Poultry - The Frugal Homestead

Sprouting Wheat For Chicken Feed

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For an inexpensive source of wheat berries or other sprouting seeds, check into Starting a Buying Club.

Sprouting Seeds and Growing Fodder

I’ve read quite a bit about growing fodder for your livestock over the last year or so. It sounds like a great idea to give them some green feed in the winter when there’s no grass (in my area). Harnessing the power of the sun with sprouted seeds provides extra nutrition for the same price as the plain grain. What’s not to love about that?

I’ve heard folks say that growing fodder or sprouting seed for their livestock makes them healthier and provides nutrients that aren’t available in regular grain. This would make sense, considering that the process of sprouting converts carbohydrates in grain into simple sugars. In addition, the process of photosynthesis in the green leaves produces more sugars and nutrients.

Fodder Growing System?

I’ll be honest here, I’m a bit thrifty. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to invest in a fodder growing system and I didn’t have much extra time to do a fancy DIY set up. But I really wanted to try sprouting some seeds to see if my poultry would eat it. So I put on my thinking cap and came up with this recycled system that is working pretty well.

My redneck sprouting system.
My redneck sprouting system.

This system will take more time to maintain and you’ll need to manually rinse the seeds 2 or 3 times a day. If you are working full time, raising a big family, or knee deep in farm work, you might want to invest in one of the systems that has a pump and timer.  To keep my system growing pretty well, I have 4 recycled salad containers that are stacked for raising a successive harvest of sprouts. I soak organic wheat berries in water overnight, rinse, then spread them out in the bottom of a container. Each day another batch is soaked and spread out to sprout. They are in a sunny, south-facing window rather than under lights. I find it takes about 4 or 5 days to get the wheat grass to the size the chickens like.

The Ducks Like it Too

Some of my chickens go crazy for the sprouts and some of them scratch the sprouts out of the way to look for grain. But the ducks absolutely love the wheat grass and chow down a large portion of it. The turkeys are not that interested and prefer their regular feed with a few sunflower seeds. Of course, the turkeys were on the conventional layer crumbles when I bought them a week ago and they are still curious about these new seeds and weird things I’m giving them.

I haven’t been feeding the wheat grass to my birds long enough to see any changes in their health or productivity. Perhaps I’ll see a change when the weather warms up a little bit and the doors are open all day. I think the flock is just as tired of winter as I am!

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Buying Wheat Berries and Other Seeds

I purchase wheat berries in 25-50 pound bags from one of my buying clubs. I can get organic wheat berries from Azure Standard for a decent price, making my fodder growing project pretty inexpensive. You can get wheat berries from other sources too. Try searching online for companies that sell them for fodder or check at your local feed mill or farm supply store.


Do you sprout seeds or grow fodder for your livestock? Do you find it makes a difference in their health or productivity?

28 Comments on “Sprouting Wheat For Chicken Feed

  1. I’m trying to figure out how many berries to soak each day per chicken. I have ten full grown layers and I built a roll around tractor pen so they get fresh green grass once a day any way.

    1. I probably soak about 1 tablespoon of wheatberries per day for each chicken. The sprouts are a treat rather than their main diet, so keep that in mind. If they have access to fresh grass they may not care about the wheatgrass. It’s a nice way to give them some greens in winter or when they don’t have grass to graze on. I hope this helps!

  2. Hello Dear Lisa,
    I spent over 2 uears trying to understand some facts on using wheat sprout fodder as an only one replacement for /as animal feed for Chicken of both type and for sheep and goats.

    It seems all the available videos on youtube care for either selling the fodder system with discussing the full factsto support using Fodder as the only source … Can you help me understand based on facts only

    1. Hi Alaan,
      I use sprouted wheat as a supplement to the chicken feed. I don’t know if it is a good replacement for all of their feed and I suspect that they might need some additional supplements and protein. I hope this helps. Lisa

  3. I just found a bag of wheat in the spare bedroom and was wondering what it was for. Right after that, I found this! Hubby doesn’t go online…must have heard about it from a chicken raising buddy at the feed store.

  4. I sprout oats, barley & clover for the chickens and grow barley fodder for the rabbits, goats and sheep. I’m experimenting with sprouting flaxseed (that’s some weird stuff) and lentils to add to the barley. I started doing this a couple of years ago after a particularly bad hay season. My animals consume far less hay when I feed fodder. The dairy goats do really well on it.

    1. Hi Starlighhill,
      I’d love to hear more about your set up. Do you have a growing system or do you manually water the sprouts every day? Also, do you feed the fodder through the summer or mostly when there’s no grass? I’m always interested in how other folks do things! I’d really like to raise some pygmy or dwarf Nigerian goats for milk…but there are a few issues with our current set up. :/
      Thanks for sharing!

      1. Hello Lisa,
        I’m still watering by hand. I have the tubing in place to automate it just have to punch the holes for the feeds to each tray. I grow fodder for the rabbits, chickens and dairy goats all year. The goats get it on the milk stand morning and evening. The sheep only get fodder fall through spring. Here is a link to a post about my current setup. https://www.farminginmyfifties.com/forty-pounds-of-fodderday-in-a-3×5-12-space/ At the bottom are related posts that show other ways I’ve done this.
        If you do get a small milk breed it’s probably best to go with the Nigerians. There seem to be more and more people breeding them for milking ability as opposed to flashy colors and blue eyes.

      2. Hi Starlighthill,
        Thanks for sharing the link to your article! I’ll have to check it out. 🙂 I think the goats will have to wait. Hubby is getting less patient with me when I bring it up! But someday I’ll have goats!

