There can be no permaculture system without animals. To improve the habitat for animal life we try to diversify the habitat and create edges to develop many niches. Nature will fill as many niche spaces as there are available. Animals perform valuable work, contribute to the structure of a full ecosystem and create products useful to other animals or humans.

Animals in permaculture may include:

Unseen Critters

Starting small, these include the microbes in the soil and water and the millions of little insects, worms and grubs in the ground or scurrying around on the surface of soil and plants. Our attention to building of soil, maintenance of moisture and freedom from pesticides and herbicides will greatly improve the habitat for these creatures. Unseen animal life is always present and we want to encourage it through our design and management practices.


Organic Gardening magazine, May/June 1996, had a special section entitled Beneficial Bonanza! that examines the special role of insects in the garden. For many plants bees, flies, butterflies, wasps and hummingbirds are essential for pollination. While there are insect pests of many types there are equally many insect predators to control them. The importance of avoiding pesticides, providing nesting sites, water and a diversity of plants for beneficial insects was stressed.

Feral Animals

These are people's pets gone wild -- usually cats and dogs. Both of these can put pressure on wild animals. Cats are particularly harmful to the stock of wild birds.

Wild Animals

Most designs will have some wild animals in it, if only the birds that pass through on migration or are temporary residents. In many areas the larger wild animals -- rabbits, woodchucks, deer -- are seen as, and may well be, pests. Lack of predators has often allowed these animals to increase their populations to a point where they put pressure on natural food supplies and people's gardens must seem like supermarkets to them. Bats are probably one of the most important wild animals and are often overlooked in design.

Semi-domestic Animals

The line between domestic and semi-domestic animals is sometimes narrow. Deer are wild animals but because of numbers and ease of association with human habitats they may become 'dependents' on man-made or controlled settings. The same condition may arise for other wild species. Some of the most noticeable ones are bees, reindeer, bison, antelope, elk, llama, hatchery trout, turtles, ducks and geese, raccoons, armadillo, rats and coyote. These animals, while not kept in pens, have a strong presence in areas inhabited by people.

Domestic Animals

Our first thought of animals in permaculture is probably of domestic animals, primarily fowl, rabbits and livestock. These are the animals that directly create products and/or perform other functions, at a minimum, a supply of manure. Domestic animals take care and management. The introduction of cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits and bees must be considered carefully and approached with a plan.

As Michael Howden comments, "... we need animals for their non-human presence: their goofiness, their colors,their sounds, their excretement ..... however, we don't need animals inappropriate to the land and the stage of permaculture development in which we are working."

(The Permaculture Activist, #32, pg. 10)