Do you love your precious backyard dinosaurs? I mean, chickens…? Do you want to keep them healthy and happy? Then you should spoil them with sprouted seeds and grains on occasion! We sprout seeds for our chickens at least once a week, if not more. It only takes a few days for most seeds to sprout, and is super easy to do! From what I have heard, they’re pretty cluckin’ good too.
Come read along to learn just how simple it is to sprout seeds to feed your chickens! We’ll go over what types of legume, grain, and other seeds we sprout for our flock, and why sprouts are so good for them. After you read the stellar health benefits of sprouts, you’ll probably want some for yourself too – so I will also touch on how to safely sprout seeds destined for human consumption.
Why Feed Sprouted Seeds to Chickens?
Chickens are always hungry – acting like they haven’t seen food in eons! I don’t know who invented the game “Hungry Hungry Hippos”, but they missed the mark on that one. Hungry Hungry Chickens would have been far more fitting! Chickens also have a rather diverse taste palate, and enjoy picking at (or gobbling down) a wide variety of foods. However, just because they will eat damn near anything – doesn’t mean they should!
“Treats”, referring to anything outside of their specially-formulated layer feed, are recommended only in moderation. Meaning, we really shouldn’t be tossing them kitchen scraps all day long. I know this can be hard not to do, since the way to a chicken’s heart is definitely through their beak! But we don’t want to throw off their nutritional balance. Thankfully, sprouted seeds are one treat you don’t have to worry about “overdoing”!
So why not take seed and grain ingredients that are already in their food (or similar), and turn them into something fun, different, and even healthier for them to enjoy? This is also an excellent way to provide some much-needed nutrition and “greens” for chickens that don’t have other grass or fodder to graze on.
Ultimately, all of the supercharged nutrients the chickens gain by consuming sprouts will be passed on to their eggs – and you! In other words, you’ll have some of the most fresh, nutrient-dense, healthy eggs, ever!
If you’re curious, we feed our chickens this organic “Naturally Free” whole grain layer feed by Scratch and Peck.
The Health Benefits of Sprouted Seeds
Have you noticed how popular microgreens and sprouts are these days, utilized as a health food? Well, there is a good reason for it! Sprouting barley, peas, beans, alfalfa, sunflowers, and other seeds vastly increases their nutrient density. During the sprouting process, enzymes within the seeds are activated and enhanced far beyond what you find in the raw seed, or even what would be in the future mature vegetable or plant for that matter.
Studies show that a germinated seed (sprout) can have up to 4,000 times the concentration of enzymes and antioxidants than the un-sprouted seed! Similarly, the sprouts of grains, legumes, nuts, beans, and seeds also contain far more protein, vitamins, minerals, and available fiber than their seed form. Furthermore, the proteins in sprouts may also be easier to digest. This is because the sprouting process appears to reduce the amount of anti-nutrients — compounds that decrease your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the plant — by up to 87%!
Essentially, the sprout stage is the healthiest state that you could ever consume that item. The ideal sprout length is anywhere from 1/8-inch to 2 inches long. Once a sprout grows beyond 2 inches, it is considered a seedling, micro greens, or “fodder”, and is slightly less nutritious.
Types of Seeds to Sprout for Chickens
We sprout a variety of organic seeds for our girls! We often have a few different types on hand, since we use many of these to make sprouted seed tea for our plants on occasion too. You can read more about sprouted seed teas here.
Here are some of our favorites sprouting seeds:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Red Clover
- Wheat grass (hard red winter wheat berries)
- This fun “salad mix” of radish, mung bean, broccoli, alfalfa and green lentils.
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: You know that raw and dried beans are toxic to chickens, right? Thankfully, the process of cooking or sprouting destroys the hemaglutin toxin, but we still avoid large beans (like kidney beans) for sprouting – just in case. However, smaller legumes like mung beans and lentils are just fine, particularly once sprouted!
HOW TO SPROUT SEEDS
We sprout our seeds in quart mason jar. This provides plenty of sprouted seeds our flock of four chickens! It is also the quickest, easiest, and mess-free way to do it – with the assistance of these handy mason jar sprouting lids that are made just for this task! We like that our lids are food-grade stainless steel, but there are tons of other sprouting lids out there too!
