...but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life...(Prov. 13:12)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chicken Health

Fodder VS Sprouting & Chicken Health... 

Fodder VS Sprouting... There IS a Difference!
*Disclaimer to this post: This is my own personal experience. I am writing this blog so you can be aware. Am I 100% sure? No, but sometimes it is hard to know for sure why death occurs on your farm. I wrote this to make people aware. You can take what you want from it.

Lets start first with the "definitions" of Sprouting and Fodder: 

When discussing sprouting seeds and grains, it seems that there is a bit of confusion about some terms like "sprouts" and "fodder."  

Sprout: A "sprout" consists of a seed that is just beginning to grow a small root.  This is what I call the "hair of the sprout" that sometimes people think is mold but is actually just the "hair" of the sprout forming, which is a good thing. Some people confuse this to "mold" but it is not.

Fodder: "Fodder" means to continue to allow the sprouts to grow until they reach the "grass stage" which typically 4-5" is max. All it is, is simply sprouted grains, usually grown for 8-9 days. The two most popular are barley and wheat. You start to have to deal with mold if you grow fodder. I do have ways of combating this. Please comment if you want further info on that.

Here is a photo of the "hairs" starting...
 *Be careful not to confuse "sprouting" with growing grasses or "fodder" it can be detrimental to your farm animals. See below as I go into more detail about this.* 

Why Sprout for Chickens?

When you "sprout" for your flock you don't want to go above about 1-2" and really once those "hairs" from your seeds have sprouted and you can feed those to them. The nutritional content is in the seed itself not the "blades" of grass. 

(This picture is kind of my max growth now for chickens)

I think the most benefit of sprouting is for those people that can't free range their flock or during the winter months when there is a lack of grass available, due to snow on the ground or freezing. This also provides a better nutritional content for their flock rather than throwing "scratch" ie cracked corn out to them. More protein which really helps during the "molt" season is another big thing. 

Here are some other benefits and the pros of sprouting:

1. Better Quality Eggs with Deeper Yolk Color
2. Enhanced Egg Taste
3. More Solid Droppings
4. Higher quality meat with better texture (if you process)
5. Improved health and energy levels due to the higher proteins provided
6. Helps Spread out the cost of regular feed
7. No dealing with mold when sprouting! 
8. When sprouting vs fodder, sprouting only takes 3 days tops if done properly. (please let me know if you want more info on this) 

When a seed isn't sprouted, just given dry it hasn't been able to release the full nutrients it can provide. This is why people sprout for their animals. Sprouting improves the enzyme contents of the seeds, which makes it more easily digestible and your flock will benefit from the added nutrition and fiber from the sprout, rather than from just the dried grains. 


Here is MY PERSONAL STORY WHY in regards to this:

This was my main roo "Mr. Buck" of my flock of 60. Yes I have that many chickens. (someday I will introduce them all to you) He is NOT a hatchery chick and I raised him from 5 weeks on. He was a Crested Cream Legbar and from a good breeding bloodline. (I also purchased two pullets of this breed from the same breeder) I am sad to say he is no longer with my flock due to an error on my part because I received the wrong info about Fodder for Chickens

This is what I fed my flock 2-3 weeks prior to my "Mr. Buck" passing away. I feel after talking with my "support team" and processing him that he died of an impacted crop. (please see link for more info on this) I personally have never tried to empty a crop but like I mentioned I didn't realize this was even close to being the problem.

I feel he over ate and that is why he passed versus no one else. The strands when they get to be more than 2" they are just to long for the chickens to consume in my opinion. I noticed something going wrong when all the roosters chased him into a nest box and he "hunkered" down and wouldn't come out. He had been found a few days prior sleeping more in the nest boxes. When this happened I immediately removed him from the flock due to I knew something was going on, just wasn't sure what and his comb and wattles were on the darker side of red not so vibrant. He looked lethargic. 

He remained in isolation due to I wasn't sure what was going on and if it would affect my other chickens or not, this is always a precaution I take. I witnessed him eating and drinking but he slowly wasn't able to stand, never crowed and his overall color was not like it was. He eventually just passed away quietly and stopped breathing 2-3 weeks later. Read further as to my conclusion on why he passed.

Cause of Buck's Death

Processing and More In Depth of Organ Diagnostics:

The reason after processing that I knew he was healthy otherwise was that all other organs were just fine except what would be expected from impacted crop. I didn't pluck his feather or process him in the way I typically do. I kind of just opened him up and started snapping shots of the organs cause honestly I was a little upset about the whole situation of his passing.

Lungs: His lungs were not as pink, so there was a lack of oxygen getting to them.

Intestines: His intestines were completely empty so he was eating but it wasn't making its way past the crop, however the overall look of the intestine was fine and looked as though blood had been pumping like normal.

