Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed!

The day I brought home the first two chicks, I  went against all the advice I give to people thinking about getting chickens. We had a farm but had no chicken coop or really any plan to build one. But two chicks followed me home from work at a feed store and the future was changed forever. Not long after, twelve more chicks arrived to keep the first two chicks company. We now had fourteen baby chicks growing up in our house but they could not stay there forever. It was very clear that in the near future we were going to need a chicken coop on the farm. 

 

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

We had two garden sheds in our yard. Downsizing was in order because having two sheds just meant that you saved and held onto twice as much “stuff”. We would use one of the sheds for a coop but first it needed to be emptied and then moved to the barn area. 

Getting Things Started

chicken coop timbercreekfarmer.com

The first step in converting the shed into a coop happens before the shed even arrives. Level the ground and get materials for elevating the coop off the ground several inches. You could use 6 x 6  timbers or cinder blocks. We opted to go with the treated lumber 6 x 6 timbers to raise the coop up from ground level. 

There are two main reasons to do this, one is to allow drainage and air flow under the coop and prohibit rotting. The second reason is to deter predators and pests from chewing into the coop from the ground. 

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Inside the coop we spread a layer of cement and let it cure for a couple of days to dry completely. This also deterred rodents from chewing into the coop from the ground level. 

Once that prep work is complete it is time to retrofit the shed and turn it into a coop. Some things you will need to add are listed below.

What to Add To a Chicken Coop

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Roosting bar /Roosting area– Many people use a 2 x 4 board as a roost. This should be turned so that the 4 inch side is flat for the chickens to perch on and comfortably cover their own feet with their feathers during cold weather. 

Add A Place for Eggs

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Nesting Boxes–  There are many formulas on calculating how many nest boxes for the number of hens in the coop. I will tell you that no matter how many nest boxes you have, all the hens will wait in line for the same box. Sometimes a few will crowd into one nest area. I recommend having a few nest boxes in the coop but don’t be surprised if one nest  box becomes the popular nest. Be careful to secure the nest box somehow. Nest boxes that are lightweight can tip over, trapping a chicken underneath. 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Windows– Our shed did not  have any windows in it. Before we could use it for a coop we added four windows in the back and two windows in the door. This allowed  cross ventilation, and daylight to enter the coop. Since chicken wire will not keep predators out, be sure to securely fasten quarter inch hardware cloth to any windows or ventilation  holes you cut into the coop.

 

Safety Concerns

Exterior latches–  We added a couple extra latches in addition to the door handle. We have a wooded property and the racoons are literally everywhere. Racoons have a lot of dexterity in their paws and can open doors and latches. So we have a secure lock down situation for our chickens!

A fan– Hanging a box fan will keep the chickens more comfortable and help with air circulation during the hot humid summer days and nights. We hang ours from the ceiling pointing towards the back windows. It makes a big difference. Be sure to keep the fan clean because dust will build up quickly from being used in the coop, which can become a fire hazard.

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Don’t Forget Regular Upkeep Inspections!

After building the perfect chicken coop from a garden shed, remember that upkeep is needed. Doing routine inspections, and repairs as outlined here, will help you get many years of wear out of the coop.

Necessary Coop Furnishings

Droppings board–  When this coop was first used, I didn’t know the importance of a dropping board under the roost bar. Stinky droppings accumulated under where the birds roosted at night, attracted flies and the chickens walked in the droppings! Ick!

The dropping board was very easily added and made a huge difference in keeping the coop clean and free of flies. You can read more specifically about our coop dropping boards in this post. Basically, the board is installed under the roost bar and is removed to clean the droppings off of it. If the board is attached you would use something like a garden trowel or cat litter scoop to clean up the droppings and remove them to the compost pile.

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Coop Extras

Our coop is not fancy. No frilly curtains, or interior paint. While all of that is fun, your flock will not feel less important if you don’t totally pinterest up the coop. (did you know pinterest could be a verb?) I did paint the one nesting box in a very cute pattern and added lettering that stated “Farm Eggs”. The girls still pooped all over it and decided to peck the lettering off of the top. I still think it would be fun to paint the inside and add some wall art. I’ll add that to this Spring’s To Do List!

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Before the nest box was added to the coop

 

 

 

DSC_0168

after the nest box was used

 I hope you enjoy this short video tour of our chicken coop!

I poured a lot of Do it Yourself Information and detailed step by step projects into my book, 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens (skyhorse publishing 2018)  You can grab a copy through local bookstores, Tractor Supply stores, Other garden and farm supply stores, and through my website.

