Grow Sunflower Microgreens As A Healthy Treat For Your Hens!

Grow Sunflower Microgreens As A Healthy Treat For Your Hens!

Sunflower microgreens are a delicious addition to your recipe collection, and they’re easy to grow in your kitchen.

 

Once “mature,” you can harvest your sunflower microgreens, and their rich, nutty flavor and crunchy texture fit into every meal of the day. They pair particularly nicely with eggs at breakfast, soups, sandwiches, and wraps at lunch, and alongside meats and grains at dinner.

 

Chock full of vitamins, protein, and lecithin to break down fatty acids, sunflower microgreens are not only delicious, they also pack quite a nutritional punch. Growing them yourself is economical, satisfying, and fun. It’s an easy crop for children to plant and grow and makes a great addition to their favorite meals, including pizza, tacos, and alphabet soup.

 

An as an added bonus, your chickens, ducks, other poultry, and rabbits will also jump at the chance to down some sunflower microgreens as part of their diet (and you might even save some money at the same time!)

 

Are you ready to exercise your green thumb by growing your own sunflower microgreens this planting season? Follow these ten easy steps!

 

Start by purchasing quality sunflower sprouting seeds.

 

You don’t need to purchase the most expensive seeds, but you do want the black oil sunflower seed variety. Make sure the seeds you purchase are for sprouting – organic seeds are best so you can be sure they haven’t been sprayed with harmful chemicals.

 

Click here to buy organic sunflower sprouting seeds on Amazon

 

Then purchase a growing pad, organic soilseedling tray, and plastic cover, and set them aside for later use. (You can make your own organic soil as well).

 

Soak the seeds in warm water for at least 12 hours

 

Grab a mason jar and pour in enough seeds to cover your grow tray. Because we’re growing microgreens, space isn’t as big of an issue so be generous – you want a large enough harvest to make the effort worth it.

 

Be sure to keep the seeds covered as they soak to keep dust, bugs, etc out of the jar.  This will speed up germination, and let you harvest the sunflower microgreens faster. You’ll also waste less seeds.

 

If you don’t want to go through the soaking process, then you can just plant the seeds directly in the grow tray.

 

But if you want to soak your seeds, then…

 

Drain and rinse the seeds thoroughly with cool water, then repeat the soaking process.

 

Again, use warm water and soak for an additional 12 hours. It’s very important to rinse the seeds thoroughly so they don’t get moldy.

 

At this point, you should start to see the seeds begin to sprout. It will look like they’re growing tiny tails.

 

Pour potting soil into your grow tray and spread the seeds very thickly.

 

You can cover the seeds very lightly with additional soil, but it’s not strictly necessary. Cover the tray with the plastic top so moisture is retained – make sure there is some ventilation, and remove the top if the seeds begin to mold.

Grow sunflower microgreens for a healthy addition to any meal!

Water your sunflower microgreens by placing the tray inside a larger tray or tub.

 

This allows the seeds to receive water from the bottom without disturbing them from the top. You don’t want to displace any of the dirt or disturb the seedlings’ root structure.

 

As the seeds grow and start to push up, move them to a sunny spot (like a bright window) and continue to water them regularly.

 

You CAN use a grow light if you want, but it’s not strictly necessary, since your sunflower microgreens will be harvested in a few days.

 

In a week to a week and a half, the sunflower shoots should be about 4” tall.

 

Harvest your sunflower microgreens!

 

Once they’re about 4″ tall, it’s time to harvest the fruits of your labor. Cut your sunflower microgreens right above soil level and store them in a sealable plastic bag.  They should last 4-5 days in your refrigerator.

 

To use them, pull out the amount you need for each recipe, and rinse them carefully under cool, running water.

 

Use this easy method to grow these tasty greens whenever you want them. Because they’re ready to harvest so quickly, they don’t require a ton of planning ahead, and because they last for 4-5 days when refrigerated, they can also be ready to use when you’re ready for them.

Grow sunflower microgreens for a healthy snack!