        Right now I am only growing the fodder for my poultry. They seem to be getting more used to it and they eat all of it while I’m filling their water containers and mucking out the coop in the morning. When the fodder is gone, I give them their regular feed…so they aren’t so hungry at that point. 🙂 Hopefully this will save some $ on feed!

      3. I think you will find a savings. I’m sprouting clover and flax to add in so there is more variety. The flax is an experiment and has strange, gelatin-like properties that are hard to get used to. Maybe, you want to add in a few angora rabbits for fiber. You don’t have to breed them. The fiber is wonderfully soft and so very warm. Mine do well on fodder and hay.

      4. Hmmmm, I wonder if the gelatin texture contains good nutrients for animal health…a good research topic! I bought a pretty angora sweater once and every time I wore it I ended up sneezy and runny…so I think I am probably allergic to them. I’m also mildly allergic to my dogs. I can handle the dogs, but I don’t think I want to brush angora bunnies! Great suggestion for folks who would like to get into fiber, but don’t want to buy sheep or alpaca!


  5. Hi Lisa Lynn,

    From your photos at the beginning of this blog I see the grain but no pics of the sprouted greens. You DO wait til the greens show before feeding to your flocks? I think you said the ducks loved the greens but the other fowl were looking for the grain underneath? In my So CA yard any new shoots of weeds sprouting in the yard is a smorgasbourg to my girls. We’re getting rain in the forecast this week so I’m holding off sprouting indoors because new weeds and grass will be in abundance in a week from now – LOL. I just dodged a work-detail bullet!

    1. Yep, I wait until the greens are about 2″ tall and then feed to the birds. There’s a photo of the greens in the first collage. Although some folks have mentioned soaking grains to ferment and feed…not to sprout. But I haven’t tried that.

      Enjoy the spring greens and hopefully some nice, gentle rains!

    1. Hi Tanya,
      Let me know what you think about sprouting the wheat for your birds. I’m really interested in hearing back about your experience. 🙂 I’m going to check the price of barley too…as I’ve read that it is also very nutritious for livestock.
      PS: Isn’t Azure a great way to do a buying club?! I love that we don’t have to break down the order or organize the checks, etc.

  6. I’ve got barley sprouting in 5-gallon buckets in my bathroom. 🙁 True confession. I love feeding my chooks this way, but I wish there was an easier way . . . for a tightwad like me, that is.

    1. Hi Amy,
      The things we do for our chickens! I’ve been thinking about getting barley next time as I’ve read how nutritious it is. Yes, I know that when I want to save money it sometimes means more work…there’s always a trade off! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I just read an article about this in a magazine. Our chickens have a very large area to roam, but they have removed all of the grass a long time ago. We cannot move them because we’re only on 1/2 acre and have the yard for all of the dogs. I thought this would be a good, easy way to get them some greens. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Katie,
      Happy to share…I hope this works well for your flock! I wonder if you can divide the chicken pen into two smaller pens then rotate? It would help the grass recover. It might not work our for your situation, but just a thought. 🙂

  8. Hi Leah,
    Thanks for the report! I’m so glad to read this info…I am hoping that the addition of these green sprouts will increase the egg production and health of my flock. It sounds like it’s working for you!
    Your raised bed sounds like a good idea…you might want to try 2 raised beds so as one is dying off, the other is getting nice and green. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. GREAT IDEA! Thanks! Your suggestion has given me another idea … rather than (or in addition to) a permanent raised bed, I might just use several of those plastic storage tubs – the short ones that fit under a bed – or something of similar size, drill some drainage holes in the bottom, and plant in that. This allows me to rotate the boxes – give them 2 at a time, to snack on while the others are growing/recovering outside the pen.

  9. I’ve been sprouting an assortment of seeds (barley, alfalfa, beans, broccoli, radish, hard red wheat, etc.) for my 12 chickens (11 hens) for almost 2 months – since they were 19 weeks old. Even though it’s winter and only 11 hours of daylight per day here now, they began laying at 23 weeks, a full 3 weeks earlier than my brother’s chickens, which are 2 weeks older. Also, their production is higher than normal for this breed. Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart (https://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html) and other sources indicate that I should get 4-5 eggs per week per chicken, with the optimal 14 hours of daylight. Last week, I collected 66 eggs and they are just now coming into full production – a few of the eggs are still not quite full-size!

    Also, because of predators, I keep my chickens in a 40′ X 60′ pen and only release them for true free-ranging when I can be outside to watch them. Since there is no grass in the pen, even in the summer, I plan to put in a raised bed for them this Spring, broadcasting many of these same seeds in it, then cover the bed with 1/2″ X 1/2″ welded wire, strong enough for them to walk on and allowing them to reach the tops of the plants. I don’t know how well this will work – it might be that their dropping will burn up the plants … but, we’ll see. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just remove the wire cover and turn it into a compost box!

  10. Hi Kristi,
    I paid about $28 for a 50# bag of organic wheat berries through my Azure Standard Buying club. I didn’t spend anything on the set up, ’cause I’m cheap. 🙂 I’ve been soaking about 1 1/2 cups of wheat berries a day to sprout. When the sprouts are about 2″ tall they go out to my chickens, ducks, and the turkeys…although the turkeys are not impressed. But I’m hoping they start to appreciate the green stuff.

    If I had to estimate how much I’m spending on these sprouts, I would say maybe 10 cents a day. Which is way cheaper than the organic feed they eat in a day. It’s more of a treat and supplement to get some greens in their diet. The yolks have been pretty light colored from the lack of pasture this time of year.

    Great questions! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I’ve considered growing fodder for our flock but I’m not sure we have room to grow enough to make it worth it. I never though of sprouting seeds for them. How much do you give them per day? Itseems like that could get expensive.

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