Building a Chicken Greenhouse: In Search of a Permaculture Cliché

chicken greenhouse photo

Image credit: Rob Hopkins/Transition Culture
Building a chicken greenhouse - for real!
Way back in 2006, Warren answered the question "what is permaculture" by describing it as "like biomimicry for food." Essentially, it's about creating human systems - often, but not always, food systems - that mimic the natural world. And that means looking for ways that each element interacts with all the other elements. Chickens are a prime example. As I've noted over at Planet Green, my chickens provide organic bug control, and chickens also create great compost. But one of the 'classics' or permaculture design which has almost become a cliché is the chicken greenhouse - a design that uses heat and CO2 from the chickens to help plants grow, and provides food, shelter and warmth for the chickens too. The only trouble is, I'm not sure it works, or whether anyone has actually built one. But things are about to change.
Rob Hopkins of the Transition Town Movement (who else!?) is a veteran of the permaculture scene, and has been teaching about the theory of chicken greenhouses for years. But as he wrote about a while back, once he started looking for a working model for a chicken greenhouse, he drew blanks - and he also started to question some of the theory. After all, how much heat do chickens really give off - and how much heat does a greenhouse really retain?

Of course, Rob being Rob, he was undeterred and rather than dropping the chicken greenhouse from his teaching, he decided to build one and find out for himself. Not only that, but it seems he's inspired his neighbor to do the same. All this has caused Rob to declare his little cul-de-sac as the World Center for Chicken Greenhouse Research. So far, the designs are both still works in progress, but that's better than being a chapter in a book. We'll be watching with great interest to see how the structures develop - and whether they actually work!

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