Permaculture Chickens: An Integrative Approach

by Traci Knight – Staff Writer
Interest in raising chickens in the city has continued to grow. Chickens are simple to care for and provide eggs and manure on a continual basis. Chicken manure can be composted for fertilizer and even used to make biochar, which sequesters carbon into the ground rather than in the air as a greenhouse gas. It is no longer unusual to see chickens, or even hear roosters, in urban areas.




Even though chickens are usually the beginning of an urban farm, they do carry an environmental footprint. Grains purchased for chicken feed act to funnel food sources through an animal husbandry operation, which is one of the primary environmental arguments for vegetarianism and veganism. In keeping with the principles that enticed urban farmers to raise chickens, permaculture enthusiasts are looking for ways to maximize the value of their chickens while minimizing the difficulties and excess.


Chicken Paddocks and Mobile Coops

Finding the right chicken coop and setup is important for maintaining a healthy, stable flock. Many city dwellers ultimately find that they are not comfortable allowing their chickens to range free all the time due to the amount of damage chickens can do to the landscape. Most commonly, people choose a coop with a run attached, using a barrier method to keep their chickens out of the gardens. Mobile coops with multiple paddocks are a better solution.


Chickens, along with their coop, can be rotated between paddocks, where they have access to vegetation but not continual time to destroy it. A paddock system can be used in conjunction with a chicken tractor coop. If that feels like too much work, go ahead and use a stationary coop. Balance can be achieved by allowing the birds in the yard on a semi regular basis. Master gardeners are known to allow their chickens to forage in late fall, winter, and early spring and confine them during the peak growing season.


Food Production for Chickens

A primary principle of permaculture is to catch and store energy. By planting diverse and available vegetation and allowing the chickens to forage, there is much less of a need to supplement with commercial chicken feed. When it is necessary to provide feed, utilize kitchen scraps or whole grains like barley and maize.



Chickens originated in the jungles of Southeast Asia. They are especially fond of eating ground cover, bugs, weeds, and berries. Allowing your yard to amass weeds can be a real positive when it comes to chickens. Chickens also eat a great deal of grass. If given enough space and distractions, they may not eat the flowers and vegetables, depending on how large the flock is. For farmers and those growing serious crops, chicken runs can be placed adjacent to the crop rows, allowing for indirect fertilization without losing the crops to the chickens. Weeding and pruning can be supplemental feed in these cases.


Many people are surprised by how destructive chickens are to their environment, especially in a contained area. Chickens are relatively easy to care for in almost any yard, but maximizing the potential for different food types, including weeds, can really aid in the health of your chickens. The more green vegetation a chicken forages for itself, the brighter and healthier the egg yolk. The yolk itself is the barometer, a major difference between caged and ranging chickens.



Categories: Permaculture

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