Tag Archives: Fodder

Fodder from soup to nuts, or maybe seed to feed?

I know I have posted about fodder before, in this post in November I really thought I had it all figured out. WRONG, just like anything else in agriculture I am coming to believe that no-one ever has it all figured out. This Facebook Group has really educated me about how woefully uninformed I am. Todays post is going to outline day 1 of my fodder process, please feel free to share your differences or similarities.

Soak Bucket

Soak Bucket

I switched to 80 oz. Painters buckets from lowes or home depot, they are cheap and just the right size for soaking. The larger buckets I was using didn’t seem to give me as consistent germination rate, my theory is that with the seeds being spread out more some areas would dry out more than others. Who knows?

Red Wheat

Red Wheat

Today’s batch is Red Wheat with a bit of safflower mixed in. Why safflower? My Sweety, Karen, had given my a bag of sprout mix intended for parrots and it was mostly Safflower and had gotten dumped in my bucket before I moved to my current process. Now rather than just one big bucket of sprouting seeds I keep two; the first is primarily Red Wheat with a diminishing amount of safflower, the second is 100% barley. Right now the barley is producing the prettiest fodder but I still rotate, one day barley the second wheat. Why?  Variety I guess, I don’t have any real reason other than it feels like the right way.

1.7o Ounces of wheat seed

1.7o Ounces of wheat seed

A recent change I have made is reducing the amount of seed per batch from 4.5 cups to 3 cups. The wheat was fermenting a bit and I decided to see if reducing the depth of the seed bed in the trays would help, I’ll let you know if it does. Today Karen brought her kitchen scale home so that I can track what my seed to fodder conversion is, I keep reading of 1-6 and 1-7 ratios but don’t know.

Soaking the seed

Soaking the seed

Seed Draining

Seed Draining

The seed gets soaked for about 6 hours, I tried longer soaks but definitely saw an increase in funk with the 24-36 hour soak times. During the soak period I lift and plunge the buckets several times thinking that the agitation will help thoroughly wet the seed and help keep down the funk via aeration. After soaking the seed stays in the buckets being wet down daily for two days at which time they get dumped into the trays. I will outline that process in my next post.

Soaking/Laundry Sink

Soaking/Laundry Sink

P.S. This sink that my Sweety got me was one of the best improvements in the process so far! Outside the critters were always getting into my stuff, and in the kitchen Karen was always in my stuff. Now that the whole operation is confined to the Laundry room things are much smoother and controllable.

 

 

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Fodder 2.0

 

Last year I first gave Foddering a try. The concept is very appealing, turning 1 lb of nutritious seed into 5-6 lbs of more digestible highly nutritious fodder by just adding two ingredients, water & time. The system became more and more refined during the winter until I thought I had a fairly efficient system as outlined in my Chicken Fodder post this past January. Over on BYC the thread “Growing Fodder for Chickens” is what got me started on Fodder and the thread is full of fantastic information, but beware it has just reached 2500 posts and is still join strong!

How I began this year

How I began this year

This years Fodder season started up about a month ago when temps finally fell below 80 degrees. Last years setup was working OK but the warm temps and winds dried things out too quick and cut into productivity.

After some thought and a bit of fiddling around I came up with this indoor rack along with slightly modifying my process.

Seed

Seed

The first ingredient is the seed. Last year I tried several different kinds and have settled on Red Wheat as the primary ingredient and soak mix My Sweety Karen gets me that is mostly safflower. Barley and Oats caused way too many issues with mold last year.

Seed

2 Cups

 

Fodder Bucket

Bucket

2 Cups of seed go into a pail with water and a splash of bleach to soak for 24 hours.

Fodder

Holy Pail

 

Two Buckets

Two Buckets

 

Rinse Multiple Times Daily

Rinse Multiple Times Daily

After soaking for 24 hours the seed goes into one of 2 perforated buckets that act as colanders allowing the seed to drain. While in the pails the seed gets rinsed as often as I remember to daily.

The new improved indoor rack

The new improved indoor rack

After spending 2 days in the colander buckets the sprouting seed gets spread out in the bottom of one of 8 perforated prep trays to be rinsed once a day. The newest tray goes into the bottom of the rack and works its way up to the top as the oldest of 6 trays get used. 2 trays are always empty, I have found that rinsing the used tray out then letting it sit in the sunshine for a couple days has helped cut down on slime/mold issues.

