Chickens “Live Greens” Fodder Experiments

Recently I’ve been researching growing fodder for my chickens. I know how much they miss fresh green grass during the cold winter months. And I began looking for a way to provide live greens during the off-gardening season.

Learning about growing fodder on my own meant computer research, reading and asking many questions. I also became interested in sprouting too. Because I could provide green sprouts easily I switched to learning about sprouting first and am back on track for my fodder. Guess I can easily get led off track! Lol!

Three heads down combs

Thee three amigos attack the fresh fodder barley grass.

But now it’s fodders turn and I am in the experimentation stage.

First I had to find out what type of seeds make the best chicken fodder.  I learned almost any seeds can be used and some of the chickens known favorites are wheat and barley.

Row of pans in laundry room

Preparing the tins and seeds.

 Then I had to locate these seeds at my local feed store as well as on-line. When I found out that my regular feed store sold barley seeds that are grown for them by the Amish and are untreated, I knew those were the one for me. I bought 1 pound of seeds since I am in the experimentation phase. I did not want to get stuck with 50 lbs. of barley seeds if this did not work for me.

barley seeds in pan close

The barley seeds before the soil and water were added.

I began growing some barley in pie tins in potting soil on my dining room table. I was amazed that they germinated in just two days and by day four were already 5″ to 7″ tall. Fast growing!

I made two mistakes with the tins; 1) I did not plant them thickly enough and 2) I used my household potting soil with perlite in it. I didn’t think this through until afterwards that I should have used regular soil without the toxic white perlite. Lesson learned!

5 fodder on table

Growing fodder in a boot tray on my dining room table.

Then I began to get a small plot ready in the chicken run using part of our old chicken coop and some soil we dug up when we recently fenced in the raspberry patch. Today I planted the seeds and planted them more thickly this time. I covered them thinly with more soil and watered.

Fodder planted and watered

The proactive screen over the barley seeds in the open chicken run.

If this idea works like I hope it will, I’ll use two other areas in the vegetable garden for two additional “fodder beds.” Later on this fall I think the hoop house will also work after it is set up. There will be sunshine; heat and plentiful water close by.

Snowball in grass lookingup  USE

Snowball is happy to be eating the barley fodder!

Here is my first rudimentary experiment with making chicken fodder.

What I did wrong:

  1. I did not soak the seeds overnight. I did just not know about this step.
  2. I didn’t think and pulled out my regular indoor potting soil (with perlite in it) to sprout the fodder. Then it occurred to me the perlite are a kind of asbestos and not healthy for the chicken. Busted!

What I did right:

  1. I found untreated barley seeds grown by the Amish at my regular feed mill. They offer 50 lb. bags or by the pound. I bought one pound for just 65 cents to give it a try. It amazingly sprouted within two days. Fast growing!

But like most mistakes it was a good lesson learned for me. Now when I start these barley seeds outside under the chicken “screen” I used regular dirt so there are no perlite to hurt the chickens.

I still have a lot to learn to get this right but it is coming.

To Grow Fodder Indoors on Inexpensive Wallmart Metal Stand:

  1. Use trays or pie tins Use one pound of seed per tray. Ends up being 1-4 pound of fodder per tray.
  2. Put grains in a bucket and let it soak for 12 hours, and then pour off extra water. If you need two trays of fodder per day, make two trays of fodder each day.
  3. Smooth the grains out. Put trays on your food shelving rack or growing spot.
  4. Waters tray lightly twice a day. Do not reuse water.
  5. Barley seeds need 65 to 75 degrees to grow.
  6. Depending on your seed choice, fodder grows from 4 to 8 days.
  7. When ready to feed, flip the fodder tray upside down. Using a box cutter cut through the thick mat of fodder. Cut out a chunk and most chickens eat the grass, the sprouts, and the mat.

If you care to know more about growing fodder for your chickens you can visit YouTube or the Facebook page Fermented Feed and Fodder on the Farm page at

Small House Homestead and chicken keeper, Donna

P.S. I didn’t let the chickens eat the perlite in the above photo. I set the pie tin down just long enough for a photo and then removed it. I pulled out the barley grass one at a time and tossed them on the ground. No chickens were harmed in the preperation of this blog post!!