For more on building your own chicken coop take a look at these  posts –

Pallet Project – Build A Cheap Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop Expansion

How Much Space Does a Chicken Need Anyway

Coop Raising Day

Raising Chickens on a Budget




Ascites in Chickens and Ducks (Water Belly)

Ascites in chickens and ducks

Ascites in chickens and ducks is a life threatening condition exhibiting fluid build up in the abdomen. Both chickens and ducks can suffer from this health issue, although it is not common in backyard flocks. The condition is most prevalent in broiler chickens and meat ducks. There are signs and symptoms all poultry owners should be aware of so that treatment can be started early. Although the treatment will keep the chicken or duck more comfortable, ascites in chickens and ducks is not curable, but it can be controlled in many cases.

ascites in chickens and ducks
photo credit Angela Ferraro-Fanning

Recently a friend contacted me about a duck that had a protruding belly that felt tight, much like a water balloon. No egg was felt in the abdomen and no discharge was observed. These are classic symptoms of water belly or ascites in chickens and ducks. In addition to the water belly, the bird may be reluctant to move around. Other symptoms can include lethargy, and no interest in food. In addition, the chicken with water belly may not be able to get on the roost at bedtime. A patch of red skin may be visible on the abdomen. The swollen area can be warm to the touch. For a good photo of this red patch of skin check this post from The Cape Coop.

How Does Ascites Occur in Chickens and Ducks?

Understanding a little about poultry anatomy helps us understand why the bird is reluctant to eat or move around. Bird lungs are rather rigid. They do not have the ability to expand as mammal lungs expand. As the fluid builds up and takes up space, it is harder for the bird to breathe. Because Ascites is basically a disease of right ventricle failure and hypertension, the chicken or duck will become listless, and look unwell. As the heart failure progresses, the liver begins to malfunction and release protein filled fluid into the abdomen.

For more in depth details about the pathogenesis and epidemiology of ascites in chickens and duck, refer to the Merck Veterinary Manual. The general signs of illness in poultry may be present, pale comb and wattles, dull eyes, unsteady gait, or sitting and walking in an unusual manner. Ascites in chickens and ducks there is no risk of contagion as there is in other deadly poultry diseases. If the bird is happy and content in the coop, you do not need to isolate while treating.

What Causes Ascites in Chickens and Ducks?

  • Genetics – Some breeds can be genetically predisposed to heart disease. Broiler chickens and meat breeds have the condition more commonly than backyard egg production hens. Since it can be hereditary, do not hatch or sell hatching eggs from a hen with water belly even if she is not currently showing symptoms.
  • Age – Older hens can develop water belly as their organs deteriorate.
  • Food and Treats – Too high of a protein level can stress organs. Also, a high sodium intake can throw off the balance so be cautious of the treats given to poultry. Feed your poultry the proper food and treats for good health.
  • Environmental Stress – Extreme heat can lead to organ stress and electrolyte imbalance. Chicks that are not kept warm enough can develop early heart disease. Other environmental factors include proper ventilation, cleanliness, and general unsanitary conditions.
  • High Altitude – Lower oxygen in the air results in a higher than normal incidence of ascites in chickens and ducks
  • Mold or stale food – Aphlatoxins in moldy food and
    Clostridium perfringens  can cause liver damage and result in water belly.

How to Treat Ascites in Chickens and Ducks

Once the bird is suffering from heart failure, reversing the damage is next to impossible. However, it is possible to keep the chicken or duck comfortable and happy.

Please note that I am not a veterinarian. The procedure I have used on chickens in my flock has resulted in successfully keeping the birds alive and happy for a long time. My latest case of ascites is in a Brahma hen. She exhibited classic symptoms of water belly in the fall. I drained off fluid three times over a six week period. After that, she had a good winter with no return of fluid until early spring. At that time, fluid had accumulated to the point that she was unable to roost with the other chickens. I noticed her trying to bed down on the floor of the coop, and sure enough, her belly was tight and she had lost some weight.

ascites in chickens and ducks

Draining Fluid from Water Belly

The following first aid kit items are needed for draining fluid from the lower abdomen.

  • alcohol swabs or cotton balls and alcohol
  • large gauge syringe, this can be reused during the course of treatment. Test out the syringe prior to the procedure because some are quite tight and a few test pumps will loosen it up.
  • small gauge needles – do not reuse these. Dispose of needles properly to protect yourself and others.
  • an assistant can be very helpful during the procedure although I often do this by myself.

The Fluid Draw Procedure

Have all the materials ready and close at hand. The faster you can work, the less stress the bird will endure. Identify the area for the needle to enter. This should be the right side of the belly, down and to the right of the vent. Try to let gravity work with you. The lower you can drain, the more fluid will naturally continue to slowly drain after the procedure. Tuck the duck or chicken under your arm and swab the lower belly area with the alcohol wipe. It was very helpful for me to watch a video before beginning. Teresa Johnson has a good video published on YouTube showing exactly how this procedure is done. Other videos can be viewed on Common Sense Home with information provided on how they are dealing with the issue in one of their runner ducks.

ascites in chickens and ducks

Insert the needle into the belly. Begin to pull the syringe to draw fluid. The fluid should appear yellow. If it is red, withdraw the needle and try another area. Withdraw approximately half of what is felt in the abdomen or approximately half a cup. Note* When the syringe is full, twist off the syringe, leaving the needle inserted. The fluid will continue to drain and you won’t have to continuously stick the poor bird. Remove the needle when the fluid drained is approximately half a cup. (4 fluid ounces)

Do not draw too much fluid at one time as it can cause the bird to go into shock from fluid loss. I return the bird to a quiet area for a few minutes of observation and a favorite treat, before returning to the flock. Ascites in chickens and ducks is not contagious and no isolation is necessary.

