Duck house: building walls & roof

I spent the last five days working on building the duck house, and finished the primary construction on the walls and roof.

You may recall from last time that I cut the floor, walls, and studs.  So I started work by assembling the front (west) wall and its studs onto the floor, laying it on its side to nail through the floor:

Duck house wall & floor

When I built the cat house, I built the floor, walls, and roof as separate pieces, screwed together on installation, with the floor attached to the floor joists. This time I’m building the floor and walls as a unit, with the roof and floor joists as separate pieces.  The floor joists will be a little heavy, being made out of treated 2x4s, and the roof will be heavy, with the rafters and shingles, but the walls will be heaviest, which is why I attached the thick floor to the joists last time.  But having the floor attached to the walls makes construction easier, and should make transportation when installing easier too, since the floor can rest on the cart, and hold everything together better. That’s the theory, anyway. We’ll see!

Anyway, I next assembled framing for the back (east) and middle walls:


Then attached the framing to the floor:


I joined the studs with top plates, angled to match the slope of the roof:


Next was the nesting boxes, the top of which also serves as the shelf in the storage area:


There is a hole through the shelf for a feeder tube, which is supplied by a jug that will contain food:

Shelf & feeder tube

I made a wall to separate the cupboard from the rest of the duck house, with a 1’ square hole for a “treat hatch”; a small door through which I can toss mealworms to the ducks, without having to open the maintenance door. Plus side walls too:

Shelf & food jug

A view from the other side, showing the treat hatch and nesting boxes:


The hole for the jug is closed with a couple of bits of plywood, that will eventually be screwed into place; these also hold the pipe in position:

Jug hole closure

This is the feeder tube, or will be in due course; I’ll add a cap to the end, and cut large holes on top from which the ducks can eat.  In addition to the above hole closure, the pipe is supported with a brace below:

Feeder tube

To finish the back wall, I added boards to act as doorstops, and plywood for the wall:


I also cut cupboard doors from plywood.  The walls and doors will have trim added later:

Cupboard doors

Here’s me, all bundled up for the cold. The front of the shop isn’t insulated, so it was about freezing temperature in there:


Next up was the south wall, which features a large vent (that will be covered with hardware cloth wire), with a vertically sliding door. Here you can see the vent cover leaning on the wall (which again will have trim later), and a recessed wall below the vent:

Vent recessed wall

The bottom of the recessed wall has a sloped board for drainage:

Bottom of recessed wall

Here is a view from inside of the vent and wall:

Inside vent

I added some extra framing to the front (west) wall, to aid attaching decorations later (to be determined), plus made a vertically sliding door that the ducks will use to access the pond:

Duck door

Time for the roof! I placed some thicker plywood on top, and used scraps of wood to help figure out the desired size of the eaves:

Figuring roof size

Once I determined that, I cut the roof panels, using a jury rigged structure to hold them in place. Here’s one side:

One side of roof

Both sides of roof, held in place with clamps:

Both sides of roof

To help join the two halves of the roof and provide some rigidity, I added a couple of small rafters out of 2x4s. Here’s one:


A view inside, showing both rafters etc (the plywood in the back is the vent cover):

Inside with rafters etc

I realized that my design was missing an important feature: an awning for the duck door. Not sure why I hadn’t included that, having made awnings for both the chicken coop and cat house. Perhaps thinking that the ducks don’t mind the wet, but I still don’t want any more moisture going in the duck house than necessary. So I built a simple awning, much like on the cat house:

Making awning

Here’s the awning installed above the duck door (again, it’ll have trim and roofing later):

Awning installed

Finally, I added a small vent above the maintenance doorway; ducks need lots of ventilation:

Vent above maintenance door

That’s all for now; time to do some paying work. I’ll probably resume working on this next weekend, or thereabouts. Next up is starting on adding the trim. I’m hoping to finish that and get it painted by the end of March, but we’ll see how much time I can spend on it.

Yet more snow

We got a couple more inches of snow this morning.

