Duck house: cutting floor & walls

As mentioned in a previous post, I started work on building the duck house on Sunday. So far, I’ve just cut various pieces.

First up, the floor. Here you can see a 4×4’ square of plywood in the background, which will be the floor of the duck house, plus another full sheet of thinner plywood in the foreground, to be cut for a couple of walls:

Plywood floor for duck house

I want to use 2×2” boards for the corner studs, but don’t have any on hand, so I made some: I “ripped” (cut lengthwise) a couple of 2×4 boards to make 2x2s:

Ripped 2x4 stud

Here I used a chalk string line to mark where to cut the plywood for the roofline:

Chalk string lines marking roofline cuts

After cutting; there are actually two identical walls stacked here. These will be the front and back (aka west and east) walls:

Cut wall

The front wall with studs laid in position, and the duck door marked:

Wall with studs

Several cut pieces of plywood, including the front wall on top of the floor in the background, and the back wall, shelf, and dividers in the foreground:

Several pieces of plywood

Next weekend I’ll start assembling the pieces.

Duck house: plans

Today I start construction on my latest project, a small house for the ducks we’ll get in May, as mentioned in my first post on the ducks. Refer back to that for info about the ducklings we’ll be getting, and general info about my house design and where it’ll be located.

I thought I’d mark this occasion by doing an update with the latest plans.  Again, these were drawn on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, in the excellent Linea Sketch app.

Here’s the latest drawing of the external elevations. There are only a few minor changes from the first edition in that previous post; mostly that the duck door is a little higher, and the south wall vent door will now slide vertically, instead of hinging down:

Duck house plan

Having the vent slide vertically will allow more flexible opening sizes. It’ll be held at various heights by bolts that slot into holes on either side.

The updated top-down view. The main changes here are the aforementioned vent door, a pull-out inner floor, and a small hatch between the food cupboard and main area:

Duck house plan

The inner floor will just be another sheet of plywood on top of the base floor, that can be pulled out to aid cleaning, kinda like the poop tray in the chicken coop.

The new hatch could be used to toss in treats from the food cupboard, without having to open the north maintenance/cleanout door.  A little more convenient.

Here’s the side cross-section. The updates include the new hatch and inner floor:

Duck house plan

The inner floor will be on thin boards that will act as runners to reduce friction, and to prevent trapping moisture between the two layers.

A new drawing, showing a different cross section. This one shows inside the food cupboard, with the food jug and tube, the treat hatch, and the nesting boxes below:

Duck house plan

That is also a screenshot of the Linea app, showing the palettes. Such a great app.

Lastly, one more new drawing, showing 3/4” and 1/4” 8×4’ plywood sheets, and cutting plans for the various components. I may not stick to this, since I can probably cut many of the smaller pieces from leftover scraps from previous projects, but this shows that I can get all the bits I need from the sheets I have on hand:

Duck house plan

Let’s get started!

Berry cage: finished!

This post has been waiting for a few days to be published, since the blog has been busy with snow photos this week. Hence the lack of snow in these pictures. With the snow on the ground this week, it’s almost hard to remember what the place was like without snow!

I have now completed the berry cage project.

The last step was to replace the old fencing wire with the new, narrower gauge stuff.

So I started by removing the old wire:

Fence wire

I left the nails that were holding the old wire, so I could reuse them to attach the new wire:

Fence without wire

Here’s the berry cage portion of the fence without any wire:

Fence without wire

I could then add the bottom course of new welded wire. I also kept the second layer chicken wire at the bottom, which is to keep smaller animals like rabbits out of the garden:

Adding wire

Attaching the wire:

Adding wire

The bottom course completed. The wire curves out onto the ground, anchored by rocks, to avoid any gap at the bottom:

Adding wire

A close-up of the wire and nails after adding the second course:


The door area, with the completed fence:


The completed berry cage fence:

Finished berry cage

It is always very satisfying to complete a project. On to the next one!

Berry cage: roof wire

Over the weekend I did a bit more work on the berry cage project: installing the welded wire on the roof. That will keep birds from flying into that area of the veggie garden.

