Growing Greens for the Girls

There is an old-time chicken keepers’ adage: “No greens, no eggs.”  While chickens CAN lay eggs without access to greens, greens provide the hens with chlorophyll and beta carotene which in turn create deep golden, rich tasting, highly nutritious yolks in the chickens’ eggs.

Our chickens’ main source of feed during the winter is USDA certified organic complete layer feed, but we supplement their feed with one tray of sprouted wheat berries each day.  We use Wheat Montana’s hard red winter wheat berries for sprouting.  Wheat Montana uses sustainable growing practices and its wheat is non-GMO and chemical free.

An 8 hour soak in cool water on Day 1 prepares the seeds for sprouting.

Spouting grains, like so many processes, is simple but requires consistency and commitment.  On the first morning, we take one cup of wheat berries and put it in a jar that we cover with a scavenged piece of screen and a rubber band.  We rinse the seeds in cool water 4-5 times, draining the water out through the screen lid between each rinse. Then we allow the seeds to soak in cool water until evening.

In the evening of the first day, we drain the soaking water out of the jar, and rinse and drain the wheat berries 4-5 more times.  Then we place the jar on its side on a slight slant overnight, so that it can continue to drain.  We cover the jar with a towel so the seeds can sprout in darkness.

On Day 2, the wheat berries just look like soggy, swollen grains.

Each morning and evening for the next three days, we continue the process of rinsing and draining the seeds in cool water and allowing the seeds to drain in darkness.

On Day 3, a threadlike tail, the root, appears, and a small “button” at the top of each grain shows where the sprout will grow.

 

On Day 4, the wheat berries all have a thin root and a thicker whitish sprout on opposite ends of the seed.

On Day 5 the sprout has grown to about ¼” long, and it is time for the sprouts to be exposed to light so they can green up.  We use perforated 10” x 21” seeding flats for this, but when we were growing smaller quantities of sprouts last winter, we simply punched holes in the bottom of re-purposed plastic salad green tubs.

On Day 5, the sprouted wheat berries are transferred to a flat seeding tray and placed in the light for greening up.

Once the sprouts have been transferred to their trays, we put the trays in a south facing window, and sunshine or not, the sprouts grow and turn green over the next 2-3 days.  Each day, we continue to rinse and drain the seeds in their flats morning and evening.

For the first time, on Day 6, we can see a faint green tinge to the sprouts.

By Day 6, the sprouts are definitely turning green, and by Day 7, the sprouts are a a bit greener and have reached about 1” in length.

On Day 7, the sprouts are almost ready!

We feed the sprouts to the chickens on Day 8, when the sprouts are bright green and have reached about 2” in length.

On Day 8, the spouts look like a well tended lawn. A sweet and delicious treat for chickens.

Chickens, like most of us, are creatures of habit.  I usually bring the sprouts up to them between 1 and 2 in the afternoon, when I also check for eggs and make sure the feeders and waterers are full.

Wading through a sea of hungry chickens, all intent on getting their snack, is not for the faint of heart!

It is a little disconcerting to see all 80 chickens assembling at the gate around 12:45 PM, but I guess the arrival of their afternoon green snack is their most anticipated moment of the day!