Beehives and trees with snow:

Beehives with snow

Berry cage with snow:

Berry cage with snow

The shallow (foreground) end of the pond is frozen, but the deep (back) half is liquid:

Half frozen pond

The back lawn covered with snow, with the brown gazebo in the distance, and the old chicken coop on the right:

Gazebo & coop with snow

The flag is snagged on a branch, with a little snow on it:

Flag with snow

Cat update for week ending February 23

Did I say “last of the snow” last week? Maybe not:

Snow at the cat house

Cat footprints in the snow, going to the back door of the shop:

Cat footprints in the snow

A cat stretching in the shelter:

Cat stretching

Porcini on the awning, Poppy below:

Cat on awning

A cat intently watching something. Probably me; that’s about when I finished setting up the new cameras:

Cat watching something

The alien orange cat visited again:

Alien orange cat

And explored inside the shelter, too, which I bet our colony wasn’t happy about. They weren’t home at the time, but would have smelled him (fun fact: orange cats are almost always male):

Alien orange cat

Some raccoons also visited, as happens all too often:


Porcini in the feeder, hoping for a late dinner:

Cat in the feeder

I mentioned yesterday that I set up new cameras, and am temporarily using the duck house camera to watch Pepper in the shop. She has a cozy nest high up on a shelf in the front of the shop, on top of a pile of foam, a large dog bed, and a heating pad:

Cat in shop

This day (Wednesday) was Pepper’s 4th birthday, or at least as observed; she is feral, like the outdoor ones, rescued from the streets, so her exact birthday is unknown.

All 5 outdoor cats enjoying the shelter:

Cat snuggle pile

Cats eating breakfast:

Cats eating

Another shot of Pepper sitting on her heating pad nest in the shop. I temporarily renamed the camera in her honor:

Cat in shop

Three cats in shelter… but notice the cat-shaped shadow on the back wall?

Cats in shelter

Yep, that’s from a cat out on the awning, looking in the window:

Cat looking in window

Moments later, a cat looking out the window (cropped and zoomed to be more visible):

Cat looking out window

Four cats outside the house:

Cats by house

A closer shot of Pepper in the shop; sometimes she gets too warm on the heating pad, so moves off it. Here she’s surveying the shop from her high perch, looking for rodents:

Cat in shop

But she doesn’t stray from the heating pad for long. Having been working in there (building the duck house), I know how cold it is:

Cat in shop

Another snuggle pile of four cats:

Cat snuggle pile

And all five:

Cat snuggle pile

New chicken & duck cams

A couple of days ago I set up four new cameras around the homestead.

Two were for the chickens. We have two coops, each with a run (that are separated by a fence, but with an open hole so the chickens can go between them, for now). The old coop had an old low-quality camera mounted in the ceiling, and the old run didn’t have a camera at all.

So I replaced the old coop camera with a new one, mounted on the wall for a better angle.  This camera has a wide field of vision, about 100°, so can see most of the coop:


Here it is in context on the wall behind the door. The coop is very cobwebby!

Camera in coop

This is me looking at the camera viewing app on my phone, to check the position during installation:

David and chickens in the coop

And here’s the view from the camera once the angle was tweaked:

Chickens in coop

Another example, with a bunch of chickens roosting:

Chickens in coop

As evening sets in, most of the chickens roost in the new coop, but a few roost in the old one:

Sleepy chickens

The chicken pop door automatically closes after dark:

Pop door closed

As mentioned, I also added a camera in the old run. Here you can see the old camera for the new run on the left, and the new camera for the old run on the right (confused?!):

Chicken run cams

Here’s an example of the view from this camera, showing the old coop:

Old run cam

A screenshot of the camera app, showing all four chicken cams.  I like how the two run cams line up to a panoramic view of both runs (with a little overlap):

Screenshot of cameras

I also set up two cameras to watch the (future) ducks. Here, I’m installing the outdoor camera to watch the pond. I have the camera running so I can check the position:

David by pond

Here’s the pond cam, mounted on the pond deck:

Pond cam

The view from the pond cam; it can see most of the pond:


Finally, I also set up an indoor cam for the duck house, though since I’m still building that, in the meantime I’ve placed it to watch Pepper’s bed in the front of the shop:

Cat in shop

(I’ll have a few more pictures from that cam in tomorrow’s Caturday post; stay tuned for that!)

Bonus snow

We got some about an inch of unexpected snow yesterday. Some pictures from this morning.

