Permaculture III (Animals in Permaculture)

Course CodeVSS106
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment
Learn How to Incorporate Animals into  a Permaculture System

When you create a permaculture system, you need to understand how all of the components of that ecosystem work together; in order to make appropriate choices about the components you introduce into the system, the way you introduce them and the way you manage them.

This applies to all components, both living and non living; natural and man made; including of course, animals.
Animals include not only the obvious domesticated animals (eg. Poultry, or a pet dog); but also wild animals, including birds, reptiles and mice; and smaller animals including snails, earthworms and insects.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Integrating Animals into a Permaculture System
    • Introduction
    • Maintaining a balance in the system
    • Locating animals in the right zone
    • Animals for different sectors
    • Intensive animals for zone 1
    • Small livestock for zone 2
    • Extensive free range animals in zone 3
    • Functions of animals in a permaculture system
    • Fodder trees
    • Birds in permaculture –useful birds, pest birds
    • Bird attracting plants
    • Other bird attractants
    • Feeding birds
    • Set task
    • Assignment
  2. Bees
  3. Role of Insects and Other Small Animals
    • Introduction
    • The ecosystem
    • Ecological concepts
    • Biomes and common wildlife
    • Insects in permaculture
    • Edible insects
    • Insect structure
    • Insect life cycle
    • Insect taxonomy or classification
    • Insect feeding habits
    • Vermicomposting –Earthworms
    • Snail farming
    • Pest insect control
    • Mechanical control
    • Cultural control
    • Biological control
    • Pollutants in the ecosystem
    • Set task
    • Assignment
  4. Poultry
    • Introduction
    • Chickens
    • Turkeys
    • Ducks
    • Geese
    • Avoid buying sick birds
    • Helping hatchling chicks
    • Poultry products and uses –meat, eggs, etc
    • Quail and Duck eggs
    • Poultry forage
    • Mobile tractor systems
    • Set tasks
    • Assignment
  5. Grazing Animals (Pigs, Sheep, Goats, Rabbits)
    • Introduction
    • Advantages and disadvantages of working off grass
    • Paddock size
    • Type of fencing
    • Post and rails
    • Hedging
    • Wire, barbed wire or electric fencing
    • Brick or stone walls
    • Banks and rises
    • Gates
    • Supply of water to animals
    • Supplying shelter
    • Pig Husbandry
    • Pig production systems
    • Buildings for pigs
    • Environmental control for pig production
    • Pig pens
    • Watering, feeding, overcrowding
    • Sheep husbandry
    • Uses for sheep – wool, meat, dairy
    • Sheep rearing and management system
    • Keeping goats
    • Keeping rabbits
    • Set task
    • Assignment
  6. Bees
    • Equipment
    • Bee Management
    • Hives
    • Swarms
    • Honey Production
  7. Larger Livestock and Pest Animal Management
    • Introduction to larger animals
    • What animals –benefits and management
    • Beef cattle introduction
    • Choosing a beef breed
    • Dairy cattle for self sufficiency
    • Appropriate breeds
    • Dairy cattle husbandry –health, housing, managing the milk
    • Deer
    • Alpaccas and Llamas
    • Horses at grass on smaller properties
    • Horse health and husbandry
    • Wild animals
    • Wildlife management
    • Set task
    • Assignment
  8. Aquaculture Production Systems
    • Introduction to aquaculture in permaculture systems
    • Pond size
    • Polyculture in a pond
    • Manures and fertilising ponds
    • Feeding fish
    • Mariculture
    • Advantages and disadvantages of aquaculture
    • Extensive production systems
    • Intensive production systems
    • Species to grow –fish and crustaceans
    • Simple biological filter system
    • Filter efficiency
    • Cleaning turbid water in dams
    • Protecting fish
    • Water requirements
    • Extensive production in dams
    • Intensive productions in pools and raceways
    • Cages
    • Harvesting fish
    • Seine Nets
    • Gill nets
    • Traps –funnel, flyke
    • Set task
    • Assignment
  9. Aquaculture Species to Grow
    • Bass
    • Cod
    • Perch
    • Catfish
    • Blackfish
    • Barramundi
    • Red Claw
    • Yabby
    • Spiny Freshwater Crayfish
    • Trout (dealt with in more detail)
    • Growing Marron (dealt with in greater detail)
    • Set task
    • Assignment

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


They have an impact on the land, plants, other animals and even the climate!

All animals eat, excrete and physically move. They use water. They process nutrients, helping break down complex materials into simpler chemicals. 

