permaculture animals

The Essential Guide to Permaculture Animals

The use of permaculture animals can be a huge benefit to your permaculture design

Their natural behaviour is a plus to the prosperity of a sustainable and natural ecosystem. They contribute to building a long-term natural and proliferating environment

But trying to integrate permaculture animals can be overwhelming. 

Wondering how, where, and why to start? We got you!

Here is a broad overview of things to know when considering permaculture animals:  

  • The Permaculture Farming Approach
  • The Benefits Of Permaculture Animals
  • How Can Animals Be Used To Build And Maintain A Food Forest?
  • The Different Types Of Permaculture Animals
  • How To Integrate Animals In Permaculture
  • The Permaculture Livestock Needs
  • What About Pets In Permaculture?
  • FAQ

“In permaculture, we try to build a habitat that will address the needs of the animal while providing a yield for people, too.” Jessi Bloom, bestselling author of Free-Range Chicken Gardens and Practical Permaculture.

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The Permaculture Farming Approach

Permaculture is about having things working together harmoniously. And permaculture farming is about bringing the right permaculture animals and plants to support each other in one system.

One big concept of permaculture is to use resources from nature to limit the consumption of non-renewable resources.

The Use of Animal’s Natural Behaviour

Animals have a natural tendency to provide useful work when it comes to garden and farm maintenance. 

Take advantage of healthy animal-plant relationships to support your garden. For example cows, goats and sheep mow pasture and feed on weed, and worms turn food waste into fertilizer.

Recycling And Waste

Having permaculture animals can help when trying to reduce waste.

 You can feed your animals food scraps. It’s one step toward a “zero waste” principle. Waste of animals, called manure, can also be an amazing resource in farming, as it’s full of nutrients. 

The Benefits of Permaculture Animals

permaculture cows
Photo by Quaritsch Photography on Unsplash

Besides the fact that permaculture animals are more cost-effective than conventional farming, they also positively impact the ecosystem and provide useful work. 

They help stabilize the ecosystem and provide resources.

Improves Soil Fertility

Animals can indirectly improve soil fertility. Manures can be turned into compost and used for fruit trees. It improves soil texture and decomposes leaf litter more easily. 

Controls Pest Population

Livestock foraging is a very handy option when you need natural pest control. Natural predators are an effective way to protect your garden

Especially insects such as ladybirds, beetles, and more, that are perfect to keep unwanted parasites at bay.

Decomposing Polluants

Worms decompose pollutants from waste, such as heavy metals, while keeping beneficial nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen.

Animal manure can help to balance the soil nitrogen, potassium, and other mineral components by adding manure to the soil.

On the other side, having healthy soil and plants is very important so your animals can stay healthy. Pasture animals need large amounts of potassium, sodium, and calcium. 

Lawn Maintenance

Grazing animals are the perfect sustainable and eco-friendly way to keep your grass well-trimmed and free of weeds. They save you from chop and drop routines which take time and can be tedious, especially on bigger sites.

Goats, sheep, cows, chickens and even guinea pigs are the best mower animals whether it’s a large area of grass or a small patch of weeds.

Rotational grazing is a well-used practice that involves mimicking the grazing patterns of herd animals in grasslands.

It requires limiting the portion of a parcel of land that animals can graze at one time. One example could be starting with cows and grass-ruminants, and follow with chickens to scratch and turn over the soil and clean up weeds.

Harvesting

When farming with animals, the first yield we might think of is harvesting. Chickens will give you eggs, sheep will give you milk and wool as well as cows and goats.

How Can Animals Be Used To Build And Maintain A Food Forest?

Food forests are gardens designed like forest edges that provide an abundance of food with very little input.

Livestock can be very useful to build and maintain large-scale food forests by reducing labour and fossil fuel uses.

You can use for the site preparation: 

Goats: clearing brush

Pigs: tilling

Sheep, chickens: mowing

You can use animals for your site maintenance:

– Geese: weeding

– Chickens, ducks, turkeys, guinea fowls: pest control

– Hogs, chickens, turkeys: drops eaters, meaning they clean up the ground from fruits, veggies, and leaves that fall.

Here is a useful article about how to integrate livestock in the food forest.

The Different Types Of Permaculture Animals

Poultry

chickens in permaculture
Photo by Skylar Jean on Unsplash

Chickens

The benefits of keeping chickens go far beyond fresh eggs for breakfast. You can create a very productive system when chickens are well harnessed whether it’s on a small or large scale garden.

Benefits of having chickens:

  • Produce manure, rich in nitrogen
  • Natural pest control 
  • Clean up the garden from weeds
  • Scratch and turn over the soil 
  • Meat and eggs

Things you need to do, learn, and know about chickens:

  • Learn how to care for hatchling chicks
  • Put fences
  • Protect your edible plants
  • Chickens eat kitchen scraps, grains, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Easy and cost-effective!
  • Chickens live in flocks
  • Healthy chicken can lay up to one egg every day.
  • Protect them from predators.

