Permaculture III (Animals)

Learn about selecting, managing and incorporating different animals into a permaculture system by studying animal husbandry, breed selection and principles of ecology related to permaculture.

Course CodeVSS106
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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"Learn about the relationship between animals and permaculture systems"

Develop your ability to integrate animals, from livestock to insects, into a complete permaculture design in ways that best utilise animal resources.

Domesticated animals such as fish, goats, bees and poultry are often introduced intentionally, and catered for within the permaculture design. Other (wild) animals may be encouraged into, or repelled from, a permaculture landscape, through design and cultural management decisions.

In this course you will learn about a wide range of animals that have a relevance to permaculture design.


Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Integrating Animals into a Permaculture System/Garden
  2. Role of Insects and Other Small Animals
  3. Poultry
  4. Bees
  5. Grazing Animals: Sheep, Goats, Pigs, Rabbits
  6. Managing Larger Livestock and Wildlife
  7. Aquaculture Production Systems
  8. Aquaculture Species to Grow

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.


  • Understand the principles behind integration of animals in permaculture systems.
  • Understand the role of insects and other small animals in permaculture systems.
  • Understand the role of poultry and bees in the permaculture system.
  • Develop knowledge of the role of grazing animals in permaculture systems.
  • Understand the role of aquaculture production systems in permaculture.
  • Develop knowledge of the range of aquaculture species available for permaculture systems.

What You Will Do

  • Outline how to plan and prepare garden zones in relation to animals. Provide step-by-step instructions and accompanying photographs or drawings.
  • Visit some outside environment close to your home such as a garden, a park, a piece of bushland or a water course. Find and list as many things as you can. Try to see what relationships they might have with other biotic and abiotic components of the environment.
  • Draw a 'Web' to illustrate the interrelationships you find in the ecosystems you observe.
  • Explain "companion planting" in relation to the insect-plant relationship.
  • Contact your state department of Agriculture and obtain leaflets relating to poultry which you are particularly interested in keeping.
  • Contact your state department of Agriculture and obtain leaflets (and any other publications) relating to bee keeping.
  • In no less than 500 words explain the importance of bees to horticulture and the permaculture garden.
  • Enquire to the local agricultural agency on how to make dams and how to water proof them.
  • Write a report to 1000 words explaining the advantages and disadvantages of aquaculture and mariculture.
  • Develop a 5 year plan for developing a one hectare permaculture farm utilising plants, animals and fish (aquaculture). Use drawings and diagrams where needed to assist in this report.
  • Attempt to draw a life cycle diagram of a fish or freshwater crayfish. Include all stages and if possible give a size indication or age indication for each stage.
  • Select three different aquatic animals which would be appropriate to grow in a permaculture system. For each one in turn, explain how you would incorporate it into a permaculture system.

Everything is Interrelated

Permaculture is all about Integrating the Animals, Plants and Humans together, into a balanced and sustainable ecosystem.

The plants we grow benefit from animal manure, and animals benefit from plants: but it requires knowledge to make sure the right plants are grown alongside the right animals. This course helps you to understand such things. Consider what can be grown with chickens, for example.

Herbs can do any of three things for chickens - depending upon which herb it is:

  1.     It may be a source of food
  2.     It may help control illness
  3.     It may also cause illness

Herbs as Food for Poultry

Chickens typically need a diet high in protein (around 19% on average) which is usually obtained through commercial pellets, or a mix of grain, green feed and free range where their protein needs can be obtained largely from eating small animals (e.g. Insects, snails, etc.) and seed. They also eat plant fruits and leaves, some are ideal supplements in their diet, but others are not. In experimental trials on meat birds, herbal additives such as garlic oregano and thyme gave positive results as alternatives to the commonly used antibiotic growth promoters. Other research suggested that the use of oregano, rosemary and thyme as natural anti-oxidant at a rate of 1% of the total dietary intake improved the hen’s ability to convert feed to eggs, increasing productivity by around 12%. It also showed positive results in broilers and breeders.

Controlling Illness

Some herbs will repel or deter pests, and others have medicinal properties. Some can have a positive effect on the animal’s health, by simply being grown where the chicken forages, whilst others might be added to mash and fed to them as a preventative or curative treatment.
Insect repelling herbs like lavender, artemisia, fennel, rosemary and pennyroyal mint may be seen to have both a negative and positive affect. Such herbs may reduce fleas and lice, that can attack birds, but they can also reduce other insects which may otherwise have provided high protein food for chickens.

Causing Illness

Many plants are toxic if ingested by birds; others can be an irritant to the skin. Animals do tend to naturally avoid plants and foods that can be a problem - but not always. There is no sense in introducing potentially dangerous plants into the chicken’s environment, even if they do avoid usually them.
Chickens love fruit and scavenging under the canopy of an apple or plum tree is ideal - but acidic fruits like citrus can cause ill health.