  • Animals contribute to improving soil fertility, thus helping plants to grow.
  • Dead animal tissue is eaten by other animals or rots into the soil, either way, eventually contributing to soil fertility.
  • Animals eat pest organisms, keeping pest populations from reaching plague proportions
  • Microorganisms decompose pollutants
  • Animals can damage soil (Large animals can cause compaction if not given enough space; even small animals can disturb soil through, digging or too much foraging)
  • Animals are harvested from a system periodically. Eggs are taken from poultry, milk is taken from cows and goats, fur and feathers, leather, honey and meat are all taken from animals as well.
  • Things that you do in a permaculture design will often attract, repel, divert or in some other way control the animals in that system (eg. If you plant bird attracting plants, you may end up having more birds in the system; which can in turn improve control of some types of pests; but also can lead to birds eating fruit more than what they otherwise might)

It is all about Maintaining Balance

A permaculture system relies on maintaining a natural balance in the environment; and if you take too much from animals you can destabilize that balance. Extracting resources from the permaculture system can be a key management tool; as well as a resource to be used.

  • If you don’t take eggs from the property, you may end up with too much poultry; and the excess of birds may cause excessive damage to plants and soils.
  • If you have too many rabbits, guinea pigs or chickens in a small area, the ground can develop bare patches and become subject to erosion.
  • If you control ants that come into a building, you may eliminate a nuisance; but at the same time you can be eliminating a predator that helps control termites.

Integrating animals into a system involves making decisions about the animals you want; the quantity of animals you want; and doing things to impact upon those animal populations.


How are Animals Used in a Permaculture System

Permaculture systems should be designed to have five standard zones (ie. zones 1 to 5). The first zone is closest to the house; gets seen most and possibly attended to most; while zone 5 is furthermost away and attended to least. Some permaculture gardens are small, on urban house blocks, while others may be many acres on rural properties. The sizes of zones and the animals you might keep in each zone, may be determined largely by the sizes of each zone, as much as anything else.
Any system will contain animals, even if they are not introduced intentionally. Birds, reptiles, insects and other animals will find their way into any garden that is productive. If the plants are producing things for you to use; they will also be producing thing that attract and are useful to animals.
You may be better introducing animals that can benefit you, rather than leave it to chance for animals to fill ecological niches left vacant. eg. If you introduce poultry, they will eat a lot of things that might otherwise attract wild birds or even vermin like rats.
Each zone may be described as follows:
This commonly includes the property owners home, and any otherbuildings associated with the home such as a tool shed, workshop or garage. It probably also includes vegetable and herb gardens which may be accessed daily. Zone 1 is a very intensive and productive zone. The whole area may be heavily mulched, plants may be pruned, watered and fed routinely (eg. with compost or manures).

This is also a relatively intensive zone, it includes things which might be accessed daily or at least every few days; but which might not require the same amount of attention as zone 1. Zone 2 might include fruit trees in a heavily mulched orchard, which at certain times may be visited daily; but might not be visited daily all year round as are the vegetables in zone 1.
Zone 2 may also include:

  • Fruit, nuts, berries and other plants which might not be excessively hardy, and need some cultivation or care. Plants are usually selected, highly productive varieties.
  • Animals such as poultry which are both compatible with plants in the zone and from which eggs may be collected daily.
  • Multi purpose walks (eg. collecting eggs, milk, distributing greens and food scraps).

Plants may be pruned, but infrequently, watering would only be done to establish new plants or under severe conditions, and mulching would be "spot mulching" (eg. at the base of individual plants).

There should be easy access between this zone and both zones 1 and 2.
It may well includeanimals such as goats, geese, sheep and bees.
It could contain hardy trees and perhaps areas of indigenous or wild plants; and seedling/ungrafted plants, possibly for future root stocks (ie. to be grafted on to)
This is basically an area of minimal maintenance. Plants are not pruned, mulch would only be green mulch (ie. what grows and dies where it grows), and water would only be supplied perhaps for firefighting in the case of an emergency.
This is generally an area of long term development requiring minimal care, providing timber for building or fuel, and supporting low maintenance livestock such as deer, pigs or cattle.

This is an area of uncultivated "natural" vegetation. It may supply timber or food from foraging or hunting. It should be a "conservation" area, and on "reclaimed" or previously used sites it is an area of natural regrowth. For proper development, and it may require some weed control or other attention to ensure that a desirable balance of species develops.

The arrangement need not be in concentric circles. Partitioning off parts of the garden may suffice for identifying various zones. Ease of access will also influence the zone category, ie. the easier it is to get to the lower the number and more frequent will it be visited

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