Episode-1019- The Role of Animals in Permaculture

Properly Managed Chickens Can Convert Pasture to Forest

Properly Managed Chickens Can Convert Pasture to Forest

Geoff Lawton just released a great video that represents the beginnings of an awesome new project and it fits in great with today’s show topic.  In his video which addresses preparing for future crisis with permaculture Geoff shows how chickens can be used to establish a food forest 150 square meters at a time.

This is just one role that livestock both small and large can play in a permaculture system.  From talking to hundreds of people I am convinced that you can have some sort of livestock in just about any environment.

To me if you really wish to branch out into individual sustainability at some point animals must become part of the formula.  Today I discuss how to do that and how to actually sculpt land with animals being one of your tools in doing so.  We discuss how to do this on a large acreage or even a small suburban lot.

Join Me Today As We Discuss…

  • Why animals in the first place, what does nature teach us
  • Understanding soil creation both fungal and bacterial
  • Using chickens to restore a pasture OR create a food forest
  • Using ducks for pest control and free ranging them in “forest”
  • The role animals play in nutrient bioavailability
  • How improperly managed animals can destroy a system
  • How to adapt large scale animal concepts into small scale operations
  • Using animals in suburban environments
  • How to even use animals covertly in suburban environments

Resources for Today’s Show…

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33 Responses to Episode-1019- The Role of Animals in Permaculture

  1. I was hesitant to get into ducks as I didnt know how they would interact with the chickens and turks; I have to say that they are the lowest maintenance birds I have. As long as they have water and room to roam, they will find food. they seem to eat EVERYTHING the chickens aren’t interested in and they do a great job of managing each other. I recommend ducks to anyone with a small flock.

  2. @damon: We’ve kept ducks, chucks, and turks together in a yard for many years and have never had a serious problem. We are also visited by large flocks of wild turkeys year round – no probs. Perhap other people have other experiences but this is mine.

    Joy!

    (Standard bronze turks, Pekin ducks, Buff Orpington chicks)

  3. Well dang the show is over all ready. Had to look twice to make sure it was longer than 15min.

    Can’t wait to get the animals out onto the pasture. The pastures were so bad I felt it best to let them rest for 1-2 yrs. Let nature take it’s course. I can tell you after having all these animals (77 of them) in a very small area, our yard and grass has never looked better. (blue berry plants not so much small price to pay) It’s thick dark green and held up to hot summer heat! Normal is water 2-3 times a week this summer 1-2 times a month. It was normal to have bare dirt spots in our yard during the summer. Not this year. The chickens and pigs did great on getting rid of all the moss too!

    Have 5ac next door the guy 4-5 yrs ago clear cut. Left all the stumps. What a mess it was. First thing to grow Canadian Thistles! OMG what a night mare. 5 ac of thistle seed blowen on to our 5 ac. Looked like a blizzard in july. We could have called county and they would have enforced him spraying and cutting or burning. OMG no way did I want that egg head spraying toxins. So I figured let nature take it’s course. Alder trees are growing black berries are growing. Fir trees are growing. The thistles are fading. Shh don’t tell . I keep throwing baby blackberry plants over the fence. 5 ac of black berries. wow imagine all the wild rabbits. Oh the bees will love it. Another two years and all the thistles will pretty much be gone. Mother nature knows what she is doing.

    Funny observation every single time I wonder how I am going to make money you do a show on permaculture or gardening. You trying to tell me something? lol

    Thanks for the show now off to the link.

  4. You just touched on it briefly, but it’s such an important point: the people who think they can’t have any kind of sustainability because their HOA or Town Council doesn’t allow X (chickens, livestock, etc) just need to change their perspective a bit.

    Quail are fantastic – they’re small, quiet, and they can be (and ARE) raised as pets. Just as you would have a cockatiel or parakeets in your house as pets, you can have quail in your house. The housing system is practically the same. To you, they’re a valuable food source; to anyone stopping by, they’re cute pet birds. Plus they reproduce and mature amazingly fast; if you start falling into a crisis situation you can expand that little group of quail exponentially in just a few weeks.

