BackYard Chickens › Member Pages › Creating Your Own Fodder System

Creating Your Own Fodder System

We did a ton of reading on both here and the Family Cow, as well as hit a dozen or so websites. After reviewing the notes we had compiled, we broke it down to the basics and put together our system.  Fwiw, hubby and I both have black thumbs and live in the very chilly, very overcast Pacific Northwest and we're doing this on the back porch with no greenhouse or heating system. And its going great so far! 


What's great about growing fodder is you don't need any soil, any fertilizer or any chemicals.  And its really cheap! Just an old rack, a bunch of dollar store finds - our system cost $20 for containers + less than $12 for 10 pounds of seed. Then you need a little over a week to go from seed to feeding.




Day One - after we rinse the seeds 4 - 5x, we then soak the seeds, they are covered so the seeds are germinating in darkness.


BOSS soaking


Day Two - We rinse the seeds one more time, then divide then in half into two bins and trays - seeds should be no more than 1/2" to 3/4" deep in each tray. Each of these have holes drilled in the bottom. Extra bins are used to provide a light pressure on the seeds to simulate soil. You can see this in the picture below - 4 bins with extra bins on top. The white trays below are set up to drain the excess water into the bins below, then eventually into the turkey roasting pans below. Re-use the water, adding more as needed. We water 3x times a day, never allowing the seeds to become dry.




Day Three - Continue as Day Two, looking for sprouts. BOSS will take longer than the Rye seeds, so we give them an extra day. Begin washing the water collection pans each evening with mild soap and water, making sure to completely rinse out the soap. Otherwise, your bins may begin to get a sour smell and grow mold.






Day Four - Divide each bin (2 becomes 4), continue watering 3x. Remove the extra bins, the sprouts will need the room to grow.


Day Five - Seven. Continue as above, watering 3x daily. If your weather is warm enough and your sprouting has reached the desired height, go ahead and serve to your livestock!


Day Eight - the biscuit is forming below. Its chilly here in the Pacific Northwest, so growth has slowed down considerably. The roots are starting to tangle around each other forming the waffle, the hard base of seed and root. We're starting to think a small light or heater might be a good idea until the warmer weather arrives since our system is outside in the low 60s.




Day 12 - Our sprouts are really growing! We've seen a few bright sunny days, which have shown phenomenal growth. We've started another batch of Rye seed to soaking this afternoon, so tomorrow we'll be putting it on the rack.


Here's the rack rye:


Fodder 002.JPG


And the slow poke BOSS, shown here just after watering so folks can see how much water we do 3x daily:


Fodder 003.JPG


Our system, as shown below. Hubby took some PVC tubing to make a frame for the cardboard 'top' so the tarp would fit tighter - providing greater retention of heat and moisture. We're using the top shelf for storage - extra bins and trays and the seed soaking bowls when not in use, as they are now. The seeds are being stored on the 2nd shelf with the new seeds (currently on their day 3). The 3rd and 4th shelves contain the original set of seeds and the water collection pans are below.


fodder 006.JPG


When we're done watering and dividing, we tuck it up tightly until the next watering.


fodder 004.JPG


For those curious, the "B" bin is a special bin with 8 holes drilled in it. Because of the tilt of the rack (that's not all my crappy photography, we set the rack up with a slight tilt), water rolls to the right and down. That particular bin gets considerably more water than the others and it needs more holes to drain faster. Because we often re-arrange the bins to ensure they all get equal light, etc. we need to make sure that one stays in place. Hubby's 8's and B's are basically interchangeable and he wrote it, so instead of "8" I'm going with "Bonus" for extra holes. :D


We would like to add additional seeds but have been unable to get them locally. If you have any resources to recommend, we'd love to hear from  you:



Barley (whole, not pearled)

Oat Grass (hulled)



Mung beans


Look for more updates, this article is a work in progress! We will be adding additional types of seeds.


July update:


We've had a wonderful success with Austrian Peas!  They have a nice light flavor, somewhat piquant. The seed remains at the end, as a nice crunchy terminal. The rabbits love them and the chickens are still summoning their courage to try them. We're definitely keeping these on our "must keep sprouting" list!


Austrianpeas 002.JPG



The growth is phenomenal, I want to show you how high above the bins these have grown:


Austrianpeas 003.JPG


June update:


We've managed to locally source Red Barley seeds and Farro seeds. The Red Barley seeds took 2 days of pre-soaking to begin rooting, the Farro only took one day to swell up and root. So far the Red Barley has been slow to grow. We'll let you know how the Farro does. We've also started soaking Austrian Peas. Pics to come.


