This winter has been hard on everyone, human and animal alike. The laying hens have been stuck in their coop because of the cold. The hens have the choice to go outside, but much like the children and I, they would rather not. There isn't much for them outside now anyway; no bugs, no plants, just a few seeds if they can find them under the snow. So last week we started a treat for them.
This is a super simple and inexpensive treat that you can make for your chickens, or any other farm animal that enjoys greens to eat.
What you need:
- A bag of oats from the farm store like this. A large bag will let you make many many trays of treats.
- A few seed starting trays like these
- Some soil
- A sunny window
- Decide how many trays you would like to do at a time, we did three and are planning to start more trays today. If you do one tray every few days you can have a continuous supply of treats.
- Spread a thin layer of soil in your trays, we put about an inch in ours. You don't need much soil because we are just going to sprout the seeds, not grow an actual oat crop.
- Spread a layer of oats on top of the soil. You can see in the picture above that we let the kids dump a few scoops of oats on the soil and then we just arranged them to be in a single layer.
- Water the seeds gently and place them in a sunny window.
- Let grow to desired height and feed to your chickens.
We let ours grow for a week, so today we took the first tray out. Those chickens were very excited to see green!
I was worried about the chickens fighting over the treat, but the since the roots of the oats had grown enough to make an almost solid brick of plant, I tore pieces apart and spread them around in the coop and the chickens pounced! The guienna fowl quickly joined in too, but they are more skittish than hens so I wasn't able to get a non-blurry picture of them.
I would like to experiment a bit with the sprouting technique. It would be nice to do it without soil, maybe like the way people grow salad sprouts at home. This technique looks simple and it would take up a lot less space than the trays do. Here is a great system using barley that I might try with the oats. It would be really great to supplement some of our hay feedings for the big guys (aka cattle, horses, donkeys and sheep) with fresh foods, but that would take a lot more space and time than we have right now. For the rest of this winter we will keep working on sprouts for the hens, and in a couple more weeks we can take some to these guys:
These chicks are called Freedom Rangers and are an excellent cross of quick growing broilers and more traditional birds that are able to forage in a free range situation. This is our second time raising these birds and we were very happy with the results! You can purchase these chicks Freedom Ranger Hatchery. Here is a quote from their site about these birds:
"Our Freedom Ranger broiler chicks are a great alternative to fast-growing white broiler chicks or slow-growing heritage breeds. Freedom Ranger chicks grow at a moderate rate, reaching their peak weight of 5-6 lbs in 9 to 11 weeks. These active, robust chicks are suitable for free range, foraging and pasture environments and produce tender, succulent meat with more yellow omega 3 fat and less saturated fat than fast growing breeds."