Companion Planting and Stacking Functions for Easy, Edible Chicken Environments.
Who doesn’t love Chickens?! Honestly they are one of my very favorite animals. Chickens have amazing instincts, are intelligent, curious, beautiful and, BONUS, they lay eggs which are healthy and delicious. If you’ve never had a fresh laid egg for breakfast you are missing out and should immediately go find a farmer near you. Better yet….start here, do your research and raise some chickens of your own! Most cities are now allowing a few hens per household and there are so many benefits to raising your own flock!
Not only do chickens produce eggs, provide entertainment and nourish our very souls, they eat food scraps which keeps green-waste out of our landfills where it creates toxic gases which can pollute our soils and creep into the water table. Seriously, DON’T THROW AWAY FOOD SCRAPS. That’s a topic for another blog post. Chickens also deter pests, are amazing lawn mowers, can be utilized to prep garden beds and their feces, high in nitrogen, is an amazing addition to your compost pile! Cute. They are so cute.
So, it’s been decided, we should all raise chickens!
Now we want easy to maintain systems so that our Chickens thrive and we don’t have to spend every waking moment tending them. This is where a Permaculture approach comes into play…
Permaculture means Permanent Agriculture and is a design methodology. Permaculture is ethically based and focuses on stacking functions, using intelligent design and aims to create regenerative human settlements. Bringing natural cycles and humanity into balance. Observation is key.
I have designed this template as an example of an ideal Permaculture chicken system.
I will break down the elements of this design into their many different functions to demonstrate how each component fulfills many needs.
I will use the template of a complete coop system like the ones built by my friends at Carolina Coops for this. Their coops utilize a deep litter composting method in the roosting area which makes coop maintenance a breeze.
- Primary Shelter
- Nesting boxes for egg laying
- Collects rainwater off of the roof
- Security against pests
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Functional and easy to clean
- Protection from predators
- Additional forage space for chickens
- Allows forage plants to be protected during establishment beyond chicken reach through separation by the garden and inner run.
- Any pests trying to reach the garden must travel through this outer run and the chickens will eat many of them.
This is the area directly outside the enclosed coop run where the chickens can venture into a forage zone.
- Protected inner run
- Provides space and forage
- Separates the chickens from the garden
Tree in Garden Zone
For this design I went with a Siberian Pea shrub because they are nutritious, Nitrogen fixing and don’t get too big. See my recommended companion plants for chickens post for other options.
- Provides shade for chicken run
- Provides shade for garden beds allowing a space for tender greens and more delicate crops to be grown.
- Edible and high in protein, this beauty will supplement your bird’s diets.
- Provides food for the household and the chickens
- Placing the garden between the chicken runs makes weeding a breeze! just toss any garden scraps into the run and the chickens will devour them!
- When it comes time to clear your beds for winter or spring planting just open the gates and allow the chickens access to the garden beds. They will love turning them for you.
- Houses Composting Operation.
Rain Water Barrel
- Holds rain water collected off of coop roof.
- Dispenses water for chicken consumption.
- Acts as a raised back-up irrigation system for the garden.
With this kind of integrated design thinking, where each element must serve many functions, there is no limit to the beneficial relationships that can be achieved!
Bear in mind that each site is different. Each client has different needs, style, desires, time commitments and budgetary options which is why every system we design is unique and created especially for you.
Listen to Bethany Latham, our Lead Designer, speak on this topic in Episode #3 of Radio Chicken with Carolina Coops!