Returning to Our Roots | Growing Sprouts for Chickens
With great chickens come great eggs, Peter. Name that film! We're not at the egg laying stage yet with our girls. This upcoming Saturday the Barred Rocks will be about five weeks old and the Buff Orpingtons and Australorps will be four weeks old. They're starting to look really funky in that good, awkward teenager stage. It's been pretty hilarious watching them sprout back, wing, tail, and chest feathers all the while loosing their fluffy baby down and keeping their fluffy heads. In comparison to some adolescent chickens, our Barred Rocks actually look quite beautiful. Just like miniature sized chickens, while the Buff Orpingtons look frightening. It just depends on which chick you pick, I suppose!
As they've been growing, we've been keeping a great eye on what exactly we think they can handle. I am a researcher, and while I often like to follow rules, it's pretty impossible for me not to break them. Because I love DIY projects so much and finding probably more than difficult situations to the average person to get myself into, it seemed like a no brainer for me to try and sprout my own grains for my flock to try. I've read all sorts of different tips on how I shouldn't feed young chicks treats or that I should feed them treats, that they should only be fed commercial feed or how you can make your own. Well, I'm a bit more liberal with my choices, let's just be honest here, so I've already fed them gentle treats and I'm pretty sure I want to make them feed myself, at least for some of their meals.
When I read that you can feed chickens sprouted grains, I was ecstatic, to say the least. I had so many dried beans, lentils, and grains in my pantry, I knew that the possibilities were endless. If you search online, you'll find that most people will sprout winter wheat berries for their chickens. I do not know why this is, maybe they're more accessible at the feed store? I decided to grab my lentils, black beans, farro, and black barley off the pantry shelf and sprout those. That just happened to be what I had on hand. It's been so fun, and extremely easy, too!
I am not sure that I will be making this a staple part of their diet, like their feed, but it is something that I will be adding into my homemade grower feed that I am dreaming up as well as a nutritional snack for the girls on a weekly basis. There are so many benefits to growing sprouts, and you can enjoy them yourself as well!
- Sprouts can be grown all year round. All you need is a jar, water, and some sunlight. There's no fancy equipment needed. This helps in the winter for bored chickens as well as an added nutritional bonus when you're lacking on fresh greens.
- You'll get darker yolks and more nutritious eggs when you feed your chickens sprouts as they are packed full of beta-carotene and chlorophyll.
- A sprout is much more nutritional than the just the seed alone. Sprouting grains unlocks all of the nutrients packed inside that seed coating.
- Once a grain has sprouted, it becomes much more easy to digest than the seed alone. More fiber equals healthy poos for you and your birds!
A word of caution: you'll have to keep a special eye on your sprouts and not let them go more than four or five days of growing time. If they are left much longer than this, they'll start to grow mold and bacteria, which can be monitored, but if we're going for the simple route than why bother. You can start to grow fodder after this many days, which is what happens once the sprouts grow past five inches.
- Mason Jar
- Screen or Fine Mesh Sieve
- Grains (wheat berries, farro, beans, lentils, etc)
- Fresh Water
- Pour about 1/2 cup of grains into a mason jar. I used the half pint jars and found the smaller grains fit in there really well and the larger beans needed more space. Cover with water and let sit in a dark place, like your pantry, overnight. They need to soak for at least 8 hours and only up to 24. I find overnight seems to work best with my schedule.
- In the morning, cover the beans with some screen or a fine mesh sieve, which is what I use, and drain the water from the grains. Shake them up a bit and place in a sunny window. You can just leave them on the counter if you're not getting much sun, but it may take a bit longer to sprout.
- Rinse your grains/beans twice a day for 4-5 days. I find that when I make breakfast and when I make dinner are good times for me, since I am most definitely in the kitchen already and notice them there in my kitchen window.
- After 4-5 days, you'll have nice, healthy sprouts**. You can feed these to your chickens right away or yourself! I love fresh sprouts on my sandwiches or mixed onto a garden salad. We've been getting in the habit of eating a yummy salad mix at least once a day. It's changed a lot about our diet - more vegetables than anything else!
- This sprout growing business works if you do a rotation of about 4 or five jars. You'll have a fresh set every single day if you start a new jar for everyday of the week, leaving out the weekend. Just keep rotating them for as long as you wish!
**please read my notes below, as the grains, farro and barley, did not take this long to finish sprouting.
Essentially, the farro and black barley did not end up working out for me. They sprouted small tails about two or three days into the sprouting process and then moved on no further, until they ended up growing mold. I was really confused! I then looked up the specific sprouting of these grains and found that the length of their tails was about as much as they would grow at all. So, if you plan to sprout farro or barley, they only need to sprout for a couple of days and are then ready to eat. I read that you can sprout oats as well!
When I finished growing the lentils and black beans, I scooped them out of their jars with a fork and placed them in a tupperware container to be stored in the fridge until we were ready to eat them or feed them to the chickens. Be sure to keep an eye on them, as they will grow mold/bacteria rather quickly and make you ill.
Here is what they look like after the five days! Perhaps next time, I will use less lentils and beans in the jar so that the sprouts have more room to grow. I found this task fairly easy. I didn't always remember to rinse them twice a day, so that might have something to do with why my sprouts weren't as long as I think they could have been.
I immediately tossed a handful of yummy lentil sprouts into the girls' brooder this morning to see what they thought. Now that they're getting bigger, they've started to get used to me coming up to the brooder in the mornings to say hello and refresh their food and water if needed. Whenever I approach the brooder and lift off the screen (if I didn't have a screen over them, Muriel would surely fly out!!) they are instantly trying to jump up and peck at my hands, hoping that I have something tasty within them. The smallest chicken, Thelma, who I cannot tell if she is the last in the pecking order or if Frankie is, is always quite vicious when I put my hand in the brooder. She's the first one to check for treats, and yet is somehow the last to get one. Not sure what happened there! Long story short, my girls gobbled up their new sprouts. It was a chaotic mess, and I wish I could have taken them outside to snap some photos, but it was raining!
What are your favorite treats to feed chickens? I've kind of been feeding them fun yet gentle things since the second week they were home with us. It feels like they've been in the brooder a long time, and the Barred Rocks are definitely old enough to get outside. When we're home from Country Living Fair, we'll move them out to their coop. Cannot wait to show you guys how cute it is!!!!
I hope you have fun growing sprouts, whether you have chickens or not. So yummy on a sandwich!