Saturday, February 28, 2015

Barley Fodder System

Who doesn't like to see some greenery in the middle of winter? I know I do and so do my chickens. I started a very simple barley fodder system in our spare bathroom. All you need is some small art bins from your local big box store, water and barley seed.

Barley (Hordeum vulgare the hardest thing to find, but if you go to any feed store you will be able to pick up a 50 pound bag pretty cheap. Do not go to your local home-brew store and pick up roasted barley. Roasted barley has already been sprouted and will not work for a fodder system. If you have already made this mistake, make beer with it.

The bin on the left has about a cup and a half of barley seed and a couple inches of water. That is day one. All of the other bins should have holes, smaller than a barley seed, drilled in the bottom. After the first 24 hours, you do not want the barley to be sitting in water. Just make sure you have enough holes drilled to drain the bin. Mine take about a minute to drain.

After 24 hours of soaking your seed, you will want to transfer them to one of the bins with holes in the bottom. Once you do this, put new seed in the soak bin. This is day three. You can see tiny sprouts coming out of the barley seeds. 

You repeat this process everyday. I like to do it in the morning, which is the same time I harvest the end product for the chickens. I have a 9 day system going. The first day is the soak, then each successive day the sprouts get larger until they are big enough to harvest.

These are day 6 and 7. You have to soak every bin twice a day. Since I am doing this in my spare bathtub, sometimes I just plug the drain and fill the tub up a couple inches and let them soak for 5 minutes. Or you can just pour water in each bin. It is very important to do this twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

Here is day 8 an 9. Once you get to this point, you can feed this to your chickens. If you want it to get a little bigger you can pull out the whole sprout mat and just lay it across your bins. You can water it when you soak the bins and it will continue to grow for days if you want.

Once you take it out of the bin, it holds together on its own. You can see how easy it would be to continue letting this grow outside of the bin. I will mention that I am growing this system in our spare bathroom that stays very warm with the door closed. It is about 70 degrees in this room during the winter with the door closed. Having temps above 70 degrees will help with germination and growing. You do not need light though. This bathroom gets almost no sunlight. Most seeds have enough reserves to grow for awhile without sunlight. Barley will do just find growing with no light for two weeks.

Our chickens love the barley grass. The ducks are not so impressed, but they will peck at it. If you are growing this for Muscovy ducks, be warned, they may not touch it. Chickens on the other hand will fight over this green treat in the middle of a gray winter.