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[Excerpt from SEAL 2011 Permaculture Design Training Report, by Matthew Lynch]
Mongolian chickens are very cold hardy breed that lay one egg every 1-2 days from March until October. There are successful breeders currently raising chickens in Ulgii City; ADRA staff brought us to one family hasha during our pre-course resource inventory to meet with a breeder and view her system.
Photo: Heavily insulated chicken house design with warm-weather chicken run attached to entryway.
A small, well-designed and fully insulated (including the floor) earthen shelter is sufficient to keep the chickens warm throughout the winter without active heating. The site we visited had a small earthen chicken house (approximately 2 x 1 x 1 meters) nestled in a corner between the outer hasha wall and an earthen block storage shed, with a south-facing aspect. A small caged chicken house of similar dimensions was built over the entryway for use in warmer months.
The compact size and strong insulation (layers of felt insulation were also installed over the floor) of the winter shelter helps to conserve the chickens' precious body heat, which was sufficient to heat the chicken house throughout the winter. Household food scraps and grain bought from the local market provide their feed, and they are let out during the day to forage and scratch in the hasha courtyard. The children bring the chickens water from the house, and the shelter is cleaned out once every couple of weeks.
Photo: The flock huddles together against the cold.
Photo: The owner demonstrates how she calls the chickens to feed.
This flock of 10-12 chickens has been thriving for the last 10 years in this design, laying 5-10 eggs per day from March - October, providing eggs, meat, and baby chickens when need, as well as an additional family income of 300MNT per egg (360,000 - 720,000MNT annually)(i). A strong demand for fresh eggs exists, and this family is easily able to sell all their surplus eggs to the neighbours.
Successfully introducing chickens into a permaculture system for Ulgii City will have multiple benefits: increasing food security, boosting nutrition, building soil fertility, and creating additional income sources from microenterprises based upon chicken products (eggs, meat, baby chickens, perhaps even baking).
The existing design, while effective, could be modified to become more productive, functional, and resilient by integrating the chickens into a permacultural food production system.
For example, a passive solar greenhouse would make an excellent winter run for the chickens, keeping the birds out of the wind and in the warmth of the sun during the day, while providing fertility and preparing the soils for a jump-start on the short Mongolian growing season. Locating the heavily insulated winter shelter next to the greenhouse (so that it can be entered from the courtyard or from the greenhouse) could make it easier to clean; a larger door could be installed on the greenhouse side of the shelter (since it opens into a warm still-air chamber), and the dropping simply swept out into the greenhouse to be used as fertilizer.
Fruit trees such as seabuckthorn and blackcurrant could be grown along the hasha walls, to take advantage of the chicken manure during warmer months when the birds can be let out of the greenhouse. Grasses and 'weeds' such as fat hen and plantain, could be cultivated and encouraged within the hasha walls and fed to the chickens to boost the quality of the eggs (layers who are fed greens will produce eggs with healthy, bright yellow yolks).
Photo: These chickens' hasha courtyard is bare.
Photo: Outer entrance.
Photo: Inner entrance.
Photo: Family watchdog doubles as chickens' bodyguard.
Photo: Chicken's bodyguard warns us off.
(i) 1,500 MNT per month would be considered a strong salary in Bayan Ulgii.