgalmjb1@hotmail.com), February 14, 2001.

What might be something I could plant in the garden this year that would be good to make chicken-feed-sprouts next winter?

-- Paul Wheaton (paul@javaranch.com), February 14, 2001.

I forgot to mention another thing I did this year. Remember, I live in Arkansas and we have a fairly mild winter climate. I planted mustand and turnip greens in the fall and have fed them all winter. Some people may think it makes the eggs stronger, but I haven't experienced that (or I'm just used to it). They come running and fight over the leaves. There are some types of greens that can be fed all year long, if your climate is cooperative.

-- melina b. (goatgalmjb1@hotmail.com), February 14, 2001.

You also might want to consider drying some of your imperfect veggies from the garden this summer(dryed takes up less room). Soak/stew a batch of mixed veggies to feed to your hens. This is especially practical if you have a wood stove. Wheat is the only thing I have sprouted so far and it is very easy to do in a jar.

-- Amanda in Mo (aseley@townsqr.com), February 14, 2001.

Debra- I've been raising sprouts for my chickens all winter. I have 5 terra cotta saucers- the kind that go under flower pots. Mine range from 8- 12" in diameter. I fill them 2/3 full of composted stable bedding; wet it down; sprinkle a handful of seeds on top; then cover with a handful of perlite. I put the entire dish in a plastic bag for a few days until the seeds sprout, then remove from the bag and put in a shaded area for a few more days until the plants are 2-3" high. (I have been using winter rye and alfalfa). I rotate the dishes so that I have one ready for the chickens every day or so. With alfalfa I just put the saucer into the pen and the chickens decimate it in about 20 minutes. The rye I can also feed by placing the saucer under a piece of hardware cloth stretched across a wooden frame- this way they don't destroy the entire planting in one fell swoop- the grass will continue to grow and I can keep giving it back to them every few days. Once I had gathered all the materials in one spot, it only takes me about 3 minutes a day to keep the chicks in fresh greens. I read somewhere that in days past farmers used to sprout oats for their chickens for a winter feed supplement- I think they just wet the oats and left them in a barrel till they sprouted. When I use up some more of my winter rye seed I think I'll get them some oats.

-- Elizabeth (ekfla@aol.com), February 14, 2001.

Debra, I try to find a pumpkin grower in mid October and arrange to buy whatever he has left after Halloween. I once bought a standard size pickup truck (8' bed) mounded full of pumpkins for $20. I cut them in chunks for the goats and pressure cooked them for the chickens, then mixed them into a mash with soymeal, bran and clabbered milk. Everyone comes running when I go out the back door with a pan of that in my hands.

I haven't yet sprouted specifically for the chickens but I do give them the less than fresh sprouts left over from those I grow for us. I've fed them mung bean, sunflower seed, alfalfa, broccoli, radish and cabbage sprouts and they take all with equal enthusiasm.

-- marilyn (rainbow@ktis.net), February 15, 2001.

Someone had mentioned this before. It works great. Put a piece of plywood on the ground for a week or so, then take it up. You wouldn't believe all the worms under there. The chickens love them.

-- Lena(NC) (breezex4@go.com), February 15, 2001.

I ran some homestead experiments one year and the results were surprising. I fed poultry pellets free choice all the time. Then I fed table scraps. I also fed sprouted grains. When all three were available to the chickens they would finish off the sprouts before attacking the table scraps. The poultry pellets were definately a last choice. I used 3gal. plastic buckets and cut the bottom out. Then use fiberglas screening like used on windows and cover the bottoms of the buckets and pop riveted it to the bottom. This made a free draining bucket. I made 5 buckets this way and hung them on hooks screwed into the barn wall. They were hung vertically - One above the other, with a large pan or bucket at the bottom on the ground under them.

To use - put a couple of inches of grain, (I used sorghum, corn, wheat and soybeans with the majority being sorghum) into the bottom bucket. For one full day it sat in the pan on the ground with water soaking it. The second day it was put on a hook and another bucket with grain was put in the pan - but this time I poured the water through the first bucket letting it drain into the one in the pan.

Each day another bucket was soaked and another one hung on the wall. By the time all buckets were filled and hanging, the first bucket was sprouted and fed to the chickens, rinsed and filled with dry grain to soak and start the process all over. Each day there was a new bucket of sprouts for the flock. Adjust the amount for your flock.

-- Larry L. McWilliams (lmcwill@dellepro.com), February 17, 2001.

Hey, guys, thanks so much for all the good info. I'll be printing this out and putting it in my chicken files. I've started some wheat berries, but will definitely have to improvise in something larger later on. My one little sprouting jar isn't going to cut it for the girls! I also toss oats underneath apple crates in their run and get oat grass within a week, depending on the weather. They love it, but it's gone within 5 minutes! This spring I'm probably going to move, so I'm not going to start a garden for me, but am planning to go ahead and plant a chicken garden of just greens. Thanks all for the great ideas! dh in nm

-- debra in nm (dhaden@nmtr.unm.edu), February 19, 2001.

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