Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sprouts: how to provide fresh chicken food in winter

My chickens are bratty birds. Being confined, unable to free range the desolate yard, is making them crazy.

I gave them a hay bale, a flock block, a compost heap, a daily treat, and a 20x40 enclosure for their chickeny realm. But they are still mad about the seasonal transition from greenery to brownery. They fuss at me so much that Doctor Dolittle refuses to translate.

Recently I read about sprouting seeds. I jumped out of my bath, shouted "Eureka!" and ran to the kitchen like a soggy mad scientist.

In the kitchen I found an empty pickle jar and my bag of cheap birdseed. In the junk drawer I found the plastic mesh bag from an order of ladybugs.

Thus equipped, I began my experiment. I scooped into the jar a handful of cheap seeds: black oil sunflower seed, milo, millet, and wheat. Then I added water to the jar, let the seeds soak for a few hours, and put on some clothes.

Later, I clutched the fine mesh to the top of the jar and poured out the water. When the contents were "dry enough" I set the jar down and knocked the seeds off the mesh. Now the hard part -- waiting.

For two more days I soaked the seeds for a few minutes, drained the water, and put the jar up. Each day I could see more fine roots popping out of the seeds. Oh the chicken-owner anticipation!

Finally, I had a jar with a clump of roots at the bottom! One last rinse and out to the coop!!

I placed the plate of sprouts before the hens and stepped back.

They carefully approached the plate, as if they were concerned that Martians would pop out and disintegrate them. The smartest hen, IQ, took a tentative peck and immediately followed by another peck and another peck. Seeing her determined eating, the rest of the hens stepped in to taste the new treat.

They ate like little machines! Not the frenzied holiday-shopper insanity they have for familiar treats. More of a determined "This is weird. I'll have another. This is weird. I'll have another...."

They grimly consumed the entire plate of sprouts, leaving the rooster to circle the flock and steal seedlings from between their toes.

At last, they were getting fresh greenery. Oh the chickeny satisfaction!


  • After the first soak, the later wettings are just a few minutes. I drain off the water and just set the jar of seeds back on the counter. The experts say to tilt the jar to let the water drain through the mesh lid, but my mesh is not attached so I just let the seeds be a little more moist than an expert would. For the second round, I am rolling the jar around to stick the seeds to the side, like a cylinder of seed, and then leave the jar horizontal.
  • The experts say the seedlings are at peak nutrition when the root is about as long as the seed. Because my seeds were mixed, some of my little seeds had longer roots by the third day.
  • Seeds grow at different rates, some are ready to eat after two days. I read that some seeds take five days. My seeds were served after three days.
  • The seeds are super cheap Economy Bird Seed -- they were not steam cleaned so the seeds are vital. It is important that the seed mix not include cracked corn because it will grow fungus instead of roots.
Mr. Big eating leftover sprouts


  1. Oh, I should try this. So you wet the seeds and drain out the water and then do you put the wet seeds back into the glass jar and turn it over so it's like a terrarium? Do I have that right?
    And then you wet it occasionally and how long before you fed it to the chicks?

  2. I've come up with a home made automated system and a wheat sprout feeder that the chickens go crazy for. I posted it on my site which is primarily a humorous chicken site but I have put a lot about the wheat sprouts in the blog part. here is a link if you want to check it out.