Category Permaculture Animal


As both predators and prey, frogs are an important link in the food chain. Encouraging them to take up residency in your garden is beneficial and easy to do.

Of nearly 8000 species of frogs worldwide, Australia is home to more than 230. Hugely diverse, they can be found anywhere from the top of a tree in an inner-city backyard, to a metre underground in the desert as burrowing species look to escape the summer heat.

But all frogs play a really important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, both on a global scale and within your own patch. With numbers declining all over the world, it’s a good time to start thinking about building a safe and appropriate habitat to encourage Australia’s amphibians into your garden.

Permaculture animal: Dog


Dogs are a very popular pet, being the most common pet in Australia. They can provide various services in a permaculture system, however they need good training, space to run and a sustainable source of food, so serious planning is required before deciding to add a dog to your system.


Many of the services that dogs provide stem from being able to smell and hear better than humans—they can let us know something is amiss before we can sense it for ourselves. I had a dog that would alert me to neighbour’s cattle getting through the fence, poultry out of the pen, nearby snakes and many other unexpected events, as well as visitors arriving. These abilities can also be tailored to specific circumstances; for instance dogs trained to sniff out ripe truffles.

Permaculture animal: Native Bee


Mention bees and people invariably think of the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. However, this species is only one of 20 000 species of bees worldwide. Australia is home to about 2000 species of native bees and most of them are very important plant pollinators.

Native bees have a symbiotic relationship with a permaculture garden. Many of permaculture’s non-interventionist techniques support native bee populations. In return they support us by providing valuable pollination services, which help to produce high crop yield and good quality seed.

Permaculture animal: Guinea Pig


Guinea pigs (cavies) are a useful permaculture animal because they can be a zero-input, multi-functioning addition to rooftop, backyard and homestead gardens.

They keep grass down, provide manure, recycle your food scraps and don’t need much space or make any noise, unlike our clucky friends the chickens. They also make great pets for kids. Guinea pigs are social animals and can also form close bonds with their carers.


Guinea pigs are voracious eating machines! They eat grass, weeds, vegetables and also mixed grains. Avoiding grains is completely possible and doesn’t seem to have any negative consequences. Food waste in the form of vegetable and fruit scraps mean another fertility cycling opportunity (that waste could be from a local cafe or restaurant). 15 guinea pigs will convert 20 kgs a week into hundreds of fertiliser pellets—a lovely landfill reduction for your local community, and fertility for your landscape!

Permaculture Animal: Worm


Composting worms can be considered the ultimate suburban animal. They’re quiet, cheap, loyal and useful. They don’t need walking, grooming or vets. As a permaculture animal, they excel. They survive entirely on leftovers and waste, and their voracious appetites can reduce landfill contributions by up to half while giving you rich castings and liquid fertiliser.

There are three main worm categories: anecic (deep soil dwellers), endogeic (medium depth soil dwellers) and epigeic (top layer dwellers—composting worms are this type, and over 90% of them are Tigers, Reds or Indian Blues).

Permaculture animal: Cattle


Cattle (cows, bulls, oxen, heifers, steers, bullocks or calves) are valued for their ability to provide large amounts of milk or meat. They can also be used for labour and when well-managed, in maintaining grasslands. Yet cattle are very large animals, expensive to purchase and they eat a lot of feed. Cattle bring many benefits, but be sure they’re right for you and your system before you commit.


There are dairy breeds (such as Jersey, Aussie Reds and Friesians) and beef breeds (such as Angus and the tropical Brahmas). The offspring from dairy breeds produce relatively little meat, and beef breeds are not suited to milking as they produce less milk and generally lack the right temperament. If you want a dairy cow but also some meat, mate your cow to a beef bull each year. Besides cross breeding, there are also some dual purpose breeds (such as Dexter).

Smaller breeds, or miniatures of standard breeds, are particularly well-suited to smaller-scale permaculture systems as they have lower feed and space requirements.

Permaculture Animal: Silver Perch (Bidyanus Bidyanus)


Silver perch are useful, hardy native fish suitable for farm dams, aquaponics and other aquaculture systems. They are easy to feed and as they’re native to a wide swath of the Murray-Darling river system, they’re adaptable to a range of conditions.


As the name suggests, silver perch have a silvery grey appearance. They are darker on top and lighter on the belly with spiky dorsal fins along the back. They can grow up to 50 cm and 6 kg, but are unlikely to reach these sizes in farm dams.

Functions In A Permaculture System

Silver perch are good eating fish. They have a very high level of omega-3s, making them a particularly useful addition to a permaculture diet. They are generally eaten when under a kilogram.

They may be useful in keeping some problem species, such as mosquitos and filamentous algae, at bay.

They can be stocked with other species such as yellow perch to create a more diverse polyculture. Austral

Permaculture Animal: Muscovy Ducks


Muscovy ducks are a popular animal in many permaculture systems as they perform multiple functions, especially in the orchard or food forest. They are also a pleasure to watch waddling around the garden.

Muscovies come in a range of colours from all white, all black, black and white, black with green feathers, and brown and white. They have a distinctive appearance with a bright red mask around their eyes and beak, which is more pronounced in the male.

Muscovies are quiet ducks, which makes them a great fit for residential areas. Instead of quacking, the males make a hissing sound.

Permaculture Animal: Japanese Quail


Japanese quails Coturnix japonica are an alternative in urban areas, where space and noise constraints may rule out backyard chickens. Quails will provide you with fresh, golden- yoked eggs from even a tiny space. You’ll also get pest control, fertiliser and compost making services.

Feed And Housing

Housing could be a walk-in aviary or a low cage, but must be completely dog, cat and fox proof. Quails prefer to simply sit on the ground at night rather than roost, and – at least in Melbourne’s climate – they need little special care other than summer shade, and protection from wind and rain. They will lay their eggs anywhere in the run so it’s an Easter-egg hunt every day!

Rare Breeds: Australian Game Fowls


In 1988 Bill Mollison stood on top of a swale at Crystal Waters Eco Village and declared: ‘Permaculturists want to be property developers’. While the job description for a property developer might conjure up images of housing market bubbles, and terribly-designed boxes squeezed onto ever-diminishing parcels of urban land, in many ways Bill was on the money. The desire for a patch of one’s own has led many a permie down the garden path of property ownership. But what if there was a way to create a living out of ethically and sustainably developing land for the future.

Why Become A Property Developer?

The need for more environmentally-sensitive housing is a no-brainer. But is that argument enough to make you put your energy into becoming a property developer? Permaculture teacher and property developer Ian Lillington certainly thinks so. He and his partner Marita went into the business to create sensible, sensitive subdivisions, and to help people move out of big metropolitan areas and set up a good life in a smaller town.