Chickens in the veggie garden with snow:

Chickens in the veggie garden with snow

Beehives in the snow:

Beehives in the snow

Snow sliding off the greenhouse:

Snow sliding off the greenhouse

Brown gazebo with snow:

Brown gazebo with snow

The pond isn’t frozen:

Pond with snow

Retrobatch to the rescue!

Inspired by a conversation on with @jack, here’s the Retrobatch document I use when manually setting the date metadata from the filename, and adding a watermark:

Retrobatch screenshot

(The details in the sidebar are out-of-order; look at the nodes in the circles for the order they are executed.)

I use a similar document when doing it automatically, with the input coming from a Folder Action in the Finder. I can just capture a still from a camera watching the feral cats, chickens, etc, and it is saved in a folder that has a Folder Action script to open in Retrobatch, the metadata date is set from the filename, the watermark added, and saved to another folder, that then has another Folder Action workflow to import into Photos.

Here’s the Folder Action script to open the images in Retrobatch, then trash the originals:


This is the Retrobatch document (again, the sidebar is out-of-order). It takes the input files from the folder (via the above script), sets the copyright notice in the IPTC metadata, sets the date metadata from the filename, adds the watermark text, and saves as a more efficient HEIC format (since the input is inefficient BMP images):

Convert to HEIC Retrobatch document

The processed images are saved to a new folder, which has it’s own Folder Action. Here’s the Folder Actions window in the Finder:

Folder Actions

The output Folder Action runs this workflow to import the images to Photos. It is supposed to also trash them, though that doesn’t work:



Before Retrobatch, all that was a tedious process of looking at each image and manually adjusting the date by reading the datestamp in the image, and manually importing. Now, I just click one button, and all the rest happens like magic. A huge time-saver!

Cat update for week ending February 16

We start this Caturday with some lingering snow, and a cat peeking out of the shelter:

Cat peeking out of shelter at snow

The cats have been somewhat absent during the day this week, though did show up for food, and occasionally spent a night in the shelter.  Here are all five cats in there:

All five cats inside shelter

Birds in the snow:

Birds in the snow

A bird on the heated water dish:

Bird on heated water dish

I set up the old automatic feeder in the back of the shop, so I can eventually control the amount of food Pansy eats, since she’s somewhat overweight. Initially I had both feeders there, so Pepper still ate back there. A few days later, I moved the manual feeder and a new water dispenser to the front of the shop, where Pepper lives. So this is probably the last time we’ll see Pepper in the back:

Cat in the shop

I’ve got some new cameras for the chickens and ducks, so will move the old camera from the old chicken coop to the front of the shop, to watch Pepper’s food. Probably more on that next week.

Here’s Pansy, eating from the auto-feeder. Currently it is dispensing too much food, but I’ll slowly reduce the quantity to match the level she eats, then a little less over time:

Cat in the shop

Back outside, here’s a cat drinking from the heated water dish, while another eats their dinner. This is the last of the snow, too:

Cat drinking from heated water dish

A cat having a good stretch against a tree:

Cat stretching

Dinner queue. I don’t usually show pictures from this time of night, since the contrast between the darkening outside and the lighted feeder area doesn’t work that well in pictures, but hey, something different:

Dinner queue

The theory with the feeder light was that a bright light would deter the possums and raccoons, since they can’t see in that brightness… but they just feel around for the food, so that didn’t work. I suppose I could turn the light off, but I haven’t; it might help a little, perhaps, and makes it easier to see things via the camera in there.

Two cats on the deck after dark:

Two cats on deck

A cat eating, when a raccoon turns up outside. The cat kept eating, then quickly evacuated when the raccoon got closer (there was no food left):

Cat eating, raccoon outside

I think this is the first time I’ve seen a rabbit on the camera:


Three cats waiting for breakfast:

Cats waiting for breakfast

The breakfast rush:

Breakfast rush

Four cats:

Four cats

Finally, some disappointed alien visitors. A small possum:


An orange cat:

Alien cat

A bigger possum:


A raccoon:


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.

Chickens in the snow

The snow is melting, helped by the rain. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m ready for it to go.

Our chickens would prefer no snow too; they don’t like walking in it.

Here are a bunch of photos of the chickens in the snow, from yesterday and today:

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow

Chickens in snow