Image credit: Ecofilms Australia
We've already seen how one farmer trains her chickens to eat slugs, and the internet is full of examples of chicken tractors—portable coops that can be moved to allow hens to till, fertilize, and weed a plot while providing pest control in the process. (see also this overview of chicken tractors at Planet Green.) But one Australian permaculturist has taken this idea to the next level—designing an intricate system of "chook tunnels" that let him funnel his ladies into any part of his garden. The amount of work that these creatures can do is actually quite amazing.
Of course many vegans will object to the idea of animals being used as "slave labor", but a system like this does go a large way toward answering the accusations of inefficiency so often leveled against animal husbandry. As soon as we stop thinking about chickens, or any other domesticated creature for that matter, as meat or egg production "machines", but rather as a productive, integrated member of a broader ecosystem, the efficiency equation starts to look a little different.
From processing weeds and food scraps into eggs and fertilizer, to replacing the need for human and/or mechanized labor in tilling, this really is yet another example of farming with animals the right way.