Sprouting Grains for Chickens

Interested in learning how to grow sprouts as a food source for your chickens? Find all the information here!

Sprouts are a great treat for backyard chickens who may not get to free roam or can serve as the sole food source for your flock. You must provide a vitamin/mineral mix if your chickens will only be eating sprouts.

What are sprouts?

Sprouts are the beginning growth of the plant that emerges from the seed. The seeds most easily acquired will vary based on location, in my experience most feed stores carry whole wheat in bulk supplies for relatively cheap. Alfalfa can also be grown but bulk supplies are limited. Research what plant might be best for you to grow in your situation based on time until feeding, availability, and price.

Growing Sprouts

Sprouts are incredibly easy to grow and can be done in a variety of ways with common household items. Containers could include jars, bowls, Tupperware, or anything else that could be drained off easily. Size of container will depend on how many chickens you are feeding, you do not want a thick layer of seeds as this encourages mold growth. You will want to grow your sprouts near a running water source as you will have to rinse them multiple times. Here is an example of a Tupperware container used to grow sprouts, holes were drilled into the bottom to promote easy drainage as you do not want standing water on the seeds.This container held enough sprouts to be fed to 3-5 chickens.

Holes drilled into tupperware container
Holes drilled in Tupperware container

Once you decide on & purchase the type of seed you are going to grow and have prepared your growing container, it is time to get started! You will want to completely soak the seeds for 8-12 hours in water, this will be the only time the seeds will be in water. Give the seeds a good rinse before soaking them to wash off any bacteria/debris on the seeds.

After soaking, you may notice some tiny sprouts coming out but most seeds will still be intact. Give them another good rinse and transfer seeds to the container with holes in it. Place the container where it will get some light but will not get too hot as heat + moisture= bacteria growth. Rinse twice a day and drain well each time, making sure there is no standing water in the container. The first sprout will look similar to the picture below:

First sprout
First sprout emerging

Continued Growth

As the days go by the sprouts will grow quickly and eventually will begin to form chlorophyll filled shoots (similar to the picture below), the root structure will expand and entangle with neighboring seeds creating a thick root mat. It is important to not allow water to stand in the root mat. Continue rinsing and draining twice a day until ready to feed.

Sprouting grains
Chlorophyll filled shoots
Root mat forming
Thick root mat forming under the sprouts.

When to Feed to your Chickens

The sprouts will grow for approximately 7-10 days depending on the type of seed you choose. Make sure to watch for mold growth and do not feed moldy sprouts to chickens. Keeping the sprouts relatively cool (room temperature) and rinsing with cool, clean water will help prevent mold. Feed when the sprouts reach 2-4 inches long. Simply place in chicken run to feed, chickens will eat the entire sprout, seed, and roots.

Measuring sprouts growth with a ruler
Feed sprouts at 2-4 inches long

Email me for help on setting up a sprout system in your home! aliciah1221@ufl.edu


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Posted: September 14, 2017

Category: Agriculture, Livestock, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Alternative Food Sources, Chickens, Feed, NFLAG, Poultry

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