Food Forest for Chickens – October 2018 Design and Planting

During our Automne 2018 food forest course, we designed and planted a food forest for Chickens. This is a food forest with perennial plants and trees that chickens can fodder for fruit, berries, leaves and insects. However, without plants chickens will quickly destroy through overeating or scratching. Leaving the rest for us to harvest.


Food Forest For Chickens
Drawing of the final planting of half of the Chicken Food Forest (Showing sizes of plants in 10 years)

The food forest was designed with these requirements for the food forest:

  1. The food forest must provide wind protection to our new community house
  2. The system must be designed thinking about the succession of trees over time, i.e. first design a canopy later that will be present in 150 years, then design in shorter-lived trees to live under this canopy and even shorter-lived shrubs closer to the main canopy tree.
  3. The food forest must stay true to the plan if left unmanaged through a natural succession of plants
  4. The food forest must stay true to the design if someone takes over the land who isn’t interested in food forests – we must give them a reason not to chop it down for grains or monoulture, i.e. high yields and beauty.
  5. Shrubs and trees should be planted with adequate spacing so that they can grow to full size without competing with other plants
  6. All layers of the food forest must be included, the fencing will be used for climbers such as passion fruit
  7. The polyculture of trees and shrubs should be designed and planted to give a forest feel and not individual beds or guilds of plants.
  8. The path for humans which goes through the food forest must have trees and shrubs on either side that can provide regular forage for humans, i.e. berries or fruits that are harvested regularly and can be eaten there and then (such as apples and blueberries).
  9. Fruit and berry plants that humans would harvest as a one off and would need to process to eat such as quince and olive should be planted further away from the path (e.g. olives, elderberry and quince)
  10. Chickens should enjoy to eat something from every plant, like the fallen fruit or low hanging fruit or leaves.
  11. The wild lavender growing all over this are not to be disturbed.
  12. All plants should provide a yield for us (the humans), like berries, fruit, medicine, timber etc
  13. As many medicinal plants for chickens should be included (such as wormwood as a dewormer) as animals are known to self medicate.
  14. Ground covers of herbs and spreading fruit like mock strawberries should be used to cover the ground.
  15. Open areas should be included to give the chickens and insects both grass and weed fodder
  16. An area must be included for a chicken-powered compost generating system
  17. Areas must be devoted to growing grains to be saved for sprouting for additional chicken food
  18. Access to the chicken house, compost generating system must be easy for humans, wheelbarrows and a car must be able to access the output of the compost system
  19. The food forest should be split into three areas so the chickens can be rotated through them.
    1. One area more densely planted and closed to chickens for 1-2 years
    2. One area with larger trees more spaced out and less understory plants and space for growing grains. This area will be open to chickens within 1 year and later sheep as well.
    3. One area for the chicken powered compost system where the chickens will have access to from the very start (they will be introduced in 6 months when we introduce the chickens)

In Automne 2018 we planned and planted half of the first area (See photos)

Compost for food forest
Making hot compost piles to use to amend the soil in the new food forest

Preparing for the food forest

  • We created a lot of bio car (activated charcoal to add into the ground for better drainage and water retention)
  • A friend and I mucked out a huge stable full of sheep manure and brought 9 cubic meters of sheep manure which we turned into many hot compost piles mixed with bio char, food scraps, weeds and hay
  • I listed all the trees and shrubs that I knew chickens eat, from this list i purchased additional plants that I had not already propagated
  • Over the previous two years we have been propagating plants by seed and cuttings for the food forest
  • I bought materials such as large paper for designing
  • We put fence posts up around the planned food forest last winter when the soil was wet and installed the fence in the summer when the ground was hard.
  • We harvested one large bucket of worm castings for the food forest
  • We spent 20 man-days wood chipping mimosa for the food forest
  • The food forest’s mulch was inoculated with various mushroom spores from around the farm

Photos of the area we planted in October 2018 after planting, for more photos of the process, click here

Chicken food forest Area 1. 1071 square meters (51 meters by 21 meters)

First we designed the canopy layer in 100 years and then included plants in the space in time based on the growth of the trees in 25, 50 and 100 years. This included:

