Raising chickens for eggs or meat requires providing them with proper nutrition to keep them healthy and productive. An excellent way to boost the nutritional content of your chicken feed is by growing microgreens and incorporating them into their diet.
Microgreens are young vegetable greens that are harvested when they are 1-3 weeks old, just after the first true leaves have developed past the seed leaves. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. Microgreens contain 4-40 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts.
Some of the most nutritious microgreens to grow for chickens include:
Microgreens are easy and quick to grow indoors or outdoors. They can be grown year-round to provide fresh greens for your flock.
- Enhanced Immunity – Microgreens contain antioxidants, vitamin C, and carotenoids that boost immunity in chickens and help reduce illness and disease.
- Improved Egg Nutrition – Microgreens provide lutein, omega-3s, antioxidants, and vitamins that enrich the nutritional composition and health value of eggs.
- Healthier Digestion – Enzymes and fiber in microgreens aid digestion and nutrient absorption for better gut health.
- Stronger Bones and Eggshells – Calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K in microgreens contribute to improved bone strength and stronger eggshells.
- Better Feather Quality – Amino acids, vitamin A, and omega-3s in microgreens support feather growth, sheen, and quality in chickens.
- Increased Foraging Activity – Chickens enjoy pecking and eating fresh microgreens, which satisfies natural foraging instincts.
- Energy Boost – Microgreens provide B vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that give chickens an energizing nutrient boost for active productivity.
- Stress Reduction – Antioxidants and nutrients may reduce anxiety and keep chickens calmer and more comfortable.
- Optimal Health – Carotenoids, vitamins, and minerals in microgreens optimize chicken health, growth, and reproduction.
- Nutrient Diversity – Rotating wheatgrass, kale, spinach, parsley, etc., provides a spectrum of valuable nutrients for chickens.
Benefits of Feeding Chickens Microgreens
Here are some of the main benefits of incorporating microgreens into your chickens’ diet:
- High in essential vitamins like Vitamin C, E, K, B complex, beta carotene, and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
- Improve the nutritional quality of eggs with more vitamin E, lutein, and beta-carotene.
- Provide antioxidants and enzymes that boost immunity and health.
- More nutritious than sprouts and mature greens pound for pound.
- Convenient to grow indoors year-round.
- Fun and easy crop for beginner gardeners.
- Add variety and nutrition compared to regular chicken feed.
- Chickens enjoy pecking at the tender young greens.
- No need for special equipment – can be grown in trays or pots.
Microgreens are one of the simplest, yet most valuable crops you can grow for your backyard chickens. Even a small amount of microgreens can have a big nutritional impact.
Best Microgreens to Grow
When choosing which microgreen seeds to grow for chickens, opt for nutrient-dense greens that provide protein, calcium, and carotenoids. Some of the best options include:
- Wheatgrass and barley – Excellent sources of chlorophyll, vitamins, and minerals. Both are nutritious grasses chickens will readily eat.
- Leafy greens like kale, cabbage, lettuce, and spinach – These contain carotenoids, vitamin C, K, folate, and minerals. Kale and spinach are especially nutritious. Red cabbage has extra antioxidants.
- Herbs like parsley, basil, dill, and oregano – Parsley is a superfood loaded with vitamins A, C, and K. Basil has flavonoids. Dill helps with digestion. Oregano has antioxidants.
- Broccoli and arugula – High in vitamins C, K, folate, and sulfurophanes that support immunity.
- Pea shoots – A protein-rich addition chickens love. Good source of lutein for egg nutrition.
Focus on picking 2-3 of the most nutrient-dense microgreens to grow in rotation to maximize the nutritional benefits for your flock.
Product Checklist for Chicken Owners
- Microgreen Seeds: Offer a selection of the most nutritious microgreen seeds for chickens, such as wheatgrass, kale, broccoli, parsley, basil, and spinach.
- Microgreen Growing Kits: Include kits that contain shallow trays, organic potting soil, and spray bottles, suitable for growing microgreens.
- LED Grow Lights: Essential for providing sufficient light for microgreens, especially when grown indoors.
- Chicken Health and Nutrition Guides: Books or guides on chicken nutrition, focusing on the benefits of microgreens.
- Gardening Tools: Offer small gardening tools for planting, watering, and harvesting microgreens.
- Organic Fertilizers and Soil: To ensure the healthiest growing conditions for microgreens intended for chicken feed.
