Flock of chickens, I’m presuming, not chickadees, although they’d surely appreciate it too.
With winter coming up, I’ve been looking for some ways to supplement the diet for our girls, since the worms, crickets, and most everything green is going to be scarce for the next six months. We’ve taken to soaking or sprouting most of our grains before we eat them, since it increases their nutritional value and enzyme activity, and who doesn’t want more nutritional value in their food? (Okay, lots of people clearly don’t care, or they wouldn’t be getting every meal from a drive-through, but there are some to whom it makes a difference.)
Anyway, since we soak for the health benefits, I figured the same principles would hold for the chickens. Now, I didn’t want to use our super-premium magic hard gold wheat berries (kidding), but I did have a 20 pound bag of generic bird seed in the garage. Most bird seed you’ll find is a mix of sunflower, millet, sorghum, safflower, corn, and maybe a few seeds more or less. Whatever it is, if it’s a whole seed, you can probably sprout it. (Make sure it’s not a bunch of “pieces” or “bits” or “cracked” stuff – that won’t sprout, it’ll ferment. Not that that’s a terrible thing either; after all, we eat pickles and sauerkraut.)
To start, fill a quart jar about halfway with the seed. Fill the rest of the jar with water. Let it sit on the counter for a day.
After about 24 hours or so, drain the jar (they sell special lids for draining, but I just hold the lid over the top and dump). Keep the jar on the counter, rinsing with fresh water two to three times a day. By the time you reach the end of the second day, you should start to see some tiny sprouts starting to poke out – if you haven’t, be patient, it shouldn’t take too long. As soon as the seed starts to sprout, you can start feeding it to your chickens (or put it in the bird feeder for your other feathered friends). I put some in a pie plate, but they’ll also enjoy just pecking it off the ground.
If you don’t use the entire thing at once, keep the jar on the counter for several days (just remember to keep rinsing, or it’ll turn into a moldy mess) – the sprouts will keep getting longer, and eventually leaf out (this is the premise of those wheat grass kits you can find). At some point, I might toss some sprouts into a pan and let them leaf out so the chickens do get some greenery during the winter.
Sprouting bird seed (or your super-premium quinoa, or whatever else you’ve got) is a good way of getting a little extra into your chickens, during the winter when there’s not much else available, or any time of year. Think of it as a step up from the standard scratch grains. Sprouting is super easy, requires almost no time commitment, and you can get 20 pounds of seed for 7 or 8 bucks. And of course, the girls appreciate it.