Follow our series on starting and maintaining a sprouted grain system for natural livestock fodder! It’s like providing pasture for your animals without needing the pasture and at a fraction of the cost! Enjoy!
Today I picked up the beginnings of our sprouted fodder system. This system will allow a 9-day cycle for grain growth and will be the main food source for our chickens, rabbits, and (incoming) quail. The birds will also be given calcium and grit supplements and the rabbits will be given an alfalfa/orchard grass mix hay for roughage. From my research, I found that barley is not only the easiest to sprout, but also is the highest in nutrient and protein value as compared to wheat or oats.
For $14.20 dollars, I bought a 50-pound sack of untreated (pesticide free), recleaned, whole barley seed. Obviously you don’t want to purchase treated grain seed; it could make your animals very sick or it can even be fatal. But have no fear! The grain I picked up was actually labeled as “poultry feed” and the label even recommended feeding it to game birds. Score! That makes me feel better about feeding to our near-future quail.
So, let’s talk trays and racks. I stopped by the dollar store and picked up these BPA-free plastic storage containers (like Glad food savers) that measure 13.8″ x 10″ x 2.5″ inches… for a dollar each. If this sprouting stuff works out, I can invest in heavy duty trays. Luckily I already had two of those metal shelf rack things that I bought a million years ago from the dreaded Walmart for $15 dollars each I think. If you can’t salvage a rack you already have, you can always build one from wood or PVC for around the same price.
I initially planned out an elaborate PVC rack that kept all of the trays at alternating angles (for my gravity-fed watering system), but I decided it was far more complicated than it needed to be. So I’ll post those plans separately incase you want to be complicated.
My two racks would take up too much space separately so I decided to stack them. They weren’t really meant to stack so I MacGyver’ed the racks using a bolt and some good old fashioned duct tape. I had my choice of purple, black, or silver, but I chose silver… you know… to keep it classy.
My trays did not come with drainage holes, but since adequate water drainage is an important step in preventing mold, I had to drill my own holes on one side of the trays. My trays are on a 10* degree slope to aid in water drainage during the daily rinsing steps. That’s about a 1″ inch rise on one side for my small trays. Alternatively, you can put a 1″ inch tall wedge under one side of your trays on the racks.
One thing I did learn is that using a drill to put holes in plastic is a bad idea. Drilling cracks plastic. I felt like I had learned this lesson already and just forgot about it. I stopped about halfway through my trays before deciding to pull out my hot wood burning tool to poke holes in the plastic instead.
Once you have your trays with drainage holes and your rack put together, you are ready to go! I am going to add a gravity-fed watering system that does not require an electric pump as soon as I get my hands on a 5-gallon bucket. So as you can see by my beautiful pink arrows, the water will travel down each tray and drain out at the end going right into the next tray. All of the grain seeds will get the water they need, but won’t be sitting in the water encouraging mold growth. Just green sprout growth.