Nutrient Flow and Chicken Coops

Siting your Chicken Coop in your backyard may be no big deal, but to place it at the highest point of your garden – well isn’t that usually reserved for your house as the premier spot?

Not necessarily so if you talk with Permaculture teacher Geoff Lawton.

The Problem

Before and After: Nutrient Flow distributed across garden bed with slotted agriculture pipe

Recently whilst filming the Urban Permaculture DVD we came across a home with already an established garden and a chicken coop on the highest point of the slope.

The chicken coop was positioned higher than the main house. The garden separated the gap between the home and the coop.

The problem for the owner was that when it rained substantially – the water would run through the center of the chicken coop in a torrent and flood the kitchen located in the center of the house.

So how do you solve a problem like this?

For Geoff Lawton, building swales in the Middle East or erecting large scale earth work dams on miles of open space might be easy to achieve, but the challenge now was of the micro scale. A suburban back yard with a problem.

Geoff’s solution proved to be quite easy. Slow down the flow of water running through the chicken coop gate and direct it to where it was needed. The garden bed.

Filming with Geoff Lawton you realize that he has an uncanny ability to notice little details that escape the average punter.

Geoff will point out some odd shaped bit of fungi growing on a log or pick up a leaf and show you that it has a bit of dried bird crap attached to it! Noticing little insignificant details like this is what separates the Permaculturalist from the rest of us.

“Whats the point of knowing all this detail?” I would ask him? Survival. He says he first needed to notice these important little things whilst working in the deserts of the Middle East.

Clues in the sand are hard to find and Geoff says he had to look very hard to find the solutions – the clues to solve every day problems in the barren landscape.

Geoff Lawton showing the Nutrient Flow under the Chicken coop

The Solution

So back to this garden. Whilst we were filming with Geoff he walked around the chicken coop and pointed out for the camera where the rain was forming a channel in the coop. Right under the gate to the chicken coop. Noticing little details like this is important to making the correct decisions. The problem is the solution. So what are we to do to fix this growing problem?

Building massive swales in a domestic garden were out of the question – right? So how to solve this water flow issue and stop the flood in the client’s kitchen every time it rained?

Geoff thought of the answer instantly.

Slotted drainage irrigation pipe. Just go down to your hardware shop and buy a roll.

Duh! There we were looking for a cosmic answer and the solution was pretty basic.

Dig a shallow trench the length of the chicken coop and fill it with irrigation pipe. Add drainage gravel and now every time it rains the water runs down the hill, enters the chicken coop, collects all the nutrient chicken poop runoff and deposits it into the trench and slowly allows the water to equally seep in and distribute the length of the drainage pipe and run down equally into the garden to fertilize all the plants rather than depositing it all in the kitchen. No need for pumps or additional fertilization. Let Nature do it for you with a little Permaculture help.

Small trench with slotted agriculture pipe and drainage gravel

Clever design.


Great idea huh?

Locating a chicken coop above your garden helps nature collect and distribute the poop evenly throughout the garden. Thats a good example of Permaculture design in action.

A simple idea that most people don’t think or act upon.

Solution. Happy Chickens. Happy Garden. Happy Owner.

The Urban Permaculture DVD loaded with great ideas like this one comes out towards the end of the year. Look out for it.