Flock Friday for November 1

For this Flock Friday, I’m going to include the photos in chronological order, rather than grouping by ducks, new chickens, old chickens, and birds, like I usually do.

But as it happens, we start with the ducks anyway, exploring the northwest bank of the pond and the grass beyond:

Ducks

Ducks

Ducks

Next is a sequence of shots from inside the old chicken coop, as the pop door opens. No, it isn’t snowing inside, that’s just the bedding dust getting stirred up by their wings:

Chicken pop door opening

Chicken pop door opening

Chicken pop door opening

Chicken pop door opening

Chicken pop door opening

One of the new chickens has started laying! Here’s the first new egg, laid outside (as I expected; there are only a few places private enough to lay, and this is one of them):

First new chicken egg

So that was what I was waiting for to open up the nesting boxes, previously covered with plywood to prevent them sleeping in there:

Nesting boxes open for business

The new chickens investigating the nesting boxes:

Investigating nesting boxes

The second egg, laid in a box:

Second egg

A chicken coming out of a nesting box; now we know who is laying:

Chcken coming out of nesting box

Since we had a chicken escape through the hole in the run roof, I decided to repair it, with welded wire instead of netting as before. Eventually I want to replace all of the roof netting with welded wire, though no point in doing that just before snow is likely:

Run roof repair

Back to the ducks, on the edge of pond next to the overflow channel:

Ducks on edge of pond

The ducks with their heads together:

Ducks

As mentioned on my Dejus blog, it’s below freezing at night now, so I put out water heaters, including a heating pad under the hummingbird feeder to keep it from freezing. It hangs off paperclips to prevent the heating pad from touching the plastic base of the feeder, to avoid it melting:

Hummingbird feeder with heater

A chicken in a nesting box, working on laying an egg (as seen from the outside access door):

Chicken in nesting box

The older chickens are still molting; there are feathers everywhere in their run:

Chicken feathers

Chicken feathers

I’m looking forward to them finishing that process, since they’ve pretty much stopped laying eggs at present. But having a rest is good for them.

The temperature is cold enough to partially freeze the pond overnight, though it is thawing during the day (for now):

Ducks in partially frozen pond

Ducks in partially frozen pond

That’s it for this week!

Project of summarizing projects

I’ve done a number of building projects over the years, and while I have a building category on the homestead blog, if I wanted to point people to the construction steps of a specific project, there wasn’t a very good summary of that; it was very difficult to hunt down the individual blog posts that cover that project. I also have tags, like “chicken coop” or “duck house”, but they get “polluted” with posts on their usage, as opposed to construction. Perhaps bad planning on my part.

So I recently started a new project, of a different sort: I added some new posts to the blog to summarize my various building projects. They are a custom post type, which keeps them separate from the regular posts, and able to be skimmed without the other topics.

Each post covers one project, and includes links to all of the individual blog posts discussing work on it, along with one photo from each post as a visual indication of progress.

Initially I have added posts on two projects.

A very small project, building some potato planters for the veggie garden:

A very large project, building a new chicken coop:

Click those links to read those summary posts, and click through to the individual blog posts to read more details and see more photos.

For extra meta fun, I also added a post that summarizes the summaries. That will be a useful one to visit to quickly jump to project summaries you’re interested in reading.

You can also visit the main projects page, which includes an infinitely scrolling list of all project posts.

These last two are also listed in the site menu on every page, hidden behind the “hamburger” icon in the top-left corner.

I will add more summaries of past projects over time, till caught up. Next will probably be building the chicken run. Look for subsequent posts on building the cat house, the berry cage, the duck house, the pool deck extension, and lots more. I’m not sure yet if I’ll include assembling pre-made things, like the greenhouse and deck gazebo. Or things like garden plumbing. Let me know if you think those should be included.

I hope you’ll find this resource useful. I know I will.

Building a pool deck extension

We have an above-ground swimming pool, that we set up around July and take down around September. We only swim in it a few times during summer, typically when the air temperature is 90° F (32° C) or more. It is a big hit during our summer party, too. But getting into the pool involved walking down a flight of steps from the deck, around the deck, and climbing a rickety ladder up and down, despite the pool being positioned a few feet from the deck. The pool can’t be set up any closer, due to a retaining wall and the support legs of the pool.