- Storage Containers for Microgreens: Recommend airtight containers for storing harvested microgreens in the refrigerator.
- Chicken Feeding Accessories: Bowls or other tools are recommended for feeding chickens.
- Informational Material on Microgreen Varieties: Resources detailing which microgreens are most beneficial for chickens’ health.
- Indoor Gardening Tips and Tricks: Guides and resources for successfully growing microgreens indoors, especially during colder months.
Benefits of Feeding Chickens Microgreens
Adding microgreens to your chickens’ diet provides a number of health and nutritional benefits for your flock.
- Enhanced Immunity – Microgreens contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamin C, beta carotene, and other nutrients that support immune function and health in chickens. This can reduce illness and disease.
- Increased Egg Production – The high nutrient density in microgreens provides laying hens with key vitamins and minerals needed for optimal egg production. Hens that are fed microgreens may lay more frequently.
- Improved Egg Nutritional Value – Microgreens contain carotenoids, omega-3s, vitamin E, and more that can enrich the nutritional makeup of eggs from hens that eat them. This boosts the health value of their eggs.
- Stronger Eggshells – Calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in microgreens contribute to stronger eggshells that are less prone to cracking and breaking.
- Enhanced Feather Quality – The amino acids, zinc, vitamin A, and omega-3s in microgreens support feather growth and enhance sheen, color, and quality.
- Increased Energy – Microgreens provide high levels of B vitamins that chickens utilize for energy production and metabolism. This keeps them active and productive.
- Healthier Digestion – Enzymes and fiber in microgreens promote good digestion and nutrient absorption for optimal health and growth.
- Stress Reduction – Antioxidants and nutrients in microgreens may help reduce stress and anxiety in chickens, keeping them calmer and more comfortable.
- Better Foraging Activity – Chickens enjoy pecking at and eating fresh microgreens. This satisfies their natural foraging instincts and behaviors.
Most Nutritious Microgreens for Chickens
When choosing which microgreens to grow, focus on options that provide the highest levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and proteins. Some of the most nutritious microgreens for chickens include:
Leafy Green Microgreens
|Kale||Vitamins A, C, K, antioxidants||Boosts immunity|
|Spinach||Iron, folate, vitamin K||Supports blood health|
|Lettuce||Vitamin A, folate||Promotes growth and fertility|
|Arugula||Calcium, vitamin K||Aids in bone and eggshell strength|
|Cabbage||Vitamin C and antioxidants||Immune supporting compounds|
|Parsley||Vitamin K, antioxidants||Improves bone and egg health|
|Basil||Vitamin K, antioxidants||Has antibacterial properties|
|Dill||Folate, calcium||Supports egg laying|
|Oregano||Vitamin K, antioxidants||Anti-parasitic and antimicrobial|
|Wheatgrass||Vitamins A, C, E, magnesium||Powerful antioxidant|
|Barley||Vitamin C, iron, magnesium||Boosts immunity|
|Oat||Protein, fiber, iron||Supports digestion and growth|
- The leafy green microgreens contain carotenoids, vitamins C, E, K, and antioxidants. They support the immune system and egg nutrition.
- The herb microgreens provide antioxidants, vitamin K, polyphenols, and antimicrobial compounds. They optimize bone strength, immunity, and growth.
- The grass microgreens like wheatgrass, barley, and oats are rich in chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, and protein. They provide an energy boost.
A combination of leafy greens, herbs, and grasses will provide chickens with the most complete nutrient profile. Rotate different microgreens to offer diversity.
Easy to Grow Microgreens for Beginners
When getting started with microgreens, choose user-friendly options that can thrive with minimal effort. Some top choices include:
- Pea Shoots – These grow rapidly hydroponically in 1-2 weeks. Rinse and trim roots to harvest. No soil is required.
- Sunflower Greens – Mature in just 5-7 days in soil or hydroponically. Cut stems above the soil to harvest.
- Wheatgrass – A resilient grass that grows quickly in trays. Cut above the soil line when 3-4 inches tall.
- Barley Grass – Another easy-to-grow nutritious grass microgreen. clip leaves with scissors to harvest.
- Lettuce – Grows reliably from seed in 10-14 days. Snip leaves just above the soil.
- Spinach – Tiny spinach leaves will emerge in 7-10 days. Cut leaves and stems to harvest.
