Somewhere in the far reaching corners of the intra-web, I read that sprouting seeds can lower you feed bills. Lower bills? Oh, yeah, baby! Count me in!
So I dove head first into researching fodder systems and DIY fodder systems and what to sprout and the difference between sprouted seeds and fodder and the supposed length of the shoots and what’s the best type of fodder for laying hens and oh my gosh. There is so much stinkin’ information out there… Full of ideas, exhausted from so much research, but excited about lowering our feed bill and providing our happy hens with better, fresher feed, I began the awkward convo with the manly man.
“What do you want now??”
Oh, that man knows me so well.
“Yeah, there’s this thing called fodder, and I need you to magically whip up this tray/shelf contraption thing with your super power manly skills, and the shelf thing has to allow for water from one tray to drip into the one below it, alternating, and…”
“What the heck is fodder?”
Welcome to my madness. Thence ensued several YouTube watching marathons of people making fodder system, purchasing fodder systems, using fodder systems. Everybody’s got a friggin’ fodder system, y’all! And they’re, like, so totally easy to make! 🙂
Here’s the handsome super hubby being a goofball (and one of my mini-me’s) after he finished the contraption. But I get ahead of myself…
So What the Heck is Fodder, Anyway?
Fodder is just another term for sprouted seeds. They are fed to livestock (but in our case, just chickens…for now, mua-ha-ha). Whole grains are soaked in water for a specified time, then watered at intervals and allowed to sprout. This is an easy and inexpensive way to give the chickies fresh greens even in the wintertime, or even after they’ve decimated any green thing growing from their run.
My brain isn’t smart enough to really, truly, for realz understand the subtle difference between sprouted grains and fodder, but essentially, fodder is just a much longer “sprout” than sprouts. Clear as mud? Yeah, I’m confused too. But that didn’t stop me!!! Supposedly, the magic number is four inches. Less than four inches is sprouts, more than four inches is fodder. But seriously, I leave my ruler at home when I go do farmy chores, so…
As for chickens, one very important thing is to make sure the green grassy part of your sprout, or fodder, doesn’t get too long, or it can cause some health risks for the birds (because they can’t chew up their food…). Anyway, I don’t really want to get into a poultry anatomy and physiology lesson. So, onward we go.
The Benefits of Sprouts/Fodder
- It can be grown anywhere, really, especially indoors. It doesn’t take up much room, and if you’re growing inside, it doesn’t matter what the weather outside is.
- Seeds are packed with protein, nutrients and minerals. But when seeds are allowed to sprout, the proteins, nutrients and minerals are more bioavailable. Wow, that makes me sounds super smart.
- Sprouted seeds are also more easily digestible than non-sprouted seeds. This is because of the enzyme content. I have no clue what this means, it just is. Okay? I didn’t major in biology, so there.
- Sprouted seeds also have more chlorophyll and beta-carotene in them. Yeah, whatever that means. But, the result is more nutritious eggs and darker yolks. In other words, more nummier.
- Sprouted seeds result in more bulk than just the seeds, because once a seed has sprouted, you have the root mass and the “leaf.” This is where you can reduce your feed bill. Chickies eat all of it. ALL. OF. IT. Roots, unsprouted seed, leaves. They’re gluttony and eager about it.
Hubby built a shelving system to accommodate the trays that I bought. I got these at Ace Hardware (here). They were about $1 each or so. Not really gonna break the bank. Hubby somehow magically whipped up frames for the trays to snuggly nest into, and then somehow attached said frames to 2X6s. The shelves are not level with the ground, instead, they’re at an angle, but alternating.Jeez, I have no clue how to explain this, but it looks like this from the side:Then he heated up a big nail over the stove and magically burned nice, neat little holes on one end of the trays, for water drainage. The point is that you water the very top tray, and the water runs through the seeds, soaking them, but draining through the holes at the end of the tray, and watering the next level down.
See how the water drippy drips from one tray to the next one down? And it sounds so pretty, too. It’s like my own little water feature, cascading watery sounds. Kinda makes one need to go potty. Sorry, I digress, again. We put two buckets underneath the last tray so it doesn’t make a watery mess in our greenhouse bus (more to come on this in another post). Then when the buckets are full of murky, sprouty smelling water, I use it to water the raspberries outside.
Every morning, I start one batch of seeds by soaking them in a container with water. I allow them to soak for 24 hours (so, essentially, every day there are two containers with soaking seeds). On the third day, I spread the seeds out on a tray. We’re sprouting wheat berries (because we got them for free from our farmer friend), and although the world wide spiderweb implies that it doesn’t take this long, our seeds soak for 2 days and then take 10 more days to be ready for the birds. Maybe it’s the type of seed, maybe alfalfa or barley take lass time. I dunno. We got a 5-gallon bucket of free wheat berries, so that’s what we’re using.
At the end of their stay in our fodder contraption, the seeds are ready for the hens. Look at all that bulk (seed, root mass and leafy greens!!)
And then there it becomes a fodder feeding frenzy!!
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