Chicken Scavenging System

This design will not be updated. The latest version of this design can be found on my new blog, which can be found by clicking on the CHICKEN SCAVENGING link



Establish Aims and Objectives

Must Do

The primary function to be food for people.

Provide a significant proportion of food for up to twelve hens.

Give protection to chickens from predators.

Should Do

Provide data for comparison with conventional systems

Have a research value

Could do

Be a good example of permaculture principles for demonstration purposes

Be innovative

‘I am creating a productive model of a jungle glade, to provide food for people, bees and chickens, whilst providing a safe and secure environment for my poultry’.

Gather Information

The Site

Permaculture Chicken Forage

Chicken Scavenging System

Climate and Micro climate


Permaculture Base Map

Base map for Chicken Scavenging System

Permaculture design

View from point a to point b (North East)


permaculture design

View from point b to point c (North)


Permaculture design

View from point b to point d (East)


permaculture design

View from point d to point a (North)

permaculture design

View from point f to point e (North)



Limiting Factors

On Site Resources


Poultry Forage Links and Notes




The chicken analysis was very interesting.






Design Concept




Leaf Litter

Vegetation Architecture

Overall Concept

Permaculture Design Concept

Chicken Scavenging Area Design Concept

Design Schematic

Design Schematic

Design Schematic

Detailed Design

Set Timeline Horizon

Ground Layer Succession

Vegetation Architecture

Forest Garden Canopy Design

Canopy Design

Eleagnus Ebbingei in Forest Garden

Eleagnus Ebbingei in Forest Garden

hardy bamboo hedge

mixed hardy bamboo hedge

Fargesia Rufa

Three pots of Fargesia Rufa

Forest Garden Design

Tree and Shrub layer design

Pleioblastus Fortunei

Pleioblastus Fortunei

Ecosystem Diversity

Vegetation Dynamics


Implementation plan

Implementation to date

wood ash and biochar

Soil amended with wood ash and biochar

Permaculture Design

Trench along Western Boundary

Permaculture Fence

Fencing Detail

Chicken forage experiment

Chicken forage experiment

The Diagram below shows the planting up to this point.

Permaculture Tree Planting

Initial Planting Diagram


Perennial Grain

Barrier Planting of Perennial Rye and Comfrey

Barrier Planting of Perennial Rye and Comfrey

Barrier Planting of Perennial Rye and Comfrey



Permaculture Technique Chunking

Permaculture Technique: Chunking

Permaculture Chicken Scavenging System

View from South West



The Design

Design Process

The Implementation

2nd Evaluation November 2012

8 thoughts on “Chicken Scavenging System”

  1. Again, another really well explained design. Thank you. You are going to have 12 very happy chickens!
    So, to clarify, is the goal to feed 12 chickens, that produce 60-100 eggs a year each, Total egg production 700-1200 eggs a year?
    What would be interesting to know is how much land would normally be used to produce the feed needed for that egg production in conventional systems. Would it be 1000kg of pellets?
    Came across this post that tries to work out the footprint of a chicken.
    Whats your take?

  2. I can only look at our feed bill, but that is skewed by the amount of food that our ducks eat. They are really high input/high output. Doing something for them is long overdue. I don’t think that your guesstimate is far out. I’m looking forward to getting the site developed, and then properly measuring the inputs and outputs, and making them available to others to use,.
    Wishing you well

  3. I’ll be really interested in how this works out. I’ve been thinking a lot how we can better integrate our hens into our pemaculture/forest garden system. Everything I’ve read on chicken forage systems seems to be theoretical. I haven’t read your whole design yet but I’m sure I can learn from it. Thanks for putting it all on your website

  4. Hi Louise.
    it will be some time before the system gets to the point where it is meeting some or all of the food needs of the chickens. This design is only a part of the system that i’m working towards. I hope to present the whole package at this year’s diploma gathering in early December, as part of my accreditation.
    You will see when you read it that it differs markedly from others in that the primary output is designed to be human food,with the chickens benefitting from the environment created.
    I hope that it gives you some ideas that you can adapt for yourself.
    Allof the best

