Time to talk about animals today and although I do have some qualifications to speak in this area, I am going to let two others do it instead.
Also, remember the post a while ago about the permaculture hen…her needs and yields analysis. The same kind of thinking that works for other functions and elements works with animals, though we do have to consider their comfort in our plans.
Oh, I did say two people, but we can’t leave out Joel Salatin, so here goes.
Joel’s website…has some information on the farm and also is a marketing tool for his products, books and philosophy. He really must be seen giving a talk to be fully appreciated. His books, however, are pretty darn good.
Now, a post from Sharon Astyk’s blog about animals:
and, saving what I think is best for last…
This is a post where someone was answering a question about which animals are useful in permaculture designs. While the answerer does have biases toward/against some animals, it is worth the read..all of it.
On a permaculture farm, everything should be in balance. One thing should
feed/support the next.
I’m in the U.S.A., in the Pacific Northwest. So our climate/seasons are
very much the same. The main difference is on my farm I have predators you
do not have in the U.K.
So the chickens have free range of the entire farm (currently 40 acres,
hopefully 80 acres soon). They spend most of their time in the orchard
The chickens provide such good pest control, even climbing the trees for
bugs, not a single chemical has been used in the orchard the entire 11
years we’ve owned the farm. The apples, pears, and plumbs are perfect, no
insect blemishes of any kind.
The rabbit hutches are in a long row in the center of the most mature
trees on the farm (30-40 year old trees). The trees provide the shade the
rabbits need to keep cool in the summer. The chickens spread the rabbit
manure about and fertilize the trees.
The chickens also eat any fly larva in the rabbit manure, so our rabbits
are not plagued with flies. They also eat any of the food the rabbits
drop, so rats are not attracted to the hutches.
A bin is under one of the hutches to capture the manure, and we have worms
there (vermaculture). This rich mix of manure and worms is spread on our
food garden areas, and of course the chickens go wild for a shovel full of
it because of the worms.
When rotten alfalfa (hay), straw and manure are brought to the orchard, it
can be dumped in piles. The chickens will go wild spreading it about, and
eating any insects, or insect eggs in the compost.
Our hens are able to forage so much food for themselves that most of the
year the flock of 25 hens only gets 1-2 cups of cracked corn in the
evening. It’s not because they need it, but because we want them all to
come in for the night because of raccoons, possums, coyotes, and owls.
Their eggs are so rich, the yokes are nearly orange in color. Commercial
eggs at the grocery store only have yellow yokes because of dye they feed
the hens, otherwise they would have virtually no color. Not sure about the
Our sheep are turned into the orchard once or twice a year to eat any
weeds. Early spring works best, when the weeds are the tastiest for the
sheep. Just watch them to make sure they don’t go for the bark of the
Our main livestock on the farm are meat goats (Boer breed). The goats have
removed virtually every single weed and bramble on the property. This
leaves more pasture/fodder for the horses, sheep, and the eventual cattle
we will have.
The sheep & goats have Great Pyrenees which live with them 24/7, to
protect the herd from predators. We have a freakishly large coyote pack
which comes and hunts our farm, about 30 coyotes strong. The Pyrenees have
also prevented bald eagles from snatching newborn lambs & kids twice now
that I’ve seen with my own eyes, and probably more times that I have not.
The rabbits are used to feed humans, but also to supplement the dogs diet,
since commercial kibble is now almost entirely made from corn. The
Pyrenees are also fed goats or sheep which might die. I was completely
revolted by that idea when it was first put forth to me. Yet it is a
natural cycle in nature. Also, even on the very best run farms, you have
about a 10% death rate of your sheep and goats, mostly kids under three
months. This prevents a farmer from having to compost, bury or otherwise
dispose of dead livestock.
It also means the precious trace minerals contained in the bones, and fur
of the livestock never leave the farm. They are returned back to the soil
here. Most farms have those minerals stripped from them over and over
again as livestock is sold off, and dead animals are shipped off for
someone else to deal with.
Our soil grows year after year, and we have a thriving
bacterial/microscopic life in our soil, not seen on farms which use
For a small farm, I would only get a duel purpose cattle, which can both
be milked and used for meat. Small farmers can rarely afford both. I would
go with Shorthorns, Belted Galloway, or possibly Dexter cattle in my area.
For just a milking cow, I would go Jersey. For just a beefer for a small
farm, I go with West Highlands. Fiesian cattle are called Holsteins here
in the U.S. They are complete crap, with 98% of them being butchered by
age four, because they are already burned out and at the end of their
I would always run goats after the cattle, so the goats would eat the
weeds the cattle left behind. That way your fields do not become overrun
Geese are the best watchdogs ever. Nothing gets past them. I don’t like to
eat them. They do mow the grass nicely, but leave poop everywhere. Geese
have no-place on my farm.
Ducks are messier than geese. We have a large pond, over 1/2 an acre in
size we will be stocking with fish. We do not wish to fill the water with
poop from geese and ducks. Khaki Campbells will outlay chickens, if you
like eating duck eggs. Ducks have no place on our permaculture farm.