So a project in the last week or two was to improve that by building a small extension to the deck, enabling direct access to the pool.

Here’s the “before” picture; the deck railing and pool beyond:

Railing and pool

I removed that portion of the railing, blocking the gap with a temporary barrier. I also brought over a bunch of tools:

Removed railing

I built a pair of gates, using some reclaimed material from the old railing:

Gate

I also purchased some nice plastic pool steps, which Jenn assembled:

Pool steps

I rested the steps in the pool, to confirm their height; they’re floating, as they need to be weighted down with sand:

Steps in pool

Building the deck extension joists, using treated lumber:

Deck joists

Adding cedar deck boards, to match the main deck:

Deck boards

Adding trim around the edges:

Adding trim

Stained:

Stained

Looking from the ground next to the pool, where you can see the aforementioned retaining wall and pool legs, plus the attachment point and a post in a concrete footing:

Attachment point and posts

I considered several concepts for the deck, including having it removable, or hinge up like a drawbridge. Since I need to take down and set up the pool each year, I thought that having it be able to get out of the way would help with that. But ultimately I decided to make it a fixed deck, since that would be more sturdy, and it is very heavy. I determined that I should be able to assemble and disassemble the pool even with the deck fixed in place, since the pool leg under the deck will fit between the deck legs.

So I trimmed the trim of the main deck, to avoid unevenness there:

Trimmed trim

The underside of the deck, ready to be installed:

Underside of deck

The deck resting on boards, during installation; since it is rather large and heavy, it was a bit awkward to maneuver by myself, but I managed (Jenn was at work):

Resting on boards

The deck mounted, with missing boards for reasons:

Installed

Me under the deck, attaching bracing to the legs:

Me under the deck

Adding a railing post:

Railing post

Using the router to have nice rolled edges on the top of the railings, to match the main deck:

Routing railings

The extra deck boards and gates installed:

Gates

Initially I mounted the gates to open onto the main deck, as above, based on my original idea of having the extension fold upwards. But Jenn pointed out that it’d make more sense for them to swing the other way, now that it’s fixed in place. So I re-hung them to open that way, which is indeed much tidier:

Gates opening onto deck

Here are the gates closed, with a cane bolt to hold the right one closed, and a key-lockable latch for the left one:

Gates

When the pool isn’t there, we’ll probably lock the gates, for safety.

Next, I finished the railings, again to match the main deck:

Railings

The railing from the other side:

Railings

And I stained the railings:

Stained railings

The completed deck extension:

Finished deck

Finally, Jenn and I mounted the steps into the pool. Easier said than done, since she endured the chill water to position a mat under the steps, and hang buckets of sand below the steps to weigh them down:

Mounted steps

The steps are designed to fill the legs with sand, but we decided to hang buckets instead, to make it easier to move the steps when taking down the pool. It’ll be easier to set up the steps next year when assembling the pool, since I’ll be able to do it before filling with water.

The finished deck extension, complete with lights on the railing:

Finished

(The temporary rope barrier was to stop kids from diving during our annual party; that is normally a nice spot to sit and dangle feet in the pool, or rest beverages or pool floats.)

The deck and pool got a lot of use during our party on Saturday, and was admired by all. We had our first official swim on Sunday, and found the deck extension and steps so much nicer. To paraphrase someone at our party, this is how the deck should have always been.

Deck gazebo

Last month I assembled on our deck an aluminum gazebo, purchased from Costco.

It was delivered on a double pallet of heavy cartons:

Double pallet of heavy boxes

I lugged them over to the deck:

Cartons

Lots of small parts:

Small parts

Assembling the frame:

Assembling frame

Frame assembled:

Assembling the frame

Assembling the roof beams:

Assembling the roof beams

Roof beams done:

Roof beams done

Installing roofing panels:

Installing roofing panels

Roofing panels done:

Roofing panels done

It includes sliding insect screens. Here I’m assembling one of them:

Assembling screens

Screens somewhat done:

Screens

However, our deck isn’t completely flat (like everything else in this house), so I used a router to cut a notch in the deck for the screen track:

Using router to level screen

Finished installation:

Finished installation

We purchased a rug for under the table, and new seat cushions (only two chairs out here):

Rug

While the screens provide some sun filtering, it can still be very bright as the sun heads towards the horizon, so I added a retractable shade:

Retractable shade

I also installed a covered power cord up a leg for lights etc:

Installing power, lights, etc

Here’s the top, with power for a string of lights, an Amazon Echo, and a pair of speakers:

Power for lights, Echo, speakers

Echo, light, speaker:

Echo, lights, speakers

The Echo streams music and other functions through the speakers. The color-changing lights run around the edge of the roof.

I also added a power strip zip-tied under the table, providing convenient outlets and USB power:

Under-table power

All pleasant additions to our deck, to make working and eating outside more comfortable and enjoyable:

Tomorrow, another addition!

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!

Preparing for chicks & ducklings

The new chicks and ducklings will arrive this week, so I have prepared the chicken coop and duck house for them.

I evicted the existing chickens out of the new coop and run, simply by giving them their usual morning treats in the old run, and closing the hole between the old and new runs while they were busy with that. There was one hen in a nesting box in the new coop, so I carried her into the old run.

The old coop and run is more than big enough to accommodate all of the existing chickens. Keeping them separate will avoid the older ones picking on the youngsters until they are grown, among other benefits. Eventually, they’ll be slowly integrated; probably around the end of the year.

I then removed the poop tray, water dispenser, feed tube, and all of the bedding from the new coop:

I also covered the nesting boxes with scraps of plywood, to prevent the new chicks from sleeping in there; I don’t want them using it until they are ready to start laying, probably around October:

I then added fresh bedding, a heat lamp, a thermometer to check the temperature, and the chick-sized roosts, feeder, and waterer:

In the duck house, I added shelf liner on top of paper as bedding (the shelf liner will give them traction, and the paper will adsorb water). This is just for the first week or so, then they’ll have straw bedding. I also turned on the heat lamp, and added a thermometer, a chick feeder & waterer that should work for the ducklings too, and the camera:

Here’s the mounted camera:

Wires going into the cupboard; the vents above the door are temporarily closed to retain the heat while the ducklings are small:

In the cupboard, all the wires are somewhat tidily arranged via hooks:

A view from the duck house cam:

Now all we need are the ducklings and chicks! As I write this, the chicks have shipped, and will probably arrive at the post office tomorrow; still waiting for the shipment of ducklings.

Duck house: installation!

The previous post for the duck house project was about installing the floor joists. This time, installing the house itself!

We used a cart to transport the duck house (without the roof) from the workshop to the pond edge. So to make it easier to get it onto the cart, I raised it up onto concrete blocks:

Duck house on blocks

I then backed the cart under the house, with some carpeting for padding:

Cart under duck house

Pulling the cart and house out of the shop:

Pulling cart out of shop

I pulled the cart down the driveway and across the grass to the destination, with Jenn’s help to keep it steady:

Pulling cart down driveway

Arriving at the destination, where we lifted it from the cart to the floor joists:

Arriving at destination

Next up was the roof. To make it easier, we loaded it into the bed of our truck, and Jenn drove it off-road to near the pond. I rode in the bed, just for fun:

David in truck bed with roof

We then carried it from the truck down the hill and onto the house walls:

Putting on roof

Many thanks to Jenn for her help transporting those heavy parts.

Next, I screwed the three parts together: floor joists, floor and walls, and roof:

Screw

I also added more hooks, including for the LED light strip:

Hooks for light

And to tidy the electrical cords (the two orange ones are temporary; the one going out through the wall goes to the pond pump, and will be replaced with a more subtle green cord later, and the one on the right is for the electric screwdriver):

Electrical

More cord hooks:

Electrical

Here’s the duck house, installed:

Duck house installed

Duck house installed

Duck house installed

Duck house installed

From further back:

Duck house installed

From across the pond:

Duck house across pond

Duck house across pond

An exciting milestone! There’s more to do: finishing the landscaping, adding the ramp, adding the bedding and food and such, and of course adding the ducklings. So there will no doubt be more posts about the duck house, and its future residents, but the building part is basically done now. Three weeks before the ducklings arrive!

Duck house: pond edge & floor joists

Over the weekend we installed the duck house! That seems like such a momentous milestone, I’m going to split it into two separate blog posts.

