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Growing Fodder for Backyard Chickens, Ducks and Geese

Growing fodder for your flock can help supplement their diet with healthy, nutritious greens when there's snow on the ground.

Winters are long and snowy here in Maine, so fresh grass isn't available for much of the year.

Grass is not only super nutritious for chickens, ducks and geese, providing them protein and fiber, they enjoy nibbling the tops and scratching at the roots looking for bugs.

But while they don't have access to "real" grass in the winter, it's super easy to grow some grass, also called "fodder", for your flock.

Growing Fodder for Backyard Chickens, Ducks and Geese

Growing fodder for backyard poultry can help supplement their diet with healthy, nutritious greens when there's snow on the ground.

I sprout seeds for our chickens over the winter and also grow them barley, rye and wheat grass in trays when there's no fresh grass or weeds to eat outside. It's super easy to do.

Basically sprouted fodder is grains - commonly wheat, barley or oats - that are sprouted and allowed to grow for 7-10 days, until just before they have grown their second leaves. Sprouting amplifies the nutrients in the grains nearly six fold and increases their digestibility, so you get more bang for your buck so to speak.

Feeding fodder to supplement their layer feed results in reduced feed costs, better tasting eggs with more vibrant yolks, better laying productivity and improved health.

How to Grow Fodder for Backyard Chickens, Ducks and Geese

What you Need

Grain of your choice (eg. wheat berries, barley or whole oats)
A tray or casserole dish (or empty tuna fish cans or other small dishes for chick fodder 'cakes')
Plastic wrap, optional

What you Do

  • Pour the grain - no more than 1/2" deep to allow for good air flow and prevent molding - into your casserole tray, cake pan or deep dish.
  • Soak your grain in water overnight.
  • Then drain well and rinse.
  • Set in a sunny area, preferably one that stays between 60-75 degrees.
  • Rinse the seeds (or strain through a fine-mesh sieve  or colander for the first few days) in fresh water and drain thoroughly morning and evening.

Roots will begin to grow on the underside while the green fodder starts to sprout out of the top. Once roots start to grow, try to dislodge the seeds as little as possible to allow a nice root base to form.

Once roots are starting to grow, I fill the dish with cool water to cover the seeds, then holding the mat down with my hand,  tilt or carefully flip the dish once the grass really starts to grow to drain the water. You don't want it sitting in water because that can cause the seeds/grains to mold.

Note: If the air in your house is dry, you can cover your dish with plastic wrap for the first few days to retain moisture and prevent the seeds from drying out completely in between rinsing - or rinse and drain a few more times a day.

I also like to spritz the seeds with a squirt bottle if I see them drying out. You want the seeds to stay moist but not be sitting in water.

In about a week or so, you should have 3-4" of growth and your fodder will be ready to serve. Our house stays pretty cool in the winter, so it takes about nine days to grow to about 3 inches tall.

Flip the "fodder mat" out of the tray (or serve it right in the tray) and let your flock have at it, or cut it into smaller pieces for individual servings.

 Watch the  Chickens Enjoying their Fodder

Growing Fodder for Ducks and Geese

Fodder is also a great treat for your ducks. They'll love sprouted grains, seeds and especially peas as well.  Peas contain high levels of niacin which is important for ducks.

And for backyard geese, fodder is really important. Geese eat mostly grass and weeds as their main diet. In the summer months, they have no trouble finding stuff to eat, but in the winter, especially in places that get a lot of snow, they won't have greens to eat. 

My geese eat a diet of whole wheat and hay in the winter, so the addition of sprouted wheat grass was very much welcomed! 

Chick Fodder Cakes

Fodder is also a great treat to grow for your brooder babies.

It will not only provide them a super nutritious, inexpensive treat, it will keep them busy trying to nip off the green pieces and rummaging in the roots.

For chick 'fodder cakes', grow your fodder in tuna fish cans or other small containers, following the same instructions as above, then un-mold and place them in your brooder as a special treat.


Growing fodder for your chickens and your baby chicks really is that easy.

They love it, it's a super nutritious treat for them, and it's extremely economical. The only thing cheaper to feed them is actual grass!

Buying Source for whole wheat

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