Over the last 4 years we have planted over twelve thousand native trees.
Those trees will be our eventual woodlot, since we heat our home with
wood. The trees will also provide habitat for the turkeys we plan to get.
We will probably go with Bronze Breasted. They will be able to forage for
themselves, with minimal food to keep them nearby and use to humans. The
woodland habitat will be perfect for them. So not only will our woodlot
provide wood to heat our home, clean air for all to breath, a way to soak
up extra water in our damp climate, but they will also provide a place to
raise a food source for us. The turkeys should be able to reproduce
themselves, and indeed may need to be watched to make sure they do not
We will also be releasing pheasants and such, mostly because we enjoy
watching them, but also to harvest a few here and there.
Our farm is already a thriving habitat for native wild birds, everything
from hummingbirds, to the trumpetor swans which overwinter here. Obviously
those birds are not food sources, but they are part of the natural cycles
of a permaculture farm.
LLamas & alpacas have no place on our farm. They can leap 9 foot fences if
they desire, and provide nothing except fiber. Certainly their flesh can
be eaten, but your neighbors would freak out to hear about your llama
If I want fiber animals I’ll stick with wool sheep, and angora goats. Both
are much easier to fence, control, handle and shear. They also do not
spit, nor stomp you with their front feet, unlike the camalids (llamas &
For pigs we want Large Blacks, or possibly Old Spots. The pigs will have a
very large paddock, right next to our food garden. Any spoiled food, or
old vines already harvested will simply be tossed over the fence to the
pigs. The pigs and the garden spot will swap places every year. That way
the pigs will root up any insects trying to gain a foothold in the garden
and expose the eggs or eat them. They will also add their own manure, and
churn in hay and straw we give them. They will also find anything we
missed harvesting, like potatoes or carrots. That way diseases will not
build up to kill the plants next time they are planted.
I have 8 horses. Three are Friesians, two Arabs, one Belgium Draft horse
mare, an Apolossa, and a large pony I rescued. Five of my horses are
rescue horses actually. I’m a sucker when it comes to horses and I have
too many of them, for my actual farm needs. Everyone has a weak point,
horses are mine.
Rheas, ostrich, and emus have no place on our farm. Some can kill an adult
person, all can kill a child. There isn’t enough meat on them to be worth
it. Their feathers can sell for a lot, but again, not worth it. Their eggs
can sell for a lot to people who do egg crafts, but cheap ones come from
Africa & China. You probably cannot raise the birds and sell the eggs for
what you would need them to bring in. No place for these dangerous birds
on our farm.
Deer also have no place on our farm. The wild deer can carry diseases to
my goats and sheep, as well as to humans (via their ticks). It might also
shock you to learn that more people are killed by captive raised deer
every year than any other form of livestock. Again, just too dangerous,
and needing too much expensive equipment to handle them. If I were
insanely wealthy, with vastly more land, I do admit I would be tempted to
have a small herd of Fallow deer (yes we can get them in the U.S.A.). They
would not be handled by humans, and they would be harvested via a riffle
shot. Deer are fantastically dangerous to handle up close and personal.
For bees we make homes for our native orchard mason bees. I think you have
them in the U.K. as well. They are much better than commercial honey bees.
Of course you do not get any honey or wax. There’s virtually zero work
with the native bees though, and they are ever so much better at
pollinating the plants. They also rarely sting. The males cannot sting.
I’m in my 40′s and have yet to be stung by one. I had my hand right over a
female too. All she did was buzz about noisily and wiggle, until I moved
my hand off of her.
Do not forget to try and have aquaculture (fish) if you possibly can.
Think about the damage an animal can do to you as well. A good dairy goat
will produce more milk on less food than a dairy cow (pound per pound). A
dairy goat cannot kick your face off if she gets mad at you. I’ve seen
what happens when a cow takes a mind to give you a good kick.
Dogs can be extremely important to a permaculture farm. We need livestock
guardian dogs, the Great Pyrenees. I also have a herding dog for helping
with the herds. I also HIGHLY recommend a 25-15 pound terrier type dog.
Large enough to take on a fox, badger, weasel, skunk, raccoon, ect, yet
small enough to get in and go places a rat might try to sneak about and
Cats are also important for rodent control.
We have barn owls which hunt our farm every night, as well as great horned
owls. Great horned owls are large enough to take a cat, or newborn
kid/lamb. We’ve never had a loss to an owl that I am aware of.
Always take advantage of the native wildlife. One evening of sitting and
watching the barn owls hunt, the pair was catching a rodent about every 20
minutes. Can you imagine how many rodents that is in a breeding season?
And you don’t have to pay for it!
We have lots of bats as well. I do not put up homes for them. I’m afraid
our cats would learn to catch and kill them at bat houses. I just let them
do their own bat thing. Simply amazing to watch them flying over our pond
and fields and realize just how many insects they are eating.
Honestly, I could go on, and on about the permaculture topic, but I’m
tired and need to go to bed before I begin to ramble too much. Hope this
helps you some.
Have a great day!