DIY Chicken Feed Fodder System

This Fodder System is a cheap and easy way to convert grain and seeds into high quality fodder for livestock. The most popular fodder is barley because it is cheap and grows fast, but you can make fodder from almost any seed that your animals would want to eat.

Consider that when you grow fodder, one pound of barley, when grown to fodder, will become anywhere from 3-6 pounds of feed depending on how long you grow it out. What this means is a 50 pound bag of barley is equivalent to 150-300 pounds of feed.

So how much will I save using spout fodder for our birds? Consider that we would pay about 14 dollars for a 50 pound bag for barley and ending up with an average of 150 pounds of fodder (on the low end). Price per pound is therefore, 7 cents! If growing for goats or cattle and taking it up to 6 times conversion, your 50 pounds of barley becomes 300 pounds, price per pound is therefore about 4.6 cents a pound, less than a nickel!


This system is made up of the following:


  • 6 five gallon buckets, 5 with holes drilled in the bottom and one with no holes
  • Some cinder blocks for the buckets to sit on and drain
  • A scoop to measure the barley
  • Buckets are available at Lowe’s or can just be delivered to your door through Amazon, most people have or can borrow a drill, you can use anything like even rocks to sit your buckets on but 3 cinder blocks do the trick. New blocks if you have to buy them are, at most, 2 dollars. So even if you buy everything new, including the scoop, my system will cost you a maximum of no more than 50 dollars to build.

How much time does it take per day to keep this system going? You would spend about 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening with this system.

Here is how it works:

  1. Day One – Soak one to two scoops of barley in your bucket with no holes for about 12 hours. It is best to start your soaking in the evening.
  2. Day Two Morning – Dump the barley that was soaked overnight into one of the buckets with holes drilled in the bottom. Let it drain and set it in your sprouting area. You want a shady spot that doesn’t get too hot, you don’t need much sun at all for this. Don’t start another batch soaking at this time.
  3. Day Two Evening – Set your bucket of soaked barley on something to let it drain, I do this where the water will be of advantage to my garden. Fill the empty bucket with no holes about 3/4 full, dump that water on the soaked grain to keep it moist and rinse it off. Put a scoop in your bucket with no holes, add water to cover well, return both buckets to your sprouting area.
  4. On the morning of day three you just continue the process, now stack a new bucket with holes inside the one with the two day soaked grain, and dump the grain you soaked overnight into the new strainer bucket. Fill the soaking bucket about 3/4 full, dump into the strainer buckets, let drain and return them to the sprouting area.


If you can set things up so the rinse water will drain to a garden from your sprouting area you won’t even have to move the buckets.

Each day you will notice the barley or seed of your choice is changing a bit. By day two you should see tiny white roots starting to pop out of the grain, day three you will see a lot of roots, day four a bit of green and day five quite a bit, this is when we feed the fodder to our birds. Each day you would just stack all the buckets and dump one bucket of water into the top to rinse the grain and keep it moist. You can feed this grain to your animals at any point along the way or grow it out further. You will just need to decide what they like best and what gives you the best return of investment on your feed costs. Honestly the chickens like it best before it totally turns into a matt with grass on it.

A few simple things to make your spouting successful

Don’t let your grain soak more than twelve hours. All grain has wild yeast and lacto fermenting bacteria on it. Left too long it will begin to ferment, it will then stink and likely not sprout well.

Drill small holes in your buckets, lots of small holes are better than a few big ones. This will let you try sprouting smaller seeds. Don’t sweat the holes. As long as the bucket drains, you are good. Try using a 1/8 inch bit for my system.

Use a “scoop” that holds about 2 cups of grain, it works fine at that rate and you can go to two scoops (4 cups) with good results per each bucket. If you need more fodder, set up a second set of buckets.

It is best to start soaking the seed in the evening. You are less likely to forget it that way. But do what works best for you.

Try to find a nice cool shaded spot for your sprouting and, again, if you can set it up so you can rinse in place, all the better. A 7th bucket could be used to bring the water in and take it out if you want to do that.

In any event, if you keep chickens, rabbits, geese or other livestock, this is a great and cheap way to cut your feed costs and provide super nutrition to your animals. If you ever decide you want a fancy automated system, fine go for it but try this first. You can always use the buckets as planters if you move up in such a system. Best of all this system requires zero electricity, as long as you have water and can dump a bucket, you are in business.



Written by Jack Spirko
Original post on

  • LeAnn

    Could you give me an approximate number of how much dry barley per chicken per day? So I can know how much to start out with soaking. I have 8 Buff Orpington chickens.
    Thnks so much, loved the post. LeAnn

    • Jack Spirko wrote the original article and made the video. His scoop is about 4 cups and feeds about 12 chickens and 4 geese on that. There is no formula, but you can experiment with your breed of chickens. Good luck and share your experience with a comment. Thanks.

  • Jeremy

    This is VERY misleading. Fodder converts dry feed to wet feed. Ultimately, the fodder has nothing more to it than the grain, except water. The animals that eat fodder will consume far MORE feed (by weight and volume) when given fodder compared to grains and drink less water. So, you will probably not spend less money on feed overall. The primary benefit of fodder is that the nutrients in the grain are made more available and more digestible (to many animals). I am not saying don’t try fodder, you’ll probably have healthier animals. Just do not expect that making fodder will make your feed costs lower, AND do expect to spend more time with the whole enterprise.

    • Tom

      Time is something I have. I’m not certain the logic is correct here in your reply though? Respectfully, we’re taking a dry grain and converting it into a nutrient dense plant. The plant has more biomass than the seed yes?

      Full disclosure, I’m trying this system myself and I’m 4 days into the growth cycle. I also pasture my hens in a chicken tractor daily.

  • Angel

    I found this very helpful. I have been doing it a different way and hope that this will work better.. I usually just put the plastic buckets full of barley on a shelf so that they drip into each other, but they have no other pressure on them. Thanks for the update..

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