Thursday, June 13, 2013

Experimenting with Growing Chicken Fodder in a Jar

I feel like a mad scientist with all of the experimental seed sprouts I've been growing lately.  I'm in search of the best fodder, that grows fast, grows big, the chickens love it so much they are waiting at the door when they see me coming towards them with sprouts.  I want to learn what grows best by the easiest method possible in my climate.  That sounds like a lot of requirements but I bet I can meet most of them if I just keep working at it.

I told you about my experiments with wild rice and wild bird feed in baskets.  The reason I chose those to items is because that is what I already had available in my pantry.  I didn't have success with the wild rice but the wild bird seed was a bit more promising, however I think bird seed just grows better in the dirt.  That's why I planted a mixture of wild bird seed and pasture grass in the grazing frame I built inside the chicken run.

I wanted to try growing wheat, but I couldn't find any locally and we live so far outside the city that I wasn't interested in the 1-1/2 hour to 2 hour drive to town to try and find it.  Nor did I need a 50 lb bag for experimenting.  Until I know that I can successfully grow anything I am only testing small amounts.  So I decided to order a 5 lb bag of organic, non-GMO Hard Red Wheat from Amazon.  Yes, I know I could have bought a 50 lb bag for only a few bucks more (or a little over double the price of the small bag if you add gas to get to town and back), but like I said, I don't want 45 lbs laying around if my experiments are not successful.

So my bag of wheat was delivered today...gotta love Amazon Prime Free 2-day shipping!  I was anxious to give wheat a try because from what I have read lately, wheat seems to be the most popular fodder, and just might meet all of my requirements.  The tough part will be the method.  I have been using the baskets but I just learned about another method that sounded fun too where you grow your seeds in a glass jar.  So I thought I would try this method first, then test it in a basket and compare the two.

As typical, I cannot remember where I first read about this.  I swear I cannot remember anything these days.  (Menopause is such a wonderful stage in every woman's life...Not!)  Anyway, if I remember where it was later, I will update this post.  But basically you soak the seeds in a glass jar overnight, then you rinse them out twice a day.  I think I can handle that.  So when my wheat seeds arrived I already had my big jar ready.  Some folks use quart-sized mason jars, but I like this big jar, so for my experimentation phase I am using it instead.

I poured in 1 cup of wheat then filled the jar with water.  I swished it around to thoroughly wet all of the seeds.  To make it easy to drain and rinse the seeds without losing them by accident, I put a double layer of cheese cloth on the top and tied it on with gift ribbon.  I didn't have a rubber band that big (which would have worked nicely), nor did I have my twine handy (because I was using it out in the garden earlier and forgot to bring it in).  Besides, the gift ribbon made it look kind of pretty don't you think?

Soaking Wheat Seeds. *Note the lid is not tightened, just sitting on top.

The next day I rinsed the seeds and left the jar laying in such a way that any excess water ran out the cheese cloth covered top.  Letting seeds sit in standing water will aide in creating don't want mold in your sprouts.   Note that I did not add bleach to my soaking water.  Some people have suggested doing that to prevent mold, stating that it will all be rinsed away by the time the fodder is big enough to give to your chickens.  My thought is that if I am using organic, non-GMO wheat...why would I add a chemical like bleach in the first stage (or any stage) of this process?  The key to preventing mold will be to not allow standing water.

The rinse process is simple.  Each morning and evening I just fill the jar with water (right through the cheese cloth covered on top), gently swish it around and pour the water out, then I rinse it one more time, and drain the water out again.  Then I place the jar at the 45 degree angle to allow any extra water to drain out of the jar.  

In this drawing, the angle from line A to B is 45 degrees
You may need to use some props to get your jar to stay at the 45 degree angle.  I use a large serving bowl and a shoe box next to it and it works just fine.  If I am pleased with this growing method and decide to go into serious production mode, I will design a simple stand for my jars that will hold however many jars I need to make a complete cycle of crops.  So if it takes 7 days for these sprouts to reach the stage that I would feed them to my chickens, then I will use 7 jars, then when one is fed to the chickens I will clean it out and start a new batch.  So if/when I get to that stage I will share my stand design with you so you can build one too if you like.

Here we are at the beginning of Day 1 (after the initial soak):

Here is a picture in the morning on Day 2.  See the tiny little light-colored sprouts beginning to grow out the end of the seeds?

Here is a picture from the morning on Day 3, right after the first rinsing. You can really see the little sprouts now.

And Day 3 in the evening...see the growth?

Oh my, look at these sprouts on the morning of Day 4!  To give you some perspective on the growth, the soaked seeds took up no more than 1/4th of the total space in the jar, and now the sprouted seed that are all entangled together take up about 2/3 of the jar!

And look at a close up of the sprouts.  They have been just the long white colored root-like stems and now I am beginning to see shorter, stouter greenish stalk-like stems. Hmmm this is so interesting!

I bet the chickens would love to have some of these sprouts right now for a fresh cool treat...but I am going to let them go another day or two, to see what will come of these new stalks developing.  Can't wait to try sprouting these in baskets too.

Day 4 PM, nearly full:
Day 4 PM nearly full jar.

Day 5 (My camera ate the picture of the full jar this morning) The Wheat sprouts have grown so much and the new green stalks are about 1/2" long now.  They have completely filled my big jar and were protruding out the cheese cloth end, so it was time to take them out even if this is earlier then I wanted.  I feel they could have grown a little fatter stalks if they had another day or two.   

Day 5 Sprout, stalk about 1/2" long.

I had to really work to pull half of the bundle of sprouts out of the jar, thank goodness I used a wide mouth jar!  Once out, I ran water over them while I gently de-tangled the mass of sprouts.  I placed them on a glass dish and served them up to the chickens.  They didn't know what to do with them.  I think they might have even been a little afraid of them too. Haha!  So I broke off a few little sprouts and offered them to the chicks.  They ate them when I offered them sprouts one-by-one.  Even chased each other around when they had a piece hanging out of their mouths.  It was really funny.  I would have recorded it by I didn't have my camera handy.

Day 5 Wheat Sprouts served up to my chickens.

I broke up the remaining half of the sprouts into two baskets to see if I could get them to continue to grow...I don't have much hope of that because they did not start in the baskets.  But one thing I did learn is that wheat sprouts and grows nicely.  I think I will add some to my grazing frame and see how well it does there.

So to summarize what I learned from this experiment...

1.) Wheat Seeds germinate easily.

2.) Don't put too many seed in the jar.  I used less than 1/4 of the jar in seeds but the sprouts quickly grew too big for the jar.  I would have liked to allow the sprouts to get a little bigger but the chickens enjoyed them just the same.

3.) Comparing how quickly my other seeds dried out in the baskets, it seems that the jar holds more moisture around the seeds without them standing in water.  The jar is practically upside down all the time so the water runs right out the bottom through the cheese cloth, but the glass holds the moist air...which seems to help them not dry out.

4.) When I want to quickly grow sprouts for my chickens, this is the method I will use.

Keeper of 1 husband, 2 grandkids, 3 dogs,
3 cats, and 17 Chickens!
Follow on Bloglovin

Did this post stir something inside of you? If so, Please leave me a comment, I would love to know what you're thinking!!!
I am so honored that this post has been featured in the "HomeAcre Hop" on Thursday, June 20th!   Thank you ladies!!!

Everything Home with Carol
Link will be live on Thursday, June 20th.