Duck house: ramp

The ducks are 7 weeks old, which is old enough to swim outside. So today I built a ramp from the duck house to the pond.

I used four 4′ lengths of 2×6 boards, with thin ripped strips for traction, to make a wide ramp:

Underneath, I attached some larger strips to help hold the boards together, plus a thin cinderblock attached to stop it from floating:

Attaching the traction strips with the finish air nailer, using a couple of boards for spacing, and a square to check that they’re straight:

Finished top:

I used untreated boards, and didn’t paint it, to avoid leeching chemicals into the pond. It’ll probably rot away eventually, but I can always make a new one if so.

A pile of stuff on the cart, for transport out to the duck house:

Attached some spare plastic liner over the concrete block, to help protect the pond’s liner:

The ramp mounted to the duck house:

I attached some welded wire fencing, to help prevent raccoons etc from getting into the duck house (I hope):

The finished ramp:

It was getting late by the time I finished, so I’ll let the ducks out for the first time tomorrow. Stay tuned for the next Flock Friday for that!

Cat update for week ending July 20

It’s Saturday, Caturday.

Warning: sensitive readers may want to skip this post; a couple of GIFs that some might find troubling.

Let’s start with some innocuous pictures. A staring cat, and a second one in the feeder, probably startled by some noise:

Staring cat

Pansy in the shop:

Pansy in the shop

Pansy in the shop

Pepper in the shop:

Pepper in the shop

The alien orange cat, Pumpkin, caught a bird below the bird feeders. Rather than include a sequence of photos, here’s an animated GIF:

GIF of orange cat catching bird

One of our feral cats was interested:

Orange & feral cats

Raccoon vs possum at the feeder:

Raccoon vs possum

Another animated GIF, of a rather nasty encounter between Pumpkin and a raccoon inside the shelter. Pumpkin was inside the shelter, and saw the raccoon. The raccoon came running up, and after Pumpkin hissed at it a couple of times, the raccoon dove inside and attacked Pumpkin:

Pumpkin vs raccoon

I suspect that was a female raccoon feeling like she was protecting a youngster:

Big and little raccoons

One of our ferals checking out the shelter after that:

Sniffing cat

Let’s finish off with some more usual scenes. A couple of cats having dinner:


Three cats:

Three cats

I hope those GIFs weren’t too disturbing. Let me know if you think I should avoid such content in the future. It’s all part of nature, as uncomfortable as it may be sometimes.

Flock Friday for July 19

This week the chicks got to go outside for the first time. So let’s start with that.

First tentative step out the pop door of the coop, unsurprisingly by the bravest of the chicks, the Exchequer Leghorn, who we’ve named Moana (after the Disney princess):

First tentative step out the door

On the ramp:

On the ramp

On the ground:

On the ground

Via the run cam, the chicks exploring. Since the run has been vacant since we kicked out the older chickens shortly before getting the chicks, the weeds have taken over:


The chicks will enjoy grazing on the forest of weeds, and no doubt they’ll all be gone in a few weeks time. We did identify each of the weeds, and check that they are safe for chickens to eat.

More exploring:

Chicks outside

Moana on the grazing box, which will provide ongoing grazing once they’ve mowed down all of the weeds:

Chick on grazing box

If you look back at the chicken run cam picture above, you may notice a very straight edge of the weeds on the left side, about a foot from the fence. That fence separates the old and new runs. Here you can see why, on the right side of this picture: one of the older chickens poking her head through fence to eat the weeds within reach:

Chicken reaching through fence

I’ve seen several of them do that. And today I pushed some of the weeds to be closer for them. No reason why the chicks should have all the fun.

Some more pictures of the older chickens, enjoying treats from our veggie garden:

Chickens with treats


Chickens with treats

Fluffy chicken butt:

Chickens with treats

On to the ducklings and their treats:


Water on the face:






The wings are getting quite big:


Eating from the feeder tube:


I’ll make a ramp for the ducklings soon (maybe Sunday?), so they’ll be able to go out into the pond. That’ll be very interesting; I wonder if the non-swimming one will brave it? Stay tuned for the next update!

