May 14 2009

Spoiling the Girls

We’ve been feeding the chickens a batch of wheat sprouts every few days, and they really like them, so I took pictures of the last batch so I could write up a little how-to on it.  We’ve also sprouted millet and radish seed, but mostly we’re doing wheat.

We got the wheat from my folks; it’s just ordinary hard red winter wheat they grew last year, not gentically modified and with no chemicals sprayed on it.  My mom feeds it to her chickens (the grain, not sprouted) and they like it better than corn or oats.  The sprouts are more nutritious, though, since the sprouting process breaks down the phytates that are in all seeds.  Phytates bind to minerals in the seed and make them harder to absorb, so this frees them up.  The sprout also absorbs minerals from the water, although I don’t know how much they get from filtered city water.  It wouldn’t be practical to make enough sprouts to make that their primary feed, but some every few days ought to be a nice boost to their diet.

Sprouting Wheat - What You Need

Sprouting Wheat - What You Need

You don’t need anything fancy to make your own sprouts.  In the picture above, we’ve got our bucket of wheat, a 1/4 cup measuring cup, a wide-mouth canning jar, and a mesh lid I bought special for sprouting.  The lids were cheap and it shouldn’t be too hard to find them, but if you don’t have one, you can also put cheesecloth across the top and fasten it with a rubber band, or punch a whole bunch of holes in a regular lid with an icepick.

Sprouting Wheat - Soaking

Sprouting Wheat - Soaking

Put a 1/4 cup of wheat in the jar, fill it halfway with water, and put on whatever lid you’re using.  Make sure all the wheat is in the water, and put the jar away in a dark place overnight or for several hours.  At this point you’re just soaking it.

The next morning, dump off the water and run fresh water into the jar until it’s half full, slosh it around to rinse all the grains, then pour it out.  You’ll repeat this process at least a couple times a day, ideally 3-4 times.  Each time, fill the jar enough to get everything wet, then pour all the water out and put the jar back in its dark place.  The darkness keeps the sprouts from trying to leaf out.

In three or four days, your sprouts will be ready to use.  Here are some fuzzy pictures of the process.

Day 2: Poured off the soaking water and did the first rinse; no growth yet.

Day 1: Poured off the overnight soaking water and did the first rinse; no growth yet.

Day 3: Some growth started

Day 2: Some growth started

Day 3: Lots of growth; could use them anytime

Day 3: Lots of growth; could use them anytime

Day 4: Better use them; they're running out of space!

Day 4: Better use them; they're running out of space!

At this point, they were a thick mass that wasn’t easy to get out of the jar.  By the way, that’s why you want a wide-mouth jar.  With a regular jar, you’d have a hard time getting them out the smaller opening.

Chickens Eating Sprouts

Chickens Eating Sprouts

Then we tear the mass of sprouts into a few chunks, so the chicks all get a chance and don’t have to fight over them.  They don’t quite come running when we throw them stuff yet, but they’re learning.  Within an hour, these were all gone.  Next to bugs and worms, I think sprouts might be their favorite food.

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