Sprouted corn for chickens is one way to keep the price of your feed down, and to increase the available nutrition to your hens; in fact the principles are exactly the same as preparing seeds for human consumption.
Frankly I think there's much to be desired of many commercial brands of feed for your hens. Various minerals and proteins are added to the corn, yet they clearly are not particularly partial to it; much is wasted. Just watching them feed on pellets and you can see that they don't excite them; they seem to eat it almost reluctantly compared to sprouted corn.
Give them access to your kale or broccoli, or the vermicompost from a worm farm and they simply go crazy in a feeding frenzy not unlike gannets diving into a shoal of fish.
Desiring to improve the nutrition of our free range hens, we started sprouting corn and were immediately struck by how easy it is, and how much the birds love the food, and choose it over commercial feeds.
In humans, seeds contain many so-called anti-nutrients that inhibit the absorption of certain minerals like iron and calcium in our food. Soaking and rinsing them several times, and then allowing the corn to sprout and even a step further to ferment, removes many of these compounds; phytates, lectins and saponins are repeatedly mentioned by researchers as possibly having a detrimental effect on digestion and absorption.
It's probably true in sprouted corn for chickens too; various authorities report that the birds thrive less well on straight mealies, as we call them in South Africa.
Certainly the hens go bananas over the sprouted corn, but are indifferent to dried maize kernels and fast food pellets.
Firstly you need a bucket, and a second with holes in the bottom will be useful. Cover the corn with water for 24 hours, rinsing several times by pouring through the filter.
Then leave the damp corn for several days to sprout, rinsing again regularly. Once they start to sprout, evidenced by a white tendril, you can feed them to the hens.
They should finish your sprouted corn within a few days; once it starts to ferment, the birds lose interest.
Just as fast food for humans will detract from our health, so many of the packaged feeds for hens, and our dogs, cats and whatever, leave much to be desired. Once having seen and tasted free range eggs with their golden yolks, where the birds can graze on many plants and grasses, and insects and worms, you'll know what I mean.
However, the average yard doesn't have enough grains, worms and grasshoppers to feed your hens and keep them laying optimally.
In the summer, we can provide fresh young maize but for the rest of the year, sprouted corn for chickens is essential; in fact other grains like wheat are desirable too to give them a more varied diet.
For protein they love green peas and string beans and this year we are going to experiment with favas that are very easy and inexpensive to grow. We love them too when they are young and sweet, but as yet we haven't tried them on the birds.
It's not just about reducing the cost of our feed; it's very much concerning improved nutrition for our birds, something the commercial farmer with 20,000 hens can't do; he relies in a very competitive industry on fast food for his hens.
If you want healthy eggs then either rear your own hens, or find an organic farmer, and go and see how he does it; there's a mass of misinformation and downright deceit in the industry, as with all foods.
The aim of the exercise is to improve the nutrition for your hens, so they will lay even more healthy eggs, whilst keeping the price of your feed down. Sprouted corn for chickens is part of our solution.
The other part is our worm farms from which we give them several thousands wrigglies every week for more protein; they also provide the vermicompost and a liquid fertiliser for our vegetables and fruit trees. Have a look in the navigation bar on your left.
In a world abounding in serious chronic degenerative diseases, returning to nature is how we have managed to stay healthy without the use of medication, and in fact with a minimum of supplements like vitamins and minerals. Let your food be your medicine, said Hippocrates, more than 2,000 years ago.
The real cost of raising your own hens, and in fact following a backyard permaculture way of life, is time; but it takes only minutes to prepare your sprouted corn for chickens, unlike many of the other gardening activities which can fill your day. There's never a dull moment in Bernard Preston's home!
Right now I'm off to let the birds out of their cages, feed them, keep an eye on our broody who is the in the last trimester, and then it will be fixing a pump that's giving trouble. We've felled a tree that's dangerously close to the house, so there a lot of sawing and splitting of timber for the woodstove this week. Lovely planks are piled high in the workshop, drying for next year's carpentry.
One either spends the time growing and rearing healthy food, or you'll find yourself taking even more to consult your doctors and swallowing a bucket load of very costly and potentially dangerous drugs and supplements.