A castle made of trash

The duck house is nearly finished.

I started building it a couple weeks ago because it suddenly dawned on me that a) winter is coming and the old duck coop had no shelter, and b) winter vacations are coming up and the ducks really need to be somewhere more secure than under a single flimsy layer of chicken wire while we are away. Also, not to be overlooked, c) the highest point on their old coop was only 3′ off the ground. Doing a sort of Russian squatting knee dance in the dark through ankle-deep mud and poop to refill a waterer in the driving sleet is not the funnest way to spend an evening. I was ready to have a grownup duck coop that I could actually stand up in.

I set to work rather frantically, but in true miserly – ahem, eco-conscious – fashion, I knew there had to be a way to repurpose a bunch of free stuff to make the thing for pennies on the dollar AND keep a bunch of stuff out of landfills. (Really, figuring out how to finish all my building projects using mostly recycled materials is getting to be an exciting challenge of its own by this point.)

So I knew the structure would have to be made of pallets. I had some of those already. An added benefit to pallets is that using them as the floor of the coop would lift the animals out of the swampy, cold winter mud and provide a drier habitat. I reused the roofing I had already from the previous coop, as well as a whole bunch of strong woven fencing we had on hand. I incorporated 4 big storm windows that a friend gave me ages ago, along with some old scavenged siding.


The greatest find came when I went to our local architectural salvage store to find cheap wood and doors, and they happened to be having a “free-to-good-home” extravaganza. I came back home in a minivan loaded to the gills with lumber and two beat up but good-quality solid wooden doors. I got every single piece of lumber in this project for free.


So don’t be too surprised if it doesn’t look like much. It is built out of trash, after all.


But don’t judge! It’s not done yet.

I bought a sawzall today. I’m going to demo a whole bunch more pallets to harvest their wooden slats and build solid exterior walls with them. I haven’t hung the last window or the second door. I might even paint it!

This all has to be done ASAP because right now it has hit freezing outside. While cold won’t kill the birds unless temps get really low, drafts and wet definitely will. So can you guess what I’ll be doing with my Thanksgiving vacation?

I think it’s pretty darn nice, actually, when compared to what they were living in before:


An old chicken tractor without even a floor. Though of course, it was right-side-up at the time.

I’m pretty proud of a few features:

1: that because of the raised floor I can pull the plug on the ducks’ waterer every night to drain it out (they fill it with mud and trash) and the sludge just falls through the floor and doesn’t make a nasty puddle inside. SO IMPORTANT with ducks. DUCKS ARE GROSS.

2: all the windows are held in place with metal bars on pivots, to allow the glass to be removed completely during the summer months for ventilation.

3: the rainwater catchment system:


Roof, to gutter, to inverted trash can lid with screened holes in it. Then the trash can is hooked up via hose to a dish regulated by a float valve. (The reflector is a float to tell me when the water level’s getting low.) Simple, I know, but I’ve always wanted to have something like this and I’ve never built a structure tall or sturdy enough.

My plan next year is to expand the run by another 8×8 area, so that it includes the pophole through the garden fence that connects their garden paddock with our backyard/little pond area*. I made the run so small at first because I just needed something that would keep them secure enough right now. We’ll worry about comfort later.

So this duck house is anything but beautiful, but I find that its resourcefulness (and its bottom line) matters more to me than whether it is cute or not. In the end, the only things I had to buy for it were the gutter, two or three boxes of screws & poultry staples, a few metal braces, and 2 rolls of hardware cloth to line the walls and floor of the coop and run (the ceilings were 2×4 woven wire).

The ducks sure seem to like it.


* Right now the pophole is just open all the time and the ducks have free reign of both garden and back yard, but next year I will want to be able to confine their activities to one side or the other. The plan is to have them in the garden paddock all winter, poopin’ it up. Then when the ground in the paddock gets dry enough to be plantable, I’ll shunt them to the back yard instead while I use their winter’s worth of fertility in the paddock to grow summer or fall crops.

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