During the summer our small flock of chickens is free-range, eating all sorts of bugs and greens they find throughout our property, along with regular feed. That all changes here where the ground is frozen and snow covered most of the winter. The yolks of their eggs become a light yellow rather than that deep rich orange and I’m sure their general health is slightly less good as well, even though we give them a good feed and a supplemental seed/grain block to pick on.
I heard about growing winter greens for your chickens last year from a friend when it was almost spring, so I decided this year to try it out. I have two florescent light ballasts set up in the basement for seed starting, and since I leave them there year round I decided to put them to use. I got a bag of oats from our local feed store co-op, spread them thickly in seed trays, and soaked them in water for a couple of days.
Then I drained them, covered them with plastic wrap (my seed tray covers are still put away—need to dig those out!), and put them under the florescent lights in the basement.
Within a day or two, little white roots start to grow,
and then the greens start to come up. Once the greens are a few inches tall, I put the whole tray in the chicken pen and let them at it. I usually have a couple of trays going at once so they get a fairly steady diet.
They love it! They get in there scratching and pecking, yum yum!
It is pretty easy (only takes a few minutes of time once you have the set-up!) and it makes me happy to give them some nice healthy greens in the middle of winter!