Integration…chook style

The New Girls seem to know a bit about permaculture, especially the design principle, integrate rather than segregate. What this means in permaculture design is that the elements in a design should be placed so that they complement one another and energy is saved and resource use maximised. So if the outputs of one part of the system are the inputs for another part of the system, then it makes good design sense to put them next to one another rather than separate them widely.

In chook terms what this means is that the Newbies have decided they want to be part of the original system, i.e. Molly & Cheeky’s run and coop, rather than be separated in their own run and coop (which only happens at night anyway…through the day they’re all in the same area).

I made a separate run and coop for the Newbs because I wanted to keep them separate initially for quarantine purposes and because I didn’t want to see them being beaten up by the two dominant hens, at least until they’d settled in enough to give a bit of their own back.

It worked OK until they had their first fox scare early one morning. They were quite safe; I knew that but they didn’t, and it resulted in them not wanting to go into their coop at night, but preferring to sleep up on the top. I gave in to that idea and made arrangements to protect what was left of my coop paint job (with newspaper), and collect the poo from there.

That worked OK until yesterday morning. I was lying in bed, half awake, half asleep, trying not to accept that it was time to get up, when I heard the Noisy Miners give their warning calls and the agonised flapping and cackling from the Girls that said ‘fox’. I fell out of bed, grabbing for clothes, with the usual hand clapping and yelling “geroutavit” and went outside. Molly & Cheeky were still in bed in their run but the Newbs were panicking in theirs. Two were in their coop, in the nestbox, on top of one another, while the third was parading up and down abusing all and sundry.

I calmed them down, let them out into the main playground area and staggered inside to properly wake up. The rest of the day proceeded as normal.

Came the evening and the usual job is to go down just on dusk, call them into their respective runs, if they haven’t gone in already, give them a bedtime treat and drop down the pop doors on each run that keep them confined for the night (and keep foxes out), say “goonite Girls” and retreat inside to the computer.

I was doing something important on the computer (Sudoku puzzles are important) and dusk came before I realised it. By the time I got outside Molly & Cheeky were nowhere to be seen, but I know that like all of us oldies they like an early night. The Newbs were nowhere to be seen, either. They weren’t on top of their own coop in their own run.

I bent down to check Molly & Cheeky’s coop through the wire. It was almost dark by now. There seemed to be a lot of black shapes in there and a lot of grumbling and grizzling going on. You wouldn’t read about it (well…I know….you just are!). The Newbs had put themselves to bed in the Oldies coop!

I went into the run and poked my head through the door of the coop. There’s room enough for 6 or 7 chooks in there so I wasn’t worried. Molly & Cheeky were NOT amused. There was a lot of sniping and pecking going on. The Newbs were trying to get themselves settled while keeping out of range of Molly’s beak. I closed down the pop door and left them to argue about it.  All because of the fox episode that morning, they’ve given up on their own coop. Who says chooks are dumb?

Ultimately it’s good. It means they’ve integrated fully with the other two. M & C aren’t happy, but they’ll get used to sharing their bedroom. It means less work…back to having only one coop to clean out and one to lock up at night. They’re all together at night in the run that’s next to the house, just under my bedroom window. I’ll hear and wake at any disturbances. They’ll be out of the winter weather, safely tucked up in a coop where I want them, instead of on top of it. Win win all round. Integrate rather than segregate. Permaculture wins again. Yay!


9 Responses to “Integration…chook style”

  1. kayepea Says:

    Clever girls – fancy chookie-babes knowing about permaculture! 🙂


  2. narf77 Says:

    We were only looking at “Design principles” yesterday (the day you posted this) in our new TAFE course and tapping into our tired brains that “If several elements have similar weight and direction they should be placed together for visual presence/weight rather than separated because they lose value when apart”. Sounds like permaculture and “Interactive Digital Media” have more in common than I thought! I am on a mission with my course this year. It might be full of technology and thus terrifying, but it is also full of possibilities. I have a few ideas for creating permaculture apps for phones and might have to ask you a few questions when the time comes to meld the design with the outcome. I love that the girls are now all together. My lot are all in together and some sleep on the perches, the fatter Wyandotte girls are not all that happy with tall perches and sleep closer to the ground and some of them even nestle on the floor but they are safe in their concrete ex wood shed with room for about 20 chooks and even the most determined quoll can’t invade Poland. I love it when nature integrates herself and melds to form a quorum of feathers and indignant clucks 😉


    • foodnstuff Says:

      No, sorry to say, it doesn’t sound like permaculture, only artistic design. Permaculture is something vastly different to creating a pleasingly aesthetic picture. Unfortunately it’s impossible to get the concept of permaculture across to anyone in a few short words. When you do a design course and suddenly ‘get’ it, your world is blown apart; your way of thinking about EVERYTHING changes for ever, likewise your way of doing.