    Another livestock animal that has come to be seen as pets are rabbits. They can be kept inside or outside, but to any neighbor or onlooker it will look like you’re simply keeping pet rabbits. These guys have very valuable poo, they can be fed for nearly nothing (you can graze them or harvest the grass/clover/etc and feed it to them), and they’re like little hopping pantries. No refrigeration needed. Again, in a crisis situation, 3 rabbits can become double-digit food producing herds in just 2 months. (1 month for gestation, 1 to 1.5 months nursing and growing out, then they’re ready to breed or harvest. Larger rabbits take a little longer getting to harvesting weight.)

    For veggies, Larry Hall has come up with a fantastic self-watering gardening system that can be picked up and taken with you if you have to leave. It’s all done using 5-gallon buckets and a rain gutter (he’s even done it with a kiddie pool and those reusable grocery bags). This system can be stacked; there’s videos on his facebook page of people making multi-tiered gardening systems with it on very small apartment patios. Here’s his facebook page:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Self-Watering-Rain-Gutter-Grow-System/319446841423065?fref=ts

    Building a sustainable system like Geoff teaches is optimal (and it’s what I hope to do eventually) but for urban dwellers or those in overly-nosy suburban neighborhoods, there’s a way to get it done, too. Just scale down your thinking. Quail instead of chickens/ducks. Quiet rabbits instead of cows/goats. Multiple, portable 5-gallon gardens rather than one huge yard garden. Food-producing bushes instead of “pretty” or “decorative” hedging. A small-form fruit tree instead of a japanese maple. Dwarf fruit/nut trees that can be grown in portable containers, like big half-barrels.

    Not planning on living in that suburban house for very long? You can plant things in a way that you can take it all with you, or in a permanent way that will increase the value of your property and set the next owner on good footing, or both!
    These things CAN be done even without rural acreage. Just gotta change your perspective a bit. :)

  5. Great interview. Here’s a short video clip of Geoff Lawton demonstrating how to use chickens in stages to build a food forest.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wI9Arel9tQ

  6. I have an idea… you could have a contest to design your new property. make a downloadable arial to work from anyway congratulations… Sam

    • Modern Survival

      Geoff Lawton is going to be designing my property, I am pretty fricken stoked about it too,

      Jack

  7. Just watched the vid. WOW. Took me a long time to down load was having problems. Well worth it. I think the fear of making mistakes has slowed me down. Some of the mistakes could cost you yrs and yrs to recover from. In both time and money. I am very very excited tearie eyed even to see what comes next.

    Yes Jack you are one lucky dog to have him come and design your property. To have him design my property would be better than winning the big lottery.

  8. Jack you mentioned chickens killing pests, just wondering if they will dispatch fire ants too? Down in east Texas that’s our biggest pest by far and they are very hard to control, I have tried every organic method out there, orange oil and molasses mixed with water works best but it is expensive and only holds em off for a while, nothing seems to ever run them off for good, just wondering if you knew if chickens would do or if you had any other insights, keep in mind when you move to East Texas fire ant will change the game big time!

  9. Matthew in Gooseneck GA

    I am really interested about the guy raising quail in his garage. Hey come on the show dude!
    Shannon I have my chickens in chicken tractors on pasture. They may eat the fire ants but they do not even put a dent in them.
    As I said I have my chickens in tractors on pasture. I used them to help create my garden beds for next year. like Jack descibed they cleard the land. I mulched it with wood chips. waiting for the spring to plant now.
    Now they are in the pasture when I move them I throw down seeds of some sort.

  10. Jack – Geoff’s video is amazing! A very positive solution to so many of the problems we face as a society. I can’t wait for the videos to be posted. Thank you so much for developing this relationship with Geoff that brings his genius to us!

  11. I have 10 acres of land that has been fallow for 30+ years so it is mainly brush and trees. I want to use permaculture to design a system for it. I have a creek running through it so I’m not short on water. I am really interested in using animals to make this brushy area into a productive area. I have a few chickens now and plan to get goats in the spring. I will be watching this closely.

    Please, Please, Please talk to Geoff about making this stuff available as a video download rather than a physical media.

  12. Nice show! Nice vid link.
    I’ve eaten quail eggs before (& the full bird). They’re quite small though. Is it practical as a replacement when used to eating chicken eggs? Beggars can’t be choosers I guess. ;)

    Just seems like it takes 20 quail eggs to make a normal omelette (exaggerating, but still).