Firstly, I took the footing blocks and floor joists to the site, and determined the positions by temporarily resting the blocks on top:

Determining footing positions

I then dug out the bank of the pond a bit, repositioned the pond liner, and moved some of the rocks, to work better with the duck house:

Adjusting pond edge

Here’s a view from the pond cam of me wading in the pond, moving rocks. The pond is about 2 feet deep at that point, with a steep slope up to a small shelf at the edge:

Cam view

Here’s the adjusted pond edge:

Adjusted pond edge

I then dug in the concrete footings, using the level to make the floor joists flat:

Footings & floor joists

Here’s the footings & floor joists in their final position, with the footing holes filled in. There’s only about an inch of clearance between the joists and ground, as I wanted it to be as low as possible so the ramp into the pond doesn’t have to be any longer than necessary. The ramp will later be attached to the angled board at the front:

Footings & floor joists

A view from across the pond:

From across the pond

Next, I added scraps of wire hardware cloth to help keep small animals from going under the house. It won’t stop burrowing creatures like moles, but it’ll help:

Adding hardware cloth

The hardware cloth was stapled onto the inside of the boards, for tidiness, and buried a bit underground:

Hardware cloth

The final footings & floor joists:

Footings & floor joists

Next up: bringing over the house itself. Stay tuned!

Duck house: landscaping

Over the last week or so, in between paying work, I’ve been doing a different aspect of the duck house project: landscaping and earthmoving at the pond edge.

Here’s where the duck house will go, between these two rocks. So of course all these plants needed to be moved:

Plants

In order to make a path to the duck house, we also wanted to take out a very leaning and half-dead tree:

Leaning tree

So I used our chainsaw to chop it down and chop up the pieces:

Chainsaw

The tree removed, and starting to excavate around it:

Ex-tree

I moved the irises and such to next to the path location, as indicated by marker spray paint:

Moved plants

To get the wheelbarrow over the stream, I made a temporary bridge out of a pallet:

Temporary bridge

Later, I will make a nice arched bridge over the stream. Stay tuned for that project!

(The stream pump is usually turned off, since it loses a lot of water, but we turn it on occasionally.)

With the plants out of the way, I started excavating. I want the duck house to be as close as possible to the pond water level, so the duck ramp doesn’t have to be too long or steep. So there was a lot of dirt to dig out:

Excavating

More excavating. I did it all by hand; I could have hired someone to do it, either manually or with heavy equipment, but there’s a certain satisfaction to doing it myself, as silly as that is:

Excavating

Here’s a camera view of me digging:

Camera view

Getting close to the desired level. I marked the planned location of the duck house:

Excavating

Excavating the path:

Excavating

Those many barrowloads of dirt had to go somewhere. I put some in the chicken run grazing box, and some elsewhere, but the majority of it went onto the back lawn, to fill in the numerous holes and bumps, left from when the veggie garden used to be there, before a previous owner moved it. Once I’ve finished the excavations, I will add grass seed to the dirt:

Dirt on lawn

It’s me!

David

Contoured dirt for the path; we’ll wheel the duck house down this slope when moving it into place:

Contoured dirt

More of the path space; later I will add gravel to the path:

Contoured dirt

Looking down towards the pond:

Contoured dirt

The flat(ish) area next to the pond, with the duck house location marked:

Contoured dirt

Next up: installing the duck house!

Duck house: vinyl tiles

A small update on the duck house project: adding stick-on vinyl tiles.

Although the entire duck house (inside & out) is painted with exterior paint, I thought I’d add vinyl tiles to the floors and base of the walls to make it even more waterproof, since ducks are very damp.

I chose self-adhesive vinyl tiles that have a beachy look, to fit the theme of the duck house.

Here I’m adding them to the inner floor, marking where they need to be cut on the backing paper:

Stick-on vinyl tiles

The tiles are in nesting boxes too:

Vinyl tiles in nesting boxes

And the base of the walls:

Vinyl tiles in duck house

Here’s the inner floor in place; both floor levels are tiled:

Vinyl tiles in duck house

Other than a few minor tweaks, that concludes the construction of the duck house!

Next up: some earth moving at the pond edge where it’ll be installed.