      For example, do you add chook poo to your compost? Where is your compost heap? It should be right next to your chook pens, not down the other end of the yard. So you save lots of (physical) energy moving poo -> compost heap. Now if you’re a landscape designer, you (or your design customer) mightn’t want a messy compost heap right next to your beautifully designed, aesthetically pleasing chook run and would put it way down the back out of sight. Segregating, not integrating. And your vegetable gardens should be right next to your compost heap, if that’s where you’re going to use that compost, and so on.

      Actually a lot of permaculture is intuitively sensible thinking, which we all do from time to time but not nearly enough, or all our presently unworkable systems would be workable and we’d have no problems whatsoever. 😉

      And your last sentence says it all…”nature integrates herself”… Permaculture attempts to copy nature and the way elements in nature are organised to provide a sustainable, workable SYSTEM (that’s the important word) which will provide all human needs using the least possible space. Humans in civilisation have never learned from nature; it’s why we create so many problems (and then create more trying to solve them).

      Sounds like you’re doing a Landscape Design course. It’s not permaculture.


      • narf77 Says:

        I am a qualified landscape designer Bev, already did that. Now I am learning to do Digital media design. I specialised in environmental design in my landscape design diploma and spent a lot of time studying how nature works, seral communities, integrating permaculture with my designs and finding ways to take practicality and make it attractive. It’s not impossible, just takes a bit of thought. Whoever said a compost heap had to be ugly? I have no problem with heaps and piles and weeds but then that’s “my” place. If I can give someone an attractive design that also delivers sustainably then I see that as a win-win situation.


        • foodnstuff Says:

          Whoops! Sorry. Didn’t mean to sound crabby. Must have got out of the wrong side of the bed or somefink. I realise permaculture gardens are ugly to some people and it IS possible to produce something beautiful AND functional.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Eve Inbetta Says:

    naw, that’s cute. Hey, I have a slightly off topic question: on the weekend one of my lovely hens died suddenly. She was so young (only a year old) and it was a bit of a shock. I have two left. Straight away, one of the remaining hens turned broody.She just won’t come out of the nesting box, even if there’s no egg there. I pulled her out this morning and made sure she ate some cucumber but she was back in there before I left for work. Do you think she’s noticed the flock is smaller and is trying to increase it again?
    I’m reluctant to get a replacement hen for a number of reasons, including that I’m still mourning the one we lost and I’m worried that the two existing hens would bully the new one.
    Do you have any advice?


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Is she really broody or is she just taking a long time to lay?

      No, she’s not aware of poultry population issues and is not trying to increase the flock. If she’s really gone broody at this time it’s just a co-incidence.

      Hens are flock birds and have a defined pecking order. It’s likely that a new bird will be low in the pecking order with respect to the other two. That should settle down in time and unless real injury is being done to the new bird, you should ignore it.

      Do you know why the first hen died? Have you made yourself familiar with the major poultry diseases?

      I would get a new hen straight away, providing you’re happy the present birds don’t have any disease that will kill them and the newcomer. If you lose another one, you’ll only have one and it’s cruel to have one on its own as they need others of their own kind. They’re not like dogs and cats.

      This is a really excellent site for information about chickens:

      Read the FAQ’s in particular. It’s excellent information.


      • Eve Inbetta Says:

        I have no idea why she died; that makes it even harder to handle. I’ve read Jackie French’s Chook Book cover to cover twice (I love Jackie French) but that’s the extent of my chicken education. I’m going to check out that site now, thanks 🙂


        • foodnstuff Says:

          I have Jackie French’s book too. She’s great. I’m sure you’ll like henblog. Watching the chickens on hencam is so interesting, except that there’s so much snow on the ground at the moment.


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