Heart, Kidneys etc were all good.

Carcass: He was rather thin which I couldn't tell through his feathering, but did make sense given the time frame and his decline. I did think to myself a few times... "He seems skinny," but didn't think anything of it as I figured I was wrong. So even with eating he still wasn't processing the food properly, digesting it and obtaining the nutrients from it.

Crop: I hate that I didn't open this up as it was too late after discussing with the team members and all remnants were disposed of and not obtainable, but now know that it something I should "open up". The smell of the crop and if there was actual fodder in it would have been good to check, but since I did not know to open this up in enough time I am basing my diagnosis off the other organs. Thought didn't cross my mind til I put two and two together with the fodder and the time frame of him going down hill. 

Diagnosis: Impacted crop and I am 99.9% sure of this. I have come to the decision that with my own flock they will not ever receive anything but sprouts as I have researched this enough to know that there are the benefits of the sprouts as I mentioned in the beginning. 

RIP Mr Buck
He was a good roo, always went to roost last for the night once all the rest of the flock roosted, never was cruel to me, so he will be missed due to it is hard to find an overall good rooster.

I hope that with his death you will take caution on what information you receive especially in Facebook Groups. It is one of the reasons I created an Educational Farming Forum with people that have not only wonderful knowledge but also have a lot of personal experience with chicken keeping. I thank my wonderful Admin Team for helping me through this as it wasn't easy to process an animal that you truly connected with and figured you would keep around for awhile.

Thank you for taking time to read this. A lot of thought went into it to make sure you received the proper information.I was actually banned from a facebook group because I posted the knowledge I had gained from this experience and the "admin" of that group didn't agree. I can only post my experiences in hopes you will share and gain info from it. It might be working for you and you may feed your chickens fodder but I say why take the chance especially when the nutrients are in the sprouted seeds not the fodder (blades of grass). Please share this post and make other people aware! 

Aisling Farms



  1. Sorry for your loss :( It sounds like your forums have been a wonderful resource though.

    1. Thank you. Yes very thankful they could help me decipher the organs.

  2. So sorry... but thank you for the information. Good to know!

  3. :( sad but thank-you for the information.

  4. Jennifer, hi. I've been a poultry farmer for the past 9 years and have dealt with this a couple of times. It's always sad and frustrating. I haven't quite gotten to the point of attempting a crop surgery, although I was close last year when a beautiful Marans hen of mine had an impacted crop. She died before I got my courage up. We don't have any poultry/avian vets nearby at all. I'm sorry that you lost your rooster. It does sound like it was impacted crop and that's a difficult thing to deal with. I did want to give you my input, though- as you didn't open up the crop, you don't know what made it happen. Sometimes it's as simple as a too-large pebble or chunk of wood or something they pick up in the yard or coop. One thing that can help is to always keep grit nearby, even in winter when they can't peck at the ground as much and maybe even a mixture of whole scratch grains- not just corn. But not every bird will use the grit, so that's always a variable. Thing is...when they're outside, they can and do eat grass and dried weeds and etc that are that height. And 99.9% or more of the time, there is no impacted crop issue. Although I can feel your pain over the loss of your boy, I would hesitate to say that greens of that height are an automatic hazard. You can also snip or chop them as you're feeding. As to nutrient content being different between sprouts vs fodder, that of course is a valid point. :-) Love reading your blog and FB page, thanks for doing this!

    1. They were not free ranging at this point and based on the timing of when I gave them the larger quantity of "fodder" to his demise it made sense but I agree it could have been something else that is why I stated 99.9% sure. being the head rooster I can see how he could have just dived in with no one bothering him to slow him down. I am aware of grit along with oyster shells and they have both in separate dishes. All this post is is a caution. The people I spoke with are my educational farming forum admins. We all agreed that it was impacted crop. Yes I know I NOW I should have opened the crop...this is new to me in that I never had a bird just die. I process my own meat but in doing that I never had to open a crop. They are cut off from food for 24 hours so their crop is empty. I have seen about trying to empty the crop myself and at that point I might have given it a go. I will know that for next time. I understand they eat when they free range but this was a treat so they all jumped on the band wagon and engulfed it and that is why I came to my conclusion that I did. Thanks for your information.

  5. I had that happen to one of my hens shortly after feeding fodder of wheat ......sprouts are the answer.

    1. I agree why risk it! sorry the same thing happened to you. People don't feel this caused it but I do and even IF it didn't why risk it! Thanks for the post.

  6. I live in southern Nevada , can not find grain to sprout. Where can I find some in bulk?

    1. Amazon? copy and paste into your browser this link. There is a full list of organic sprouting seeds. I just do barley as that is what my budget allows. I would love to do Black oil sunflower seeds for its better nutritional value but it is just way too much right now for us.