permaculture in my backyard – we get a chicken dome

Submitted by sproutingforth on Thu, 2012-05-10 09:54

urban sprout's premises now have three chickens, in a rather spectacular chicken dome from Permaculture SA.

These three little hens (although they're not so little anymore) have been with us for roughly 11 weeks, and they've gone from scrawny little hold-in-your-hands chicks, to bustling, robust hens in that short time. We wanted layers, so we sourced buff orpingtons from our former intern, who has a large 'homestead' in Constantia...

Whilst he has to worry about birds of prey making off with his chickens, we've got neighbours' cats to contend with. But our incredible chicken dome serves a triple function:

  • it keeps the hens safe from just about anything (except for the time when one of the chicks dug under the dome and made a bid for freedom – we still haven't found her...)
  • the circular dome fits perfectly over our round beds in our mandala vegetable garden (we have six beds, which means we rotate the chicks every 2 or 3 weeks)
  • and the soil in which they scratch, peck and poo all day benefits greatly from their 'waste', and it protects the rest of the garden from their passion for greens (although we do let them out as often as we can to range the garden, if one of us is there to watch for Whiskers, the cat).

And the dome is strong and light, hence easy to move. Whilst moving, the hens can either free range or can go in a crate so that they're safe.

Andrew, from Permaculture SA, specially came all the way from beyond Knysna to put up our dome for us. It's an intriguing design that incorporates rubber pipes, ties and a specially designed butterfly, as you can see from the pics.

Hazel usually designs these for farms or small holdings using permaculture principles (you can also attend a course or two on Prince Alfred's Pass, and now in the Eastern Cape near Addo, where Permaculture SA is based – if you're interested in finding out more about permaculture). Hazel makes these at 10 metre diameters, which she says work very well for the way they are used in the greater permaculture picture.

But we have an average sized garden, which, admittedly, is more than a little dedicated to vegetables, but our mandala could not have coped with a 10 metre circumference and Hazel specially made us the 6 metre.

The hens are delightful. We've been making our own feed, after I did a little research on the web, that incorporates handfuls of greens from the garden, and a mixture of slightly ground (in a coffee grinder) pulses and cereals – barley, spelt, millet, amaranth, split peas, lentils, seeds like sesame and flax etc. We're still experimenting. And they LOVE snails!

We're mixing our own feed to avoid using GM feeds, as commercial brands use a lot of corn, and the early food for baby chicks incorporates fish meal and other 'suspicious' sounding ingredients. It's also been impossible to find organic feed for chickens (although I did find organic corn recently at Yellow Submarine). But it's fun doing it this way, anyway. And we know that our eggs, when they arrive, are going to be laid by very healthy hens!

Contact Permaculture SA about their chicken domes.