Mollison on integrating poultry into the homestead

Dove coteEarlier this week, I wrote
Mollison’s tips on designing a forest pasture
that produces as much
food as possible for your chickens.  But that’s not all he
had to say about poultry.  Mollison also provided a rundown
on other types of birds you might consider adding to your
homestead for specific purposes.

Pigeons/Doves.  I was intrigued
when I read
recent blog post

about using pigeons as a way to bring much-needed nutrients from
the surrounding landscape to a concentrated location on your
farm.  The dream is that you can train your pigeons to
consider a dovecote their home, then let them loose every day to
forage for seeds on their own so you don’t have to feed
them.  At intervals, you harvest the squabs (partially grown
chicks) and manure.  This does sound like an intriguing idea,
but I have reservations.  What’s to stop the pigeons from
eating all of the seeds in your garden? We can handle the few
cardinals and song sparrows who eat our seeds and berries, but I
definitely wouldn’t want to add to their population.  And
would it really be worth it to pluck squabs for that small amount
of meat?  I’m waiting to see Milkwood implement the idea
before jumping on the pigeon bandwagon.

Quail.  I’ve read bits
and pieces about quail (especially Japanese quail, aka coturnix)
from time to time, but all of the sources I’d read about were
raising the birds in confinement, which doesn’t interest me. 
Mollison notes that quail are small and insectivorous enough that
they can often be allowed to run free in a vegetable garden
without causing damage (and, presumably, without requiring much or
any storebought feed).  Again, I’d like to see some firsthand
data from someone before risking my beloved garden, but the
potential for free eggs and meat is hard to ignore.

GeeseDucks.  Ducks are less
likely than chickens to cause damage in a vegetable garden, but
will still eat tender plants and squash seedlings under their big
feet.  On the other hand, they eat insects, slugs, and
snails, and some duck varieties are reputed to lay as well as or
better than chickens.  I could see raising a batch of ducks
just to eat up slugs before planting your main crop vegetable
garden in the spring.

Geese.  As Harvey
Ussery noted
geese can be trained to weed certain kinds of gardens, although
they will eat ripening fruit and can squish plants with their feet
just like ducks do.  Geese are the most herbivorous of the
commonly-raised poultry species, so they can get a lot more value
out of pasture than chickens do, turning grass into eggs and meat.

I’d be curious to
hear from readers who raise any of these less-common types of
birds in complex, permaculture systems.  Have you found a way
to integrate them into your homestead without damaging your

Our chicken waterer also provides clean
water for all kinds of waterfowl, pigeons, and quail.

post is part of our Mollison’s
Introduction to Permaculture lunchtime series

all of the entries:

Latest Comments

  1. Tina November 11, 2013

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