The Red Barley, nearly ready to serve:


Tuesday 005.JPG


The Farro, soaked one day and now pressed 24 hours:


Tuesday 006.JPG


The Farro was a dismal failure, never sprouting and basically just made a soupy mess of itself. The chickens, of course, were happy to eat that. We were less then thrilled, however. We're doing more research to find out if there's something we could have done differently, frankly we're not likely to repeat this one without better information on how to sprout Barley better.

Comments (23)

Thanks for taking the time to post this. I've been having a hard time finding anything on this subject that wasn't a business promoting itself, although that was also very informative.
Do you feed your chickens 1 type of sprouted seed at a time or do you have a variety being sprouted at the same time?
You are most welcome. I ran into the same issue when we were in the research phase. We want to feed them a combination of sprouts, but at present only the Rye was ready for harvesting. We're working to time the sprouts better, so we're learning as we go!
How much light, if any, would this require? We've got a similar rack in the basement, and I'm sure I could find some trays. Plus, with a flock of four, I'm guessing I wouldn't need to have a whole lot going all at once.
We don't use any light, though our unit is on the back porch. You may have to experiment a bit to see what will work for you, some seeds will sprout in the dark some won't without a minimum of light.
We've updated with Red Barey and Farro seed.
July's update includes the marvelous Austrian Pea!
I really want to start doing something like this, but I was wondering what you thought was the best, easiest, and cheapest seed to grow? Thanks for all the info here!
That's an easy answer on all accounts: Black Oil Sunflower Seed :D
Cool, I haven't heard of that one yet.
One more question: What seed did you think was best for egg production?
Sorry, submit finger was ahead of me.
The Black Oil Sunflower Seed, it's just the kind that you would buy as wild bird food right?
Anything high in protein should be very good for egg production - you want to look for at least 18%, ideally. BOSS is exactly what you buy for wild bird food, its very cheap comparatively to what we pay for a bag of Purina Layena around here. We've gotten great egg production with our fodder project, nothing seems to slow down the ladies and the times above for seed to sprout are much quicker now that the Pacific Northwest is a bit warmer. We're running basically a 7 day cycle now.
Thank you for taking the time to share! We are in the Pacific Northwest too (Olympia). Do you mind sharing where you get your seeds?
We're getting ours from several sources: feedstores, farmers markets and bulk orders from nurseries that will do it.
Where did you find the white trays and are they just to catch overflow water? So you have to empty them? You can pm me if desired at Anything to lower feed costs! I am in Zone 5 Ohio and except for having to haul water, I was thinking that doing this in the basement would work as the boiler is down there for the furnace and temp runs about 60 degrees in the winter.
Where did you get your white trays? I'd not want to disturb vnalpaca with your answer. And where is someone getting BOSS for less than layer feed? At my TSC, BOSS is $27 for 50#'s. My layer feed is $13.60.
That is the first thing I wanted to find out-- is where the long shallow white trays were found or bought? I'm wanting to get this set up, but those trays look fantastic and I want them! :)
RoyalPayne-- I buy my BOSS at Atwoods (a farm store) for $19.99 for a 40 pound bag. It lasts a long time, though since you aren't doling it out like your layer feed.
We got them at the local nursery/garden supplier and frankly, we're no longer using them! :D
If my hens are in a chicken tractor that gets moved around is BOSS fodder enough on it's own or would I need to feed other stuff. Mine are still babies but I'm trying to think ahead as to what I will be feeding them. Thanks, great article!
I'm looking at trying to start a fodder growing sys., and would like to know how I can set a sys. up here in Montana. Right now it's the 22nd of Apr. and we are still getting snow and colder temps. Dropping down into the teens and low 2os at night day time temps are anywhere from low 40s to mid 50s even a few days up into low 60s. I don't have a indoor spot to set up a sys. but I was wondering if I could set up a sys. out on my back deck once temps were warm enough . What is the best temp. to start one to grow out side and is growing outdoors ok for growing fodder or not. I may sound dumb but this is all new to me as for growing fodder . I've grown outs in just flower pot trays and never grown feed using a fodder sys. before. So any help would be a big help in getting me off on right foot..
Thanks SO much!
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