Once I learned about growing fodder for chickens, I was hooked.
Fodder is one tool that should always be in your homesteading toolbox since growing fodder for chickens is so easy to do, and incredibly nutritious for your animals.
It can be grown regardless of season in a small space, and fights winter boredom for both the homesteader and our livestock. It’s revolutionized my feed program for every critter on the farm.
Once you start making it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner. Best part? Your critters will love it.
What is fodder?
Sprouted grain. Really, growing fodder for chickens is as simple as that.
We use wheat, some people use barley.
We use wheat right now because barley is hard to find, but we will start growing barley in our fields if we can get a hold of some locally.
You can also use oats and millet. I’ve found oats don’t do quite as well as wheat and barley, and with oats, you run into problems with mold since it takes so long to sprout.
Amaranth is another option for growing fodder for chickens, although I’ve never used it.
How to grow fodder?
Growing fodder for chickens is super simple, and there are a couple options. I grow mine into grass about 4-6″ high because I’ve found it’s at its best protein-wise.
Other people just sprout the grain then feed it. I used to mist it 2-3 times a day, which is a great option, but now I use stacked food storage bins.
I prefer stacking them (that’s another idea that revolutionized my feed program) because I can water them less and grow more in a smaller space.
Before stacking them, I struggled keeping the grain moist enough and growing enough in a small space. I’m growing inside right now, but if you grow outside, the tops will protect your grain from critters.
Wheat can sprout in colder temperatures (I’ve had it sprout outside when the temps were in the low 40s), but it grows better when it’s 50 – 70 degrees.
Feed the fodder whenever you want, as long as it’s not moldy. Just pull the entire mat out of the plastic container (I use food-grade plastic) and feed it as is, or cut or tear it up in to smaller pieces.
My chickens go nuts for it. You can also feed it to rabbits, horses, etc.
Why is it so nutritious?
Everything the plant embryo needs to sprout is locked inside that seed; in other words, a ton of nutrients necessary for production and growth already exist, ready to help the seed grow into a plant, and ultimately to propagate the species.
When the seed sprouts, all that nutritional goodness becomes bioavailable to your livestock in the form of a plant.
It’s easier for your animals to digest, which means they absorb more nutrients.
In addition, when the seed becomes a plant, the amount of feed increases up to 600%, which means less grain is needed to provide nutrition for the animal.
Pretty cool, huh?
Where to buy grains
I buy my wheat grain locally from a grain mill that sells feed wheat. You don’t want to buy grain that’s used to grow wheat for flour.
It’s usually treated, and not something you want your critters eating. Organic grains are the best, and there are lots of resources online. If you’re sprouting oats, you can use oats from the feed store.
I don’t recommend sprouting oats unless you grow them in the ground because when I tested them, they didn’t sprout as reliably as wheat and barley, but oats are non-GMO, so if you’re certain you want your livestock GMO-free, and if you’re having a hard time finding wheat or barley, oats are a good option and available everywhere.
I hope this guide about growing fodder for chickens has been helpful!
I’d like to hear from you!
Do you think you’ll try growing fodder for chickens? Leave a comment below!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.
We don’t do this but we’re going to start with our chickens. They used to free range, then we got puppies and well,the chickens just aren’t safe so we’ve had to confine them to a run (20’X100′) and they’ve eaten every blade of green. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Simple Lives Thursday; hope to see you again this week.
Thanks for stopping by. We had the same problem. Our dog took out half our flock, kept getting out of his enclosure. It’s a juggling act sometimes.
I really want to get a fodder system set up. We do sprout grains for our animals already. Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop. Hope to see you again this week! 🙂
Thanks for stopping by! I’ll be sure to support the Homestead Blog Hop this week!
This is something I want to try also. Is this a everyday feed to your girls? Or like a treat?
It’s an every day thing. They love it!
How long does it take you to grow your seeds between 4-6″ high?
Hi Ariana, For the wheat fodder, about 10 days. Wheat takes longer than barley, in my experience.
Where can I get more info on your fodder system?
Hi, what exactly are you looking for? Everything you need is right in the article.
When can they begin to eat the fodder? At what week should be introduce it?
Hi Kellie – You can introduce it whenever they’re large enough to swallow the seeds (around 12 weeks or so), especially if they’re outside and/or free ranging. Free ranging chickens eat whatever looks good, so if they’re full from wheat fodder, so much the better. I’ve fed the grass (not the seeds) to week old chicks as a treat, and they love it. In that case, offering it with a chick grit is best, and the bulk of their diet should still be starter. Hope this helps!
What size containers are pictured? Do you puncture holes in the bottom and the lid of the container under it? Is that enough for adequate air flow? I cannot tell from the pictures exactly how your stacked containers work.
The containers pictured are quite small, they’re probably 2 gallon containers. I puncture the bottom of the container, but not the lid. You can do that, however, and with some of our larger containers we do that. As for airflow, you have to see how it does. Those photos were taken in winter, when it’s a lot less humid than it is here in the summer. Hope this helps.
Inspired by your information and photo, I got six 2.25 qt rectangle containers setup and sprouting! I did drill holes in both the bottoms and the lids, with the exception of the very bottom container so that it can serve as the soaking dish that all of the containers on top will drain into. I also drilled one hole near the top of each of the fours sides on all the containers to improve the air flow because they were not draining down as well as I wanted without the side holes. Thanks for motivating me to implement this. Hopefully my little flock will enjoy the end product!
You’re welcome, and I’m glad you got started with it! Your set up sounds great. Keep me posted on how it’s going for you!
What type of wheat berries do you use?
Hi, we use hard winter wheat.
Are you sprouting the seeds in soil?
no soil to grow the hard winter wheat berries? And, once it sprouts do you have to take the lid off in order for it to green up?
And do you do anything special to the split peas before feeding? Are those sprouted?
They’re not sprouted, but if you want to do that you can use whole peas.
is it okay to feed the split peas dried or should they be soaked before feeding them to the chickens? My little flock absolutely loves the sprouted wheat grass! Thanks for the tips!! s
You can feed them dry or soaked. We feed them dry. Glad they like the sprouted wheat grass!
Hi I started growing fodder but I cant seem to get my chicks to eat it. Do you have any suggestions?
I’m growing wheat and barley if that’s any help
How old are your chicks?
How much does it cost usually for grains to grow fodder with? Has anyone allowed there fodder to go to seed so that they can produce their own seed? How much space and time would that entail?
It costs me about $7 for feed wheat. It would be hard to let it go to seed because there’s not enough nutrients available. It takes several months for wheat to go to seed.
Soooooo, is this all they eat or do you have to feed them other food? This is my first time for chickens and I am extremely nervous.
I feed mine a regular ration as well. Don’t be nervous – you will do great.
Would chickens get enough of what they need if I only fed them wheat fodder and oyster shells?
If you’re worried, you can always give them a multivitamin! We’ve fed only wheat in the past and they’ve been ok, but I feed a good layer feed now.
Getting my babies this week..when they get big I am going to try this for sure.
What about calcium for layers? Do you use a supplement for that? I was going to let them “forage” on oyster shells. Rather, make it always available.
Oyster shells are perfect!
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