I feel so bad for the hens in winter. The ground is frozen and hard to scratch, there are no bugs to be found, and there’s certainly nothing green.
Chickens are crazy about greens. They’ll tear up your garden, quick; in fact once I let them out there in the Fall they make short work of every little last wilting vegetable in the place. Of course they eat the bugs too, and they turn it all into eggs for us.
But then winter sets in and there’s nothing but the same old factory chow. Their eggs go pale, they look sad and cold. Poor things need a treat, something to cheer them up.
Well, you know how chickens eat grains?
They like sprouted greens even more. They’re easier to digest and sweeter than seeds. Heck, even we humans like sprouts of all kinds for their fresh flavor and high nutrition. (I once tasted some popcorn sprouts that tasted like candy.) And all that nutrition that the chickens get, comes right back to us in the form of more nutritious eggs.
So I started trying to sprout seeds for the chooks. Problem was, these seeds take about 7 days to get to serving maturity, and all the jars and plates and trays quickly began to take up much more room than I had counterspace.
Enter the MEGA-SPROUTER. Or something like that, anyway. Insert your cool name here.
This thing took me only a couple hours to put together – I think it took two 1x4s and 2 1x2s, or thereabouts. I then used an xacto knife to punch holes all along the bottoms of one end of those standard nursery flats. I marked that end with a dollop of hot pink nail polish, so I wouldn’t get them mixed up when removing and inserting trays.
The xacto knife holes were too small, though, and quickly got clogged with seeds. I enlarged them by poking through them with the hot tip of a glue gun. This worked too well – it made the holes way too big, so that water was pouring down onto the seeds below (causing them to wash “downstream”) instead of dripping gently. I finally decided that the tip of a very sharp pencil worked best to enlarge the hole just that littlest bit.
This system is the bomb. I wish I could say it was my idea, but I found it circulating on Facebook. Chad Lifka is the original designer, and you can see his in action right here: https://www.facebook.com/alesha.coleff/videos/10207372409861004/
Can you see why I was instantly hooked? This thing is fabulous – I have seven trays going at all times. Every morning, when she normally takes our kitchen scraps down to the chickens anyway, Sofía also brings down the oldest tray to the coop and dumps in the entire mat of 4″ tall seedlings. The chickens love having fresh succulent greens in winter. Their eggs have been a bit brighter lately, and it’s worth the very slight effort to see them so happy.
If I could make any changes, I’d reduce the slant from tray to tray. Right now the spread is 6″ at the widest and 3″ at the closest, and with a little finegaling I got all seven (plus a top empty “dump” tray and a bottom catchall tray) to fit on 4-feet-tall legs. But that 6″ could really be 5″, or even 4.5″. The goal is to have the water trickle through slowly, but the steepish angle my trays occupy means that at the beginning, before the seed germinates, much of it gets washed downhill and piles up at the bottom. Small seeds like millet often get stuck in the holes and clog them.
Not a big deal, though, and easy to fix if I feel like it. Overall I’d say this little contraption is a perfect win – it’s so nice when that happens!