Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A basement full of barley

These sprouts are seven days old. 
One of the challenges winter presents is providing fresh greens for the hens. After much research, I decided to experiment with sprouting barley.
All sprouting requires is some seed, containers and water!  I chose barley because it is a fast growing cold weather crop - perfect for sprouting in my chilly basement.

Sprouting increases the protein, vitamins and enzymes in the seed which makes it more digestible, requiring less grain. In seed form it contains 12% protein but sprouting boosts that number up to 15%. Sprouts are filled with chlorophyll, omega-3 and beta-carotene resulting in more nutrient dense eggs. The other wonderful thing about sprouting grains is that it increases the volume by almost six times! That 50# bag of organic barley seed becomes almost 300# of fodder in just nine days.

The process is quite simple. I start by soaking one pound of barley overnight. The next day I rinse the seeds and spread them into trays about 1/2 inch thick. The trays are watered twice daily and a new batch is started each night. The trays have holes and are elevated on one end to promote good drainage.  I water from the top and it runs from the upper trays down through the rest of the containers and into the floor drain.

 I am still experimenting with the amount of seed to sprout to meet the needs of our flock. I plan for the sprouts to be a nutritious winter supplement and a productive activity for the hens. I hope to decrease my feed bill and increase egg productivity. I intend to grow some longer sprouts into fodder that I can offer the goats as well. It's good therapy to have a basement full of green in the heart of the winter.

The girls enjoyed their first offering of sprouts!


  1. Excellent work! Thanks for all of the cool info about barley!

  2. We often have chosen to soak and ferment our grain, but I love this idea- sprout barley!

    I'd love to hear how much volume your sprouts for 150 chickens so I can scale down :)

  3. The barley I sprouted for the chickens last year did not replace any of the grain they consumed as I had hoped. It was a supplement and a boredom buster :) This season I am going through a 50# bag every six weeks. I start about four cups of barley daily - that translates into about three trays on the rack. The hens like it when the sprouts are still pretty short- just a few days' growth. I'd like to hear about your experiences!