- Kale – These leafy greens grow well in ~2 weeks. Cut stems and leaves with scissors.
- Radish – Bright microgreen sprouts mature in 6-8 days. Clip leaves and stems to harvest.
- Broccoli – Mini broccoli florets will develop in 2-3 weeks. Cut florets off stems to harvest.
Focus on 2-3 microgreens to start. Stick with quick-growing varieties that are simple to harvest by cutting. This will ensure success for beginners before expanding to more challenging microgreen types.
Growing Microgreens Indoors for Chickens in Winter
When growing microgreens for chickens during the winter months, it’s best to cultivate them indoors where conditions can be controlled. Here are some tips:
- Set Up Grow Lights
Use full spectrum LED grow lights to provide sufficient intensity for indoor growing:
- Hang lights 12-18 inches above trays
- Operate lights 14-16 hours per day
- 2500-3000K color temperature is ideal
- Opt for energy-efficient LED grow lights
- Choose the Right Trays
Use shallow trays or flats designed for microgreen growing:
- 10×20 inch plastic growing trays work well
- Make sure trays have drainage holes
- Consider flood tables that water trays from the bottom
- Maintain Proper Temperature
Microgreens grow best around 65-75°F during the day and 55-65°F at night.
- Use a thermometer to monitor indoor temperature
- Run a space heater or cooling fan to maintain an ideal temp range
- Avoid cold drafts and extreme temperature fluctuations
- Provide Good Ventilation
Proper airflow prevents mold and disease:
- Use small fans to circulate the air
- Gently blow air over microgreens to strengthen stems
- Open vents or windows periodically for fresh air exchange
With the right indoor growing setup, microgreens can be cultivated year-round to provide fresh, nutrient-packed greens for chickens, even when it’s cold outside.
Microgreens Growing Supplies and Equipment
Growing microgreens requires some basic supplies to create the proper growing conditions indoors. Recommended materials include:
- Grow Lights
- Full spectrum LED grow lights provide the light-intensity microgreens need
- Opt for energy-efficient LEDs over fluorescents or high-pressure sodium lights
- Hang lights 12-18 inches above trays
- Trays and Containers
- Shallow 10×20-inch black trays work well for microgreen cultivation
- Trays should have drainage holes to prevent overwatering
- Some people use plastic food containers or old nursery flats
- Growing Medium
- Use a sterile, soilless mix like coconut coir or peat/vermiculite
- Stay away from garden soil, which can harbor diseases
- Only a shallow 1-2 inch layer of medium is needed
- Buy microgreen seeds from reputable suppliers
- Look for organic, non-GMO seeds
- Calculate how much seed you need based on tray size
- Store seeds properly in a cool, dark place
- Other Supplies
- Dome lids or plastic covers help retain moisture
- Use a spray bottle for gentle watering
- Scissors or kitchen shears to cut greens
- Small desk fan for air circulation
A basic microgreen setup can be assembled affordably using common materials. Focus on quality grow lights and trays. This will help ensure success indoors.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Growing Microgreens
Follow these steps for growing healthy, productive microgreens:
1. Soak Seeds
- Place seeds in a jar or bowl of clean water for 6-12 hours before planting
- This initiates germination and speeds up sprouting
- Use a ratio of 2-2.5 grams of seed per 10×20-inch tray
2. Plant Seeds in Trays
- Fill trays with 1-2 inches of sterile growing medium
- Distribute seeds evenly over the tray surface
- Gently press seeds into the medium using your hand or a tamper
- You want good seed-to-soil contact without burying too deep
3. Care for Microgreens
- Keep trays in a warm area with temperatures around 70°F
- Provide 14-16 hours per day of bright light
- Lightly mist trays with water 1-2 times per day to maintain moisture
- Give them plenty of air circulation to prevent disease
4. Harvest Microgreens
- Use sharp scissors to snip greens just above the soil level
- Harvest most microgreens when the first true leaves emerge
- Cut greens so you leave some leaves to continue growing
- Rinse harvested greens and let them air dry before feeding
- Store freshly cut microgreens in the refrigerator in a container wrapped with a paper towel, changing it out daily
Follow proper growing conditions, and microgreens will be ready to start harvesting within 7-21 days, depending on the type grown.