March Madness Chicken Chalet Litter Cleaned Out

Chicken Challet written in sand It’s March 24th and we have been having an unusually dry spring in Michigan this year. Normally we have a lot of spring rain by now and rain is what is predicted for the rest of this week. Today it is now or never for the coop litter refresh!

Coop before litter cleaned out USE

The litter situation “before.”

I did what I call a “lick and a dab” clean out of the deep litter in our chicken coop. This litter has been building up layer by layer throughout the winter and consists of sand, pine shavings, leaves, chicken food and small bits of poop.  I do scoop it out everyday to keep it as poop free as possible, but with teenage poultry there are always small bits left. The deep litter method is one way to help keep the coop a bit warmer during the coldest and snowiest months of a rural SW Michigan winter.

Bucket diaganol nice

A few easy scoops out followed by a whisk broom clean out.

Sand filled plain USE

The litter situation after the clean out; fresh and clean.

Early this morning I scooped out the coop using a small camping shovel and then I brushed it carefully out. I let it air out for several hours and then replaced the soiled sand with clean sand. I still plan to do a very thorough clean out this summer when it is warm enough that I can really hose the coop out top to bottom and spray and scrub using the natural orange cleaner I made this winter.

But it was still below zero this morning then I did this project and not only are our outside pumps not turned on yet, I did not want to risk washing out a coop that might not have time to thoroughly dry. Rain is predicted tomorrow and throughout the rest of this week so putting the chickens back into a damp coop was certainly not a good idea.

Sandpile covered USE

Our pile of chicken coop sand after the winter. Covered up it stayed fairly dry.


Sand pile uncovered USEI tossed the old litter into the end of the vegetable garden where the grass and weeds live and where I want the chickens to dig up and aerate the soil.

Now that I have fresh sand as litter again in the “Chicken Chalet” I will go back to using the daily plastic, kitty litter scoop clean out process each morning. And all will be well until the weather turns warm enough for a hose and a scrub.

Small House Homestead, chicken keeper, Donna

P.S. When I put them to bed for the night they freaked. They do not like the sand only/all one color tone coop bottom. I think that maybe the all one color sand looks likes like a bottomless coop and they were definitely afraid to jump in. I had to put some leaves back in to give them the confidence that all was well. Chickens do not like change!


Don’t Bag Those Leaves, Put Them to Use!

When Gene said to me last week, ‘Maybe I’d better rake those leaves out of the chicken run too?’

I replied, ‘No way, leave them, please.’

HORZ coop under tree barn in background

The chicken coop (brown with white corrugated roof) sits between the raspberry bed and the pole barn under the White Oak shade tree.

We started out with weedy moved grass in the pen this spring before we adopted our small chicken family. There is nothing wrong with grass in the pen of course, but I knew at some point that after a few months of scratching that grass would soon become mud. I also knew that because our pen is located under a giant oak tree for shade to try to keep the pen emptied of leaves would be fruitless. So then we decided to use leaves for the chicken pen “flooring.”

Barn-shack-deepsky-trees USE

This view gives you an idea of our large White Oak trees and you can imagine the amount of leaves we have each fall!

With 47 large White Oak trees on our property, using our plentiful leaves is so much more economical than buying shavings and so much less work than keeping the leaves raked up and out of the pen. The chickens also love to jump in and scratch around in these leaves too.

Gene on tractor behind pool shack

We pick up the leaves from our property using our lawn tractor and leaf pick up attachment.

Not only does the leaves cover up the chicken poop mess and it keeps their little feet nice and clean too.

Clover-leaves in run

Momma Clover and the chicklets scratching in the oak leaves.

With the chickens continual scratching eventually those leaves and that poo will turn into composed soil and when that day arrives we will scoop that compost out and use it on the garden to grow some great vegetables. The rest of our many leaves go on the woods paths, under the White Pines as mulch, in the vegetable garden pathway and they are also used to create a weed free, border around our property.

Every leaf here is put to good use!

Small House Homesteader, Donna





A Homesteader Can’t Plant too Many Trees

There is no one Arbor Day on our Homestead. We plant trees both spring and fall here.

