Growing fodder is a cheap way to feed your chickens, ducks, and rabbits throughout the year.
If you’re raising animals of any kind, you probably already know how the costs can add up in a hurry.
Growing fodder is an easy, inexpensive technique that will let you cut costs and feed your chickens, rabbits, and ducks the healthiest diet possible.
It’s a simple concept, really. Basically, it’s allowing grains to sprout and grow into their respective grasses for feed supplementation for poultry. The animals then get greens with chlorophyll, as well as the proteins from the grains and the sprouts.
Fodder is a type of animal feed that is composed of plants.
It can be made from a variety of different plants, including grasses, legumes, and grains. In addition to being a source of nutrition for livestock, fodder can also help to keep animals warm in winter and cool in summer.
Some fodder can also be used as bedding, it can absorb moisture and help to keep stalls clean.
Fodder is an important part of many livestock operations, and it plays a vital role in the health and well-being of animals.
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Why Grow Fodder?
Fodder can stretch your animal feed dollar and reduce your overall expenses. In fact, just fifty pounds of grain can be transformed into more than 300 pounds of fodder – all you have to do is sprout it!
Fodder offers a variety of benefits to your chickens. Not only will it provide them with access to year-round grains and greens, regardless of the weather, but it also provides novelty that can help relieve boredom in a flock.
The vitamins, proteins, and minerals in fodder tend to be more bioavailable to the chickens, and fodder is more digestible, too. I’ve even noticed that the egg yolks are darker and arguably more nutritious from my hens that were fed fodder, too.
Not only that but sprouted grains are more nutritious for animals than plain old grain. All you need is a bit of moisture in order to sprout your own feed.
Are Sprouts the Same Thing as Fodder?
Well… yes and no. The terms “sprouts” and “fodder” are often used interchangeably, but the two are not one in the same – the two words refer to various stages in the germinated grains.
While sprouts are germinated seeds that are under four inches tall, fodder is taller than four inches. So at the beginning of your growing experiment you would have sprouts, but when you’re finished, it would be fodder.
Growing sprouts is not the same thing as growing fodder because fodder, of course, takes longer to grow. Therefore, you will have mold and various sanitation procedures to worry about.
That said, sprouts do give you more options because you can grow a wide variety of plants, like:
- mung beans
- quinoa, and more.
How to Build a DIY Fodder System
A fodder system is a great way to provide your chickens, ducks, and rabbits with fresh, nutrient-rich greens year-round. And best of all, it’s easy and inexpensive to build yourself. Here’s what you’ll need.
If you choose to make a fodder system with flat trays, you’ll just need some shallow trays to start.
Pay a visit to your local thrift store for options – you can use things like Styrofoam meat trays, seed starting trays, or baking trays.
You can also choose to build a fodder wall to save space, which is fairly easy to do.
This wall required:
- 6 8-foot plastic gutters
- 6 gutter ends
- a bucket
- drywall screws
- a wall you aren’t using with studs-this can be in a garage, a greenhouse or in your kitchen if you want
To make the wall, measure where the studs in the wall are.
- Make markings on the gutters to position into the studs.
- Attach one end of the first gutter into the stud, and angle the gutter so the opposite end is 1 1/2 inches lower than the top.
- Place the gutter end on the higher spot.
- Attach the second gutter approximately 3 inches lower than the one above and cap the opposite end
- Angle the OPPOSITE end higher than the first gutter to create a “waterfall” effect.
- Continue layering the gutters on the wall, positioning the opposite end to allow water to flow.
Where to Put Your Fodder Growing Trays
One important decision is where to place your fodder growing trays. The location of your trays will affect the amount of sunlight and airflow they receive, which can impact the rate of growth and quality of the fodder.
In general, it is best to place the trays in a sunny location with good air circulation. If possible, try to find a spot that is protected from strong winds, as this can damage the delicate roots.
Prepare the Grains
You can get barley fairly cheap at a farm store, bulk foods store, or online. Any kind of grain can be used, including oats, barley, wheat, and millet.
The fodder process can help increase the digestibility of grains, making it easier for your chickens to absorb the nutrients they need.
In addition, these methods can also help reduce the amount of feed your chickens need to consume.
As a result, you can save money on chicken feed while also ensuring that your chickens are getting the nutrition they need.
You will want to soak the grains overnight in a bowl, covered with water and a tablespoon of bleach to retard mold.
Cover your grains with water. Try not to fill them more than half-inch depth for each tray, as the grains have a tendency to mold otherwise.
The next day, rinse the grains and place them about an inch deep, in the top gutter. Start soaking another batch of grains and repeat daily until all the gutters are filled. (6 days)
Watering is simple. Just water the top gutter well enough that the excess water will flow into each gutter, watering all of them.
The bucket at the end will catch any remaining water. (BUT, be sure to drain the bucket daily. It does get rather smelly if it sits more than that.)
You should water both morning and night. If you keep your fodder system outside and it dries out quickly, you may need to water even more frequently, as evaporation will occur more rapidly.
Here they are around day 7:
Roots usually start to appear during the first few days, and they’ll be followed shortly after by greens.
