Duck house: building doors

Some more progress on the duck house project.

I bought a special water dispenser for the ducks (when they’re grown). Ducks have slightly different needs than chickens, in that they need to dip their large bills in water to drink and eat. This waterer has three removable cups for drinking (though one will be unreachable in the corner), a reservoir, and a built-in thermostatically-controlled heater, so the water doesn’t freeze in winter:

Duck waterer & camera

Since the waterer was a bit bigger than expected, I also raised the camera up a bit. Here’s the view from the camera:

View from camera

I tried a bag of feed in the cupboard, to see how well it’d fit. Seems to work laying down or standing up, about as well as I expected. Storing a bag or two of food there will make it easier to refill the food jug:

Trying food in cupboard

On to the door trim:

Door trim

Here’s one of the cupboard doors, with 1×2 trim around the edges. The plywood sticks out a bit on the right edge (in the foreground in this orientation), so it covers the gap between the two doors. Which of course means the other (right-hand) door has to be opened first, which is by some strange coincidence the one I expect to open most:

Door trim

Both cupboard doors:

Cupboard doors

I paused for a picnic lunch in the back of the shop (yes, it was still very cold):


Adding trim to the maintenance doors:

Cupboard doors

I changed my mind about the design of the maintenance doors. Originally I was going to have a single large outer door, with a vertically split inner door. I decided that a single outer door would be too large, so considered doing double doors like the cupboard, but then realized I could combine the inner and outer doors into one set. So I made four-part doors, again with plywood covering the gaps between the doors:

Maintenance doors

The way it is configured, I can undo one bolt (to be added after painting) to open just the top-left door for a quick peek, or two bolts to open just the top-left and top-right doors to access the ducks without them able to escape (which I expect will be especially useful when they are ducklings), or one bolt to open just the left two doors together (they’ll be connected with a bolt), or the left two and the right two for full access. I think this will be very versatile.

Here’s just the top-left door open:

Maintenance doors

In addition to the bolts, the doors will be held closed with roller catches. The bottom doors will have theirs mounted under the floor, to be out of the way:

Roller catch

And the top doors will have their roller catches mounted above the doors:

Roller catch

Here’s me using an air finish nailer to attach the board for the top roller catches, captured from the duck camera:


Next up was adding thin strips of wood to make the doors and walls appear like board-&-batten styling, like I did with the cat house. So the first step was to rip (cut lengthwise) some 1×2 boards into 1×0.5 batten strips:

Ripping boards

I started adding the battens on the cupboard doors:

Board & batten on doors

Then the maintenance doors:

Board & batten on doors

I also added an extra bit of plywood to the corner that will cover up the two small holes between the four doors:

Hole cover detail

Finally (for now), battens on the vent cover:

Board & batten on doors

Next up, I will add the batten strips on the walls, do some extra bracing for attaching electrical stuff, and more caulking. Then I’ll be ready to start painting!

Duck house: building tweaks and trim

Three more days on the duck house project.

Firstly, I bought a much more compact cap for the end of the feeder tube. I want a removable cap, so I can clean out the tube every so often. You can see my original notion on the left, basically the same as I used in the chicken coop, but that clearly would take up too much of the length of the pipe in this situation. So I found a different kind, that adds pretty much no length to the pipe, attaching by expanding a rubber gasket inside the pipe. This will work much better:

Pipe cap

Another purchase was an automatic door opener, the same model I use in both chicken coops. It has a light sensor to open the door at dawn, and close it at dusk, so it needs to be outside. I cut a hole through the front (west) wall, and temporarily installed it (I’ll remove it again when painting):

Automatic opener

Here’s the inside view of the automatic opener and duck door. The opener is screwed from the back onto a couple of bits of wood, such that the string from it hangs inside; later it will be tied to the door. An unusual installation, but means I don’t need any pulleys like on the old coop:

Automatic opener

Next, I made the inner floor, a second floor layer that can be pulled out to aid cleaning out the duck house. It has thin runners on the bottom to reduce friction, and prevent any water from being trapped between the two layers:

Inner floor

Here’s the inner floor in place:

Inner floor

I recently mentioned temporarily using the duck house camera to watch the shop cat Pepper. I retrieved the camera and temporarily clamped it to the house, to determine the best mounting location:


Here’s the camera view from my preferred location, just inside the maintenance door. This gives a view into the nesting boxes and almost all of the floor space, except the corner under the camera, which is where the water dispenser will be located. (Enjoy the recursive photo of me capturing the view on my iPad):

Camera view

I also tried other camera positions, like the vent side:

Camera view

And behind the feeder tube:

Camera view

But I think the originally planned location by the maintenance door gives the best view.

Since there will be the camera, a heated water dispenser, and a light in the duck house, I drilled a hole near the roof into the storage cupboard for their wires:

Hole for wires

On to the trim work. I added trim around the internal treat door. You can also see the wire hole in the top-right, and below it a notched bit of plywood to cover the hole:

Treat door

I added trim to the edge of the roof. It’ll later have metal drip strip and shingles, like the cat house:

Roof edge trim

Awning trim; the board at the top of the awning isn’t attached yet, as it’ll go on after the shingles, to hide the nails of the top row:

Awning trim

Duck door trim:

Duck door trim

Opener trim:

Opener trim

The big vent on the south wall has a cover that slides vertically. It will be held at various heights by a slide bolt on either side that slides into holes drilled in the trim:

Holes for vent bolts

I glued bits of plywood to the vent cover, to later mount the bolts onto to get the right depth:

Vent cover

The vent cover installed. The notch out of the trim allows the cover to be slid to the left to be removed entirely (which I probably will never do, other than when painting):

Vent cover installed

All the roof, corner, and door surround trim are now installed. I still need to do the trim on the doors themselves, and the fake board-and-batten styling.

Let’s take spin around the duck house. Here the east and north sides (cupboard and maintenance doors):

Finished trim

The north and west sides (maintenance and duck doors):

Finished trim

The west and south sides (duck door and vent):

Finished trim

The south and east sides (vent and cupboard):

Finished trim

Finally, I did a bit of caulking of the joins:


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.

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.