Growing Fodder for your Chickens + Sprouted Chick Fodder Cakes

Winters are long and snowy here in Maine, so fresh grass isn't available for much of the year.

Grass is not only super nutritious for chickens, providing them protein and fiber, they enjoy nibbling the tops and scratching at the roots looking for bugs.

But while they don't have access to "real" grass in the winter, it's super easy to grow some grass, also called "fodder", for your flock.

Growing fodder for your flock can help supplement their diet with healthy, nutritious greens when there's snow on the ground.

I sprout seeds for our chickens over the winter and also grow them barley, rye and wheat grass in trays when there's no fresh grass or weeds to eat outside. It's super easy to do.

Basically sprouted fodder is grains - commonly wheat, barley or oats - that are sprouted and allowed to grow for 7-10 days, until just before they have grown their second leaves.

Sprouting amplifies the nutrients in the grains nearly six fold and increases their digestibility, so you get more bang for your buck so to speak.

Feeding fodder to supplement your chickens' layer feed results in reduced feed costs, better tasting eggs with more vibrant yolks, better laying productivity and improved health.

Growing Fodder for your Chickens

What you Need

Grain of your choice (eg. wheat berries, barley or whole oats)
A tray or casserole dish (or empty tuna fish cans or other small dishes for chick fodder 'cakes')

What you Do

Pour the grain - no more than 1/2" deep to allow for good air flow and prevent molding - into your casserole trays, cake pans or deep dishes.

Soak your grain in water overnight.

Then drain well and rinse.

Set in a sunny area, preferably one that stays between 60-75 degrees.

Rinse the seeds (or strain through a fine-mesh sieve  or colander for the first few days) in fresh water and drain thoroughly morning and evening.

Roots will begin to grow on the underside while the green fodder starts to sprout out of the top.

Once roots start to grow, try to dislodge the seeds as little as possible to allow a nice root base to form.

I fill the dish with cool water to cover the seeds, then holding the mat down with my hand, flip the dish to drain the water.

You don't want it sitting in water because that can cause the seeds/grains to mold.

If the air in your house is dry, you can cover your dish with plastic wrap for the first few days to retain moisture and prevent the seeds from drying out completely in between rinsing - or rinse and drain a few more times a day.

after just two days

several days later...
a few more days - getting there
just about ready at 7 days
In about a week or so, you should have 3-4" of growth and your fodder will be ready to serve.

Flip the 'fodder mat' out of the tray (or serve it right in the tray) and let your chickens have at it, or cut it into smaller pieces for individual servings.

Chick Fodder 'Cakes'

Fodder is also a great treat to grow for your brooder babies.

It will not only provide them a super nutritious, inexpensive treat, it will keep them busy trying to nip off the green pieces and rummaging in the roots.

For chick 'fodder cakes', grow your fodder in tuna fish cans or other small containers, following the same instructions as above, then unmold and place them in your brooder as a special treat.

fodder 'cake's for baby chicks at about 5 days
chick fodder cakes ready to serve
Growing fodder for your chickens and your baby chicks really is that easy.

They love it, it's a super nutritious treat for them, and it's extremely economical. The only thing cheaper to feed them is actual grass!

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  1. I have rye seeds will that work also? Ellen from Georgia

  2. It may go without saying, but.....always be sure the grains that are for 'seed' are untreated.

  3. The chick cakes are a great idea! Just as an experiment, see if your chickens don't prefer the grain at about the 4 day mark. Mine prefer the sprouts a couple of inches long. That makes it easier for me since I grow fodder for sheep, dairy goats and angora rabbits. I can sprout the chicken feed in buckets with holes drilled in the bottom.

    1. I bet they would. They love sprouts, I'll give the 'shorter' fodder a try.

  4. Great post! So very flattered that you read my blog! I never thought to grow smaller amounts for chicks. I'll try your chick cake idea with the new hatch.


    1. Of course I do Lisa! I love your blog! It's one of the very few I do make time to read. Try the chick cakes for sure and let me know how they like them!

  5. how do you water them after they begin to sprout? spray bottle? I imagine i'm not supposed to take the fodder out once it's sprouting....

    1. Yes you can spray with a spray bottle or I just held the tray under the sink and filled it with water and then just tilted it to drain it, holding my palm flat against the fodder. Once the root system starts to grow, it pretty much stays in place, but yes you don't want to disturb the roots if at all possible.

    2. thanks! I used a spray bottle this morning.

  6. I soak my 1/2 lb of seed (wheat or barley) for 12 hours and than use a wash basin with a lot of holes drilled in it sitting on top of pvc pipe set up to keep 2nd basin seperate water twice a day for about 8-10 days my 10 girls love it my yolks have began to turn a bright orange yellow sooooooo good.

  7. Where can i buy barley seed? I live in New Jersey and i can not find any any where.


  8. could this be used for goats and horses as well?

  9. Seeds grow faster with heat. Rinse with warm, not hot, water, drain, a couple or three times a day. It would be helpful if they sat on a heat mat for seed starting too, then you can grow them year round. Another thing I might try is sprouting flax, wild bird seed, parakeet seed, millet, finch seed, etc. you might even try to sprout it in DE rather than dirt. I'm going to use plain ol' well water and I'd think variety would be great for them. Do you happen to know if there are common grains that should be avoided for them? Obviously we should avoid poisonous flower and plant seeds, morning glories, castor beans, etc.

    1. Flax makes a gelatinous mess when soaked! We made our own fodder station with water tote, pump & 12 plant trays with drain holes, PVC return lines. WoWorks really well! We sprout annual rye, winter rye& sunflower seeds.

    2. I would just add DE to the fodder once a month for worming if your eggs have poo on them often.

  10. Thanks a lot for your great presentation, i am very interested to your sharing and all post are so nice,

    Logo erstellen

  11. We sprout wheat berries and sunflower seeds in 5 gallon buckets with holes drilled in the bottom. It makes it easier for us to rinse and drain larger quantities without much trouble.Once the sunflower seeds start sprouting we start feeding them to the chickens. Each day we continue to rinse them and the seeds continue to grow, the bucket gets fuller and fuller. Amazing how much more food you get out of the sprouted seeds. Our chickens go crazy when they see that bucket! We continue to experiment with different seed for them and they love what ever we sprout.

  12. I am sprouting whole oats for my chickens , does anyone know if oats are good for chickens.

  13. I love this idea and started a batch a couple days ago.
    I hope all goes well and it grows beautifully. My chickens don’t have free
    access to grass because of all the predators lurking in our yard, and were just
    coming out of winter here, so this will be perfect for them. I wouldn’t have
    thought to feed it to chicks so that was a great addition. Thanks for the post.