  1. Existing native holm oak and cork oak seedlings. The oaks are only a meter or so high and are extremely slow growing. Although they don’t directly provide fodder for the chickens, they attracts a lot of life which the chickens can eat and as they are growing shorter lived trees under their future canopy, we have included Red Elderberry, Quince, Loquat, Medicinal shrubs and a Goji Hedge in this space in time. They could also be pruned back in 100 years for firewood if desired. The planted understory here is mock strawberry.
  2. A nitrogen-fixing Carob tree grown from collect seed. This is the slowest growing tree in the design but with the biggest canopy, giving us a large area to plant fruit trees that live or produce for less than 100 years. The tree will in the future shade the pond that we dug to get clay to build the chicken coop. It will fix nitrogen for the other canopy trees around it, provide fodder for chickens and the edible carob pods provide a chocolate substitute for us. In and around the future canopy, we have planted 8 Jostaberries (cross between black current and gooseberry), two different varieties of Nectarine trees, chickens favorite nitrogen fixer the siberian pea shrub, Sea Buckthorn, two Pomegranates, Common Juniper, four Black Chokeberries and Asparagus.  This area has many herbs including Rui, Oregano ground cover, Wormwood and Marjurum. We also included many edible flowers (including holly hock, borage, and calendula) and nitrogen-fixing cover crops such as clover and alfalfa.
  3. A black mulberry tree grown from a bought seed. This tree is faster growing and the berries are loved by chickens. As it is faster growing, there is less time available for us to grow trees under the canopy but we have planted shrubs and trees at the edge of the future canopy such as two Apricots, three red chokeberries, many Artichokes, 3 Black elderberries and a variety of herbs with the main groundcovers of Oregano, Mock strawberry and Comfrey Bocking 14.
  4. Dogwood Cherry tree bought. Another slow growing tree giving us space in time to play. The cherries and flower are beautiful and chickens will adore the fallen fruit.  Under here we have planted two nitrogen fixing Myrtle shrubs and two Black Lace Elderberries, herbs such as sage and rosemary. This shrub layer will join into the Carob guilt. Around here we have propagated in a variety a running strawberry and calendulas to cover this area.

The plantings have been broken up into:

  1. the back hedge which includes all of the elderberries, pomegranates, Gojis, Loquat and Common Juniper with the whole back having the mock strawberry groundcover.
  2. One side of the path which includes food we can browse as we walk past including Chokeberries, strawberries, apricots, a Plum and nectarines. This will be continues on the other side of the path next year.
  3. An additional hedge row separates our main food forest from the chicken food forest which includes Hazels, Loquat, Figs and various berries.

In our next food forest courses we will be designing and planting the other parts of this Chicken Food Forest.

natural plastering
This is the large chicken house that we are building for the Chicken food forest. Eggs can be collected from the outside, all of the inside is high enough for us to walk in, its beautiful and spacious. The foundation is from stone, the walls are wattle and dorb (mud and wood from our land)

Want to join one of our food forest courses? For more info click here

Other posts about our food forests:

Chicken food forest update

We planted a chicken food forest two years ago with many species of plants. Fallen fruit and low hanging fruit will be for chickens, middle fruit for us and the highest fruit will be for wildlife.

Posted in Chickens, Food Forest, Permaculture Chicken System | Leave a comment

Fruit trees going into the agroforestry field

This winter we are planting out our newest agroforestry field in multiple stages. A field to integrate fruit crops, reforestation and sheep pasture. This week we planted in 54 fruit trees into the agroforest along swale lines. Have a read about the stages we have completed and what we have left.

Posted in Agroforestry, Food Forest | Leave a comment

13 cool new trees

In November 2020 we planted our first 13 trees in our new agroforestry system.  We have prepared this field over the last year with swales, fencing, cover crops and a pond and now they have 13 cool new trees! This field will have a forest planted that will offset carbon, create habitat for wildlife and […]

Posted in Agroforestry, Food Forest, Reforestation | Leave a comment

Tree Planting and Ally Cropping in our Silvopasture

This year we have had a bit of rain in September so we started our tree planting early. On top of that we further planted into the layers of our silvopasture plantation. Thank you to our Permaculture interns for buying trees and planting them. We planted cherries, nectarines and almonds into space that we had […]

Posted in Agroforestry, Animals, Food Forest, Permaculture, Reforestation | Leave a comment

Life During Lockdown

During the lockdown, we had 5 guests guaranteed with us for 3 months after they were meant to leave and then we enjoyed the farm to ourselves for a while. For those of you that are not following us on social media for our daily updates, here are some photos of all the things we […]

Posted in About Us, Agroforestry, Food Forest, Permaculture, Reforestation | Leave a comment

Silvopasture for Chickens & Sheep

Over the past year, we have planted one field using silvopasture principles. Silvopasture is where you grow trees and shrubs with animals integrated into the system that benefit each other. The idea is to reduce carbon based inputs into the system such as tractors to cut grass and fertiliser for trees whilst getting extra forrage […]

Posted in Agroforestry, Animals, Food Forest, Permaculture, Reforestation, Sheep | Leave a comment

Photos and updates from 2019

We have had a very busy year on the farm with more than 100 volunteers, many courses and retreats. We have started some new permaculture systems, continued in the food forests and with our reforestation project and the natural building projects. Here is an update on some of our current projects for those not following […]

Posted in About Us, Agroforestry, Food Forest, Natural Building, Permaculture, Reforestation, Research, Updates, Yoga | Leave a comment

Swales and earthworks in action

An 5 min video update on how the earthworks that have been dug on all of our food forest course are doing after heavy rain.

