Chickens: The Perfect Permaculture Partners
by Manda H
Published August 8, 2023
Chickens are a great addition to any permaculture-minded homestead. They have several benefits that they provide and only require a few minutes of attention each day. When I let my chickens out of their coop for the day they quickly make their way to areas that they deem to be worthy of their attention.
Permaculture in homesteading is built upon the principle of maximizing biodiversity while bringing together nature, animals, and humans into a place of living and working together in harmony. It is the opposite of modern-day farming, which tends to focus on monocultures such as having an 80-acre field, all of the same crop. By having a biodiverse homestead the pests have a harder time decimating crops. The healthier everything is, the stronger it is. Diseases often surface in areas where plants are weak. While using chickens as part of your permaculture plan, you are also saving on chicken feed, which then also provides you with eggs. You reduce pest damage to your crops and minimize your need for purchased fertilizer. The graphic here shares the 12 principles of permaculture.
Maximizing Biodiversity with Chickens
So how does a chicken play a role in permaculture? They are a great defense against various insects and pests. They like to scratch around, where they can consume large numbers of grubs, beetles, and more. If you have large livestock around, they will go through the manure piles to clean up which disrupts the life cycles of insects and parasites, helping to reduce the amount of parasites or insects, such as Black Flies. They will also chase down those grasshoppers who otherwise want to feast upon your gardens.
Chickens are literally walking fertilizing machines as they drop their nitrogen-filled manure throughout your property. They turn over your mulch piles for you and create delicious eggs for you. They are free labor to work up your compost piles for you as they literally shred up your leaves, one scratch at a time. All they need from you is a good source of freshwater, protection from predators, and proper nutrition.
Integrating Chickens in Your Garden
A few things to consider when adding chickens to your garden. Fences will be your friend. Chickens tend to be attracted to areas that you do not necessarily want nor need them. If you have ever had your chicken staring at you through the sliding glass door you know that they crave to be around their humans. Fences will direct them to pooping out under the large apple tree instead of on your sidewalk. Fencing can also help keep chickens out of areas such as your garden or raspberries. Chickens can and will enjoy your Roma tomatoes and Blueberries. Chunnels, that is, Chicken Tunnels can provide closer access to your garden without risk to your plants. Want to know what a Chunnel is? Check out our Blog about how to Build a Chicken Tunnel
To keep damage to a minimum, another method is to limit the amount of time they spend free ranging. I personally only let my girls out about 3 hours before dusk. This gives them a chance to get their bugs, scratch around and enjoy weed seeds as they fertilize the ground but they are not out so long that they leave behind any eroded areas from over scratching. Chickens will naturally return to their coop at night as they will want to get back to their roosts. All you need to do is shut their door to tuck them safely into their coop.
Another great option is to use rotational access. By using a solar-powered electric netting fence you can provide access to certain areas to maximize your little chicken’s workflow. The netting provides protection from predators while restricting where your hens can go. Want to learn more about using Electric netting for moving your chickens around? Check out Rotational Grazing Using Electric Poultry Fence.
In conclusion, integrating chickens into your permaculture homestead offers multiple benefits. Embrace the synergy of nature, animals, and humans for harmonious coexistence, optimizing their positive impact through smart strategies like fencing and rotational access.
Not sure which breeds work best for Free Ranging? Check out our Blog Best Chicken Breeds for Foraging & Free Ranging.
Want to learn more about the benefits of allowing your hens to free Range? Learn more here at our Benefits of Free Ranging Your Chickens.
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