Fodder02

 

 

Fodder06Fodder04

 

All of our Critters go GaGa over Fodder!

All of our Critters go GaGa over Fodder!

Fodder07

Fodder03

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Indigenous Organisms in my Chicken Feed

My chickens get a fairly diverse diet. Is that because I’m all into optimum chicken health? or is it that I’m obsessed with maximizing egg production? The answer to both of the above questions is an absolute resounding definite kinda maybe. Yes I care about my chickens health and yes I get bummed on slow egg days but neither of those issues independently drive my choices in feed. I find that as I get older I am becoming more concerned about sustainability. The most fascinating thing I have discovered about sustainability is that it meshes nicely with my deeply ingrained cheapness. The best lesson my Grandpa taught me was it is better to buy a good thing once rather than replace crap constantly. For some reason that lesson transmorphed in my head into a system that classifies things as either things that are “worth it” or “luxury” items that aren’t. Refined processed expensive Lay pellets have found their way into that “luxury” slot in my noggin.

Scratch and Grain Feed fermenting in IMO

Scratch and Grain Feed fermenting in IMO

Scratch and 8% feed grain mix fermenting in Lacto from Braggs vinegar

Scratch and 8% feed grain mix fermenting in Lacto from Braggs vinegar

About 50% of my flocks diet is coming from fermented feed. I have a 35 gallon Rubbermaid garbage can with a tight-fitting lid that gets filled up with whatever falls into my “worth it” slot while wandering the feed store. Currently there is Scratch, a little sweet feed, some 8% Grain Feed mix, and a little whole grain pigeon feed in the can. Sometimes my Sweety, Karen, gives me a bag of parrot food of one kind or another. It doesn’t really matter it just all gets dumped in. My fermenters are two sets of two 5 gallon buckets nested inside of each other. The inner buckets have a butt load of 1/8″ holes drilled all over the sides and bottoms to turn them into large colanders. Each bucket gets loaded with 5 scoops of the custom designed mix in my Rubbermaid garbage can, the scoop I use is that nifty one from Starbucks that I told you al about in my post Starbucks Rewards and the Outriders of the Alien InvasionThe hooch in the buckets never gets dumped out it just gets replenished with dechlorinated water when necessary. The orange bucket was originally inoculated with my homemade IMO and Lacto-Baccillus culture, while the blue bucket was inoculated with Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar which has the “mother” or active Lacto-Bacillus cultures. You can definitely tell that there is difference in the micro-organisms working on the feed in these buckets. The Braggs one has a very strong sourdough smell while the IMO one has a bit of an earthy sweet hint to the strong sour smell. Neither one has an off, bad, or funky smell though. According to my very basic understanding of fermented feed the idea is basically to predigest the feed to make the nutrients more bio-available to your chickens. The blog Scratch Cradle some very informative posts on the science of this process. I have tried fermenting other stuff but always find myself drifting back to whole grains, why? I don’t really know other than that mash and pellets get really gooey. In the winter I do add cooked rice I get from a local Asian restaurant but once it warms up it seems to jump-start the brew a bit much.

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Chicken Fodder

Yeah I know not to creative of a title, give me a break it’s been a long day. Fodder has been a topic of mine before, this morning on my feed run I took some pictures of my set-up and am going to share them with you all. Fodder

I tried the inexpensive black nursery trays you can buy at the hydroponics store but they kept cracking on me.

Fodder2

Now I am using restaurant prep trays, I got lucky and a friend was able to snag these from a local restaurant that was going to throw them away due to minor cracks in the rims. Apparently the health department feels they could harbor bacteria. I did check at a local restaurant supply store and these go for $10-$14 a piece which is a bit spendy but would probably be worth it if you were doing this for a lot of chickens and for a long duration.