Cat update for week ending July 13

Let’s start Caturday with a cat climbing a pole behind the cat house:

Cat climbing pole

A raccoon and possum have an encounter on the deck:

Raccoon vs possum

Three cats:

Three cats

Actually, there were four cats; one more inside the shelter, as seen in this screenshot:

Four cats

In another screenshot, we can see a raccoon in the feeder while two cats are in the shelter:

Raccoon while cats inside

Not content with that, the raccoon came in the shelter with the cats, who gently suggested it might want to be elsewhere, with much hissing and growling:

Raccoon in shelter with cats

Surprisingly, they didn’t evacuate after that; they just curled up for more snuggles:

Cat snuggles

A possum also visited (yes, the same night), and was also directed towards the exit:

Possum in shelter with cats

More snuggles:

More snuggles

As if the raccoon and possum weren’t enough for one night, Pumpkin, the orange cat, also paid a visit, and was more forcefully told he wasn’t welcome; they were more vocal with him than the wildlife:

Orange cat in shelter

Why won’t they be my friends?

Orange cat

Porcini looking at the camera on the way in to breakfast:

Porcini looking at the camera

They’ve been using the shelter more this week, despite the unwelcome visitors:


Flock Friday for July 12

Let’s start Flock Friday with the ducklings:


I’m still not completely sure of the duckling genders, but the left Buff is now quacking, and the right one is making a much quieter vocalization. Fun fact: generally only female ducks quack, which suggests that the left one is female. So I am fairly confident that the left Buff is Gert, the female, and the right one is Bert, the male:





Here are the Cayuga ducklings:


And some sad news: the little one died Monday evening. I’m not sure of the cause; the size could be a factor, since it hasn’t grown as much as the others, perhaps due to some health issue, or something else. It wasn’t as active as the others, and looking at the video footage, it just sat in a corner for some time, then keeled over. Very unfortunate, especially after losing some chicks a few weeks ago. All part of the experience of keeping animals, though. I just hope we don’t lose any more any time soon.

Anyway, it was time to install a feeder tube for the ducks. So I removed the barrier closing off the nesting boxes:

Removing nesting boxes barrier

The ducklings were excited to explore their expanded accommodations:

Ducklings in nesting boxes

A duckling in a nesting box, as seen from outside — there’s a gap below the cupboard shelf, to reach in to eventually collect eggs, if they deign to lay them in a box (ducks lay anywhere):

Duckling in nesting box

In the cupboard, a jug of food tops the feeder tube, providing several days capacity:

Jug of food for dispenser

The tube goes through the shelf on the edge of a nesting box, resting on a support:

Food tube

The tube in the duck house, and a duckling eating from it. The yellow cap on the end can be removed to clean out the tube:

Duckling eating from food tube

Ducklings hoovering up rice:

Ducklings hoovering up rice

I also added a feeder tube in the chick coop. I was going to make a new — larger diameter — one like in the duck house, but decided to re-install the old tube for now. I might redo it later, when the chicks are bigger:

Chick feeder tube

The chicks didn’t take long to figure out the feeder tube:

Chicks eating from feeder tube

Chicks eating rice from my hand:

Chicks eating rice from my hand



A chick in the hand:

A chick in the hand

On top of the nesting boxes:


On the nesting boxes center bar (the nesting boxes are still closed off, till they’re ready to lay eggs):


Synchronized chicks on the bar, and others eating from the tube:

Syncronized chicks

Finally, on to the older chickens. Here they’re watching Jenn work in the veggie garden:

Chickens watching Jenn

Me adding some dirt to a tire, for them to use as a dust bath:

David adding dirt to a tire

Camilla the escape chicken; she has always been the best flyer of the chickens, and flew onto the chicken coop, and out, then spent the night outside, and met me on the path to the coop in the morning:

Camilla the escape chicken

Cat update for week ending July 6

It’s cat update time!

