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.