Chitting Seed for Softfood

Chitting Seed - My Method and Mike Fidler's Method

Kristen Reeves, Meadowlark Farms Avian Supply, Inc.

For chitting seed, I follow the Mike Fidler "idea", but with a few modifications to meet my needs. I use the following. Mike's exact directions will follow!

  • Two large plastic bowls
  • Two large mesh strainers with handles
  • Virkon S, Dr. Rob Marshall's KD Cleanser, OR Citric Acid crystals. I use whatever I have on hand at the moment. PICK ONE - DO NOT MIX THEM!!! This is the soaking solution.
  • A gallon sized container to mix the soaking solution.
  • "Black", dark oily seed, protein mix
  • "White" carbohydrate seed mix
  • A large Rubbermaid container on which the lid DOES NOT seal completely - so that air can circulate while the mixture is in the freezer.

Use ONE - do NOT combine any of these together!

I mix the soaking solution with HOT water (not boiling, just hot out of the tap). While the additive is dissolving, I prepare my seed. I use 4 TEASPOONS PER GALLON of whichever product I am using at the time. I've tested the effectiveness using Mike Fidler's recommendations (below) and have found that 4 TSP works best for my water pH and environment.

Strainers and Bowls - measuring seed 1:2

Since the seed mix is approximately 1:2, I use 1 cup Black mix to 2 cups White mix. So if I want to make more, I just adjust those numbers - 2:4, 3:6, 4:8, etc. I usually mix up 4:8 each time because it will last in the freezer up to 1 year after the process is complete and mixed.

The thing I do that is VERY different from Mike's method is I soak the seed on top of the clothes dryer while it is running. The combination of HOT water and HOT dryer help to chit the seed faster. The water stays hot longer, and softens the hulls quicker. My dryer takes approximately 30 minutes per load, so if I run 3 loads (and even with only 2 kids left at home, I can easily do 3 loads per day!), I know I've soaked the seed for a minimum of 1.5 hours. (photos of seed draining when my 1.5 hours is up!) 

Pour enough soaking solution over the seed to completely cover it. Mix frequently.

Once the soaking is done, I drain the seed over the sink using the solution to rinse the bowl back over the strainer and capture any seeds that may have fallen through while still dry. I tip the strainer up so that the handle is at a 45 degree angle. I mix the draining seed every time I walk passed it to make sure all water is draining out - I leave it to drain over night.

Time to drain - I use the solution to rinse the bowl and pour any loose seeds back into the strainers.

After draining, I tip the strainers up at a 45 degree angle to allow for best drainage, then allow to drain over night.

The following morning, I dump both strainers of seed into a Rubbermaid container - it is one that the lid does NOT completely seal. I mix it well so that the the mixes are completely combined. 

Combined seed - well mixed.

Once the seed is combined, I add in my other items. Obviously the BRU Complete Soft Food is no longer available, so I've created my own approximation. I add the following to a 4:8 ratio soaked seed.

I "mash" this all together, then place in the freezer - stirring FREQUENTLY to keep the seed from freezing into a single mass. Most days it won't do that because it has drained well, but if it hasn't, stirring frequently helps.

I store this mixture in the freezer with NO LID if I have breeders and/or chicks in the nest because I'll use the entire batch up in about a week. But if I am only feeding for the resting season or no breeders, I place the lid on the container.

I follow Mike's recommendations for feeding. 1/2 tsp per bird per day (while preparing to breed & while breeding) unless they are feeding chicks, then they are given as much as they can eat in a 24 hour period. And while I have tested and cultured this mixture and have found it will stay bacteria free for up to 7 days, I change it DAILY.

Mike Fidler offers the following as items you will need to chit seed and how to go about it:

  • 2 plastic containers that fit inside each other and one lid. The container needs to be big enough to hold 1kg [1 litre] of sprouting seed.
  • Make lots of small holes in the bottom and part way up the sides of one of the plastic containers - 1/16th inch or in metric 1.59 mm.
  • Put in 1kg of sprouting seed into the container with holes [a 1 litre measure full].
  • Put this container with seed inside the container without holes.
  • Add a minimum of ½ teaspoon of Virkon S
  • Add approx 1.25 litres of water and stir to disperse the Virkon S
  • Leave to soak for a minimum of 1½ hours to a maximum of 2 hours, soaking for longer makes it soggy, slower to dry & increase risk of pathogens.
  • Separate the containers and leave the seed to drain, put the lid loosely on the top for about 12 hours to retain humidity & then remove so seed will start drying.

Within 14-30 hours, dependent on the seed-mix type and ambient temperatures, the mix will have ‘chitted’. This is the correct stage to feed it at. A longer sprout means it has lost a lot of its nutrient value.


The only thing you need to remember if you are going to freeze your sprouted seed, is that it needs to be reasonably dry when you put it in the freezer otherwise it will come out as a solid block of ice!

About half way through the sprouting process, I have the habit of raking the bottom to the top and leave the lid off, so that it will dry out a bit. It needs to be just moist, not wet and when it comes out of the freezer, if you have got the moisture content right, it will be nice and friable and easily crumble. Frozen seed may be fed directly to the birds or mixed in with you soft food, it does not need to be defrosted.

WARNING:And finally let me add. This is a SAFER way not a FOOLPROOF way to sprout seed. You should still not take liberties or take silly risks. There are a tremendous number of variables which could not be considered in our trials. How dirty is YOUR seed, what is YOUR local climate compared with mine, how clean are YOUR feed pots compared to ours etc, etc.

To determine the optimum amount of Virkon S you should use under your conditions, we would suggest setting up a little experiment. Set up a container as explained above and add 2.5mls [1/2 teaspoon] of Virkon S, leave it on a bench top for 4 days and then take it to your local vet for analysis. If it fails the test, double the amount of Virkon S, do exactly the same as the first test. If that one fails the test "I would eat my hat"! However, if it did, carry on increasing the amount until you reach optimum. In our management system, we make up a large batch of sprouted seed, enough to last approximately two months, and put it in the FREEZER [not fridge].This is taken out and mixed into a batch of soft food once a week and again stored in the FREEZER ready for daily use.

Each morning, the ready mixed soft food is taken out of the freezer and fed directly to each cage without first thawing. The birds are fed only enough to last them the day. The following morning, anything which is left in the feed pots is thrown away and the pots changed for clean ones which have been through the dishwasher and are therefore pathogen free. The only risk we take [and are getting away with! ] is that any surplus we have left after the mornings rounds goes back in the freezer, even though it is partially thawed. In the good old bleach days, we used to feed it to the wild birds. However, another WARNING,  this may not be safe if you use a different brand of soft food to the one I use!

Incidentally, in case you are wondering, why sprout seed anyway? Well, the reason is that the sprouting process enhances the nutritional value of a seed by up to 300%! Furthermore, the process increases the amount of fructose and glucose creating a high energy package also making it easier for small nestlings to digest.

We use two different sprouting mixes as both germinate at different speeds. The Black Mix consists of 'oily' seeds and is important as it provides the LIPID content of our diet. Why do we need lipids? Well, the birds endocrine and hormone system will not work properly without, so this means, amongst other things, that they would not breed very successfully!

The White Mix consists of a different range of seeds which contain micro nutrients and some of the carotenoids. Again, all important in the maintenance of healthy, free breeding stock.

To complete the diet supplement, we mix in a concentrated soft food which has all the items missing from the rest of the diet, at the ratio of 20% soft food to 20% Black Mix sprout and 60% White Mix sprout and feed 5ml per day to breeding birds - ad lib once they have nestlings.

See these videos for more on how MIKE does it!

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