Do you grow fodder for your chickens? Is growing fodder something you would like to try on your homestead? In this post, you will learn exactly what fodder is and why it is beneficial for your homestead chickens.
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Exactly What is Fodder?
Fodder is, in its true meaning, dried, coarse food given to farm animals. However, for our post, and common to the homesteading community, it is basically sprouts grown in some sort of container over 3 to seven days and then fed to the homestead animals.
In our case, fodder is any form of seeds that provide sprouts growing to a few inches tall.
Basically, it can be grown from the following seeds:
The seeds are placed on a damp surface in a bin of some sort, watered daily, and allowed to grow until the roots “mat” together and the sprouts reach a few inches tall. At that time they are fed as a nutritious supplement for your chickens and other homestead animals.
Benefits of Fodder
There are many benefits of growing and feeding fodder to your animals. These benefits include the following:
It saves money on feed because you buy less.
It provides many nutrients naturally for your animals.
Growing it is simple and cost-effective.
Gives your animals year-round access to fresh greens.
Sprouts are loaded with chlorophyll and beta-carotene which allows for darker yolks and more nutritious eggs.
How to Start Your Own Fodder
Gather Your Materials
The first thing to do is to gather all of the materials you will need to get started. Materials should be fairly easy to come by.
Heavy-Duty seed trays at least 10″ x 20″
Seeds of your choice, I prefer wheat seeds for planting and sunflower seeds
A method to lightly water (almost mist) your seed trays
A rack or shelf of some sort to keep your trays on.
A large bucket for soaking your seeds
Directions to Get Started
Once you have gathered all of the materials it is time to get started. To make things simple until you are used to growing fodder trays, and can figure out how many trays are right for your situation, we will start with 6 trays.
Start by soaking the seeds you chose overnight in a 5-gallon bucket. This allows the seeds to germinate quickly. The next day spread your seeds into the first tray about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Do not feel like it has to be perfect, just spread them out the best you can.
Wait 24 hours and repeat with the next tray. Do this until all of your trays are filled with seeds. The purpose of planting a day apart per tray is so the harvest is also a day apart. This way you have feed for each day.
Watering and Care
As a general rule of thumb, you will water your trays anywhere from one to four times a day. The seeds should stay moist at all times, but there should be no standing water at the bottom of any tray.
Standing water in the bottom of the trays will only cause mold to grow, a foul odor, and unhappy chickens. If necessary, drill tiny holes every so often so the excess water can drain.
Allow your seed trays of sprouts to grow to a height of around 4 to 5 inches. This normally takes 5 to 6 days on average. At that time you can peel the matted sprouts from the tray and place it in a spot to feed your chickens.
When you empty the first tray, wash it thoroughly, and start a new tray of seeds. Repeat this process every time you empty a tray. This provides a constant source of fodder daily for your chickens.
Options and Other Uses
Fodder can be grown in large quantities and given to other farm animals such as pigs, goats, and cows. The general rule of thumb is to feed 1 – 2% of an animal’s body weight. That means if you are supplementing a 500-pound steer, you would need to provide 5 to 10 pounds of fodder. A 5-pound bag of dry wheat should produce about 25 pounds of sprouts.
Please keep in mind, that although fodder is healthy for your animals, it is a supplement. That means your animals will still need other types of feed. Ruminants in particular must still receive hay for roughage.
For another great post on using fodder with your homestead animals, check out The Prairie Homestead’s post; DIY Fodder System for Your Animals
Have you started growing fodder for your chickens or other animals? Share your experience in the comments below.