Ideas to use your sunflower microgreens

 

Try your first harvest in a simple summer salad:

Mix sunflower microgreens with peeled and cubed blood oranges and avocados, peeled and shredded carrots, and chopped walnuts or pecans. Dress with a light vinaigrette dressing and add slices of crusty, homemade bread for a delicious summer meal.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

What’s your favorite way to use sunflower microgreens? Leave a comment below!

Wheat Berry & Lemon Balm Happy Tummy Treats

Wheat Berry & Lemon Balm Happy Tummy Treats

Taking time with your hens is the highlight of anyone’s day, and treats make it all the more special.

 

My hens come running when they see I have goodies (and sometimes jump ON me), and it’s definitely adorable watching how excited they get.

 

Suet cakes (treats made with a fat to bind the ingredients together) are definitely a favorite around here, and they’re a great treat to make sure your hens are getting enough fat in their diet as well as make sure they gobble down their herbs.

 

This week’s treat for hens is a brand new recipe that includes our old favorites, sunflower seeds and oregano, with an extra twist: lemon balm and wheat berries.

 

Wheat Berry & Lemon Balm backyard chicken Treats

 

Why these ingredients?

I made these suet cakes using coconut oil because of its health benefits for you AND your chickens.

 

If you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute tallow (rendered beef fat) or lard (rendered pork fat). You can also use leftover bacon grease (which chickens LOVE).

 

Coconut oil itself is great to help your chickens maintain their weight (has lots of healthy fats) AND it’s known for its antibacterial properties. So if you’re worried about your chickens as they free range and wander around in the dirt, the coconut oil is a great basis for any treats.

 

Oregano is also known for its antibacterial properties (it’s become the darling of the chicken industry because of it), and contributes to overall health for your flock.

 

Lemon balm (aka Melissa) is well known as a natural antibacterial and has anti-inflammatory properties – great for helping your chickens’ tummies.

 

It also has a bright, citrus scent, which will leave you feeling happy as you shred it for your chickens (if you have any left over, make it into a tea for yourself, which you can drink while spending time with your fluffy butts.)

 

So why wheat berries? Well, they’re pretty inexpensive, and chicken love them. Non-GMO and organic wheat berries are a favorite of my chickens, and I know it’ll be for yours as well.

 

Also, the great thing about wheat is you can either use it straight out of the bag in these treats OR you can sprout them for 2 or 3 days into fodder.

 

The act of sprouting makes the wheat berries more nutritious and hens LOVE them, and the sprouts are a great boredom buster.

 

If you’re not sure how to sprout wheat into fodder for chickens, it’s easy.

 

Sunflower seeds, if shelled, aren’t worth trying to sprout, but chickens love them, and they’re full of healthy fats that are great for your hens. I’ve yet to meet a chicken who DOESN’T go crazy for sunflower seeds!

 

In this recipe, I used shelled sunflower seeds, but if you prefer to leave the shells on, that’s fine as well. Be sure to use black oil sunflower seeds.

 

I like to use a mini-cupcake pan for suet cakes because it makes great single-sized servings and they’re not so huge your chickens take a few bites then ignore the rest.

 

The pans are also a great way to make sure each hen gets a treat. If you have a large flock or a bossy alpha hen, some of those down further on the totem pole might not get a chance at the larger treats.

 

Ready to make your hens some healthy treats?

 

Wheat Berry & Lemon Balm Happy Tummy Treats

Ingredients per chicken

¼ cup melted coconut oil

¼ tsp dried lemon balm

⅛ tsp dried oregano

2 tablespoons wheat berries

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

Mini-cupcake pan

 

(If using a regular-sized cupcake pan, double or triple ingredients, and know that each treat is enough for 2 or 3 chickens. You can always cut them down to individual portions.)

 

Directions

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Melt the coconut oil so it’s completely liquid.

 

As the coconut oil is melting, fill each cup in the cupcake tin with the dry ingredients. You want each tin to be nearly full.

 

When the coconut oil is completely melted, pour over the dry ingredients until the coconut oil reaches the top. Refrigerate until solid.

