Go ducks!

No, not a sportsball reference. We’re making another addition to our homestead menagerie: ducks!

We recently ordered four ducks for delivery in late May, the same day we’ll get a few more chickens.

The breeds of ducklings we’ll be getting are the Buff and Cayuga, one male and one female of each. Click those links to learn more about them on the My Pet Chicken website.

Here’s what the Buff ones look like as adults:

And the Cayugas:

The ducks will be free-range on our large pond. Unlike chickens, the ducks shouldn’t destroy our landscaping… hopefully!

I will build a small 4×4 foot duck house for them, similar in construction to the cat house I built last year. That is the ideal size for four ducks. I currently plan to position it on the east side of our pond. In the following picture, looking south, it’ll be positioned in the center of the picture, at the edge of the pond in front of the rock:

I will re-contour the ground to be a little less sloped, just enough for drainage. Here’s a view of the spot looking north:

After doing a bunch of research into duck house designs, I wrote up a bunch of notes, then over the last few days, I sketched my plans. I drew them on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, in the excellent Linea Sketch app.

Here are the external elevations:

Duck house elevations

It’s basically a 4×4 foot cube, with a gable roof.

The west side faces towards the pond, so can be considered the front, and features a door for the ducks to go in and out, that can be closed at night with a vertically sliding panel, like the chicken coop. It’ll also have a custom sign, and the controller for the door, that will be able to automatically close it at night, and open it in the morning.

The east (back) side will have a couple of large doors, enabling access to a small cupboard that will contain a jug of food, and storage of spare food and supplies. It’ll also enable access of the nesting boxes. Ducks can lay eggs pretty much anywhere, but I’ll provide ground-level nesting alcoves as cozy private places to lay, and hope they use them.

The north side will include another door, that will enable access to the interior for cleaning, and to reach eggs laid outside the boxes.

The south side will have a closable vent, that can be opened in summer to help cool down the interior.

Here’s a top-down plan view:

Duck house plan

Here you can see the food cupboard on the left, and the interior on the right. The circle is a plastic jug for food, that leads to a tube with holes for them to eat from, like in the chicken coop.

Finally, here’s a cross-section through the middle:

Duck house cross-section

You can see the food jug and tube, with a nesting box below, plus the ventilation, the duck door, and the ramp into the pond.

As usual, it’s quite likely I’ll refine the design over time, especially as I build it, but it’ll probably end up much like this, unless I have any radically different ideas before I start. If you have any suggestions or questions, let me know!

We’ll get the ducklings at the end of May, so I’ve got a few months to build this. It will take a while, working on it only on weekends (building it in the shop like the cat house), but I think there’s time. Should be fun!

Cat update for week ending January 19

It’s that time again, Caturday! And don’t duck out from reading the blog tomorrow; I’ll have some exciting news then. Stay tuned!

Lots of pics this week. I usually aim for about 20, but today we have 31. Including some new visitors.

But first, some cuteness:

This may be a little hard to see, but there’s a cat climbing a pole in the background (and one eating):

The gray alien cat:

Stretch!

A screenshot of my iPad, showing cats on all four cameras: Pansy in the shop, and some outdoor cats:

A non-cam photo of the cat house. You an see the outdoor cam housed in a stack of concrete blocks on the left (one day I want to make a nicer enclosure, but this works):

Another angle, looking from the path by the bird feeders to the cat house, with the white gazebo and pond deck in the background:

Closer to the cat house. I really wish the two signs were more readable from a distance; I’ve thought about painting the lettering. They say “Cat House Saloon” for the shelter side, and “Mercantile” for the feeder side:

Double-decker cats (Porcini on the awning, Poppy on the deck):

Pippin is fascinated by the cats on my iPad:

With the big and small ponds frozen, birds have been taking advantage of the heated water dish (when the cats are elsewhere):

Poppy:

More snuggles:

A daytime screenshot of my iPad, showing Pansy in the shop and others. I really gotta put her on a diet:

What’s this? More snuggles! How shocking:

All five cats inside:

Breakfast queue:

Me refilling the heated water dish. Since the garden taps are disabled for the winter, I bring out a bottle of water (a reused creamer bottle) to flush and refill the dish:

A couple of cats watch as a possum walks by:

Porcini looking at the camera inside:

And her outside:

The alien gray cat ventured into the shelter:

Here he’s coming out:

A bird having a bath in the heated water dish:

Doesn’t want to share:

A couple of smaller birds (sorry, I’m no good at recognizing species):

Porcini the burrito:

Rolling over on the edge… this isn’t going to end well:

Saw that coming; everybody freaked out:

The gray alien again; pretty sure he lives north of us somewhere:

Porcini again:

That’s it for this week! What do you think; too many photos? Would you prefer I limit it to around 20 as usual, or the more the merrier?

Gate between chicken run & veggie garden

This past weekend I built a doorway and gate to make it easier to go between the veggie garden and the chicken run. Something I do a lot, especially in summer, when giving the chickens treats of kale, tomatoes, etc grown in our garden.

Here’s the new doorway, built by adding the new left pole and top plate, cutting away the fencing, and cutting out the horizontal rails:

I also moved the grazing box in the chicken run, to clear a path by the door. The chickens love having direct access to the grass, which will probably be all scratched away in a matter of days. I’ll seed new grass in the new box position in spring:

Building the gate frame; the fourth and last one:

Door hardware installation:

The completed gate, closed:

And open:

I added a hook & eye to hold the gate open during winter:

I also permanently closed the small holes through the fence that the chickens were using to access the veggie garden, so now they go through this doorway.

