Permaculture in Practice
The best way to look at permaculture in practice is by taking an example, and there is no
better example than the permacultural way of keeping chickens. A comparison with the bat-
tery method is particularly revealing, especially when you look at the two systems in terms
of how they supply the chickens' needs and how they use their outputs.
The battery chickens' food is mainly grain, grown with the use of tractors and other ma-
chinery, artificial fertilisers and pesticides. All of these take a lot of energy both to produce
and to use, plus a great deal of raw materials. A protein supplement is added to the grain
which is often fishmeal or soya imported from poor countries where the people go short of
protein. The soya beans may well be grown on land cleared from virgin forest. The feed is
processed at a large centralised mill, requiring transport both from the grain farm and to the
chicken farm. Water is pumped to the chicken unit via the mains. The battery house takes a
lot of energy both to build and to run, including the energy needed for forced ventilation to
get rid of the stale air and accumulated body heat of all the birds.
Every material need is met by the use of a great deal of energy and the creation of much
pollution. The chickens' welfare needs are not met at all.
As for the outputs, only the eggs are really thought of as an output. After a productive
timespan, the chickens are killed and the carcasses may go for the lowest quality meat, but
the manure is considered a nuisance to be got rid of, and the idea that chickens may have
other things to offer us is not even considered.