 

To remove, turn the pan upside down and knock on the bottom a few times until the treats are loosened. Serve to your chickens immediately.

 

Make yourself a cup of tea with any remaining lemon balm and drink while you enjoy watching your chickens gobble up their goodies!

What Can You Grow In January? Get Crackin’!

What Can You Grow In January? Get Crackin’!

All right, y’all. We made it past the holidays, and now we’re into big gardening time. So, you’re probably wondering, “What can you grow in January?”

 

What can you grow in January? Here's vegetable gardening for beginners ideas and when to plant your seeds!!

 

 

 

January is kind of a dull month. All the major holidays are over, we’ve all got sticker shock at how much we spent in the past couple months, and it’s freakin’ cold.

 

So, not much fun, which is where starting your seedlings comes in. The seed catalogues are rolling in, and it’s time to start figuring out what you’ll grow.

 

(this article is an excerpt from my bestselling book Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening.  You can get a copy on Amazon or buy it directly from me which will save you 10% and you’ll get the digital copy for free.

 

Buy your copy right here)

 

What can you grow in January?

Now, there’s definitely some vegetable seedlings you can start indoors under lights, which you can eventually transition out to cold frames.

 

I show you in this article which vegetables do best in cold frames.

 

And there’s some things you can grow right in your kitchen, such as sunflower microgreens (tasty for you AND your chickens).

 

So, if you’re still wondering “what can you grow in January?” then hang onto your pants (please, do, really. No one wants to see you with your pants down), and check out the list below.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Kale (Brassica oleracea acephala)

My old friend kale does well in cold weather, and because of that, you can start it right now if the gardening itch is getting to you.

 

You can buy kale seeds from my favorite store Seeds Now.

 

Keep that grow light about 1-2 inches above the pots. I tend to broadcast kale and then thin because the seeds are so tiny.

 

My old eyes and cranky finger joints can’t handle the fiddly-ness of individual potting. If this sounds like you, then broadcast in trays filled with soil, and cover lightly with dirt.

 

In Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening, I show you how to care for kale, harvest it, and save the seeds. All important stuff for a self-sufficient garden!

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)

So, confession time. I grow lettuce for my chickens and my rabbits because it’s fun watching them eat it, and I’m not a huge fan of lettuce personally.

 

You can get organic lettuce seeds for a reasonable price right here.

 

I started using this plan because I always wanted to grow in January, even though I’m not a huge fan of lettuce. But it works out, and the critters are happy with everything I grow for them (in January and the rest of the year, too).

 

So, lettuce isn’t that much different than kale, although it IS less cold loving.

 

Because we live in Missouri, and don’t have a spring, I start these in January. The rule of thumb is to start lettuce seeds indoors under lights about 6 weeks before the last spring frost date.

 

Go here if you want to grow in January based on the last spring frost date.

 

Lettuce seeds like a heat range of 45 – 75 degrees for germination, so if you’re startings seeds inside your house, you should be okay, but if you’re starting out in a garage, you might need a heat mat like this one.

 

If you care for your lettuce seedlings well enough, you should get quite a few early spring harvests out of them.

 

Just remember that your lettuce will be with you indoors through January and on into the later months before transplant, so they’ll need a bit of space – go with 6 inch pots to start them so they have plenty of room to grow.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Mustard (Brassica juncea)

Mustard is another one I start to grow in January. It’s best to start mustard 3 weeks before your last spring frost date, but in this neck of the woods, that can be very early.

 

In 2017, we had a series of very warm weeks in February and into March, and it never really cooled down again.

 

And mustard doesn’t like heat, so it shoots up, and I lose my crop. Which is why I start it under lights as early as January 15.

 

Like kale, mustard seeds are small and fiddly, so I broadcast in a tray and then thin.

 

Those seeds like temps at least 55 degrees, so again, if you’re starting them outside in a greenhouse or garage, use a heat mat.

 

You can also learn how to heat your off grid greenhouse, which is simpler than it seems.

 

Mustard seeds are another one I save. It’s easy, and I show you how to do it in Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening.

