Sunday, August 20, 2006

Permaculture is definitely about making links between different components in a system. “Chickens and other poultry are perhaps unique in the number of beneficial relationships which can be set up between them and other elements of a household, smallholding or farm”, Patrick Whitefield, The Earth Care Manual: A Permaculture Handbook for Britain and other Temperate Climates, p248. As you can see from the photo, ours are fully integrated into our vegetable garden. In fact, it would be true to say, a little too well integrated!

Permaculture chickens aren’t meant to wander freely around vegetable gardens as they will be quite undiscerning about what they scratch up, and what they eat. Where they are sitting is where I had planted some salad vegetables but the cultivated earth mixed with compost has been just too irresistible because of the possibilities it offered for a regular dust bath. The fresh green shoots of the salad crop would have been nibbled anyway, if they had survived. Having accustomed the chickens to courgettes—we give them any excess or those monsters that hide under the big leaves and grow into marrows—they’ve now started to eat them on the plant.

Fencing would be the answer, whether we fence in the vegetable plot or fence in the chickens but there are too many other jobs for the moment, so we are putting this one down to experience and are just enjoying their company and have netted off high risk areas, like our latest salad sowing. Next year, we hope to develop a chicken forage system, which will consist of a large fenced area, containing plants that provide chicken fodder naturally. A way of successfully introducing chickens to the veggie plot is to use a “chicken tractor”, basically a moveable chicken run. We’ve just completed making one and have been promised four more young chickens from Caroline, our friend who supplied the first two black ones. More on this next post…