Creating Your Own Fodder System

By TrystInn · Apr 13, 2012 · Updated Jul 16, 2012 · ·
  1. TrystInn
    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.


    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:


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


    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.


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


    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!


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


    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:


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


    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.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. EggWalrus
    "Excellent article!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Oct 1, 2018
    Many of us have larger flocks that need a large scale fodder system. I have sprouted in jars but when I gave it to the birds, it was devoured in a few seconds and 90% didn't even get any. This larger scale system may work for me if I can get about 20-30 of these Tupperware pans to do a couple of 5 gal buckets worth of fodder a day.
    When I tried to do it in the 5 gal buckets, it wound up getting sorta funky no matter how much it was drained. Not enough fresh air I guess. Maybe this will work better. Any advise is certainly welcome.
  2. honanbm
    "Great information, good updates"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Sep 29, 2018
    Very nice article with lots of details. I'm also in the PNW so I especially appreciate the updates as to which seeds sprout successfully without any additional babying. I'm thinking of doing this in my greenhouse... Thanks for the inspiration!
  3. snow5164
    "Sprouting on a big scale"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Sep 29, 2018
    Great pictures and informative too!
    But I have to say that’s a lot of work ...

    Considering we can sprout in a mason jar or any tray for more birds , I hope you have a lot of chickens and time

    An interesting read and well put together article , congratulations


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  1. JeanetteDunn
    When the wild bird seed I use in the yard feeders, or scratch grains get wet; I put them in the compost pile in the chicken run. They seem to sprout well in there and the chickens have fun rummaging around in there for bugs and the sprouted grains.
      MissPoulette and henaynei like this.
  2. smarrie
    I'm guessing the original article and trays have passive drainage from one tray to the next thru the bottom holes?
    I have a mini commercial system that I bought from FarmTek but truthfully anyone remotely handy could make one. Mine is in my basement and I do keep a dehumidifier down there. As to the extra work -my watering system is on a timer off my plumbing and drains into my sumppump, so once it was set up it takes me about 10 min/day to harvest fodder, spread next seeds into tray and soak next batch. Watering and draining happen automatically. I feed to my birds and my horses.
    You can see a number of hydroponic home-made systems on the internet -usually listed for people food but easily for this as well
      Christabean likes this.
  3. 3riverschick
    Plotspike Forage Oats. Invented by linebreeding in 2002 at Louisiana State University. Used by hunter to seed deer plots. Excellent success sprouting. I get mine at Tractor Supply. Comes in 25 and 50 lb. bags. Plotspike also makes other formulas of forage seeds like Forage feast formula. Their seeds are not coated by any chemicals.
    At Tractor Supply:
    29.99 for 50 lbs. of Forage Oats
    29.99 for 40 lbs. of Forage Feast
    They have more formulas by Plotspike too.
    Karen in western PA, USA
    1. Kayla's Lunch
      Have you used this? I have heard that oats are hard to use for fodder.
  4. Kayla's Lunch
    Great article. I really appreciated all the pictures. I want to do this for the winter when the chickens may not find much to their liking when they forage outside. Can you tell me how much your barley cost?
  5. Justso
    Can I ask, why fodder?
    Is it used as a treat/ alternate to free-range greens in winter?
    Thanks for sharing!
  6. JeanetteDunn
    Can you sprout scratch grains?
  7. Callender Girl
    I appreciate all the good information and your photos. This looks doable!
  8. SuperK
    Great article, thanks for sharing. Ours do awesome with Wheat, Barley and BOSS, once germinated the BOSS catches up quickly. Not able to get any other seed on this island unless we order a pallet at a time.
  9. punatiquemama
    this is awesome. I grow wheatgrass for my own health, usually give the "bottoms' to the girls, but now I think I must try to grow these other greens for them speciifcally... yes, my girls are spoiled rotten!
  10. prospecthill
    I'm starting with a few goslings in April. Would this be a good option for starting them grazing before the grass gets going? Any info on raising pet goslings from other readers would be appreciated...Prospect Hill
  11. SuperK
    I am in Hawaii (grow zone 10) so it's warm here year round. >85 and I had to stop my sprouting station because of the mold growth. I wash and rinse my trays with bleach (10% solution) and set for 2-3 days before reloading them, but still the overhead watering brings on the mold. I am also interested in the white trays so I can do under tray watering rather than overhead. I did three trays a day on a six day cycle.
  12. wellwornsoles
    Do you ever have a problem with mold? I am located in West Central Florida and am trying to grow my fodder in an insulated shed as I assumed that it would be too warm outside soon to do it. I have put an AC unit in my shed for temp regulation but it seems my fodder always ends up growing some kind of mold. And my humidity meter always says it's humid in the shed so I was assuming that is why. I have troubleshooted other possible culprits such as standing water, rinsing the seeds very well with a little bit of bleach water...but it still seems to attract those little gnat/fruit flies and grow some sort of mold. The roots of the barley fodder are not molding or sliming.

    Have you experienced hot temperatures while trying to grow your fodder?

