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Depending on your local council regulations, animals may be an essential part of the permaculture system. Check with your local council which may allow chickens, ducks, pigeons, quails, rabbits, guinea pigs and bees. Semi rural councils may allow larger animals like pigs, goats, sheep, cattle and horses. If you want to keep a sheep in your suburban block to keep the grass down, special approval can be sought.

It is important that animals are properly fenced and well managed in a permaculture system and that strict hygiene and animal welfare is observed. Make sure you get your stock from reputable sources, free from pest and diseases. It is not unusual to find mites, lice and ticks introduced to coops after purchasing poultry from Sunday markets.

Animals can be incorporated into the design to convert system waste into manure, assist in pest and weed control and to produce food.

A portable rabbit or guinea pig pen or ‘chicken tractor’ located near the house can be used to cut and manure your grass if shifted regularly.

Quails, which are insect eaters, can be kept in the greenhouse, as they don’t damage herbs and vegetables.

Ducks eat insects, snails and slugs and can be let out in a mulched garden because they do not scratch or eat mature greens. They also eat algae in ponds and increase nutrients in the water to aid in fish production.

Bees pollinate flowers for good fruit set and produce honey.

Poultry is best kept away from the house in a holding pen bordered by a straw yard containing productive trees, bushes and forage plants, which should be planted before chickens are introduced. The holding pen should be fox-proof, enclosed on top with mesh dug at least 50cm into the ground. The chickens can range out into the straw yard and this yard is continually mulched with straw, sawdust, corn stalks, hedge clippings, wood shavings, small branches, pine needles, leaves, weeds and bark.

Greens, shrubs and food scraps are thrown over the fence as chicken feed.

The chicken will fertilise the fruit trees, clean up fallen fruit and control insects, especially Mediterranean fruit fly.

The straw yard can be divided into different sections, and the chickens can be rotated, to give the yard some time to recover. The straw may be raked periodically and used to make a compost heap.

The chicken tractor

This is a transportable pen containing a number of chickens, which is used before planting and after harvest to clean up and fertilise vegetable beds, where a crop is harvested all at once. The ‘tractor’ may cover two to four square meters and gets shifted regularly.

Compost heap and worm farm

A compost heap and a worm farm are an important part of the permaculture system. Garden waste, which can’t be fed to animals (onion and citrus skins, leaves, lawn clippings) should be composted. Chicken manure should also be composted before use, as it can encourage the breeding of stable flies and nutrients can easily leach into waterways.

A worm farm can be kept in a shady place near the house. Worm casts and liquid worm cast extract are the products of worms and can be used as powerful fertilisers. Information sheets on this site have further information on these subjects.

Unfamiliar pests

The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) is on the lookout for animal and plant pests, diseases and weeds that could pose a threat to agriculture and the environment.

If you discover something unfamiliar, please send a photo to the Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS) by email: or phone them on Freecall: 1800 084 881.

Please read the sending specimens for identification web article before sending, or bringing in, samples to the Pest and Disease Information Service, 3 Baron-Hay Court, South Perth, 6151, WA.