    • Modern Survival

      @Gunter,

      I think it is a major matter of perspective. When I have had the rare but good fortune to get quail eggs, I have found them awesome. I usually cook 3 in a poaching ring which makes you end up with about the same as one chicken egg in volume. You just have three little yolks instead of one big one. So for 2 eggs I need 6.

      Now the thing is if we do the math on ounces of eggs per pound of bird quail way out produce chickens by volume. So likely I need 4 quail to equal one chicken but those 4 quail eat less then one chicken. So when I look at my omelet from and input stand point should I say well it was 6 quail eggs vs. 2 chicken eggs or X amount of feed vs. Y amount of feed? To me it is the housing, water and feed requirement per ounce of eggs not how many eggs come out of how many bird butts.

      Then we look at the value of production in dollars. 12 cheapo eggs are a bit over a dollar. Organic eggs around here run 3-5 a dozen. Where as 2 dozen canned quail eggs are about 12 bucks as cheap as I can find em. That means 36 of them would be equal to a dozen and a half chicken eggs and cost about 18 dollars, canned vs 2-6 bucks for chicken eggs. Fresh should fetch as much or likely more then canned.

      So I can produce more for less input and I get more per pound of production.

      Next quail grow very fast to harvest without resorting to hybrid crosses that become deformed at 40 days like Rock Cornish crosses. This lets me harvest as needed and allows me to grow a quiet bird that can be grown in a shed or a garage or even a house if it comes to it.

      Now price the meat, cheap factory chicken is 69 cents for some cuts, say a buck 99 for skinless white meat. I buy pastured birds locally for 5 bucks a pound. A pound of quail (whole on the bone) will average about 12 bucks a pound. Again I get more meat per pound of food and square feet of space of housing.

      So again it is perspective. But as James Bond was fond of quail eggs (Roger More) I would not call it beggars.

      • I know that there are different species of quail, so I won’t doubt your 3 to 1 ratio of quail to chicken of whatever variety you ate, but the most common variety of quail kept (also the one shown in Geoff Lawton’s Urban Permaculture video) is the Japanese (Coturnix) quail and their eggs are typically around 10 grams, a large chicken egg is 2 ounces or 60 grams. So you would need 5 or 6 Coturnix eggs to replace one medium to large sized chicken egg.
        If you could do a podcast with someone with expertise in quail raising I would very much like to hear it. Specific info about housing, optimal spacing and density (very useful to know if all you have is a suburban garage.)
        Love the show, Jack. Keep up the good work!

        • Modern Survival

          It is planned, the guy with them in the garage just came in with a response. Looks like it will be Jan though as the sched fills up fast. On a 6 to 1 ratio I still say quail are a much higher producer then chickens on out put vs. input.

        • Modern Survival

          Here is a great example in various sizes of different species of quail by the way. http://bit.ly/T3k4PM

        • Moonvalleyprepper

          Coturnix quail is what I am raising for meat and eggs. The eggs range in size from the smallest I have gotten 8 grams all the way up to 21 grams, average for this generation of layers, F4, has been ~12 grams.

          If your interested in seeing what can be done with this breed through selective breeding check out this thread:

          http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/629414/tatanka-breeders-club-meat-quail-project-with-history-discussion-pictures-and-videos

          After ~15 generations, F15, they are averaging 15 gram eggs and have gotten the birds up to 14oz slaughter weight.

          I’m basically following the breeding standards they have on page 1 of the thread.

        • Modern Survival

          So at 14 grams that is about a 4 to 1 ratio. Like I said when I have them I have just dumped three in a poaching ring and considered that an egg, I guess more accurately a small egg. LOL anyway thanks for the specs and can’t wait to have you on in January!

    • Great, scientific reply Jack! Thanks! Very helpful for us!

    • One more thing, wow! the price for quail eggs where you are is so high! 2 dozen, $18. In my country they are $1US for 6 fresh eggs! And a full bird is about $3US. I feel quite fortunate.

      • Modern Survival

        Wow that is great as I can almost never get fresh quail eggs around here at any price. My numbers were for canned eggs. We store them as a great long term protein item. You can buy them at many places and if you buy them by the case you can get the price down a lot and it makes them a great thing to keep in the pantry.