Fodder3

 

To convert these to sprouting trays I drilled a BUTT-LOAD of holes in the bottom. Probably somewhere between 50 and 75-3/32″ and 1/8″ holes in each one. I also broke half a dozen bits from trying to hurry. The trays get wet down and allowed to drain once a day and are producing a good tray on an 8 day cycle. Over at BYC they have an enormous thread about fodder . After reading the 113 some-odd pages and over 1100 posts you will basically find out that the whole purpose is to stretch your feed by making the nutrients more bio-available which is basically the same thing fermenting feed accomplishes. If your interested in fermenting feed check out this post  over at Scratchcradle Heather really knows her stuff! As for supplies I bought a 50# bag each of Red Wheat and Barley back in November and have just about finally used it all up. Until the last 2 weeks I had only been producing a tray every other day but am now up to a tray a day. I soak 3 cups of seed for 24 hours or so before dumping into a drilled tray, usually I see roots by the end of day 2 and by day 4 there is teeny tiny greenery popping up. After that the growth rate takes off, on BYC they claim a 7 day grow out but for me 8 days gives a nice tight mat that the chickens have to work at a bit to tear apart. The final day of growth I actually pull the mat out of the bin and let it sit out on an open tray without being watered, why? because I only have 7 bins and it works.

 

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Creative ways to make simple tasks more complicated

I find that the cooler temps and shorter days bring out a desire to do things. In the summer there is so much to do but it is a miserable time to do it (at least here), conversely come fall things start tapering off just when it feels good to get out there and do things. Feeding chickens is one of those things that should be simple…right? Last winter and spring I decided that I wanted my chickens to forage for at least part of their diet. This article over at Paul Wheatons site was my inspiration and the foundation for my long term goals in regards to my chickens.

Propagation Tray

Preparing the propagation trays by drilling drainage holes

Red Wheat

5 cups of Red Wheat Prior to soaking

Red Wheat

Red Wheat 24 hours after soaking

Fodder

Red Wheat after 2 days

Red Wheat after 5 days

Red Wheat after 5 days

Chickens eating fodder

The Chickens enjoying the Red Wheat Fodder on Day 6

Mixed Fodder

Round 2 is a mix of Soy Beans, Parrot Sprout Mix, and Red Wheat

My flock took to the Fodder right away and currently I am producing a 10″x20″ tray every other day. I have discovered that Red Wheat is a much more vigorous sprouter than Barley. My process has evolved in the week and a half I’ve been doing this to where now I am soaking 2 cups of parrot sprout mix along with 1 cup of soybeans overnight, then putting a cup of Red Wheat and a cup of Barley on to soak the following night and finally layering them in a propagation tray on the second morning with the Barley/Wheat mixture on top. The parrot sprout mix I am using contains several different types of field peas, safflower, sunflower and vetch. Those grains along with the soy beans provide a very hardy larger sprout while the barley is supposed to be high in protein and the red wheats vigorous roots tie everything together into a tight puck that is easy to handle.

In addition to Fodder I am still actively foraging by proxy for my flock, at least twice a week they get left over cooked rice from a chinese restaurant and I still occasionally get vegetable prep from that same place. My sweety Karen has exotic birds, LOTS of exotic birds, and they are very wasteful of their feed. Rather than sweeping it up or dumping their cups in the trash she now keeps a 5 gallon bucket near which she fills with all of the chaff/seed/pellets they leave in their bowls or toss on the ground. This bucket gets topped off with leftovers and goes out to the chooks about twice a week. On top of this I keep a bucket of high protien pigeon feed fermenting in the coop for those slack days in my foraging efforts. To round out my Flocks nutrition needs I have an auto-feeder setup that is always full of a mix of Lay-pellets and Flock Raiser pellets.

Chicken Feeder

My custom built “Foraging” Table

Chicken Feeder

The water proof feed hopper portion of my Automatic Feeder

Chicken Feeder

The “Magic Trigger” for my Automatic Chicken Feeder

When I moved this setup out of the area that I am trying to grow a chicken pasture in I lost the fancy trigger I ordered off of ebay for $4.99 and then had to pay $10 shipping to get it here from the UK. I had read somewhere that a teaspoon would work just as well and figured what the heck? Low and behold it worked just fine! The chickens go under the foraging table, peck at the “trigger” and out pops a few pellets. It did take a couple of tries to get the hole sized properly so that the feed didn’t just run out but would dump a reasonable amount when pecked.

Yeah I know my Chickens are spoiled……aren’t yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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