This fall we planted five more 6 foot tall trees on our Small House property. Two are White Pines and three are Arborvitae. It seems like we are always planting one kind of tree or another. Mostly we plant them for screening from the busy roadway outside of our home but trees, as you know, give us so many more other benefits too.

East pines USE

These White Pines will help to screen noise, traffic and pollution from the roadway to our home.

It takes a White Pine approximately 75 years to grow to its mature height (75 ft.) and width (35-50 ft.).

Because we have lean, sandy, oak savanna forest soil here we work hard to amend our soil before we plant, sometimes as much as two years in advance. We typically add a lot of compost to the soil mix, either my own homemade compost or well-rotted horse manure compost we haul home from a friends horse farm. We top dress each tree with several inches of bark chips on top after it is planted and watered in.

Bark chips strip only USE

This is the strip of bark chips we readied over two years ago to help our soil along, pre-planting.

Evergreens Genes back USE

The row of arborvitae will help to screen the front of our home from the traffic on this two lane roadway.

I know that we won’t live to see these trees mature in our lifetime but this is one of the things we do on our homestead because we know in our hearts this action is the right thing to do. This is green living and right-action on behalf of our community.

 Four pines to east USE

Eventually these White Pines will grow to create a living screen.

Picket fence pines newly planted USE

This planting bed sits alongside of our gravel driveway and provides a barrier between out roadway and our home.

We plant trees for Mother Nature and the good of our earth community. Excuse me while I go out and water my new trees!

Blessings from The Small House Homestead.


The Heart of this Homestead

At the heart of this homestead is our vegetable garden.

Two beds cloase pool house in rear USE

I built shallow raised beds using logs from the woods and our woodpile. I filled our beds with well composted horse manure and then topped off with bark chips as mulch and weed prevention.

The vegetable garden is where I spend the bulk of my summer months. I am either building a new raised bed, weeding, hauling and dumping composted horse manure, stirring our own homemade compost, planting, harvesting or eating the organic vegetables I grow.

Bins from back open ended

Gene first built our six sectioned compost bin system using free wood pallets and green metal “T” posts.

I am working toward growing and producing as much of our own food as possible. When we first started, I asked myself many of these same questions. Today I would like to share some of the reasons that we’ve chosen to make the commitment to grown our own food, even though, at age 64, it is not always easy at times.

Wire bins entire

Later we needed additional composting space so we added this large wire fenced-in compost bin for larger chunks of organic material. this is where we toss ornamental grasses, thick stemmed plants etc.

Awareness of food quality, pesticides and additives is growing among the general public. When you grow your own food, you have complete control of what the animals are fed, what goes into the soil, and what is sprayed on your crops.

Tomatoes in bowl USE

Today’s harvest of organic tomatoes.

When you grow your own vegetables there is no more guessing or wondering what side effects pesticides or food additives will have on you and your family.

Diaganal tomatoes

This year I am testing growing tomatoes in grow bags in just horse manure compost soil.

I believe it’s more affordable to grow my own than to purchase all my organic produce. Its quite good exercise. I also like to show my granddaughter where her food comes from.


the early days of our bare root strawberries in our raised cedar bed mulched with bark chips.

There is also a great deal of satisfaction in growing one’s own healthy food. And the taste of fresh picked vegetables…oh la la – nothing else compares!

Beans and cukes USE

Today’s harvest of snap bean and cukes.

Living and gardening in SW Michigan can be ‘iffy’ proposition. With our lean Oak Savannah sandy soil heavy amending of our soil is a given. We use almost anything organic we can get our hands on; grass clippings, kitchen scraps, weeds, leaves, manure, bark chips, straw and more. With compost and mulch our garden is a source of much of our summer food. I make raw salads and use these vegetables that I turn into casseroles, sauces, stews, soups, Quiche and much more.

My garden staples include; spinach, chard, kale, snow peas, snap beans, tomatoes and squashes. What I cannot grow I purchase from the farmers market or local farmers.

I like being reliant on my garden for my food. I like walking out to the garden each day and deciding what to have for dinner based on what is fresh and ready to be picked.

Yes, it’s a lot of hard physical labor work but I believe that the garden is worth it. I also believe in voting with my pocketbook and I believe in supporting our local farms. Supporting organic farming is support for small business and job creation in my own community.

Donna at the Small House Homestead