        Now I have found 2 dozen for about 10 bucks fresh online, didn’t even know that was possible. At 4-1 as we have now determined to be accurate that would be 6 chicken eggs. That is equivalent to 20 dollars a dozen for chicken eggs.

        Yet your prices locally are a LOT better. This puts a hole in my cash crop concept IF enough people start producing them faster than demand increases that is.

        I mean for instance Moonvalleyprepper is producing 20,000 eggs a year in a one car garage. I have to say if that was me, four things would be true.

        1. I would be one very happy quail eating fool.
        2. I would have perfected the quail egg purple nurple by now
        3. I would have two very happy and heavily egg fed dogs
        4. I would be selling them pretty cheap unless I had some sort of contract locked up

        I just think looking at Moonvalleyprepper’s real world numbers we have been missing something here. Anything that out produces rabbits per square foot for meat and chickens per square foot for eggs at the same time is ficken awesome.

        Even if we used a 6 to 1 ratio at 20,000 eggs that would be 3300 chicken eggs in one year out of a one car garage and that doesn’t even take the meat into account. At 4-1 that is 5000 chicken eggs plus meat in a one car garage without the neighbor even knowing they exist.

        Talk about a SHTF plan, you could store the feed with no refrigeration at all and quail feed is cheap stuff.

        • You can also find quite a few listings on Ebay for quail eggs for hatching or eating. Wide variety of prices and some nice pictures of birds are also shown.
          I have wondered at times if there are more quail aviculturalists out there than we have any idea. If you want to raise poultry on the down-low coturnix quail are the ideal choice.

        • Moonvalleyprepper

          $2 -3 a dozen seems to be the going rate around here. Even at $2 a dozen that’s equivalent to $8 a dozen for chicken eggs, if your just comparing volume. $3-5 a bird also seems to be the going rate, $1 for chicks, $3 for meat birds, $5 for layers or flight conditioned one’s for dog training. Bob whites are the preferred dog training quail from what I understand, better flyers, but the Coturnix will work.

          1) Oh yeah!
          2) What’s a purple nurple? Besides what the bigger kids used to do to me at the bus stop.
          3) 2 very happy American Bulldogs, and 1 happy pug all fed almost exclusively on rabbit meat and quail eggs. <- Drastic improvement in the pugs health from these.
          4) I give a lot away to friends and neighbors.

          Another benefit is the nutritional content of the quail eggs. I'm pretty leary of claims without proper citations, but a quick Google search will net you all kinds of info on the benefits of eating quail eggs. I have read claims that 1 quail egg has 3-4 times the nutritional value of a medium chicken egg. They contain all HDL cholesterol, good kind, though I'm paleo so good kind bad kind, meh. Compared to a chicken egg they have 3x the B1, 5x the iron and potassium, 2x B2 and A, more phosphorus and calcium, 4% of the recommended daily intake of Selenium, and are OK for people with egg allergies. Also according to Geoff Lawton and eastern medicine, they are a natural aphrodisiac ;)

        • Modern Survival

          Moonvalley you asked,

          “2) What’s a purple nurple? Besides what the bigger kids used to do to me at the bus stop.”

          Pickled eggs in beat juice, to me one of mans greatest of all ideas. The ease of making them is awesome. Take left over pickled beat juice in a jar, add to it pealed hard boiled eggs, set in the fridge for a week and done. Really they are about done in 48 hours but a week sets em real nice.

          Be warned however if one mixes purple nurples with beer one can get some quite noxious results the next day but to me well that is just part of the equation. I can only imagine the joy of doing up a huge jar of quail eggs like this. It is like taking the nurple and making it into something like a pop in your mouth snack item. YUM.

          If you don’t just have left over juice from picked beats lying around you can make the eggs starting with raw beats.

          http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pickled_eggs/

          To me though when I grew up my grandmother picked so many beats we always were killing off a jar and had plenty of juice. Boil up some eggs and toss em in, perhaps at a bit of fresh vinegar.