That concludes building the gates for the veggie garden and berry cage. Next up: replacing the old fencing wire around the berry cage.

Cat update for week ending January 12

Enough with the chickens; it’s Caturday! (I will try to post pictures of the chickens more often than in the past, though.)

This week we have the usual assortment of awning antics, alien visitors, and cute snuggles. I couldn’t think of a title that summarizes the photos this week, so went with a generic one… maybe I should just stick with that?

One of the awning antics:

There have been fewer raccoon visits this past week; since getting back from my Xmas trip, there hasn’t been leftover food, so their visits have been decreasing:

Portabella:

She caught an insect of some kind:

Oh deer:

It’s the alien gray cat again:

The alien gray cat inside the feeder area:

Hey there, mind if I join you?

Snuggles:

Porcini looking rather relaxed:

Portabella again:

More awning antics:

A good vantage point for watching birds:

One of the twins:

Portabella on the awning, one of the twins in the doorway:

Drinking and watching:

Waiting for breakfast (there’s actually four in there; one is mostly obscured):

Yawn! Somebody needs their coffee:

Poppy watching (probably Rory on the deck), along with Portabella behind the cat house:

Lazy morning:

That’s it!

Chickens in the veggie garden: a week later

The last couple of posts have been about the chickens, but here’s one more! (Back to cats tomorrow, of course.)

Our chickens are really enjoying being in the veggie garden. It’s funny how they come running when I walk past each day, during my morning rounds:

Compare the veggie garden now with how it was just five days ago, to see what a flock of chickens can do to vegetation. That’s why we don’t free-range them around the property!

Merida coming to say hi:

Camilla:

Kiwi:

Domino:

Three chickens on the potato planters:

A bunch by the new berry cage fence:

Merida:

Flo:

Mo:

Chickens in the veggie garden

As mentioned in my recent berry cage post, I let our chickens into the veggie garden after replacing the front gate.

Here are an assortment of photos of them roaming the garden, digging for insects, etc.

I also moved the mobile cam from watching the beehives into the veggie garden. Here you can see me while I was taking these photos:

Another cam shot with me:

Cat update: hello 2019

Welcome to the first #Caturday of 2019! Your weekly check-in with our family of feral cats.

…And some not-cats, like this lucky raccoon.

The cat house has an internet-connected food dispenser, which has a schedule of set food amounts, plus I can use an app to tell it to dispense additional portions. To avoid attracting wildlife like this raccoon, I normally have the scheduled feedings set to a bit less than what the cats actually eat, and I watch the feeder area via the IP camera there and dispense more if they run out. The goal being to have no food left after dark, when the raccoons and possums are about.

However, while we went away for a late Christmas, I increased the scheduled dispenser amounts, since I wouldn’t be able to watch the camera (it’s only available on our local network, for bandwidth reasons). Apparently the cats weren’t that hungry on this evening, leaving a lot of food for the raccoon, unfortunately:

That naturally encourages the raccoon to come back again, which it did each night. Though the cats seem to be getting used to it, not running away:

Poppy is modeling a high fashion accessory; a cobweb or similar:

All five cats inside:

Another raccoon encounter (and an eye upstairs):

All five again:

An encounter of a different sort; a cat watches as a deer walks by:

A sequence of four photos; two cats on the awnings:

One of the twins (Spud?) hassling Porcini as she drinks:

Porcini leaves (and you may notice Poppy looking out the door):

Rubbing on the edge of the awning, and a shadow of Porcini on top of the camera housing:

Three inside:

Stretch:

Another not-cat: a disappointed possum. I adjusted the food dispenser again to reduce the food after we returned from our trip:

Another raccoon visit, disappointed this time:

The alien gray cat:

Soaking up the warmth from a heating pad:

A couple outside:

That’s it for this week!

Berry cage: more gates

Over the last couple of days, I took advantage of some fine weather to build another couple of gates for the berry cage project.

Firstly, the middle gate, in the new fence that divides the veggie garden:

Close-up of the bottom hinge:

The gate latch and handle:

After adding the wire:

The finished middle gate:

Then the same again for the front gate, to replace the old disintegrating one:

I also moved the dirt from the potato planters, so the chickens wouldn’t spread it all over the garden:

Surprise! I found a soil scoop buried in the dirt; I’d wondered where that had gotten to:

I dumped the dirt into the new bed; we’ll add more on top later:

I stacked some boards to make a roosting bar, so the chickens can safely get to the top of the potato planters if they want to roost there:

This morning, I opened up the small holes in the fence to let the chickens into the veggie garden. These holes had been closed with zip ties since last spring. Here’s the hole into the new run:

And the old run:

The chickens will enjoy eating the remaining vegetation, and rooting around for bugs and such. Fun for the them, and helpful for us to clean out the beds for spring planting:

I took a bunch of photos of them in the veggie garden, which I’ll post another day (probably Sunday, since tomorrow is Caturday). Stay tuned!

Next up: one last gate between the chicken run and veggie garden, that will replace those small holes, and let me get between the two more easily.