In many parts of the world, chickens (and their owners) that enjoy warm season free range eggs and meat find themselves holed up for the winter when days are cold and locked in with snow. Chickens depend on prepared rations of food that aren’t fresh and varied, and owners spend time and money caring for birds that are no longer free ranging. Winter fodder growing and feeding supplements the long and cold days of bagged feed and improves bird morale during long days stuck inside the crowded coop. Here’s how to grow fodder in the winter for hungry birds that will also improve production quality and make a nice dent in your feed budget.
There are many kinds of seed you can sprout for fodder. Legumes such as alfalfa and clover are high in protein, and for late molts and winter broilers make great addition to the feeding routine. Cereal grains ideal for fodder include barley and wheat which are fast to germinate and much enjoyed by birds without much fuss. Other types of fodder can include pea, corn, soybean, lettuce, mache, cabbage, spinach, sunflower, or whatever other sort of edible seed you have in abundance.
Sprouting fodder is incredibly easy and doesn’t require a lot of extra space or heat. Sprouted fodder relies on the seed it’s started from for energy, and therefore also don’t usually require extra light to grow well. Growing fodder simply requires trays or containers to spread the seed into (either over some sort of soil or not), and plenty of counter space to grow on. You can do this in a simple greenhouse structure, in a garage, on shelving, or even in your own kitchen. Here’s how to grow wheat fodder, to give you an idea of what growing fodder requires:
- Wheat grain seed
- A casserole dish or pan that holds water
- Some water
- Counter space for the pan
- A room temperature room (or so)
Soak your grain seed for 24 hours (or overnight) in a bucket with water covering it. After soaking, drain your seed and spread out flat in your pan, either by itself or over some soil if you like (but unnecessary). Let the pan sit out for about a week, keeping the seed grain moist (but not floating in water). After about a week you should have about 4 inches or more of growth. Remove the mass of roots and green sprouts, break it up into chunks and feed directly to your birds, or give them the entire pan. How you feed it is up to you! It’s the same process as growing wheatgrass for human consumption, and essentially the same exact thing as food. Nutritious and tasty!
Growing fodder is extremely simple, cost effective, and a great way to supplement your flock through the winter. You’ll notice a distinct uptick in morale in your flock, and your meat and eggs will be better quality. Try growing a pan or two of fodder and your flock will thank you!