Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How & Why: Sprouted Grains for Chickens

Winter isn't super fun for chickens, primarily because they get to spend a LOT of time inside.  They're not huge fans of snow, so even if I allow them their freedom, they don't do much with it.  This actually affects us too, because they end up with less nutrition in their eggs, when they aren't eating greens and bugs.  We've already noticed that the color has turned to a lighter yellow than it was this summer, which is a bummer!  It's also not as healthy for them to live on straight grains as it is to get a balance of grains and "veggies"...kinda like humans.  They are omnivores, after all.  :-)  And, of course, the same phytate issues we humans deal with apply to chickens as well.

To some extent, I've solved that problem by sprouting grains for them.  Sprouting essentially turns the grain from a grain into a vegetable (that's a drastic over-simplification, but you get the idea) and that means it makes up for some of the benefits they aren't getting during the gray months.  It's been a huge hit in the hen coop, and super easy to do.  Yes, it's more effort than opening a bag of feed, but not much more effort, and it definitely mitigates the cost of feed, because sprouting increases the volume of the food as well as the nutrients, so your gals will be getting more benefit from the same amount of feed.  And a $15 bag of feed quality wheat is cheaper than a $24 bag of feed to start with.

You can do this with any grain, as long as it isn't cracked or broken; wheat or barley are great options. A great source for these if you don't live in the middle of agriculture is this product from Azure Standard; it's the same quality of wheat as they sell to humans, but not necessarily free of bugs or dirt.  We have a trash can full of organic wheat cast-offs from a farmer relative, and while it does have some cracked seeds in it, there's a lot of unbroken ones, too, and they sprout just fine.  My initial post on sprouting grains (for humans) can be found here, and this is no different, except that I let them go a few days longer, and they end up with super long tails, as shown.  Also, feel free to mix and match grains, including oats and sunflower seeds, because the variety will be just as good for the girls as it is in your own diet.

I haven't even bothered trying to keep track of other treats for the girls, lately; this is all they seem to care about.  I bring a pan full of sprouts out every morning (about a quart) and they gather all around until all you can see are their fuzzy little rear ends, gobbling up the sprouts as fast as they possibly can.

And yes, this is the only way to get them to actually hold still for a picture.  Kinda like kids, I imagine.

I only have six chickens, which makes this a very small-scale endeavor; I sprout a half gallon jar every few days and it lasts them for two days. If you have a lot of chickens, here is how to sprout grains for them:

Start with two five gallon buckets, one with many small holes in the bottom. Fill the one with holes 1/3 full of whatever grain you have or prefer. Rinse with a hose or in the shower/tub...the hens aren't picky.  :-) Place the bucket with holes inside the other bucket and fill with water so the grain is covered; let this sit overnight.

In the morning, pull out the hole bucket and let the water drain out.  Rinse again. They're ready to use at this stage, but longer is better, so they can actually sprout. (Rinse at least every 12 hours.)  Sprouts have many times the vitamins of grain, not to mention enzymes.  If you have too few animals for a huge bucket, just don't fill it as full, or use smaller buckets. If you have two sets of buckets, you can stagger them, and use one bucket for 2-3 days (continue rinsing periodically, and it will just have sprouted more by the time you used it up) while the other bucket is getting to the sprouted stage.  Easy!

This post is part of the Homestead Barn Hop on The Prairie Homestead and Unprocessed Friday on Girl Meets Nourishment.


  1. Love chicken stories. I like how you have them eating neatly out of a bowl, mine have no manners and eat from the dirt of their pen.

  2. Love chicken stories. I like how you have them eating neatly out of a bowl, mine have no manners and eat from the dirt of their pen.

    1. That's funny, I never think of it as neat...I guess that's just how I transport it from house to coop. And they eat more that way, instead of losing it in the grass and getting bored. :-)

  3. Very cool, Kirstyn! I only have 2 hens right now. Finally put the roosters (all 5) on Craigslist and got a buyer the same day. Now I need to baby my hens. Does it ever go moldy? Or could I do the same amount as you and just have it last longer?

  4. It would mold at some point, although I'm not sure when. Just stick it in the fridge when you have it sprouted to where you like it and it'll keep several days. :-)