On the other hand, if you have a bigger flock of chickens and need to sprout more, you can apply the same principles described below. Simply use a larger container, such as a bowl or bucket. Get creative with the screen lid for rinsing!
Step 1: Soak
Add anywhere from a couple heaping tablespoons up to one cup of your seed of choice to the bottom of a clean mason jar. The amount will vary depending on the size of your jar, and how many sprouts you want to create. Do not fill the mason jar more than a quarter full though. The seeds will greatly expand as they sprout, filling up the jar!
Next, add some tepid water to the jar – enough to cover the sprouts by several inches. Set the jar on your countertop, and allow the seeds to soak submerged in water for 8 to 12 hours.
Step 2: Rinse & Repeat
After the initial 8-12 hour soak, dump the water from the jar. This is where sprouting lids (or some other mesh cover) come in handy! Simply tip the jar upside down and let the water run out. Next, add more fresh water to the seeds. Swirl well to rinse. Dump the water again, draining as much as possible before setting it back on the counter.
Now, repeat the process of rinsing and draining twice per day. Continue the routine until the seeds have sprouted to at least an ⅛ of an inch, but are preferably still shorter than 2 inches. Keep an eye out, because they change so quickly! Most of the seeds we sprout are ready within two to four days after their initial soak.
Step 3: Feast Time!
Now it is time to give your spoiled chickens their sprouted seeds. They will go crazy for them. Our girls start pecking at the jar before I can even get them in to a bowl!
If you don’t feed them all of the sprouts at one time, store them in the refrigerator in the meantime. This keeps them fresh, and also halts their growth process – keeping thee sprouts at that desired stage and length. Use within one week. However, our girls always enjoy their full jar in one serving!
This all sounds so awesome! And easy! So….
What about Sprouting Seeds for Myself… A Human?
Yes, you can most certainly sprout seeds for yourself as well! However, there have been some cases of food-borne illness associated with raw sprouts. Because the sprouting process takes place in a warm and wet environment – the same conditions that things like E.Coli and Salmonella love and thrive in – it can be a little risky.
However, if you take some extra precautions, you can follow the same steps described above to safely make yourself some tasty sprouts as well:
- Be sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize your supplies and hands.
- Only use food-grade seed and grains – in contrast to chicken grains. Duh, right? Most cases of food-borne illness originate with contaminated seeds, not necessarily bacteria introduced during sprouting. Therefore, look for certified pathogen-free sprouting seeds.
- Rinse the grains thoroughly first, before soaking. Also rinse the sprouts more frequently than we do for our chickens, up to four times per day.
- Ensure they sprouting jar is thoroughly drained after each rinse. Rather than setting your jar upright on the counter as we do when we’re sprouting for chickens, set your jar tilted upside down to continue to drain until the next rinse and dump. You could do this in a clean bowl, or using these inexpensive jar racks – made just for the job.
- Finally, be more cautious about where you are keeping your sprouting jar than if it were designated for chickens. Choose a sanitary location.
After the sprouts have emerged to your desired length (shorter is best), give them a final good rinse and drain. Remove any unsprouted seeds, and store them in the refrigerator in a covered bowl. Use within one week, and avoid consuming discolored or off-odor sprouts.
The most popular types of sprouting seeds for human consumption include mung beans, lentils, sunflower, peas, broccoli, and wheat berries.
Yep! Sprouting seeds for chickens is really that simple.
Enjoy those sprouted seeds, chick-chicks! Be sure to have your flock report back with a review of how much they enjoyed them. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, and please share this post with all of your chicken-keeper friends!
Additionally, if you enjoyed this post, or are new to chicken-keeping, you may also find these articles useful:
- Feeding Chickens Crushed Eggshells & Oyster Shells for Essential Calcium
- What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Backyard Chickens
- Baby Chick Care 101: Brooders & More
- Backyard Chickens: The Top 18 Breeds for Your Flock