Sherry Vargo of Half-PintHomestead.com has developed an indoor fodder system for growing microgreens to feed both yourself and your small livestock. You can do this in an apartment, or—as Sherry does—in a tiny house on a very shaded lot.
This video shows one of Sherry’s 6-tray fodder systems, which I’ve used to feed my rabbits and chickens, to grow wheatgrass for juicing, and to grow sprouts for salads. She uses wheat seeds to achieve a livestock feed that’s 15-17 percent protein, and adds sunflower seeds to the mix to push that protein percentage to nearly 20 percent.
Other benefits of using an indoor fodder system to produce feed?
Fodder is highly digestible, is already hydrated so the animal doesn’t need to draw on as many of its internal reserves—and just one of the trays shown in the video can feed up to 30 lactating rabbits and 40 chickens!
Watch the video to learn more about the benefits on an indoor fodder system—and why one might be right for you!
(This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on November 11, 2013.)
Marjory Wildcraft is the founder of The Grow Network, which is a community of people focused on modern self-sufficient living. She has been featured by National Geographic as an expert in off-grid living, she hosted the Mother Earth News Online Homesteading Summit, and she is listed in Who’s Who in America for having inspired hundreds of thousands of backyard gardens. Marjory was the focus of an article that won Reuter’s Food Sustainability Media Award, and she recently authored The Grow System: The Essential Guide to Modern Self-Sufficient Living—From Growing Food to Making Medicine.
Besides sprouts in winter, Northern areas can grow a lot of stuff. The summer months have light for 18 hours a day. Hardy vegies like cabbages get huge. The primary thing is to grow food you can store. That’s why in Scandinavian cooking you see lots of potatoes and rutabagas. I am reminded of Cam Mather, who (if memory serves) lives off-grid in Canada (Great Lakes area) and still keeps a huge garden:
Several US companies are also specializing in short-season varieties for those of us at altitude:
Not just for the US:
If you do decide to supplement with sprouting, then it helps to find a bulk supplier of sprouting seeds, like Walton Feed in Montpelier, Idaho:
Jim, thank you so much for those links on the short growing season veggies.
And the reminder about Walton Feed for seeds.
Fantastic idea! How do you know how much to feed each animal? Do you use a specific kind of wheat? (I will check her website and hopefully more info is there.) My only problem is temperature. That’s pretty warm when you’re trying to save on fuel oil, and sleep cool at night. Any suggestions?
Yes Sherry’s website has info on how much you can grow and for how many animals.
Regarding the cool at night issue. Yes, the grains will still sprout and grow in cooler temps, but the rate is slower. My family kicked me out of the house with the sprouting system (and they won’t let me put in the aquaponics system indoors either = wah). So mine is out on the porch. I am fairly confident is won’t ever freeze out there, but I know in cold times the growth rates won’t be high.
My motto is – do the best you can with what you have. So if I lose a big of production, it is still way better than no sprouting.
Fascinating, really enjoyed this presentation.
Fabulous idea! Thank you for sharing with us.
Marjory, you are something else. Now I have something else to build in my living room. I can hardly get through it now. Yes, I will try this system. One thing I’m not sure of, but can I cut some of these sprouts and put in my salad? Do I have to feed it all to my chickens and rabbits? I could take a tray to the goats and make them mad. One bite for them, one bite for me, and so one. I may get butted.
Thanks for all you give me to do and learn.
Hi John, Yes, I was just writing about how I got kicked out of the house with this project. LOL
Since there are so many questions, I will look into what we can grow for us to eat. I already sprout clover and alfalfa – yummy. A whole tray of it though? You would want to give it to the goats…
Good job Marjory Wildcraft.
Can I eat the foder?
I am planning on juicing the wheat grass – OMG powerful medicine there. I assume you can grow almost any micro greens int he system for human consumption.
I purchased one of these (the mini-fodder system) from Sheri. Works great! Only needs a few minutes a day to keep the process going. I had a couple problems with grain sprouting at the beginning and Sheri was great in helping me work through any problems (ended up being the grain).
However, when we changed over to this feed (sprouting wheat), our chickens stopped laying a few days later. We kept going for 6 weeks and still had NO eggs, not one. We opted to go back to the normal organic, non-GMO feed that we were using before and within a few days the chickens started laying again.
So I’m not sure what to think of it now. Our guinea pig only ate the tops and not the roots.
We have decided to sell our kit. So if you want to try it out for less, buy our kit and save some money. It easily may have been our grain choices, but I don’t have time to figure it out. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com. Asking $150 shipping included. (http://www.half-pinthomestead.com/Minikit.html)
I’ll ask Sherry about why the chickens wouldn’t lay. Mine is almost producing right now so I’ll keep you posted on the results I have.
I worked with a guy last year who wanted to develop a fodder system for his flock of 200 organic layers. Our nutritionist said to limit the wheat fodder to 10% of feed per day. The laying hens don’t get all their nutrients from it and most certainly need calcium to develop egg shells. They also require grit for their digestive system to work properly. Without the proper nutrition the worst case is they will get egg bound and die b/c their eggs develop with a weak shell. It might be possible to grind eggs shells and fed it back to them – I know some people do that with organic eggs for their own calcium but don’t know how it works for chickens.
thanks for your comments. Yes, you do need more than simply wheat. these are backyard chickens and get their grit from the yard. I do feed my chickens their own egg shells and sometimes pic up bags of oyster shell for calcium. calcium is one of those elements that needs to be sourced locally as it is so important in many parts of the food production system.
Excellent idea she had. Thank you Marjory for this post. I did sign up for her emails and most likely will make a purchase in the future. I like the mechanics of her system and the possibilities for it’s use.
Where can we purchase the wheat seed in the Central Texas area?
I ordered mine via the Bastrop Producers Market. You can also get in bulk 50# bag from Wheatsville Coop. I am looking around for the most cost effective source right now.
Would like video and reports.
What a great way to get green stuff in the winter.
We visit Bali for two months each year where it is always Spring or Summer depending on the elevation. The farmers cut green stuff anywhere and take it to the cows or pigs. That could be done here in growing season, just ask someone with grass too high if you can have some. Be sure it hasn’t been sprayed with some kind of poison.
I would like to see an economic profile of microgreen production.
As in how much does it cost for the seed, labor, infrastructure. etc. as opposed to normal feeding cost for both humans and animal. The fodder sprouting system has been around for a awhile now but preppers are now starting to look at storing particular seed varieties for microgreens for emergency SHTF projections as opposed to canned and dehydrated foods.
Hi Philippe – That’s a great idea. We’ll get to work on that… Sherri mentioned that she gets 300 lbs of fodder from 50 lbs of seed – we’ll fill in some dollar amounts and do a little analysis. Thanks!
Very interesting! I would not have guessed that one could feed that many animals with so little. Excellent info, and nicely done! However, Sherri’s mic wasn’t working as well as Marjory’s and it would have been nice to have seen all 3 levels of the growing system. But I’m guessing Marjory may have been the photographer (via tripod) as well as the interviewer, so you do what you can do!
Hi Faye – Funny you mention it – we just purchased some new mics this week! Thanks for watching – Michael
Being in the middle of farming country, I have access to all the free wheat, corn, and milo that I want. My question is can I use corn or milo sprouts for rabbits, chickens, or humans?
The half-pinthomestead.com website is no longer available. So sad. I didn’t even get to see it. 🙁