Planting Green Fodders for the Small House Chickens

Chicken run with wire completed USEThe weather man says we are going to have a rainy week in SW Michigan this week.

I took advantage of the coming rain to plant our two barley seeds patches for the chickens. I bought a 50 lb. bag of untreated barley seeds at the Amish feed store last fall and had really good luck with it. Barley seed is often used as a cover crop as it germinates very quickly and holds the soil in place. I use it as green fodder for the hens for when the grass in the run starts to get scarce.

VERT Large frome good sunlight USE

I consider green fodder live greens and critical to my chickens well-being and very important for their nutritional needs.

I dug up the sunflowers that has self-seeded in the run and put them down on the ground for the chickens. I turned up the soil with a shovel in the open chicken run, added a couple of buckets of well composted horse manure soil. I seeded the barley heavily and the moment the chickens saw the seeds hit the ground the Rhodies jumped on the seeds like they were manna from heaven. And at four months they had never seen a seed like those before.

All Rhodies on frame USE

The Rhodies are following the leader and walking along the side of the frame.

I definitely should have waited until they were in the coop for the night before I seeded! I put the cattle panel wood frame over the seeds adding more composted soil on top and put the chicken to bed for the night. I later added cut boards as deterrents to keep them from eating all the raw seeds.

By morning we had a nice rain which moistened the ground and will help the seeds to germinate. Last fall they germinated in just a few days so I expect these will do the same. Pretty soon green barley grass will pop up through the cattle panel and I will take the frame off and store is behind the pole barn and let the girls eat to their hearts content!

Frame large and run corner

The Rhodies fodder patch on day one.

The following day I planted the second and smaller patch in the other open run. Same process but on a smaller scale. This time after I turned up the soil, the hens all came to investigate and helped the process by further turning up the soil for me as they looked for bugs.

I just love it when the chickens help to make my job easier!

Small House Homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

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!!