You can feed the fodder at any stage but it usually takes a week or two to get a nice block of fodder going.
The fodder is peeled from the gutter and cut into squares with a sharp knife to be given to the poultry or rabbits. It’s like a carpet or mat that is all woven together.
Each animal gets a chunk of the fodder daily and it’s split pretty evenly. The rabbits like the greens, but they don’t eat as much of the roots.
The chickens and ducks love all the greens AND roots and enjoy their daily treat.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
When you are growing fodder, you will want to source your grains from a reputable source. Make sure the feed has not been treated and is fresh.
You should always use clean containers and fresh water, and make sure you keep the room temperature between 45 and 69 degrees.
You can sprout fodder outside, too, but these temperatures will be best for the greatest level of success.
You may be able to sprout successfully in colder or warmer conditions, just watch out for mold.
Get Your Grains from a Reputable Place
When you are growing your own fodder, it is important to get your grains from a reputable place.
The last thing you want is to end up with grain that is full of toxins or has been treated with chemicals.
Ideally, you should find a local farmer who can supply you with organic grain. If you can’t find a local source, make sure to purchase from a reputable online supplier. Once you have your grain, it is important to store it properly to prevent spoilage.
It is important to always use clean containers and clean water. This will help prevent the growth of mold and bacteria, which can be harmful to your plants.
Make sure to wash your containers thoroughly with soap and water before using them, and be sure to change the water regularly.
If you notice any mold or bacteria growth, throw out the affected materials and start again with new seedlings.
When you are growing your own fodder, it is important to keep the room cool. The ideal temperature range is between 45 and 70 degrees F (7 to 21 C).
If the room is too hot, the fodder will not grow properly. If the room is too cold, the fodder will not be as nutritious.
Adopt a Growing Rotation Schedule
By rotating how the gutters are filled, you should only need to only soak and grow one gutter at a time, allowing for one day off a week.
The fodder wall will grow very well as long as it doesn’t get too hot in the summer. If you use A/C, it should be fine. Otherwise, try a fan on it to keep it from getting too hot and molding fast.
Alternative Methods of Growing Fodder
I should mention that the method I told you about above is not the only tried-and-true technique for growing fodder. You can also sprout grains in shallow trays as long as you have a shelf to place them on.
Again, you’ll drill a few drainage holes in each tray and follow the same steps to soak your grains.
How Much Fodder Should Your Chickens Eat?
A typical chicken will consume between 2 and 4 pounds of feed per day. The type of feed will vary depending on the age and breed of chicken, but a good general purpose feed will suffice.
If you are feeding your chickens kitchen scraps, make sure that they are getting a variety of different foods so that they are getting all the nutrients they need.
Avoid feeding them too much meat or fatty foods as this can lead to obesity and health problems.
In general, it is best to let your chickens free-range so that they can forage for their own food. This way, they will get the exercise they need and you won’t have to worry about their diet being too one-sided.
Adding fodder is a good way to supplement the free ranging or offer your chickens the same benefits of free ranging in the wintertime.
When feeding your chickens fodder, make sure to offer it in small amounts throughout the day so they don’t overeat. You should also supplement their diet with plenty of calcium-rich foods such as crushed oyster shells.
Anyone who has grown their own fodder knows that mold and flies can be a problem. The warm, moist environment that is ideal for growing sprouts is also perfect for mold and fly larvae to thrive.
However, there are a few simple steps you can take to discourage mold and flies from setting up shop in your sprouts.
First, be sure to rinse the grains thoroughly before you begin sprouting them.
Second, keep the humidity low by ventilating the room where you are growing the sprouts.
Third, wash the trays thoroughly between uses.
Finally, place a small bowl of apple cider vinegar near the sprouts. The flies will be attracted to the vinegar instead of your sprouts.
By taking these simple precautions, you can enjoy a mold and fly-free crop of healthy sprouts.
Chickens are notoriously messy eaters, and it can be difficult to keep their feeding area clean.
One way to cut down on the mess is to make your own chick fodder cakes. These cakes are made from a mixture of seeds, grains, and greens, and they can be easily customized to suit your flock’s needs.
To make a fodder cake, simply combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Then, wet your hands and press the mixture into a small cake mold or cup.
Be sure to pack the mixture firmly so that it holds together when you remove it from the mold. Once the cake is formed, place it in the refrigerator to set.
When you’re ready to serve it, simply put the cake in the chicken coop and let your chicks enjoy it!
Not only will they love pecking at the green bits and rooting around in the roots, but they’ll also be getting a nutritious treat. Plus, you won’t have to worry about them making a mess of their feed area!
One way to provide your chickens with fresh fodder is to grow it yourself. This not only provides them with a healthy and nutritious diet, but also helps reduce your feed costs.
Growing fodder can be done in either an indoor or outdoor setting, depending on the climate and weather conditions in your area. In addition, there are many different types of plants that you can grow as fodder for your flock.
By following these simple tips, you can start growing fodder for your chickens today!
Have you grown fodder? What are your experiences with it? Be sure to pin this for later!
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.