Sprouting – For Feed and Fun!

Sprouting – For Feed and Fun!

Wheat Sprouts - Day 6

Each fall as the weather gets colder, free range opportunities become limited and the availability of fresh greens decreases. For domesticated livestock, this time of year means becoming more and more dependent on grain-based prepared feeds. Not only does the overall cost of caring for animals increase over the winter, but many plant sourced nutrients become difficult to access.

An easy way to provide fresh greens and reduce feed costs is to grow sprouts or fodder. When it comes to sprouts, the more the merrier! They are able to be used for a wide range of animals and livestock and are a great addition to a salad or wrap for human consumption as well. By sprouting organic whole grains before consuming, the sprouts are more bioavailable and digestible, therefore significantly increasing the amount of macro-nutrients (protein) and micro-nutrients (Vitamins A,C E & B complex) the animal is able to absorb and benefit from. Because of the increase in volume created by sprouts this is also very satisfying and filling. Allowing the grains to germinate creates an inexpensive source of concentrated nutrients. All sorts of grains, seeds, and legumes can be sprouted, including our Organic Whole Peas, Barley, and Wheat, as well as sunflower seeds and other beans. Compared to dry grain, sprouts produce a much larger volume of feed. Just be sure to research which are appropriate and safe to consume for the animals being fed. Our  high-quality, organic and Non-GMO Project Verified whole field peas, wheat, oats and barley are great options for sprouting.

When getting started, it can be difficult to know exactly how the sprouting experiment will go. Growing sprouts or fodder for your animals will add additional time to your daily feeding and care routine so it may not work for every situation. Trial and error will be necessary as every environment is different and many factors can affect the outcome. Our Cluckin’ Good Sprout-Ferment Starter Kit is a great way to start small and build on your sprouting expertise from there. For chickens, it will be best to stick with sprouting rather than allowing grains to reach the fodder stage as the longer grasses can block the crop causing it to get impacted and sour.

Sprouts

Fodder

4” or less, considered more root than grass Taller than 4”, looks like grass, creates a “mat”
Average of 2-5 days depending on whole grain Average of 4-7 days depending on seed
Less likely to develop mold More likely to develop mold
Endless container options – jars, trays, bowls Trays recommended
Used for a variety of animals Better for ruminants and larger livestock
Recommended for chickens Not recommended for chickens – crop hazard


Peas - Day 2Step 1:  Sourcing – Not All Whole Grains Are Created Equal!

Like with most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to whole grain quality. There are grains specific to sprouting for human consumption, others may have a viability guarantee, there are even grains treated with chemicals like antimicrobials or fungicides that should not be used for anything except direct plantings. The best choice for sprouting or growing will always be Non-GMO Project Verified and Certified Organic seeds and whole grains. Be sure to check for freshness as older seeds and whole grains will not germinate as well!

Step 2:  Disinfecting – Clean Hands, Grains and Containers

To help prevent mold and fungus issues later on, the most important step is making sure your hands, the containers used and the whole grains themselves are as clean as possible. Before working with them, make sure you are prepped and ready with clean hands and sterilized sprouting containers.

Whether growing sprouts or fodder, it is recommended to sort through the whole grains for any foreign items, even before rinsing or soaking. Look for anything that is not what you are intending to sprout – field debris, other grains, rocks, dirt, broken seeds, etc. Removing these first will help to prevent issues from developing later on. Different grain sources will provide a variety of quality and cleanliness.

Step 3: Hydration – Initial Rinse and Soak

Dry whole grains are considered dormant until exposed to enough water to fully absorb and soften the shell for sprouting. After rinsing and draining them, add them to a container able to fit all the whole grains plus 2-3 times the amount of water, along with providing room for the grains to expand as they absorb water. When rinsing or soaking, too much water will never be a problem – however, issues can occur if not enough water is used or if they are soaked too long. Each grain soaking time will vary with most ranging between 8-12 hours. For example, legumes like beans and peas are recommended to be soaked 8-12 hours, while the suggestion for grains like wheat and barley is about 6-12 hours.

Step 4:  Maintenance – Rinse, Drain and Repeat

Once the grains have finished soaking, rinse and thoroughly drain before adding to the chosen container. For smaller sprouting projects, a quart mason jar may work just fine, while a larger fodder production will need trays of some sort. Whatever container is chosen, drainage is crucial! Some people may even choose to drill holes in a flat seed tray or tub with a tray underneath to prevent standing water in their containers. If a mason jar is used, it is best to cover the mouth with cheesecloth and turn it upside down to continue draining in between rinses. When using trays, it is best to keep the grains at a depth no more than ½” to help with air circulation and drainage.

Place your sprouting or fodder container in an area with some light, but no direct sunlight at about 60-75 degrees. Do not put the container in a cupboard due to stale air issues – air flow is important to prevent mold and fungus from developing.

