How to Grow Chicken Fodder for Your Flock

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Chicken Fodder - The Basics of Growing Fodder for Your Flock by The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Grow Chicken Fodder For Your Flock

Did you know that 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 try supplementing their diet with chicken fodder.

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Organic grains for sprouting are also available from Azure Standard

Sprouting chicken fodder in a mason jar.
Sprouting wheat in a mason jar is an easy way to provide greens for a small flock.

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 digestibility of the grains.
You can find links to the research articles here.

Hatching Chicks vs Ordering: Which Is Best?

Grains make good sprouts for chickens
Grains are good to sprout for your flock.

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.

Note: Be careful if you sprout dried beans for your chickens! Many dried beans contain a chemical called phytohaemagglutnin, a naturally occurring toxin that affects chickens as well as humans! Mung beans are an exception and they are easy to sprout for your own use or for your chickens.

seed packet...sowing seeds
Seeds for your garden are often treated with fungicides…don’t sprout them for your chickens!

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 tried setting up a free system for Sprouting Wheat for Chicken Feed and used that method exclusively for quite some time. If you try this, be prepared to throw away the system every so often to prevent bacteria and mold from infecting your sprouts.

soaking wheat to sprout for fodder

Sprouting Basics

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!

wheat grass makes great chicken fodder
You can grow trays of fodder to feed to larger livestock or a larger flock.

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.

sprouting chicken fodder for my flock

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 vitamins 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. They may not need additional greens from sprouting under these conditions. Do your own research and experimentation.

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 can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

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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.

Your chickens will appreciate fodder in the winter!

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 tips!

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Chicken Garden Giveaway! The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Chicken Fodder - The Basics of Growing Fodder for Your Flock by The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

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Lisa Lombardo

Freelance Writer at Tohoca, LLC
Lisa writes in-depth articles about gardening and homesteading topics. She grew up on a farm and has continued learning about horticulture, animal husbandry, and home food preservation ever since. She has earned an Associate of Applied Science in Horticulture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She is a self proclaimed gardening freak and crazy chicken lady.

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.
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