Check this resource if you want to know more about how to integrate chicken into your garden.

Turkeys, Ducks, Geese

Not only chickens are good birds in permaculture. You can also have turkeys, ducks and geese. They all produce meat and eggs and can provide great benefits to your garden system.

Grazing Animals

sheeps permaculture
Photo by Judith Prins on Unsplash

Sheep

Benefits of having sheep:

– Clear weeds

– Eat small grass

– Less damage than goats

– Meat, milk, and wool

Things you need to do, learn, and know about sheep:

– Sheep need to be sheared every year (health and comfort matter)

– Choose the right breed according to your type of land and doing

– Might need to protect from predators

Goats

Goats are actually called browsers and not grazers. They prefer trees and shrubs to grass.

Benefits of having goats:

– Eat bushes, trees, and hay

– Milk

Things you need to do, learn, and know about goats:

– Goats eat a lot, so you’ll need a sufficient food budget

– Put good fencing, goats can jump and are very agile

– What goats eat impact the flavour of their milk

– Dairy goats need to be milked at least once a day

– Might need to protect from predators

Cows

Cows are bigger than sheep and goats and so require more space.

Benefits of having cows:

– Eat long grass

– Meat and milk

– Rebalance carbon % in soil

– Produce great manure

– Can be used for intensive grazing

Things you need to do, learn, and know about cows:

– Cows require space

– Might need to protect from predators

Bees

bees permaculture
Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Bees are one of the most precious resources on earth. 

Einstein once said that humanity wouldn’t last more than four years if bees were to disappear

And the decline in the number of bees seems to have given rise to an increase in the number of people who want to be beekeepers.

Thanks to permaculture and natural beekeeping, bees are back to being bees with a healthy colony and hive and a minimum of interaction.

Benefits of having bees:

– Produce honey

– Pollination

– Vital for the ecosystem

– Great way to reinstall bees in an urban area

Things you need to do, learn, and know about bees:

– Preserve humidity and temperature of the hive

– Preserve the food resources for winter

– Bees eat honey and pollen

– Interfere the less you can with the colony

– Provide foraging resources, such as plants and trees

– Protective gear for the beekeeper

– Research rules and regulations according to your area

Worms

worms permaculture
Photo by Sippakorn Yamkasikorn on Pexels

Worm farming, known as vermicomposting as well, is a very easy way to get great fertilizer with very little time and effort. Even on a small-scale garden such as a balcony, you can set up a worm farm.

 But worms are also a perfect fit for large-scale gardening.

Benefits of having worms:

– Turn food scraps and manure into rich compost and produce a fertilizer called “Worm Tea”

– Can be used for plant beds to aerate the soil

– Can feed poultry

– Takes very little space and effort

– Faster than conventional composting when fed food scraps

– Can also eat newspaper and unprinted cardboard

Things you need to do, learn, and know about worms:

– Can double volume every six months

– You can either buy or DIY your worm farm

– They are different worm breeds!

– If they’re not fed, they die

Things worms can’t eat

Here is a great guide if you want to know more about worm farming and worm composting.

Insects

insects permaculture
Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash

Insects are a very important component of wildlife and therefore for your permaculture design. 

Since they’re not going away it’s worth learning how to manage the insect population for optimal benefits.

Benefits of having insects:

– Pollinated plants

– Natural pest control

– Balance of the ecosystem

– Maintain soil fertility

– Food for other animals

– Avoid the use of chemicals

Things you need to do, learn and know about insects:

You can eat some of them!

– Climate, environment, predators and human interaction affect insects

Here is a list of 12 beneficial insects for your permaculture plot.

Alpacas

Photo by Joris Beugels on Unsplash

You’ve certainly heard of Alpacas, fluffy and friendly animals known for their fleece and adorable face with camel-like lips.

Loved by kids and grown-ups, they don’t bite or butt, making them potential new best friends.

Benefits of having alpacas:

– Graze grass

– Browse brushes

– Alpaca bean tea, manure tea

– Produce alpaca fleece

– Sturdy animals

– Don’t churn up the soil

Things you need to do, learn, and know about alpacas:

– Alpacas don’t really like cuddles

– Alpacas spit! but not as often as Llamas

– You’ll need to get more than one, they like company

– They are only two breeds: the Huacaya (wah-KI-ahs) and the longer-haired Suri (SOO-ree)

– Prices can go from $200 to $60,000 per Alpacas

– Requires a shelter for bad weather

– Need to be sheared once a year

How To Integrate Animals In Permaculture

intergrating farming
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels

To benefit from animals in permaculture it’s essential to know how to observe, build and manage an ecosystem that allows beneficial relationships between plants, animals, land, air, and water.