Here are Porcini and Poppy:


A nose-sniff greeting:


Pansy in the back of the shop, arriving for lunch:

Pansy in the shop

Pumpkin, the alien orange cat, is getting more bold. This past week he went into the shelter when Portabella was already there… and amazingly Bella didn’t object:

Pumpkin and Portabella in the shelter

Bella even went back to sleep, with him on the lower level:

Pumpkin and Bella in the shelter

Meanwhile, a deer came by to eat some berries off the tree, while another cat (Porcini, I think) watched:

Deer and cat

Back inside:

Pumpkin and Bella in the shelter

Pumpkin got a bit too close, which Bella wasn’t keen on, but she didn’t run away, perhaps feeling like he’d chase if she jumped down:

Pumpkin and Bella in the shelter

At one point Pumpkin left, ate some food, then returned, again without objection. After both being in there for over an hour, Pumpkin left peacefully.

Then about an hour later, when Bella was by the bird feeders (look closely to the right of the leftmost feeders), Pumpkin again approached:

Pumpkin and Bella by the bird feeders

He got within a couple of feet of her, then she retreated a short distance, till he wandered off:

Pumpkin and Bella by the bird feeders

At least those two seem to be getting used to each other.

Here’s Porcini in the swimming pool area, after I flushed her out of the bird feeder grasses, while refilling the feeders. She was happy to watch me from a safe distance:

Porcini in the pool area

Bella by the cat house:


That evening, though, there was a less friendly encounter between Pumpkin and one of the twins (probably Spud), where Pumpkin chased him to under the cherry tree by the front steps:

Pumpkin chasing Spud

Pumpkin chasing Spud

Pumpkin chasing Spud

They separated when I came out, having heard the ruckus:

Pumpkin chasing Spud

The alien gray cat:

Alien gray cat

Another nose-sniffing greeting:


One of the twins watching birds by the feeders:

Cat watching birds

Flock Friday for July 5

It’s Friday, that means it’s time for a flock update.

Let’s start with the chicks this time:






A chick pecking the camera (probably the green light below the lens):

Chick pecking camera

On to the big girls. A chicken laid a surprise egg in the middle of the coop floor; probably thought it was a large poop (yes, they both come out the same hole):

Chickens with a surprise egg

All the other chickens rushed over to look at it:

Chickens with a surprise egg

Chickens out in the run:

Chickens outside

Me topping up the pine shavings bedding; I just toss rough piles, and the chickens scratch through it, spreading it around:

David adding pine shavings

Quacker time. Literally; one of the ducklings has started a proto-quack, while the others are still peeping. They’re growing up!

We’ve also chosen provisional names for the ducks: Bill for the male Cayuga, Gilly (Gill) for the female Cayuga, Bert for the male Buff, and Gertrude (Gert) for the female Buff. We’re still not sure which is male and which is female, though.

Here are Bert and Gert checking the temperature:

Ducklings checking temperature

I replaced the waterer with the big duck one. This can be heated, to avoid it freezing in winter, though it isn’t plugged in yet. It is designed for ducks, with nice deep bowls, but small enough that the ducks can’t climb inside, removable filters to make it easier to clean, and a larger capacity reservoir:

Big duck waterer

Ducklings splashing:

Ducklings splashing

The little Cayuga duckling, covered in water droplets:


The big Cayuga; look at those wings!

Duckling wings

Ducklings are very messy, including when eating:

Duckling messy eating

Duckling treat:

Duckling treat

The Buffs watching me:


A view of the duck house across the pond; they should be ready to go out there in a few weeks time:

Duck house across pond

Finally, a token picture of the wild birds, with a deer munching on the tall grass by their feeders:

Deer by bird feeders

Bees: new hive, Flow harvest

We did a beehive inspection yesterday, which included adding a new hive, and harvesting honey from the Flow hive.

You may recall from my previous bee post that we added a nuc box with some frames split from the Flow hive, that had some queen cells. That worked out well, as they established a colony there. We saw bees going in and out of the box, but until we inspected we weren’t sure if they were living there, or just robbing it of resources. But when we opened it up, we found lots of bees doing their thing. Excellent: our first split!