    Sorry for all the questions and thank you in advance for anyone's insight or answers!
    1. SuperK
      Well Worn,
      Sorry so long for the reply, in the middle of lots of projects. Short answer is Yes, long answer is also yes: In Hawaii the humidity is 85-100% most of the time, and in my water down system coupled with my newbie mistake of putting in new trays into the just the fed trays spots(not rotating the trays properly) I was getting a lot of fuzzy white mold on the seeds and grasses on some of them. Never on the roots though.
      I would drain and bleach the sump bin every three days and the trays I would allow to air dry for a week, then clean them all with a 50% (of the bottles 5%) bleach solution and again let them dry a day or two before getting them back into rotation.
      I believe that not being able to clean the entire system, the recirculating tubing was zip tied onto the racks, and the lack of a rotation plan (take sprouts from the bottom, shift trays and add new trays to the top) allowed a carbohydrate build up in the trays and that was trickled down with the water into the lower trays feeding the mold that is ever present on this Island.
      My sprout station production is currently on hold while I am re-designing the entire process to get rid of the mold problem. I am looking into a flood and drain type system on a shelf by shelf basis. Each tray would be gently flooded on a 3 hour schedule and would be allowed to drain by gravity into a PVC drain pipe system. This will be a non-recycling system with each tray getting a fresh water load to avoid mixing water from the trays above.
      If this does not stem the mold growth, only the turkeys like the grasses that appear, I will make this a germination or fermented seed station and feed at 3-4 day rather than wait for the leafy growth at 6-7 days.
      As for the gnats, I tried screening the unit to keep them out, but the first time you leave it open for a minute, they seem to know it and are on it en mass. I'll be posting my progress-
  13. MelbaQ
    This system looks great. But I have a question.I let my chickens free range most days, but they do make a mess of my garden/ yard ( I fence in my serious garden) and they have a very large coop. But would this be an adequate substitute for laying pellets?
  14. oregonkat
    Brilliant! I love the whole thing. I am wanting to try this.
  15. VintageLilFarm
    Fun that BYC revived this thread by sending it out. :)

    I read somewhere previously that sprouts are better for chickens than actual fodder , because fodder can impact their crops. Has anyone had any experience with this either way? Also, what would be reasons to use fodder instead of sprouts anyway, since sprouts grow more quickly and can be done pretty easily in jars with cheesecloth? I've given sprouts before and want to get into a routine of fresh food, whether sprouts or fodder or whatever. Thank you!
    1. SuperK
      There are enzymes that in the seed when rooting, but disappear when growing greens. Our chickens love the just the sprouted grain seeds but the turkeys will eat the whole sprout - seed, roots and plant. So I sprouted out to fodder and let them choose. It's cheaper to feed the porky turkeys this way.
      punatiquemama and VintageLilFarm like this.
  16. bjosie2150
    I have started wheat fodder the last 2 weeks for my chickens. I am in Southeast Texas and have my setup in the house in an extra bedroom with a grow light. My rye grass hasn't sprouted at's been a week. I think I am just going to stick with the wheat setup since every 7-8 days it seems to be going a 50# bag from local feed store for $12.
    1. SuperK
      Here or wheat is 18-20 for 50#
  17. Phottoman
    Folks, I think you are all missing something truly amazing and interesting in NOT raising your own fodder. One: There ARE NO RULES and Two: YOU SAVE MONEY.

    I have tried Barley, Oats, Rye, corn (dismal failure) and BOSS. They all worked (except the corn) and were great for the birds, they would actually swarm me as I walk out with sprouted seeds, they loved it all that much.

    You don't need anything fancy, like anyone elses bowls or containers, just use what you have. I found that trays I buy on ebay for about $2 each will work ... FOR ME. You may find something different at home that you can put to use. I made a big thing about my system, even built a great rack system for my office, but had to stop when the temps went over 110 degrees (Arizona) but am now back to raising fodder. And the birds all let me know they missed having it for them.

    As for cost, sure the seeds may cost you a little more than chicken feed, but you get back eight pounds of fodder for each pound of seed, and it's better for your birds than just feeding them processed feed from a feed store.

      SuperK likes this.
  18. beverly evans
    Hi! If I'm rinsing the seeds/sprouts 3xs daily and tapping out the excess water, can I do with out the trays? I live in central Texas and thought I could do it outside. It is Oct. and we are having our first cool spell, all of 49 degrees! only have 7 chickens. THX

  19. Nutcase
    Thanks SO much!
  20. grizlyadams3
    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..
  21. myfivehens
    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!
  22. TrystInn
    We got them at the local nursery/garden supplier and frankly, we're no longer using them! :D
  23. Hawkeye95
    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.
  24. RoyalPayne
    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.
  25. vanalpaca
    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 [email protected]. 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.
  26. TrystInn
    We're getting ours from several sources: feedstores, farmers markets and bulk orders from nurseries that will do it.
  27. olyfarmstead
    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?
  28. TrystInn
    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.
      MelbaQ likes this.
  29. MsBagawkbagawk
    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?
  30. MsBagawkbagawk
    Cool, I haven't heard of that one yet.
    One more question: What seed did you think was best for egg production?
  31. TrystInn
    That's an easy answer on all accounts: Black Oil Sunflower Seed :D
  32. MsBagawkbagawk
    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!
  33. TrystInn
    July's update includes the marvelous Austrian Pea!
  34. TrystInn
    We've updated with Red Barey and Farro seed.
  35. TrystInn
    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.
  36. ci_cyfarth
    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.
  37. TrystInn
    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!
  38. timbuck2mom
    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?

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