Do and Don’ts of Feeding Herbs as well as Kitchen Scraps
Poultry loves:

  •     Alfalfa sprouts
  •     Bok choy
  •     Cabbage
  •     Chickweed
  •     Endive
  •     Parsley
  •     Silverbeet
  •     Vegetable peels and fruit such as apples and pears

What to Avoid:

  • Avocado  - contains the toxin persin which causes myocardial necrosis (death of the cells surrounding some of the heart muscle)
  • Citrus fruits – calcium absorption is thought to be compromised by the ingestion of citrus fruit by birds contributing to thin-shelled eggs, lower egg production as well as thin bones.  
  • Comfrey: don’t overfeed with comfrey – it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can cause liver damage – small amounts and not too often is best.
  • Don’t overfeed any one single aromatic herb (those that have high oil content such as rosemary, thyme etc.) Use them as a supplement to the diet only or mix with other green feed such as silverbeet and parsley leaves for example.
  • Dried or uncooked beans – these contain a poison called hemaglutin which is toxic to birds.
  • Lawn mower clippings (as these can become mouldy quickly and mouldy food can make chickens very sick).
  • Onion (whether raw or cooked) or raw garlic. Onion in particular has large amounts of thiosulphate which destroys red blood cells. Garlic is fine to use dried and powdered and once dried the thiosulphate is negligible - and has great health benefits used this way.
  • Raw green potato peels – contain a toxic substance called solanine.
  • Rhubarb leaves or stems (the leaves are highly poisonous) and the stems cause soft shells.
  • Potatoes (whether cooked or fresh), potato peels, tomato leaves or eggplant leaves or unripe tomatoes and eggplants (all contain solanine which can cause diarrhoea and sometimes heart failure).
  • Spinach should only be given in small quantities and only occasionally – the oxalic acid in spinach can compromise calcium absorption (silverbeet does not have this problem).

Cleaning the Garden

Poultry can also help the herbs and other plants in a garden by eating slugs and other pests. Larger chickens can also cause physical damage to plants – ducks and bantams (smaller chickens) are preferable because they tend to do less damage to the plants.


  • Add some dried lavender, mint, catnip and lemon balm to the bedding in the nesting boxes: scents the box, antibacterial, relaxant and insecticidal.
  • Dry herbs such as oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme and add at a rate of about 1% to their daily feed to improve egg production and general health.
  • Grow a forage herb garden specifically for your ducks or hens.
  • Dry fresh herbs such as parsley in summer for use in chicken diet in winter
  • Throw the trimmings from your herb garden into the chicken
  • Pick bunches of herbs and hang in your chicken coop just above their head height, so the chickens not only have the health benefits of fresh herbs, but also from the exercise it takes to reach them.

Herbal Forage Garden

Why not plant a herbal forage garden surrounding your chicken coop? Chickens can peck at the foliage through the wire without destroying the entire plant. Another idea is to plant a forage garden and harvest the leaves as needed for your chickens. Remember that if you allow chickens to free range in a herb garden they will destroy it fairly promptly! If you keep ducks, then by all means give them free range as they will help keep slugs and snails away from your herb garden as they forage and not do too much damage to plants.
Herbs, other than mint and parsley which also grow well in part shade, need full sun. They are not fussy about soil and most perennial herbs are dry-tolerant. Annual or biennial herbs such as basil, coriander, dill, parsley but also mint, prefer moist and more fertile soil.

Here are some herbs that may benefit your poultry:

  • Basil: anti-bacterial and for the health of the mucus membranes.
  • Calendula (marigolds): an anti-oxidant; feed the petals to your hens to add vibrant colour to the egg yolks.
  • Catnip: repels rodents, lice and mites grow it around your chicken coop or add it to the nesting box (dry it first).
  • Coriander: an antioxidant plus the added benefit of vitamins A & K for bone, eye and blood health.
  • Dill: improves respiration, antioxidant, and a relaxant.
  • Fennel: said to improve egg production and general reproductive health.
  • Garlic: may help to control parasites and improves egg production – but best used dried and powdered which degrades the thiosulphate in garlic making it safe to use.
  • Lavender: relaxant; insecticidal deterring insects away from the coop or in litter. Use fresh or dried
  • Lemon balm: antibacterial, rodent repellent and is said to lower stress. Can become invasive so keep an eye on this one or grow in a pot.
  • Mint: rodent repellent; also lowers body temperature – add to drinking water in summer (best done as a tea to prevent mould.
  • Mint can become invasive so consider growing it in large pots. Peppermint is often used to help control parasites. Spearmint is said to have antiseptic, insecticidal properties as well as stimulating the nervous system, blood circulation and brain function.
  • Nasturtium: deworming properties, insecticidal, antibiotic and may also improve egg production.
  • Oregano: as an anti-bacterial and to improve egg production.  
  • Parsley: a powerful herb much loved for grazing by poultry that stimulates egg production as well as improving general health; full of vitamins A, B, C, E and K, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc.
  • Rugosa roses: for the rose hips: Very high in vitamin C.
  • Rosemary: to aid respiratory health and as an insecticidal.
  • Sage: add it dried to your poultry feed or fresh as green pick: anti-oxidant and a natural way to prevent disease – it may help prevent salmonella  
  • Thyme: insect repellent, antibiotic, antibacterial and improves respiratory health. Don’t overfeed use thyme as a mixed supplement including other herbs and restrict this mix to no more than 1% of diet (as dried herbs).


  • Anyone who has completed Permaculture Systems or a PDC
  • Permaculturists who recognise that their knowledge of animals in permaculture is weak
  • People attempting to become more self sufficient at home
  • Farmers or hobby farmers who are searching to diversify or explore new ways of utilizing their land
  • Students with a passion for self sufficiency or sustainability.

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