In anticipation of that possibility, we had purchased new hive components (base, cover, etc), and painted them. Yesterday, we transferred the frames from the nuc box to the new hive:

Transferring frames from nuc box to hive

We were pleased to spot the new queen, too:

Queen spotted

Here you can see the queen near the center of the picture — the longer, more mono-colored bee. Lots of good brood activity, too:


Here’s the new hive, which we’re calling the “hot pink” hive:

New hot pink hive

Inspecting the orange hive, they made a bit of a mess of the comb, with extensive cross-combing (where they build the comb between the frames, instead of contained within each, which makes it impossible to remove the frames without dislodging the comb). One of the dangers of foundationless frames:

Messy comb

We also started harvesting honey from the Flow hive. These use unique plastic frames that can be split apart to extract the honey without having to remove the frames or disturb the bees, with the honey flowing down inside the frames and out through tubes inserted in the base.

Here’s a flow underway on the left, and just starting on the right:

Harvesting Flow hive

A view from a little further back, showing the whole hive. The access door becomes a shelf via handy new brackets:

Harvesting Flow hive

Meanwhile, we continued inspecting the hives. The bees still hadn’t done anything with the Ross rounds frames, so we removed them. We’ve heard that they are difficult to get the bees to accept them, and that certainly matches our experience. A pity, since they make nice packaged comb honey, but we’ll just have to cut that from regular frames:

Ross rounds

Speaking of, a nice frame of honey underway:

Honey frame

Jenn waiting for the honey:

Jenn waiting for honey

The Flow hive again:

Harvesting Flow hive

Here are all five of our hives: yellow, purple, orange, hot pink, and Flow. Which are conveniently in alphabetical order when viewed from the front (which is why we called the new one “hot pink” instead of just “pink”):

Five hives

Harvesting different frames:

Harvesting Flow hive

Closer; such pretty honey:

Harvesting Flow hive

Did you see the video of the honey flowing?

We left a couple of frames for next weekend, when we’ll have some beekeeper visitors, but the harvest from the four middle frames was 7 quarts (6.6 liters) of honey:


Cat update for week ending June 29

What’s this? Another cat update?! How unexpected. Or something.

Three cats in the feeder:

Three cats in the feeder

The alien orange cat has been hanging around a lot recently. So much so that we’ve decided to give him a name, in keeping with our convention of giving “P” names to cats: Pumpkin. We wonder if he’s feral, stray, or someone’s pet. Here he’s peeking into the feeder, while Poppy eats:

Orange cat peeking into the feeder

He was noticed:

Orange cat peeking into feeder

A rapid egress:

Rapid egress

He went into the feeder and Poppy came back to watch him:

Orange cat in feeder

Orange cat in feeder

That evening, a sleepy Poppy:

Sleepy cat

We had some other alien visitors, including a raccoon:


The gray alien cat:

Gray alien cat

A possum:


In the front of the shop, here’s Pepper:

Pepper in the shop

In the back of the shop, Pansy makes a funny face:

Pansy face

A better picture of Pansy:

Pansy in the shop

The orange cat, Pumpkin, in the feeder again:

Orange cat in feeder

And in the shelter, where he slept for several hours:

Orange cat in shelter

Two cats in the feeder:

Two cats in feeder

Pumpkin sleeping in the shelter again; he’s really been hanging out a lot:

Orange cat in shelter

A cat in the feeder, waiting for breakfast:

Cat in feeder

Two cats almost colliding in the feeder:

Two cats in feeder

When I was refilling the bird feeders, I flushed Porcini out from the grass under the feeders. She watched me from under the deck:

Cat under deck

Pumpkin in the shelter again:

Orange cat in shelter

He popped out of the shelter when a feral was eating:

Orange cat and feral

In the feeder:

Orange cat in feeder

Watching a feral arriving to eat:

Orange cat and feral

The feral cat wasn’t thrilled to be watched:

Orange cat and feral

Screenshot of cat cams, with Pumpkin sleeping and Porcini eating:

Screenshot of cat cams

I really think Pumpkin wants to be friendly with the ferals, but they aren’t so accepting. I hope that he doesn’t (unintentionally) chase them away. I don’t mind him hanging around, but would be sad if they left. I’m hoping that they all learn to get along one day, though I know that’ll take a long time, if ever.