When wheat is harvested on the farm, we are able to get a few buckets of it for our chickens. It is great to add in to their scratch, but I wanted to do something that would offer them more food with less waste. Fodder feeding has become an increasingly popular way to feed on homesteads. A 50lb bag of feed, can make 300lbs of fodder, and the fodder is more of a natural and nutrient dense diet. Just like soaking and sprouting grains for our own consumption makes it easier for our bodies to digest and extract nutrients, feeding fodder is a better route for animals than feeding grain.
Grain is a natural part of most livestock diets, but the grain would come attached to the entire plant, not separated out and fed in bulk. Sprouting the grains increases the protein, vitamin, mineral, omega 3, and amino acid content and increases enzymatic activity. The digestibility of the grain nearly doubles, so you will feed less weight of fodder than you would of grain.
The most popular grains for fodder are barley, wheat, and oats. You can usually purchase one of these through your local feed store. Azure Standard also carries feed grade wheat, barley, and oats most of the year. Fifty pounds of organic feed grade wheat berries runs around $17. This would feed our 6 chickens for 2 months, and would have to be combined with scratch for a complete diet. Organic scratch runs about $20. They also waste quite a bit of this combo.
Chickens need about 2-3% of their body weight daily in fodder, a mere 3 ounces of feed. 3 oz x 6 birds is 18 ounces daily. So the 300lbs of fodder created from one 50 pound bag of grain will feed our 6 chickens for over 8 months! This obviously isn’t taking into account any loss of fodder (like when I forget to water it), or small amount of waste that will occur. Even then, the cost saving is huge, and the health benefits for the animals are also.
Depending on what scale you want to feed fodder, you can build or purchase a fodder feeding system. At some point, we may do that for our larger animals. Feeding the chickens fodder can easily be done with one tray kept in the kitchen, so that’s where we started. The principle is the same if you are sprouting 10 pounds of grain a day or 8 ounces.
- Day One- Soak the grain in water for 12-24 hours. I use about 2 cups
- Day Two- Drain and rinse
- Day Three- Rinse two or three times throughout the day
- Day Four- Rinse. The seeds should have some good roots growing. This is the point where I dump them into a tray where they are no more than 1/2″ deep to prevent mold. I just use a jelly roll pan. On a larger scale you would want trays with drainage holes in the bottom. When you transfer them to the pan, just gently pull apart any large clumps of roots
- Days Five- water two or three times pour off water. *Start a new batch*
- Day Six- You can begin harvesting! I cut off a 1lb chunk for the chickens daily and the fodder lasts for 4 feedings.
Continue to water a few times a day until the fodder is gone. Once you have a routine, your feed sprouting in the bucket will be ready to move to the tray when there are 2 days feed left. Three days later you’ll be out of the previous batch and the new batch will be ready to feed. I can’t give exact specifics since everyone will have a different amount of feed they are using. For my six chickens, this is the cycle that works.
On a larger scale, you start new feed daily, and you need space to have 9 trays going at the same time. Optimum feeding time is when you have about 6″ of growth and that is typically on day 9. I start feeding as soon as I have around 1″ of growth, because I’m only using the one tray at a time. The chickens love it; it’s the first thing they go for when we dump out their scrap bucket.
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