Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
Permaculture chickens have much of their food grown for them where they live. The chick-
en run is planted with trees and shrubs which produce seed or fruit which is edible to them.
No transport is involved and the food simply falls down to them. We call this a chicken
forage system. Supplementary feeding may be needed at some times of the year, but a well
designed system will keep this to a minimum.
The chicken forage system illustrates two of the working principles of permaculture: it
is a good relative placement to put the food plants and the consumers in the same place;
and the greatest possible use is made of perennial plants , such as trees and shrubs. The
great thing about perennial plants is that once they are established they need little or no
maintenance, unlike annuals which need a big input of work every year. In this system you
do not even need to harvest the food. The chickens do it for you.
If a wheat field, an orchard or a vegetable garden are placed near the chicken run, the
chickens can make useful connections with them.
If they are let into the wheat field after harvest they will eat up the ears and grains that
are missed in harvesting. We humans are not going to pick them up unless we go back to the
drudgery of former years, when country people were so poor they were glad of the 'glean-
ings'. Here the chickens are making use of a resource that would otherwise go to waste.
In the orchard chickens will help to control pests such as codling moth and sawflies by
eating the insects during that part of their life cycle they spend on the ground. This connec-
tion between chickens and orchard is useful to both parties, and that is the kind of connec-
tion we are always looking for in permaculture.
The same sort of connection can be made between the chickens and the vegetable
garden. This is called a 'chicken tractor'. This is not a hundred or so chickens tied up to
the front of a plough, it is using their natural inclination to peck and scratch to clear the
ground of weeds and pests. They are confined on a relatively small area of ground for a
short time, either by a fence or in a small, easily moved ark. In a few days they not only
clear the ground and manure it, but find a part of their own food needs in the process.
The chickens' connections with the wheat field, orchard and vegetable garden illustrate
two more principles of permaculture.
The first is that every need should be met from many sources . Just as the chickens get
their food from many different sources, so should we. At present the world relies on just
four plants for most of its food: rice, wheat, maize and potatoes. This makes us extremely
vulnerable to crop failure if conditions should change, either due to global warming or for
any other reason. We urgently need to diversify.
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