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While I’m at it, I’d better share my love of home sprouting for humans too!
Sprouting is an easy and incredibly cheap way to keep yourself supplied with fresh, live food through the winter. Without supporting the use of copious fossil fuels to bring Chilean head lettuce to New York, or wherever the hell you are.
Alfalfa are the most popular sprouts, the kind you see at the store. But I adore radish sprouts too, for the flavor kick! I sprout a mix of the two, and sometimes add in lentils too. Any seed will sprout, but since they take different amounts of time, they won’t always all work in the same jar…
All you need is the seeds and one of those nifty little sprouting lids that screws right onto a wide-mouth Mason jar, so you can drain the jar (cheesecloth will work too). Many stores carry both the seeds and the lids in their health food section.
Simply put your seeds in a jar, let sit overnight, then pour the water out and rinse thoroughly once or twice a day. Keep the jar upside down so it can drain, like in your dishrack. Soggy sprouts equals rotting sprouts.
I use a half Tablespoon each alfalfa and radish, and a Tablespoon lentils in a pint sized jar. When the alfalfa seeds have grown to about an inch long and greened up (4 or 5 days), they’re ready to eat! Put ‘em in the fridge and start a new batch!
Sprouts make an awesome addition to sandwiches. But they’re also great in salads, omelettes, stir-frys, tacos– be creative! Throw ‘em in at the end of cooking though, so they stay fresh and crunchy. Yum for fresh foods!
It’s mid-December. Nothing green in sight. But my chooks are eating fresh live food– sprouted barley!
I didn’t make this up, I read it on Harvey Ussary’s great site, The Modern Homestead. He has lots of good chicken info, and not just your standard stuff either. He really encourages you to mix your own feed and stop putting industry waste into your chickens (and thus yourself). But he also thinks chooks need live food, so he sprouts grain and even raises earthworms.
Although it sounds pretty posh-yuppie to feed your chooks sprouts, Harvey maintains that nothing is more natural, because left to their own devices chooks hunt down fallen seeds on the ground which are often sprouted.
On his site he explains how he does it– with a lot of buckets and schedules. Which would be important if you had a big flock. But I just have 6 hens, and not a lot of extra time. The way I’ve been doing it works almost as well with almost zero extra effort.
If you have chickens, you already have a bucket on your counter for chook scraps. Step one is complete! Now just get some whole grain from your farm supply store- wheat, barley, oats, or a scratch mix- and hack a bucket of dirt from your frozen garden beds. Put these two in a convenient location. Now next time you empty your chook scrap bucket, throw in a small handful of dirt, and a big handful of grain. Run just a little water into the bucket, sloosh it around till it looks like mud. Then just leave the bucket on your counter and proceed as usual. When the bucket’s full, or once every few days, go feed your chooks their fresh rations: veggie scraps, sprouted grain, and the dirt they love!
If you fill your scrap bucket up too fast, and the grain only gets one day, no harm done. Even just soaked grain is more nutritious. Harvey feeds 5 day sprouts, so I guess that’s optimum, but it’s no magic number, any stage of sprouting is more healthful and digestible than dry grain. After 2 or 3 days, the grain is softened and has little rootlets poking out, and certainly tastes better than dry and hard.
If you used my lazy method but left it in the bucket for 5 days it might rot, since it has no drainage. I’m not really sure, cuz my bucket always fills up within 3 days at most. Really you shouldn’t let the veggie scraps sit more than that anyway. But I will say that I think your good healthy garden dirt would protect some against rot.
One more note about live food in winter: I covered my garden beds with plastic hoop covers this year (known here as “garden condoms”), and so am still harvesting kale and leeks. One unaccounted for benefit is the outer leaves and stems from my kale plants being still available as chicken food. I also, when I pulled my cabbages a month or more ago, I stuck the big outer leaves in a bucket and left it by the coop. It’s been cold enough that they still look freshly picked. Whenever I don’t have anything else, I throw ‘em a couple of those.
I ought to say, for the record, I am not yet feeding my chooks the home mixed feed that Harvey recommends. It’s hard enough for me to get decent processed organic feed here, let alone all the seperate components. I do dream of someday…