Every 8-12 hours, rinse the sprouts with clean, cold water several times and then drain as much water as possible.  During this process, it is important to look for any discoloration among the sprouts that may be mold or fungus. Repeat the rinse and drain process until the sprouts or fodder reach the desired length – usually 3-5 days depending on seed or whole grain used.

Step 5:  Feeding Frenzy – Who’s Hungry?!

Grab a handful of sprouts or break off a chunk of fodder to take out to the animals. Some people like to use a feeder to keep the sprouts contained – or even just toss them on the ground for your animals to enjoy!


With sprouting grains and growing fodder, the biggest concern is always the potential for mold to develop. Depending on the animal and the mold type, eating grains contaminated with mold can be toxic and potentially fatal when consumed. As such, it is recommended to always discard any sprouts or fodder found to contain mold. It is easy to confuse the root hairs on sprouting grains with mold. A simple way to tell the difference between root hair and mold is to rinse and drain the sprouts.  If the white fuzz is gone it was just root hairs and if it is still there, you have mold or fungus. The sprouts smell fresh – like a sweet grass – like something you’d want to eat! If the sprouts or fodder smell like stinky gym socks, it is an indicator something is not quite right. Always make sure to look over the sprouts when you’re rinsing for any signs of mold or fungus growth.

While many factors can contribute to sprouting issues like mold growth, the main causes are:

  • Water contamination or poor sterilization of container.
  • Whole grains or seeds were not rinsed or soaked properly.
  • Poor drainage after rinsing.
  • Environmental temperature is too warm or too cold.
  • Poor air circulation or high humidity.
  • Rinsing sprouts infrequently or with warm water instead of cold.
  • Poor germination due to improper soaking or drainage, or old seeds or grains.

Additional Tips & Tricks:

  • Ideal environmental temperature is about 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Containers can vary: Trays, jars, tubs, etc – anything can potentially work as long as water is properly drained.
  • Barley and peas tend to be some of the fastest and easiest to sprout.
  • Some situations may improve sprouting by including a grow light, fan for better air circulation, or even a sprouting cover.
  • While you are able to recycle and reuse rinse water, it isn’t ideal as it can contribute to mold or fungus development.
  • Start a sprouting tray or container every few days to make sure you don’t run out.

Whether sprouting for the winter or all year around, the process can be a fun experiment and a great way to add fresh, healthy nutrients into the diet. With the wide variety of seed options available, the possibilities are endless!

Visit our Learning Center for other blogs, FAQs, and downloadable sprouting, fermenting, and feeding guides.


Here are a few examples of mold you may find if the sprouts or fodder experiment does not go as planned.

These sprouts were thrown into the compost.

Mold - Red Fuzzy Mold - Multiple Types Mold - White

6 Comments

  1. Sophia Landau June 13, 2017 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    Great read! A beneficial and fun thing to do for the animals throughout winter.

  2. Candice Hawkins June 16, 2017 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Used to make sprouts for myself but got too busy. Now have chickens that want fun things to eat and need nutrition. I tried seed trays using ‘Chicken Salad’ but rats got into a fenced in area and dug thru dirt to get small seeds just sprouting. They are one bunch I hope get poisoned off of moldy sprouts.
    Thx for your great story.

  3. Betty October 1, 2017 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    Should i feed hogs sprouts or fodder?? I have chickens, hogs, turkeys, and rabbits, how much sprouts/fodder do i feed? Also, i heard that 4 day old sprouts are more nutritious than 7 day old fodder. What is your opinion? Sorry for so many questions, but i just started sprouts/fodder 😊 thank you

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds October 2, 2017 at 3:15 pm - Reply

      Hi Betty,

      As far as how much sprouts/fodder to feed, start with the dry amount suggested per animal for the given feed, and reduce from there, depending on other food sources available and other variables. Be sure to watch the weight of your animals and adjust amounts accordingly. For chickens we recommend feeding only sprouts, but for larger livestock, fodder is nutritious and good for gut health. Really, it comes down to preference for the larger animals.

  4. diana alexander October 11, 2017 at 7:40 am - Reply

    At what age would I start feeding my chicks sprouted grains? I am currently using your Organic Chick Feed. Does it make send to sprout this? Right now they are just over a week old and LOVE your Organic Chick Feed. And I am a brand new chicken owner trying to learn all I can.

    • Scratch and Peck Feeds October 11, 2017 at 9:53 am - Reply

      Hi Diana, welcome to the world of chicken keeping (and loving, and obsessing!) We recommend fermenting our feeds (such as our Organic Chick Starter), and sprouting our whole grains (such as our organic wheat, barley, and oats). The whole grains are better for sprouting over the feeds because they are clean grains (for example, they don’t have added organic flaxseed oil). Sprouting is better when the birds are a little older and more developed, such as at pullet age. Chicks can eat fermented feed, though, which you can do easily on the small scale. Check out our blog post on fermenting and see if that is something you may be interested in doing at this stage, then transition to sprouting once the birds are older: https://www.scratchandpeck.com/feed-and-fines-maximizing-the-value-with-fermented-feed/.

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