 

Onions (Allium cepa)

Onions are a bit tricky, and if you want to grow in January and transplant, now is a good time to get going.

 

Now, fair warning: They need a lot of space and it’s easier to start them from sets. But if you’re dedicated, you can definitely have success starting them under lights in January. Onions need temps over 30 degrees to flourish, so just remember that when you start your grow tray.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)

I’ve never had much success growing spinach indoors since it doesn’t transplant well, but maybe you’ll have better luck.

 

You can buy organic spinach seeds here.

 

I prefer direct sowing, especially since it can survive light frosts (the plant, at least. The seedlings….that’s another story).

 

Spinach needs soil temps of at least 40 degrees to grow, but doesn’t do well if soil temps are above 70 degrees. So, this is a good one to start in a cold frame or in a garage under lights. Or a greenhouse!

 

Herbs

You can start various herbs now for transplant in your garden in spring/early summer. If your house is warm enough, you can start them under lights without a heat mat (although it’s easier with the heat mat).

 

You can buy organic herb seeds here.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Use these tricks to starting seeds easier

There are some seeds that take a few extra steps to start (or, it can help them start better). In this article, I show you 2 easy tricks that should be in your master gardener toolkit to starting seeds from certain vegetables easier!

 

Wondering what can you grow in January for your chickens? Well, luckily, pretty much all the veggies we discuss in this article are great for chickens. Mine particularly like kale, herbs, and spinach!

 

square foot gardening plant spacing




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5 Backyard Chicken Friendly High Protein Treats For Fall

5 Backyard Chicken Friendly High Protein Treats For Fall

As the days get shorter, and your backyard chickens begin to molt, you might want to supplement their diet with high protein treats.

 

And luckily, there’s lots of options!

 

Molting is a normal process in the fall – it’s when chickens start losing their feathers to regrow new ones.

 

By the time it’s super chilly, most chickens will have grown a new set of feathers, and they’ll be ready for winter (some DO take a bit longer though!)

 

To get them into great shape, decrease boredom, and give them extra calories as the cold sets in, you can supplement their diet with extra high-protein treats.

 

And you might even have some on hand!

 

Here’s 5 high protein treats backyard chickens (and ducks!) LOVE – and they’re great for fall!

 

Eggs

Yep, you can feed chickens eggs. No, it’s not weird and it’s not cannibalism.

 

In nature, they go for them (it IS protein, after all). When they’re bored, they go for them.

 

And unless there’s a chicken IN the eggs (which there isn’t without incubation), it’s definitely not a case of chickens eating their brethren.

 

Eggs are also a GREAT source of protein (and the shells are a perfect source of calcium for your chickens).

 

You can scramble the eggs, cook them over easy, or hard boil them. It doesn’t matter – your flock will be clucking happy to eat them!

 

When cooked, eggs are less likely to turn your backyard chickens into egg eaters.

 

You can also mix them with any of the other treats on this list.

Black Soldier Fly Larvae

If eggs aren’t your flock’s thing, then you can try black soldier fly larvae.

 

You can buy them dried right here or you can create your own farm – they’re remarkably easy to farm, and they’ll live in anything.

 

(Recently, we discovered a BSFL farm in my truck bed, where some grain had spilled. Totally disgusting and proof they’ll hatch anywhere.

 

We had NO idea they established residence until some torrential downpours caused them to jump ship. Let’s just say the hens were VERY happy for a few days).

 

If farming black soldier fly larvae isn’t your deal, then you can always go with dried ones – hens love them either way!

 

Black soldier fly larvae are about 40% protein.

 

Brewer’s Yeast

It’s not something you typically associate with protein, but brewer’s and nutritional yeast is FULL of protein – they’re both about 40% protein.

 

You can mix brewer’s yeast with your flock’s regular feed, or with a special treat you’ve created for them (such as the eggs or black soldier fly larvae above).

 

It’s probably best to mix it with something else. It’s full of protein but also powdery – so adding it to food with texture will help your chickens enjoy their treat more.