Common Problems and Troubleshooting with Microgreens
When growing microgreens, you may encounter some common problems. Here is how to troubleshoot issues if they arise:
- Caused by fungal disease in wet conditions
- Affects seedlings, causing stems to rot and collapse
- Prevent by sterilizing trays, avoiding overwatering, increasing air circulation
- Treat with fungicides like copper sulfate if infection occurs
Leggy or Spindly Microgreens
- Weak, stretched-out stems caused by insufficient light
- Plants get leggy trying to reach for light
- Fix by increasing light intensity, moving lights closer
- Seeds failing to sprout well can be caused by:
- Low viability or old seeds
- Improper planting depth
- Temperature too high or too low
- Lack of moisture
- Solve by sourcing fresh seeds, regulating temperature, proper planting, and moisture
- Brown leaf tips caused by high salt accumulation
- Usually occurs when over-fertilizing or overwatering
- Prevent by reducing fertilizer and allowing the soil to partly dry out between waterings
- Grey fuzz on top of soil or microgreens
- Caused by excessive moisture and poor air circulation
- Fix by increasing ventilation, watering less, and spreading out plants
Follow sound cultural practices when growing microgreens to avoid most issues. Make adjustments as needed to light, water, and airflow to get your plants thriving.
Creative Ways to Feed Chickens Microgreens
There are several methods to feed microgreens to chickens:
Mix into Feed or Mash
- Chop or mince fresh microgreens
- Mix into feed pellets, grain mix, or wet mash
- Combine about 10-15% microgreens into feed
- Ensures all chickens get an equal portion
Sprinkle on Top of Feed
- Microgreens can be lightly sprinkled over feed
- Allows chickens to selectively pick the greens
- Provides variation to standard feed ration
Hang Bunches for Pecking
- Tie microgreen bunches up with string
- Hang at chicken height in run or coop
- Lets hens nibble and peck the greens
- Satisfies natural foraging behaviors
Offer Free Choice
- Place trays or piles of harvested microgreens
- Allows free choice feeding on microgreens
- Chickens will consume more nutrients
Mix into Treats
- Incorporate chopped microgreens into:
- Mealworms, grains, scratch mixes
- Yogurt, cottage cheese
- Fruits and veggies
- Boosts nutrition of treats
Get creative in how you serve microgreens! Blend into existing feed, offer free choice, or hang leafy bunches for interactive feeding.
Best Microgreens to Grow for Optimal Chicken Health
Certain microgreens provide outstanding health benefits when fed to chickens. The top options to grow for optimal chicken health include:
- Wheatgrass – This nutritious green is packed with chlorophyll, antioxidants, and enzymes that reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and support overall health.
- Kale – An excellent source of vitamins A, C, K, lutein, and antioxidants. Kale microgreens enhance immunity, respiratory health, and egg nutrition.
- Spinach – Spinach microgreens provide iron, vitamin K, folic acid, and beta-carotene. They optimize blood health and energy.
- Parsley – Parsley microgreens are loaded with vitamin K, vitamin C, and antioxidant flavonoids. They improve bone, heart, and immune health.
- Pea Shoots – As a protein-rich microgreen, pea shoots support muscle growth, feathering, and egg production in chickens.
- Broccoli – With vitamins C, K, and sulforaphane compounds, broccoli microgreens boost immunity and gut health.
- Carrots – Carrot microgreens are an excellent source of beta carotene, biotin, and vitamins C, and K. They enhance skin, feathers, and eye health.
Rotating these immunity-boosting, disease-fighting microgreens will keep chickens in optimal health and peak performance. The variety also encourages foraging and feeding.
Raising backyard chickens presents an opportunity to provide them with the freshest, most nutritious foods possible. Microgreens offer an easy way to significantly boost the nutritional content of your chickens’ diet.
These young seedlings, packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, offer a range of health benefits for your flock. Microgreens can enhance immunity, egg nutrition, digestion, bone strength, feathers, and more in chickens.
When getting started, choose user-friendly microgreens like wheatgrass, pea shoots, kale, and lettuce. Set up simple indoor growing systems with lights and trays to grow microgreens year-round. Offer chickens a rotating variety of the most nutrient-dense greens.
Incorporating just a small amount of microgreens into your chickens’ diet on a regular basis can make a big difference in their health and vitality. Your homegrown microgreen garden will keep your chickens happy, strong, and productive while providing you with an easily renewable source of fresh superfoods.