Sprouting to Enhance Poultry Feeds
In the winter, when the flock does not have access to pasture, I sprout the entire small grain portion of my feed mix—and sometimes the peas as well. (See “Making Your Own Poultry Feeds: Part 3” for sample mixes I have used.)
When I feed both sprouted peas and sprouted grains, the chickens go for the grains by preference every time. When I return later in the day, however, they have usually cleaned up all the sprouted peas as well. There is no reason I shouldn’t also sprout the whole corn, but doing so would leave little in the dry mix other than extremely fine ingredients—flax seed, kelp meal, dried yeast, etc. Chickens resist eating feed of mostly small particle size.
Since I do not require a green sprout, my system is based not on sprouting trays but on six 5-gallon food grade plastic buckets. Two buckets are soak buckets (if I am sprouting peas as well as grains)—four are drain/sprout buckets. The latter I drill with dozens of small holes, in the bottoms and half-way up the sides. The size of the holes is important: They must permit the flushing through of dusty debris, but not get blocked by a grain of wheat or oats.
Here is the schedule I follow when sprouting both peas and grains, assuming I desire a 5-day sprout:
- Day 1
- In one of the soak buckets, I soak all the whole wheat, oats, and barley called for in the mix I am currently using. (I would certainly use other whole grains if available.) Since it is usually winter, I set the bucket in my basement to prevent freezing.
- Day 2
- I pour the small grains into one of the drain/sprout buckets and rinse well, allowing thorough drainage through the holes in the bucket before returning to the basement. I set another batch of small grains to soak in the soak bucket. In a second soak bucket, I soak the amount of whole peas called for in the mix.
- Day 3
- I again pour the soaked small grains into a drain/sprout bucket. I pour yesterday’s soaked peas into the grains from Day 1. Both drain buckets get thoroughly rinsed before returning to the basement. I start new (separate) batches of grains and peas soaking.
- Day 4
- Repeat, this time putting the soaked peas into the bucket containing grains started Day 2.
- Day 5
- Again, repeat. Note that at this point I have contents in four drain/sprout buckets.
- The most advanced bucket of sprouts is now ready to feed. Note that the grains are five-day sprouts (including the first day in the soak bucket), and that the peas are four-day sprouts. (The peas sprout at a faster rate than the grains, so I enter them at a later point in the rotation.) I take that bucket out to the poultry house and scatter the sprouted seeds onto the deep litter. If it is a day when the birds can be out on the pasture, I scatter some outside as well. Now I put yesterday’s soaked grain into the bucket I’ve just emptied, and the cycle rolls on.
Note that every day, every bucket gets a thorough rinse—otherwise, the sprouting grains get “funky.”
Sometimes I prefer to sprout the grains only, in which case I eliminate one of the soak buckets (and grind the peas instead, adding them to the dry part of the mix). Also, I might reduce the number of drain/sprout buckets, or increase, depending on how developed a sprout I want, and the point in the season. (In the winter, the sprouting process slows down, even in my basement which is warmed by waste heat from the furnace, thus I might add one drain bucket—for an additional day—to the system.)
The above is doubtless confusing when read off the page. If you play around with coffee cups representing the buckets as you follow along, however, you will understand how the system works.