 

You can buy it in our store here, and it’s mixed with garlic, oregano, and echinacea – all herbs traditionally used to support healthy immune systems in chickens.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are also full of protein – and hens LOOOOOVVVEEE them!

 

You might have heard that pumpkin seeds can help prevent and expel worms. While the jury is still out on that, the bottom line is that chickens love snacking on them.

 

And pumpkin itself is full of vitamins and minerals to help your backyard chickens stay healthy!

 

So, the seeds definitely can’t hurt, and they just might help! Just be sure to offer smaller seeds to they’re easy for your chickens to swallow and digest.

 

You can mix pumpkin seeds with herbs – consider chili and paprika.

 

Chili has been shown in studies to help expel worms (the parasites object to the spiciness) and paprika can help with turning yolks that gorgeous golden color we’re all looking for!

 

Sunflower Seeds with Herbs & Dried Berries

Sunflower seeds are another high protein treat for fall.

 

Any type of sunflower seed will work, but black oil sunflower seeds seem to get backyard chickens clucking more than other ones.

 

Like pumpkin seeds, you can mix them with herbs like garlic, or even the brewer’s yeast we mentioned above.

 

A third option is to mix them with gelatin and mold the entire mixture into shapes.

 

You can then hang the treat in their coop and watch them go nuts!

 

If your flock isn’t sure what to do with the sunflower seeds, consider mixing them with red berries, such as strawberries.

 

The red color will attract your backyard chickens, and they’ll naturally peck to see what it’s all about! From there, they’ll start to understand the seeds are a treat!

Lavender Springtime Treat Mix For Chickens & Ducks

Lavender Springtime Treat Mix For Chickens & Ducks

It’s Tuesday treat time! Who doesn’t love lavender? I do, you do, and your hens sure do!

 

This week’s treat is bursting with herbs and protein (which is the best combination, don’t you think?) and you can make it for only a few dollars.

 

I thought I would change things up a bit this week with mealworms. My hens LOOOVEEE them – in fact, I timed them the other day, and it took them less than 60 seconds to devour a full cup of mealworms!

 

Spring can be a taxing time on your hens bodies because if they haven’t been laying, they’ll need more protein to get their little bodies into gear!

 

The lavender also helps to relax them so they’ll feel safe and comfy sitting for a while to get ‘er done and lay you some eggs!

 

If they laid all winter, supporting their bodies in the spring is still a good idea since they’ll likely be ramping up production naturally.

 

I love making these trail mix types of treats because it allows you to offer different types of nutrients, and hens love them because there’s a lot of different “flavors” to explore.

 

 

Particularly if your hens live in a coop and run full time, mixes like Lavender Springtime Treat Mix give them something new to cluck about AND environmental enrichment to keep their brains going!

 

And my flock loves picking at it while they poke around, exploring their new treat!

 

In a similar vein, the parsley is full of hidden vitamins. Although for human food, we tend to relegate parsley to a garnish, it’s a great source of necessary nutrients for your hens.

 

If you have a spare corner in your garden, you can grow parsley for your flock in a grazing box as well, which makes it easy to ensure they always have access to this “chicken superfood.”

 

The lavender, naturally, smells heavenly, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you made your own treat with it! (Have you checked out my recipe for lavender syrup?)

 

If you have any lavender leftovers, you can make yourself a relaxing herbal tea with it and add a bit of chamomile!

 

We have lavender for sale in the shop, but wherever you source it for your flock, please be sure it’s naturally grown and not been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides.

 

Here’s how to make Lavender Springtime Treat Mix for your hens!

 

Lavender Springtime Treat Mix

 

Ingredients (per backyard chicken):

1 tablespoon lavender flowers (dried or fresh)(buy naturally grown lavender here)

3 tablespoons unsalted, raw sunflower seeds (shelled is best, but with the shell on is ok)

3 tablespoons wheat berries (buy Non-GMO naturally grown wheat here)

2 tablespoons dried mealworms (buy USA raised & harvested mealworms here)

1 tablespoon parsley (dried or fresh) (buy naturally grown parsley here)

 

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and feed as part of a complete diet.