  13. Glad to hear Jack has discovered ACRES. They definately promote permaculture, here is a recent article by Mark Shepard, who is proving that permaculture principles work on a farm scale to grow staple crops. http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/Nov12_Shepard.pdf

    The anual ACRES conference is comming up the first week of December in Louisville, Kentucky :
    http://www.acresusa.com/events/12conf/program.htm#presentations

    I farm full time and have attended the ACRES conference 3 times, and recomend it, and it has paid off

    • Modern Survival

      I am pretty sad that there is just no way I can go to it, saw it in the most recent edition and it looks great. Just with moving and all, buying another house etc. we just can’t go.

  14. Great stuff.

    Another animal to consider is the guinea pig. They are called cuy in South America, where the citizens there eat about 65 million of them a year. They are small and treated like rabbits. Heck, it is probably the only animal in America you could dine on fresh every night. Just stop by the pet store to pick one up ;) You could probably even tractor them with considerations for their size. Maybe someone in the audience is doing this? You could grow quite a bit of them in a garage or spare room and I have seen people just compost the litter directly. I have been thinking about giving it a try since my HOA is pretty much against everything else but there is no mention about guinea pigs. :)

  15. Great show today Jack, and there were two things in particular you said that were really “A-ha!” moments.

    First was the way that you said Geoff Lawton’s video was another step toward building that bridge between preparedness and permaculture. As someone who comes at all of this from a much more left-wing origin than many others on this blog, I have to say that it has actually been permaculture that led me to preparedness, not the other way around. I think it’s pretty difficult to get into permaculture seriously (I’m talking about actually doing things, not telling others how what they’re doing isn’t permaculture) without eventually coming around to preparedness, because it’s the natural expression of Mollison’s prime directive.

    Second was the way that you characterized Lawton’s permaculture video in terms of creating abundance. I think that this is perhaps the MOST important thing that permaculture practitioners need to stress — it is about embracing an outlook of an abundant future — abundance of good quality food, abundance of community, abundance of quality time, etc. The natural reaction of those who don’t know permaculture is to characterize it as embracing scarcity because it often flies in the face of conventional wisdom. We need to beat them to the punch and stress the abundance that such systems create.

    Thanks again for a great show and keep up the great work!

  16. I am about halfway through “just enough; lessons in living green from traditional japan” by Azby Brown. This is the book Jack references about the Edo period. I just read the part where the author is offering some suggestions on how we apply what he has learned from his study of the Edo period to today’s society and he suggests that we should “limit the use of livestock”. He goes on to say:

    “Cattle are not an effective source of protein. It takes approximately seven kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of beef, plus large quantities of water, since the water is used to grow the feed as well as that consumed by the animals must be taken into account. Add to this the ecological damage caused by over grazing- …”

    He also goes on in the paragraph to say that modern obesity is due to too much animal products, and that if we must eat beef lets make beef less bad by feeding the cows more soybeans. Then he concludes with we should all just move our diet “down the food chain” suggesting we all become vegetarians.

    I suppose he is correct in that this is the way feed lot cattle are raised, but I will have a hard time taking the reset of the book seriously after this glaring oversight on animals in the eco system. The ironic thing his in the previous chapter he does a side bar on how today’s permaculture movement uses similar techniques. Clearly he did not finish his permaculture homework.

    • Modern Survival

      @markl32 and your stance is why so many people fail to learn from others we disagree with. Given that I am 100% counter to that belief and I can learn from that book so can you.

      The book is mostly an historical record and an accurate one at that. The reality is in a densely populated mountainous island like Japan there is some air of truth if a society is to be 100% self sufficient.

      Beef and Pork on pasture in the US are infinitely more sustainable then any form of grain in the US with a population of only 300 million and the massive land reserves we have. That doesn’t make it the case in all environments.

      Now his comments on obesity are completely wrong but we both know why he believes this, it is what he was taught. The book is factual accounts and opinion. One can learn from factual accounts even if one fully differs with the conclusions drawn from them by an author or teacher. Try opening your mind a bit more it only hurts for a second.

    • @modernsurvival

      Gosh yes Batman…

      To your point there is a lot of value to take away from the book and I am enjoying the historical aspect. Funny how many lessons from 150 years ago we need to re-learn in todays modern world.

      I have a flight tomorrow, I’ll stop whining and finish it on the flight.