Some of the chickens couldn’t resist perching on a ladder:

Chicken on a ladder

Measuring out the wire on the ground:

Measuring wire

I rolled up the wire again to take it up to the roof:


Having it rolled up also enabled me to nail the right edge at the same time as the left edge of the previous row:


A partially-installed row from below:

Wire from below

Completed, from above:

Wire done from above

Completed, from below:

Wire done from below

And from the other side:

Wire done from below

Next up, removing the old wire from the fence walls, and replacing with the narrower gauge stuff.

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!

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.

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.

Berry cage: back gate

Another few hours on the berry cage project yesterday.

Despite what I said at the end of the last post on this project, I decided to make the gates before finishing off the wire, since I suspect I might need more materials. Okay, I know I do, unless I decide to sacrifice my spare 10′ or 12′ 2x4s. I don’t need that long for the gates, and like to preserve them, since those lengths are too long to bring home in my truck, whereas I can always pick up more 8′ lumber.

Yesterday, I built the new back gate.

Here’s the assembled lumber portion, using much the same design as I used for the chicken run (though a little different):

Here’s the gate mounted, with the hinges, latch, and handle (despite what it might look like, the gate is level; the angle at the top is because the top rail and roof slopes gently):

A close-up of a hinge:

And the latch and handle:

I then added the fencing wire to it, including the chicken wire layer at the bottom (that helps keep smaller animals out):

To make it easier to open from inside, I added a wire pull cord to the latch:

The finished latch etc:

The old front door of the veggie garden is slowly disintegrating; it will be replaced with a new one like the above:

Next up: another gate!

Berry cage: starting fencing wire

Just a few hours on the berry cage construction this weekend: installing the welded wire on the new fence portion, that divides the berry cage from the rest of the veggie garden.

The rightmost portion has an angle to accommodate the slope:

Right side done; working on the left side:

All done:

A view through the doorways:

The left side also has interesting angles for the slope:

Next up: replacing the wire on the old portion of the fence, with this smaller gauge wire.

Berry cage: poles and rails

The weather last weekend wasn’t great, and it’s going to pack in again next week, so I decided to spend some days this week on building the berry cage in the veggie garden. An advantage of being self-employed is that I can shift my time around as needed, in this case to take advantage of decent weather during the week.

I ended up doing four days (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday), which is equivalent to two weekends, so all works out. I’m working on the weekends to offset that time.

Anyway, I started by making a simple wooden stand out of scrap wood, to help support the 10′ lumber when cutting it with my table saw:

Then I continued installing the poles and roof beams, starting work in rather frosty mornings (and the highs were only around 45° F / 7° C):

Here’s a pole in a hole. The 10′ poles are about 2′ underground, 8′ above ground:

As before, I used boards and clamps to hold the poles straight:

I also added a post level, that is tied onto the pole, which is much more convenient than using a straight level, plus a string to line up the posts:

Here’s a view down a pole, showing a temporary block clamped to the pole, making it easier to position each horizontal rail board by myself:

Here’s a board resting on the block, ready to be nailed:

Another new acquisition was another stop ladder; a new 8′ one, in addition to the older 6′ one, very kindly picked up from Home Depot by Jenn. Having two ladders really saved a lot of time when measuring, positioning, and nailing two ends of a rail, and no doubt had safety benefits, not having to move a ladder as often:

The last pole:

I didn’t want to bother with covering my tools with a tarp, or carrying them individually back to the hoop house shelter at the end of each day, so I put them in one of our carts. Including keeping the air nailer compressor in the cart, which makes it easier to move around as needed, too. Here it’s all loaded up, ready to go back to the hoop house for the night (you can see the hoop house in the background):

A view of the roof beams:

Completed poles and roof beams:

Adding bottom and middle rails on the front fence:

I brought the welded wire over to check the position of the middle rail:

An extra rail on the sloped part of the fence:

Fence rails done:

A view of the front and back doorways:

Another view of the finished poles and roof beams:

Next up: adding the welded wire fencing!