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Permaculture stacking

Stacking chickens and raspberries

Ever-bearing red raspberriesI've written about succession planting previously, which involves keeping the garden active by growing more than one crop per year in the same spot.  But I realized I'd never written here about a related permaculture principle which is one of my favorites --- stacking.

When permies use the term "stacking", they are growing more than one crop in the same space at the same time.  For example, silvopastures can allow you to raise timber (or nuts and fruits) right on top of livestock while forest gardens may stack shade-tolerant herbs and leafy greens under fruit trees.

The best way to keep competition down when stacking is to involve multiple kingdoms.  For example, mushroom rafts under a peach tree don't compete at all --- if anything, the fungi slowly break down the wood into high quality humus that the peach will enjoy while the peach maintains a damp, shady environment for the mushrooms.  Even though they're in the same kingdom, putting my bee hive in the chicken pasture this year has been a win-win.

Six week old chickensMy favorite stacking success has been letting our chicks free range throughout the raspberries (and back garden) during their first month or two of life.  The only slight downside is that the chicks scratch the mulch to pieces, but they find lots of invertebrates (and clean up any dropped berries) in the process, all while laying down a thin coating of fertilizer.  The chicks feel safe because they're nestled amid thorny branches, and that patch of raspberries seems to bear berries twice as large and juicy as those on the other end of the homestead.

What's your favorite example of stacking on your own farm?

Our chicken waterer gives our miniature flock a refreshing drink of clean water whenever they take a break from scavenging.


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Great post. I am hoping to do the same thing when I get the bees next spring- place the hive in the pasture with the chickens. ( though not sure our little clearing in the pines is worthy of being called a pasture). I am also hoping to plant some more fruit trees in the other smaller smaller chicken pasture. They do tend to really destroy the mulch which in our dry climate is essential to the health of the tree, but I've found that if I layer newer dry pine needles over existing mulch, they are less likely to disturb it. Pine needles can be sharp! Comfrey and clover are planted under the trees as well. Everything is an experimentand it's all sort of mind boggling to me most of the time...- I live at 8200 feet elevation in a semi- arid ponderosa forest with volcanic pumice instead of dirt! It is by far the most challenging gardening climate I have ever experienced. Zone 5 doesn't even fully describe it ( and we have pockets of zone 4 too) because we can regularly have 50 degree temperature fluctuations between night and afternoon temps, even in July. I know Appalachia is far removed from these challenges, but perhaps one of your readers is a more experienced mountain gardener and might have wisdom to share. I'm looking up every book possible. I do sort of drool over all the green in your photos though....:-)

Comment by Deb Sun Oct 14 13:26:01 2012

This fall I plan to move my 6 adult chickens into a fence berry patch. It is 30' x 40'. I have a few each of blueberrys, currents, rasberrys and strawberrys.

Should I leave these plants for the chickens to scratch around or remove all of them. I had hoped to leave them and put down netting to minimize the damage.

I would really like to work my chickens more into the garden areas.

Comment by Mona Sun Oct 14 14:23:44 2012
Deb --- If you haven't already read it, I highly recommend Sepp Holzer's Permaculture. He's farming in the Alps in a situation very much like yours, I believe, and has lots of tips that will be right up your alley.
Comment by anna Sun Oct 14 14:25:07 2012

Mona --- I'd definitely leave all the berry bushes. If they're well established, your chickens might coexist with them pretty well. If you have enough mulch, you might try to fill the whole space up with mulch, even within the aisles, because the chickens are likely to cause problems by kicking mulch away from the plants.

The only thing that probably won't make it is the strawberries. Maybe you could fence that part out?

Comment by anna Sun Oct 14 14:30:35 2012
I read Mona's comment on letting her birds in with her berries. I just wanted to say that we let our birds roam anywhere on our 40 acres they please, but this year they cleaned all the leaves off the blueberry plants. Now I'm not sure if it was the chickens because we have ducks too. I then wrapped netting around the bald blueberry bushes and luckly all but one made a come back. We also had to fence off the tomato garden cause the chickens felt the need to peck a hole in every tomato.
Comment by Bo Sun Oct 14 16:42:59 2012
Ive been looking at sepp holzer's book- he definitely has a wetter climate but the challenges of hilly terrain and mountain climate are quite similar, though he's still a good bit lower than us. Thanks for the recommendation.
Comment by Deb Sun Oct 14 18:13:35 2012
Bo --- Thanks for that data point! Maybe chickens and blueberries wouldn't mix as well as I thought they would. I wonder how old your plants are (and Mona's too, actually.) I'd expect younger plants to be more prone to chicken damage.
Comment by anna Sun Oct 14 18:17:18 2012

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime