Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Healthy, High-Protein Snack For Your Chickens

We like to feed our chickens this high-protein afternoon snack. In the winter, this mix of sprouts, dried greens and soybeans will boost your birds' immune systems to ward of illness. In the spring, when egg production increases, the hens require an increase in nutrients, so this snack is a year-round favorite.

Preparing the Soybeans

1. This recipe serves 10 hens. Soak about 2 cups dried dried soybeans overnight in water. Use two cups of water for every one cup of dried beans, more or less.

2. The next morning, put the beans and the water you soaked them in into to a large pot and bring to a full, rolling boil. Slow boil for AT LEAST 15 minutes.

Note: Trypsin, an enzyme found in all beans, is toxic to birds. It can scar the lining of their intestines and disrupt their ability to absorb nutrients from their food. Therefore, 15 minutes boiling time, at 180 degrees or higher, is truly an absolute bare minimum, as anything less than that won't remove the Trypsin. I cook mine 30 minutes, to be on the safe side.

3. Strain beans and cool. Store in refrigerator.

Preparing the Sprouts

Sprouts are a good source of amino acids. Chickens LOVE sprouts! You can sprout lentils, flax, alfalfa, etc. I sprout wheat for my hens because we always have a goodly supply of of organic wheat berries on hand for bread making. Sprouting is simple. Put about 1/3 cup berries in a quart mason jar and cover with water. Let sit overnight. The next day, pour off the water. Covering the top of the mason jar with some kind of netting (an old onion bag works fine) will make straining off the water easier. After the initial soaking, you just need to rinse the berries a couple of times a day. Fill the jar with water so the berries are covered, then pour the water off. Within a couple of days, you'll see them sprouting. You can feed them to your chickens any time after the sprouts appear! I like to keep two or three jars of sprouts going all the time, so I always have a fresh batch sprouting.

Dehydrated Greens

Gather greens in the spring and summer thinking ahead to winter. "Greens" for this recipe can be all sorts of things from the garden and from the yard - dandelion greens, turnip tops, extra spinach... What your chickens like in the summer, they will appreciate in the winter, dried. Just throw them in your food dehydrator until they are dry, and store them for winter in a closed container. Spread out over a whole growing season, this is not a big deal.

The Snack

I like to combine about 2/3 cup cooked soybeans, a handful of dried greens and about a half cup of wheat sprouts, depending on the weather. Our chickens are free range, so in the summer, we skip the dried greens.
Yes, our chickens are spoiled, but we love them, and with this snack mix, you can ensure that your chickens love you, too! Once they've had a taste of this high-protein delight (from your hands), they will come running from every direction any time you come out of the house!