Increase Egg Production from Chickens in Winter

Feed hens nutritious, home-sprouted forage for more eggs in winter, and get readers' tips on how they tend to their broods' health.

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    Chickens in winter enjoy sprouted barley, oat and rye seeds.

  • 085-078-01-more-eggs

Animal Forage told how to use hydroponically sprouted greens to increase egg production from chickens in winter. We tried it here in New Mexico, and it worked . . . dramatically. By experimenting with the method over the past three years, we've developed our own variation on forage sprouting, and I'd like to tell you about it.

We start our sprouts in heavy aluminum foil trays of the sort you find in most discount stores . . . you know, the four-for-a-buck kind (the original MOTHER EARTH NEWS method employed shallow aluminum cake pans). For extra stiffness, we nest two trays together and then punch nail holes in the bottoms to insure good drainage.

We've sprouted mostly barley seeds (partly because we favor their sprouts for our own salads), but the cluckers really go for oat and rye shoots, too. No matter what you choose, just pour enough seed into the tray to line the bottom to a depth of about half an inch. Once you've got the correct measure for your pans, transfer the entire batch into a large jar for the first stage of growth. Run water into the container until the seed is completely covered, then stash the jar in a warm, dark place—sans lid—for a couple of days. (We've had excellent results without adding nutrients to the water.)

After about 48 hours, give the seed a thorough rinsing in its container, then pour the whole amount back into the tray, covering it with a moist cloth. Rinse the seed twice a day so that it doesn't get a chance to dry out (and, consequently, die). Except for this cleansing, leave the little forage factory alone: The sprouts will grow faster if undisturbed.

When the greens have reached a height of about half an inch, remove the cloth and place the tray next to a sunny window during the day. But since sprouts need to be at about room temperature for optimum growth, you'll want to take them away from the window at night to a warm spot . . . maybe near a stove or heater.

When you've got what looks like a miniature forest on your hands (we let the plants get about five inches tall), it's dinnertime! You can feed your flock directly from the sprouting pans, but we stretch our supply—and save our pans from getting torn up—by yanking out a patch of greens each day. If you start a new batch of seed every few days, you'll have a continuous supply of wintertime forage for your feathered egg-factories.

12/16/2017 10:27:51 PM

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