Posted in Agroforestry, Food Forest, Reforestation | Leave a comment

10 Day Food Forest Courses

In 2020 we will be running 10-day food forest courses at Keela Yoga Farm. The first course will be on 17th March 2020 and you may also join us earlier to take part in the internship. Book now for an early bird discount

Posted in About Us, Agroforestry, Food Forest, Reforestation | Leave a comment

Aerial photos and updates Oct 2019

A friend dropped by and took some aerial photos of each area of our farm areas. These are taken at the end of the Summer 2019 when the land is very dry and shows the work we have done on this abandoned land over the past two years.

Posted in About Us, Agroforestry, Food Forest, Permaculture, Reforestation, Updates | Leave a comment

Photos of Spring 2019 Food Forest Work

In March and April 2019 we hosted a one month food forest course, where participants learn how to plan, design, implement and maintain a food forest. During this month our food forests where expanded and upgraded the food forests. Please check out what we got up to.

Posted in Agroforestry, Food Forest, Permaculture, Reforestation | Leave a comment

New permanent beds this winter

We have planted several new permanent beds this winter mostly by students and volunteers participating in this year’s food forest course. A permanent bed is one that requires a lot of extra work up frot, up but shouldn’t need to be tilled, dug or have as much work in the future. It also usually consists […]

Posted in Agroforestry, Food Forest, Permaculture, Reforestation | Tagged | Leave a comment

Wild Greens, foraging workshop portugal

Want to know what the medicinal properties are for weeds on your farm? Herbalist and forager Raquel Perdigão is coming to Keela Yoga Farm from ‘Awakened Life Project’ on the 9th and 10th April 2019 to teach us how to forage for wild greens, the medicinal properties of herbs and how to use them. Please join […]

Posted in Agroforestry, Cooking & Preserving, Food Forest, Reforestation | Leave a comment

Harvesting Olives and Making Olive Oil

For the first time, we have Extra Virgin Organic Olive oil picked directly from our farm. It was a lot of work and we had a lot of help but in the end, we have almost a years supply of olive oil for the farm.

Posted in Agroforestry, Food Forest, Reforestation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Food Forest for Chickens – October 2018 Design and Planting

During our Automne 2018 food forest course, we designed and planted a food forest for Chickens. This is a food forest with perennial plants and trees that chickens can fodder for fruit, berries, leaves and insects. However, without plants chickens will quickly destroy through overeating or scratching. Leaving the rest for us to harvest.

Posted in Agroforestry, Food Forest, Reforestation | Tagged | Leave a comment

Photos from Octobers Food Forest Course

Check out some of the photos of the students in action during October’s food forest course. The students from this course designed and planted a new food forest for Chickens and Humans to enjoy near our new community building.

Posted in Agroforestry, Food Forest, Reforestation | Tagged | Leave a comment

Photos from March Food Forest Course

In March 2018 we held our second month long Food Forest course. The group of eight spent one month learning about trees, soils and food forests whilst researching their own trees and creating designs for a food forest. They then planted a new food forest in an old olive grove in one of our terraces.

Posted in Agroforestry, Food Forest, Permaculture, Reforestation | Tagged | Leave a comment

Photos from the food forest course

During November 2017 we held our first Food Forest course at Keela Yoga Farm. This month long course was designed to give the students the full experience of how to design and set up a food forest on an off-grid farm. Take a look at what we got up to, and read on to learn more about […]

Posted in Agroforestry, Animals, Food Forest, Reforestation, Sheep, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Food Forest Course Portugal March 2018

Join us at Keela Yoga Farm in March, 2018 or October 2018 for our month-long Food forest courses in Portugal. Click here for our latest courses Learn everything you need to know about starting your very own food forest and off grid farm while experiencing community living on a new permaculture project. Enjoy daily yoga and meditation practice amongst […]

Posted in Agroforestry, Events, Food Forest, Reforestation, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Starting a food forest in portugal

With 46 acers of land, multiple fields, daily yoga classes, a community to run and a huge permaculture project, starting a food forest can be very overwhelming. We decided to fence off a smaller area which had three old burnt down pear trees, named it the pear food forest and made it our focus for […]

Posted in Agroforestry, Food Forest, Reforestation, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

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