I am raising a flock 22 chickens for eggs. These chickens are being fed custom organic chicken feed but also have free access to a chicken run that normally has a lot of grass. However, during the winter there is no grass and they cannot scratch for bugs because the ground is frozen. They do well on the chicken feed but also should be getting greens to supplement their diet. They do get kitchen scraps but I needed a more consistent source of fresh plant material. To make this happen, I have developed a system for sprouting seeds. This instructable illustrates the process I use. What I am doing is nothing new but it will show how I can make this happen easily in the comfort of my home.
Step 1: Preparing Mung Beans for Sprouting
I visited a local store that sells organic products in bulk to see what was available. I bought a pound of mung beans for about $3. I wasn't sure what mung beans were but I had heard that they were good for sprouting. I later learned that they were part of the legume family and originate in India. Normally, they are used in cooking and the sprouts can be eaten raw. The photo shows a few ounces of raw beans being soaked in water. You do this for 4 to 8 hours. You only want enough beans to cover the bottom of your sprouting container one layer deep. It may not sound like much but this small amount will eventually fill the entire container.
Step 2: Filling the Sprouting Container
I originally tried to sprout in one quart mason jars but it quickly became apparent that this would not give me the volume I was shooting for and also it is difficult to remove the sprouts from a mason jar. Instead, I found plastic containers that originally contained organic spinach from Costco. These containers had held one pound of fresh spinach.
You need two of these. Drill a few holes in the bottom of one of them so that water will drain out. The holes should be a little smaller than the seeds that you want to sprout so that they don't fall through. Because some seeds might be very small (such as chia seeds), you might want to temporarily put one layer of paper towel on the bottom until the seeds have sprouted a little. Insert the container with the holes into the other container. There is no need to put a spacer between the two because the gap will big enough to collect any water you put in each day.
Now spread the seeds you have been soaking along the bottom of the top container. The third photo shows the beans after soaking but before they started sprouting. They should have swollen some from the sprouting. Cover the top container loosely with the lid.
Step 3: Daily Rinsing
The photo shows the mung beans just after they started sprouting. This photo was taken one day after the beans were placed in the container. The sprouts are coming out the top and the bottom of the beans. This is for the stem and the root.
Twice a day put the whole setup in a sink and run water over the sprouts. The water will drain into the bottom container. Lift out the top container and pour out the water that has drained through into the bottom one. Return the containers to where you are storing them and place the lid on lightly. It's not really necessary to have them in sunlight but that probably helps a little when the first green leaves appear.
Step 4: Explosive Growth
The above two photos show the mass of sprouts quickly expanding.
Step 5: The Results
The first two photos were taken six days after the beans were first soaked. You can see how big a single sprout is. The second photo is a handful of sprouts I pulled out to take out to the chickens. I normally fill a one quart plastic yogurt container with sprouts to give to the chickens every day. I normally get four batches of sprouts from one container. In the third photo you can see a second batch started. The batch on the right is now seven days old and you can see that the sprouts are sticking out of the top of the container. This batch is also missing the part I took out to the chickens the day before.
You actually don't have to feed all these for dinner. Try eating them as a salad for dinner or using them in a recipe.
I will be trying other seeds for sprouting. I was given some organic barley seeds that I now have soaking. I also considered buying a package of organic chia seeds that I found at Costco.
Step 6: Happy Chickens
When I walk into the run with my yogurt container of sprouts, the chickens mob me. I throw out the sprouts and they gobble them down.
Step 7: Trying It With Barley
I had acquired a small amount of organic barley seeds intended to be used as animal feed. I soaked them in water for about six hours and then transferred them to my sprouting bin. Because the seeds are long and narrow, they would have gone through the drain holes in the bin, I lined the bin with a layer of paper towel. The paper towel helps to retain moisture and get them to start sprouting. This seems to take a couple of days longer than the mung beans. I found that it is better to cover the bin with the lid to maintain the humidity inside and it also traps heat. You can see what a batch looks like after the sprouts started to grow. It actually looks like grass.
Here's a photo of what barley looks like growing in a field: