Nov 26

What are biological resources for Permaculture?

In principle, they would be the same as for science, that is, those material goods and services that nature provides without alteration by humans and that are valuable to human societies because they contribute to their well-being and development directly (raw materials , minerals, food) or indirectly (ecological functions essential for the continuity of life on the planet).

In this post I will focus on the use of animals. More and more, there is a movement of people who fight against animal exploitation through their vegetarian or vegan diet, this article does not intend to judge anyone by their way of eating, but to raise awareness about it theme from my point of view.

When thinking about the ethical principles of permaculture and understanding that we are one more part of the ecosystem, it is necessary to clarify that we do not see organisms as mere countable resources, which can be measured and exploited simply in favor of humanity.

When you want to reconnect with nature, it is easy to understand that caring for it is clearly favorable to human interests, however it goes further, life has to be respected simply for the fact that it is. That is why permaculture ensures that biological resources are used in such a way that the organisms involved can develop naturally, meeting their needs of all kinds, in environments where their specific characteristics are taken into account and without affecting other biological resources. or nature in general. Permaculture seeks the regeneration of nature in which we are included, using its patterns, its rhythms, its strategies and using our natural capacities to generate in the same way that it does.

If we analyze biological resources as something that we can simply manage thinking that they do not end, we fall into the error of going against our own interests as a species. The total misunderstanding of nature, which we believe we falsely govern when we only get close to beginning to understand its infinite complexity, leads us to see ourselves doomed to extinction according to the same laws of ecology that we have been able to observe and describe thanks to the scientific method.

Instead of acting as if nature were a simple warehouse, from which we can take whatever we want and use it at will as if it belonged to us, permaculture walks and evolves with it, not against it, trying to understand its flows, its cycles , its complexity and above all the interconnections that exist between its elements, so that our species like the rest, we can live in its abundance and feed back on it.


Farm animals (domesticated and selected by humans for thousands of years)

When we want to introduce animals in our design, the most popular for their products are chickens, both their eggs and their meat are part of the diet of most people. In permaculture, the hen is perhaps one of the most used design elements, it is normal since apart from food products they provide us with a multitude of ecosystem services if we respect them and know how to handle them well. These services range from producing high quality manure and compost, recycling many of our kitchen waste, to controlling pests and herbs. The drawing shows the permaculture analysis of the chicken element, one of the most famous among people who know permaculture and this drawing serves as a tool to explain many things when you dedicate yourself to disseminating it.


How do we make sure the chickens are well, live a decent life with us and take advantage of the amount of resources they offer us?

The first thing to do is to think about its location, first of all you have to think about the design of your house and corral, many hours will spend here, it will be your main refuge from inclement weather and it will also be where we will have to invest more time in maintenance ( cleaning of facilities, food, water, control of their health, etc.) as well as to collect their products (eggs, chicken, feathers, etc.) Therefore it is essential to think about many factors that will make them happy at home and we too .

A well-designed chicken coop will take into account the size of the facilities according to the number of chickens that we want to have and that the terrain can support. The materials that we will use for its construction have to be selected making a balance between their ecological footprint and their health for chickens, humans and the planet. Wooden chicken coops are beautiful and warm but not only for them but also for many of their external parasites, so if we choose this material we must make sure not to leave nooks for this type of animals (cracks, joints, etc.), if not may suffer severe parasitic infections.

On the other hand, you have to think about how chickens like to sleep, except in the breeding period, wild chickens sleep on top of trees, thus avoiding predators on the ground, the cold and some infections. Domestic chickens instinctively seek to sleep high up, which is why it is usual to put bars or perches on them so that they go up to sleep. These have to take into account the size of their feet and you can also think that our friends defecate a lot at night, so both for cleaning and to take advantage of their feces it is interesting to join this element to another either straw underneath to dry and use later or something more elaborate such as a vermicomposter, thus we save energy in cleaning and transporting feces. The worms will make of these excrements and other wastes that we provide a rich humus for our crops (example of the principle of relative location design).


Feeding and access to clean water is another very important factor, feeders and drinkers that give us time and are clean, herb cultivation systems in cages that offer fodder to the hens without them destroying the herbs to the root or crop of fruit trees inside the henhouse that give them food, shade, shelter and serve to naturalize the corral. It is also ideal to collect the water from the roofs to use it in the drinkers.

Food is closely related to a dignified and healthy life, thinking that our hens will be well living alone in the henhouse is not very permacultural, the ideal is that they have a life in semi-freedom, so in addition to respecting them we can take more advantage of their services in our projects and save on food supplements. Chickens love to spend the day pecking herbs, digging in the ground for seeds and insects, they like to eat the fruits that fall to the ground and the larvae that feed on them. For this reason they are widely used in the control of pests and herbs, in addition, while they do so, they fertilize the soil with their excrement and cultivate in the right measure, so as we can see, removing the chickens from the henhouse has many advantages.


It must be taken into account that removing the chickens is advantageous if we do it in a controlled way, if not, they destroy crops, erode the soil and will bring us more problems than benefits. That is why it is very important to design the play well, on the one hand you have to take into account the times, when we let them access the different areas and for how long. If we let them access the fruit trees after they have been harvested, they will not eat the fruits of the trees, if we let them enter the pasture areas so that they can only be in small plots for a limited time and on a rotating basis, they will enrich the soil and They will make the grass more resilient and diverse, and they can also be synchronized with herbivorous animals such as cows to pass after them and obtain a good source of protein from the larvae of flies that feed on cow poop. On the other hand, we must think about protecting the areas or crops where we do not want them to pass, for this the fixed or mobile fences, tract-chicken coops, tunnels and hedges will be of great help if we design it well from the beginning.

Another thing we have to keep in mind is that like humans there are many animals that love to eat chickens, the safety of these has to be well designed both in the hen house and while they are left loose, the hen house fences will be designed for this purpose, with a good height and if possible starting from at least 20 cm below the ground, if to this we add an ecological mortar of lime better than better. But still do not trust, carnivores are very cunning and we also have to respect them, so it is not worth setting traps or very violent deterrents. Dogs are the best deterrent option without a doubt and the oldest, in fact it is the origin of our long relationship, they are in addition to our best friends, a biological resource of great importance to keep farm animals, if not failures and feelings can lead us to want to exterminate predators as we have historically done. We must assume that if we have animals in semi-freedom in places where there may be wildlife that comes to eat in our garden, we will suffer some losses, but I see it as a tribute that we have to pay for occupying the land and designing in favor of our interests. . This is also applicable for vegetables and pests, what we are looking for is that there is a balance not that only whoever we decide eats or lives. Thinking of producing a surplus for wild fauna of all kinds will not cause us a disaster in the production that we need according to each project. In addition, it must not only be seen as a loss, but this fauna brings us its benefits in the form of different biological resources.


In places with cold seasons it is interesting to attach a greenhouse to the sunny wall of the henhouse, so that we can take advantage of the heat and carbon dioxide that these give off so that the microclimate of the greenhouse is favorable and consequently more productive, we will also have a source of natural fertilizer for our plants in the same place saving us labor and external inputs.

Thus, the difference between producing animals in an industrial way or raising them in a permaculture way is very clear. In an industrial way, it may seem more profitable economically at first glance, but in reality, in addition to being immoral, it is not profitable if we take into account the dependence on inputs that are needed to maintain an industrial chicken coop regardless of its size. When we analyze permaculture production taking into account that it is designed to seek food self-sufficiency for the hens (saving money on food), the happiness of the hens (saving on drugs) and above all we take advantage of the profitability of the services that they provide us separately of typical products, we can understand that the comparison does not make even sense.

When designing using biological resources, we have to take this into account so as not to fall into the same error that unfortunately we can observe today, where not only the loss of species and the destruction of Nature in general are clearly seen, but also the loss of values ​​and social decline are in an unprecedented situation and our more normalized way of exploiting animals in an industrial way are further proof of our decline. We cannot forget that in reality the human species is one more biological resource in the infinity of the Universe.


written by Miguel Ruiz Villalobos


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