Feeding them Fodder, Slipping them Sprouts

Barley sprouts ready for hen pecking!

Barley sprouts ready for hen pecking!

I have been feeding our chickens sprouted grains now for a few weeks.  They are definitely a hit, but it’s not quite what I was expecting.

I bought two 50# bags of grain: one barley, one oats.  The barley sprouts great.  Roots and shoots emerging within a day or two, nearly full germination leading to a dense green mat with interwoven roots.  The oats, not so much.  I usually end up with a tray of wet fermenting grains sparsely growing a spare green hair or ten.

When I presented the first barley tray with its thick 4″ greens to the hens, I thought they’d go crazy.  They love grass leaves, after all – ripping the blades from a bundle or eating individual cut blades after I mow the grass.

However, it turns out they were much more interested in the grainy end.  In fact, they aim for the grains instead of the greens and, upon pulling up a whole sprouted unit, will often shake/shear off the green blade in favor of eating the spent seed.

Root mat on sprouted barely

Root mat on sprouted barely

Besides being a waste, this was part of my plan to get them the fresh greens they need to round out their diet and provide us with those nutritious dark orange eggs!  The next sprouting I only grew to 2″.  It looked like more of the greens were being consumed with the shorter blade.  Sheba, always the most astute, learned that she could eat more grains if she didn’t spend her time shaking off each green blade first.  The other chickens were pretty much sure breaking off the green part was the only way to get their grainy treat.

I may try giving them the tray when the sprouts are just 1″, but they haven’t put on much green at that point, so I’m not sure where the nutrition balance falls with that route.  However, a look through YouTube shows people commonly feeding their hens true ‘sprouts’ with barely a half-inch of roots and shoots.  So I guess we’ll be trying that next!

Sprouted grains in the cascading sprouting trays

Sprouted grains in the cascading sprouting trays

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One Response to Feeding them Fodder, Slipping them Sprouts

  1. Nancy says:

    Forever looking for a new experiment!

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