With everyone in urban America jumping on the backyard chicken bandwagon, I thought this might be a good time to bring to light the idea of supplementing your girls daily diet. Whether you are them feeding a costly, organic feed…or you are simply picking up a bag of Purina Layer Feed from the local Tractor Supply…what goes in has a big impact on what comes out.
With the winter months approaching here in Texas, the temperatures will drop to the point that everything living in the garden with the exception of the cold weather crops ends up dying back..which means little to no green supplements for the girls. Sometimes even a simple handful of green grass tossed in the run can change everything! So once again, we dust off shop lights, set the over-night timers on the heaters in the barn and stock up on our barley for sprouting, or what is referred to as fodder.
Food for Thought…setting up your fodder system is really pretty simple, and the reward that comes with feeding freshly sprouted grain to your girls will outweigh the effort in no time. Whether you use whole oats, rye, barley or wheat, [here’s where we buy ours] once sprouted, the fodder, should be fed whole…the greens, the sprouted seed and the roots…everything! In my experience [107 chickens and counting] Barley seems to be about the easiest of all of the grains to grow. Just like everything else the girls consume, attention is paid to the levels of nutrition they receive. Protein and fiber play a major role in their survival, as with humans. But monitoring the amount is what will aid in the production of a larger, creamier yolk. The use of barley in your fodder set-up will offer about 12-13% of protein, and about 5% percent of fiber, in seed form. [both of which will increase once you have taken time to sprout them]
It just makes sense…sprouted grain versus plain old grain is overall better for your little cluckkers.
Here’s the easiest way to set up a simple fodder system:
You’ll need two types of plastic bins. One for soaking the grain, and seven bins [one for each day of the week] with 1/8″ holes drilled in the bottom for drainage. I use bins that I bought at Home Depot that are 23″ long, by 16 ¼ wide, by 6″ high [with lids] Obviously, you do not have to use so many bins if you just have a few hens, but my crew will devour one days worth in no time, so I grow more. Start by turning one of the bins upside down and drill random drain holes in its bottom, and set aside. [this is known as your drain bin]
Step One: Fill one of the bins [no holes] with approximately 1/2″ of dry grain to cover the bottom of the bin adding enough water to cover seed. Let this soak overnight.
Step Two: The next day, dump the soaking seeds into one of the drain bin and allow to drain. Shake it around abit, leveling out the seeds and cover with lid. Lights out! [there is no need for light at this point, since there is nothing sprouting yet]
Step Three: Repeat steps 1 & 2 depending on how many chickens you plan to feed.
Reminder: For the next 6-10 days, depending on how fast your fodder grows, as well as what you choose to grow [with or without added light] each bin should be opened, sprayed with water, allowing excess water it to drain and re-covered [2 times daily] Once your sprouts are 2-3″ high the lids can be removed and exposure to natural light or artificial light will help in the growth.