Growing fodder is a cheap way to feed your chickens, ducks, and rabbits throughout the year.
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.
What is Fodder?
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.
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.
How to Build a DIY Fodder System to Feed Chickens, Ducks, and Rabbits
You can either build a fodder system with pie pans, or you can build a fodder wall.
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.
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.
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.
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Here they are around day 3:
And, around day 7, when the barley starts to look like this:
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.
Adopt a Growing Rotation Schedule
By rotating how the gutters are filled, you should 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.
Have you grown fodder? What are your experiences with it? Be sure to pin this for later!
this article was updated on March 25th 2020 by Rebekah White
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.