‘Sustainable’ is a word that gets a little played out, usually as an eye-catching slogan and empty promise. So what does it really mean? In the garden it is a closed loop cycle, meaning there is no waste for the green can because all of its byproducts are put to good use, and therefore it needs no outside inputs. But how can your garden create fertilizer, pest controls, weed killers, and food for all of us working hard to keep it growing, you ask? Chickens.
The diagram below is from Permaculture: A Designers Manual. In Permaculture each element in a system is examined closely to determine its place in the cycle, as in nature. If a Chicken produces poop, let it scratch it into your nitrogen hungry soil, reducing work for you (yay!) the need to buy nitrogen fertilizers (yay!) and keeps chicken poop from becoming a pollutant (yaya!).
In this first crack at a coup design I have provided water for my imaginary chickens by building a butterfly shaped roof which will direct water into a wine barrel when it rains for drinking and cleaning. I have also tried to account for all the other needs of a chicken.
What a Chicken Needs:
- food (grow corn, mulberry trees, berries, sunflowers for seeds, herbs, weeds etc.. they also love to forage in grass and spent veggie beds for worms and other bugs.)
- friends (other chickens)
- warmth & shelter
- grit (small rocks and sand which they will forage for.)
- calcium (oyster shells)
- dust baths
I did try to take my friend’s very practical advise when designing this chicken haven, which was to “remember Carla, it’s for chickens..” But I couldn’t help adding this last thing on the list of chicken needs: to live in style.. don’t we all need that?
What We Get Out Of It..
- food (eggs & meat)
- feathers (for dusting, insulation, and pillows)
- the scratching of that fertilizer into our soil
- weed and bug elimination sans chemicals
- friendly clucking sounds to wake up to
- heat, which is helpful if the coup is placed next to a greenhouse
And if I have not convinced you all to get chickens, I hope I have inspired you to start thinking about how each component in your garden might work together to decrease inputs and waste. Below is an example of an integrated and non integrated system.