Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Principle of Self-Regulation and the Litterless Box

"The purpose of a functional and self-regulating design is to place elements or components in such a way that each serves the needs and accepts the products, of other elements. (Mollison 1988, pg 37)"

In Permaculture, this one principle inspires to create a system that requires the least input for the most gain. It also encompasses true analysis of certain elements and could potentially eliminate the need for unnecessary labor and energy.

Take for example the Permaculture Chicken. The chicken has needs: food, water, shelter, grit. It has intrinsic characteristics and behavious: breed, colour, flying, scratching. Lastly, it produces elements: eggs, manure, CO2. These factors require careful analysis and consideration when planning a site or an area for chickens to thrive.

Designing around these elements will also give us an easier time when it comes to the least amount of maintenance possible.

So imagine, the manure could be scooped up and thrown into a compost bin, but instead why not put the compost bin beneath them. Even better, why not incorporate another element to eat the manure. You could put the chickens above a fish tank and allow the manure to drop in and feed the fish. The nutrient rich water could then be used to water plants. Another element that can be incorporated are worms. The manure can drop down to feed the worms.

However. . If you do use worms you have to remember that chickens scratch. This will cause them to dig up the ground and find the worms and eat them. How do you remedy this? You put another barrier where they can't reach the worms and where the manure can easily drop down to feed them. If you wanted to, you can remove the barrier and let the chickens feast on a product that they helped create.

So. ..

This principle is universal. It can be extended to any element even dogs and cats.

Here's an example with cats. A behavior of our feline friends is that they'll scratch up potted plants and do their business in it, piss and poop. People get frustrated with this and they go to extreme measures to fight it. Furthermore, they spend money buying cat litter and other miscellaneous things to keep the litter box smelling and looking nice. They even buy mechanized tools to clean the box for them, which ends up scaring our furry friends to a shitless state.

Going back to the chicken example, why not integrate existing elements to eat and take care of the elements that cats produce?

Here's our prototype. The Black Cat Collective in Ft Worth including myself came up with the idea of creating a litterless box.

Step 1. Get a box and fill it up with some leaves and bulky materials for bedding material for some earth worms.

Step 2. Fill it in with Earthwroms preferably Red Wigglers. They eat manure (yummy)

Step 3. Fill in the bed with compost and then aromatic herbs. If you put in plants, think about their needs. Some will do fine in shade and some do better in sun.

Step 4. Take away the kitty litter box and see it if works. We're trying it out right now and will post updates on the progress.

If you want to purchase one, we'll have a product in a few weeks.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, this design is utilizing not just the poop, but the urine as well. The plants should help to absorb the urine and use the urea as a fertilizer source. We'll most likely also dig the poop into the soil so the worms will get to it. A friend within the collective mentioned cats pooping in drier type soils, so the top part is lightly mulched to provide a dry surface. Hopefully, this will keep the worm bin moist, prevent the plants from drying out too much, and allow our cat friends to do the dirty inside the bin.

Mollison, Bill. Permaculture: a Designers' Manual. Tyalgum: Tagari Publications, 1996. Print.


  1. forgot to mention that the plants should help absorb the urine and use it as a fertilizer. we're thinking that with each visit to the box, we'll have to dig the poop under for the worms to get to it.

  2. haha, chow, love it. i like your brains. can't wait to see how this shakes out! it'll be interesting to see if it's nitrogen overload for the plants...and if the kitties like it. your new official title is "The Innovator" which is way more fun and fitting than "The Organizer." thanks for sharing.

  3. So, I'm very curious -- did this work?