  5. What a superb post! Thank you for this detailed description. I have gone through a somewhat similar design and thought process, though not as structured – more of an ongoing process, struggling with the issue of sustainability. I’m in the West of Ireland and keep about 50 layers plus breeding roosters plus offspring during the season in several groups on our property in small orchards and copses, and also fatten some cockerels in my polytunnels (where they clear and fertilize the ground). My feedbill is massive too; it’s a zero-sum game. By rights I should keep less birds but our neighbours have come to rely on our egg production and I simply like breeding them and having them around (and eating them too…).
    Some thoughts and observations:
    *They don’t fancy comfrey much and I found I did not have to protect it once established. Even if there is no other ground vegetation around they only nibble a bit here and there.
    *They do love both fresh and fallen leaves of willow (the smaller elongated ones at least; pity you have a problem with your willows), sea buckthorn (also N-fixer and yields berries; I’m surprised it’s not part of your design), and Elaeagnus (I have E. commutata and E. multiflora). They also love fallen petals from fruit tree blossom, rose petals… you name it. If I was starting from scratch, I’d integrate some dog roses and such.
    *One of my small orchard runs contains a large Medlar bush. They hang out under it much of the time as it offers good shelter from the elements when in leaf, has low and often horizontal branches great for perching, and they also gobble up the fallen fruit.
    *Due to the high N input from the chicken’s faeces (and I suppose their scratching and turning of it), leaf litter in their runs breaks down much faster than outside.
    *They go mad for duckweed which is high protein and when freshly skimmed off a pond surface also includes a variety of bugs.
    *I have read, though not tried yet, that chickens eat the lower leaves of Jerusalem artichokes with gusto (quite nutritious).
    In order to make at least a small dent in the feed bill I have decided to dig an additional pond (which will also serve many other functions) to produce a lot more duckweed for all the flocks and to grow a good amount of Jerusalem artichokes, with some leaves for the chickens, the majority of the top growth as a late autumn feed supplement for our goats, and the tubers (cooked; the kitchen stove is going anyway in the winter) as a supplement for fattening cockerels. Jerusalem artichokes also take up a lot of nitrogen (up to 200 kg/ha) and thus aid in cycling nutrients if planted in a vacated chicken run. If planted in the run I imagine they need protection.

    Very interested to see how your project progresses.
    Best, Ute

  6. Hi Ute
    Thanks for your comment.
    My chooks eat comfrey as I introduced it to them when they were really young. It’s their preferred food,along with borage and other similar plants.
    My soil makes growing Sea Buckthorn more problematic. I have it on my swale banks, where it is doing OK.
    The underlying aim of this particular design is to feed them through insects, rather than plants.
    Nice to hear about your own plans.
    keep in touch

  7. Hi Deano,

    I need to thank you for your outstanding documentation, which I originally found by looking for forest garden designs used with chickens; ..but I got sidetracked into almost every subject on your site… I wasn’t too much into bamboo, before I met your posts; yet, as my own woods and endeavors towards sustainable chicken integration take root, I find myself coming back to your ideas – the whole of it -, again and again.

    There is one question, that flares up whenever I come by your excellent drawings
    on this page: What made you decide to plant sweet chestnut in your chicken area?

    (I remember the giant sweet chestnuts that made up the forest surrounding my grandparents’ house, (who always had chickens, – but not in the woods), and how much I learned to love the scent of hot maroni filling the house…, and I also remember the vicious needles their abundant shells are covered in – and the countless sessions in my grandma’s lap, while she was operating their broken remains out of my feet after I had played in the meadows adjacent to the woods.)

    – Do you think the chickens will be fine wading through those heaps of needly bunches?

    One other question is: have you considered producing compost in black soldier fly (BSF) nest boxes and feeding them to the chickens?

    I have been feeding surplus earthworms from my worm bin to my birds, but the BSF produce more tasty morsels faster and even easier, and, regarding the earthworms role as intermediate host for so many ascaroid parasites, I felt it might perhaps be better, too, not to overdo it with the wigglers and instead mix the live protein supplements up with a little more ‘variety’.. (- yes, still a lot of the same stuff, – but the chooks really eat significantly less other supplemental feed…

    Can’t wait to see your project grow and develop further!

    Best to you!


  8. Hi There
    I’m using sweet chestnut for the edible nuts, late bee forage, and the high tannins in their leaves. I’m sure that the chickens will be fine.
    I was not looking to create work for myself, so am not looking at Black Soldier Fly etc. Hopefully the environment will provide the food for my chickens, with my work reduced.
    Thanks for your comments

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