It only requires the right animals with the right plants and space.

What Type Of Land Suits Best?

The first factor you should think about is your resources

Budget, structure, space, all come first when thinking of welcoming animals in your design.

The essential resource you need to have is space, but you don’t need a large-scale land to have animals, worms can fit in a bin on your balcony. 

You only need to observe and adapt the right animal to the right space. Whether it’s on a balcony or farmland you can integrate animals into your permaculture design.

So ask yourself:

– Does the animal need a lot of space?

– Does it need a pond?

– What animal fit on a balcony, backyard garden, courtyard garden, fields land?

– Does it need to run?

– Does it pasture?

Work With Nature Not Against it

Even though it is necessary to bring back wildlife into the permaculture system it’s primordial to insert animals, whether they are domesticated or wild animals, into appropriate habitat and in sync with nature.

This could mean working with species that are already on your land and using their natural behavior to your advantage while preserving their habitat.

And when integrating new animals into your ecosystem always refer to their needs and natural behavior to make sure they’ll prosper into this environment.

So it’s sometimes better to start small and observe.

Maintaining Balance

When integrating animals into a permaculture system it’s all about balancing animals, plants, and humans all together to create a sustainable ecosystem.

You will find yourself following a circle of life :

1. Growing plants

2.Plants feed animals

3. Animals produce manure

4. Manure feeds plants

It’s good to know that things change so to maintain the balance you might need to adjust with seasons, animal growth, etc.

The Permaculture Livestock Needs

permaculture livestock
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

All animals have needs and require responsibilities. Whether they’re cows or worms you have to consider how much it takes to care for them.

Check carefully if you can meet all of them.

Health And Wellbeing

Food

– What it needs to be healthy, how much, how often, and what to feed every day. 

– What about treats?

– Which plants to grow to provide much of their food?

Water

– How much and how often do they need to drink every day? 

– How to keep the water clean? 

– What about winter if the water freezes?

Space 

– How much space does your animal need? 

– What does it do? Maybe it runs a lot. 

– Free-ranged/paddocked/mobile? 

– Does it need a structure to keep it in? 

– What about predators?

Shelter

– Does your animal tolerate not having a shelter all the time?

– How much space does it need?

– How do they sleep, lay eggs, be milked?

– Do you need to keep it warm?

Time 

Taking care of animals requires time. Always consider having someone to take care of them when you are sick or going on vacation.

So you might need to have staff depending on the scale of your land and the number of animals.

Maintenance

Tasks

– Cleaning the structures

– Feeding the animals

– Harvesting/milking/…

Animal waste 

– How does the animal poop? 

– Do you want to use it?

– Do you need special materials?

– How to process the waste?

– How to use manure? 

– What are precautions you need to take?

Cost

– Structure

– Food

– Vet

– Staff

Extra Attention

Even though it seems quite obvious, you might need to ask yourself if being around animals is your thing. 

– What are your feelings about animals? 

– Can you express kindness and care for animals? 

– Can you be patient?

What About Pets In Permaculture?

pets in permaculture
Photo by Krista Mangulsone on Unsplash

Whether pets are already part of your permaculture system or you’re about to welcome a new one, it’s always important not to leave it out of your permaculture design. 

The benefits of pets in a permaculture design go beyond companionship.

Cat

Keep mice and rats at bay.

Dog

Protect and control animals. 

Sheep

A lot of people are also keeping sheep as pets since they are docile and gentle with kids and easy to handle.

FAQ 

What Is A Permaculture Designer?

A permaculture designer is someone who designs resilient, sustainable, and permaculture-based gardens, landscapes, and ecosystems.

Those designs are based on permaculture principles and require different skills such as landscape design, architecture, waste management, sustainability, farming, etc.

A permaculture designer doesn’t only design land but can be used in almost any profession such as an educator, government land planner, …

What Is The Easiest Farm Animal To Take Care Of?

Chickens are certainly the easiest farm animals to raise. 

They don’t require too much maintenance and are pretty cost-effective. Perfect for beginners and small-space friendly they also offer a low start-up cost.

If you want to know more about the easiest farm animals to take care of, here are four animals to raise on a small farm.

How Much Space Does An Alpaca Need? 

You can usually keep 5 to 8 Alpacas on one acre of land. The more grass you have the happier they’ll be and the less hay you’ll have to provide.

Keep in mind that Alpacas like companionship. You must have more than one alpaca for them to be healthy and happy. It is preferable to get three alpacas at a minimum.

Conclusion 

We hope you now have a slight insight as to how animals in permaculture are great to maintain gardens and provide amazing resources.

But their benefits go beyond farming. They are great companions and can be good education material when children are around.

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