Monday, October 20, 2008

In Search of the Fabled Permaculture Chicken/Greenhouse

By Rob Hopkins

For many years I have taught permaculture courses, and like many who do so, I start my courses with the Tale of Two Chickens. This is a very useful way of looking at inputs, outputs, and the science of maximising beneficial relationships, and it concludes with describing one of permaculture’s Holy Grails, The Chicken/Greenhouse. However, now, as I stand on the verge of actually trying to make a chicken greenhouse, I am finding it very difficult to find actual working examples of chicken/greenhouses. Might I have spent years unwittingly promoting a permaculture urban myth?

The idea is straightforward and works brilliantly on paper. Patrick Whitefield in ‘Permaculture in a Nutshell’ sets it out very clearly (you can read it here), and you can read the thinking behind the Chicken/Greenhouse here. The picture below is taken from ‘In a Nutshell’, and captures the essential idea, which is that by placing the 2 elements of chickenhouse and greenhouse together with the proper orientation, you enable, via. good design, interactions to take place that otherwise would not take place and would require energy inputs to make happen. For example, the warmth from the chickens keeps the greenhouse free of frost, the carbon dioxide from the hens benefits the plants, and so on.

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