The Result

The bird usually perks up quickly and returns to normal behavior in a day or so. Another fluid draw can be attempted after two days or sooner if needed. I do not draw fluid again that same day. Each bird is different and will refill at different rates, therefore chickens or ducks with ascites will need to be monitored closely for the rest of it’s life. The fluid drain will improve the quality of life, but is not a cure.
Ascites in chickens and ducks is a result of a disease. It is not a disease in itself. Some of the illnesses that result in water belly are major organ failure, heart issues, toxins in the environment, or even a tumor. Only a qualified veterinarian can provide the testing to determine what underlying issues might be the cause of ascites in your bird.

The following photos were shared by Angela Ferraro -Fanning. I am very grateful that Angela asked me to discuss this treatment as she cared for her duck. Thankfully the duck was doing very well post draining. You can follow Angela and her tales from Axe and Root Homestead on Instagram.

Protruding lower belly Photo credit Angela Ferraro-Fanning

Keep in mind that this draining fluid procedure is rarely a cure. It does allow the bird some time to return to normal activities. The frequency of fluid draws might become more frequent, in which case you might choose to end the bird’s suffering. In other cases you may gain months of life from your backyard flock member.

ascites in chickens and ducks
photo credit Angela Ferraro-Fanning

Natural Aids for Heart and Liver Damage

Common Sense Home did an extensive search of plants and foods that could help relieve the condition that leads to water belly. Oregano and garlic are known heart healthy foods and heart tonics. Squash is high in potassium which can lower blood pressure. Read more on the natural methods being used by the duck caretakers of Common Sense Home in this post.

Most articles on ascites in chickens and ducks recommend culling the affected animal. If you feel that your bird still can enjoy a good life, taking the approach described here can buy you time with your working pet. You may get to enjoy many more months with your chicken or duck.

Are you looking for Do it Yourself style help with your backyard or small farm poultry? Please take a look at my book, 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018) available on this website or Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Tractor Supply or your local bookseller.




Raising Ducks – 9 Best Tips for Keeping Ducks Happy and Healthy

Best tips for raising ducks

Raising Ducks – My Best Tips to Guide You Toward Successfully Raising Ducks 

Raising ducks is different than raising chickens, although you can be successful raising ducks and chickens together. Some modifications need to be addressed when raising ducks, and they add a new dimension to your barnyard.

(Raising as many different animals and Poultry as we do, people often ask what is the best way to get started with a particular species. Many times the questions involve raising ducks. I wrote down a few of the best tips I have for raising ducks)

Ducklings arrive in the feed stores and hatcheries later than the chicks usually. I have my own unproven theories about why this is the way it is. Ducklings are cute little fluffy mess makers. Not long after you bring them home, you will realize that with even a small amount of water, ducks will make a big wet mess. Those cute little webbed feet can sure track a lot of water around their brooder. You will need the best tips for raising ducks.

Ducklings grow incredibly fast, and soon are consuming a huge quantity of starter ration. The good news, and more realistic reason that ducklings are available later in the spring is, that is when the ducks lay more eggs for the hatcheries to incubate. Ducks will lay year round, but they lay more eggs during the natural mating season of March through June. Once you bring home a few ducklings you will be glad of two things.

  • 1. Ducklings grow very quickly
  • 2. Because the ducklings grow quickly they can go outside earlier than chicks. (They will still need time in the brooder with a heat lamp to start off)  Being hatched later in spring means the weather is warmer and the ducklings can move outside sooner.

You will be very glad when they are big enough to go outside to their duck pen and coop. If you were housing them in your bathtube in your house, you will be glad to have your bathroom again. If you were keeping them in a toddler swimming pool, it will be nice to not clean it up three times a day. (or more!) This is one of the best pieces of advice concerning raising ducks.

Moving the Ducks to the Great Outdoors

Ducklings are a good addition to your backyard or homestead. Ducks are reliable egg layers, easy to keep, and excellent at foraging for grubs, slugs and snails in addition to other insects and weeds. They are happiest if they can have some free foraging time every day, but can be successfully kept in a large pen as long as you bring them a varied diet of grasses, and insects. Dried meal worms, watermelon, and salad greens are favorite treats that also add valuable protein and nutrition.

raising ducks - read the best advice and tips for raising healthy ducks

Housing

Duck do need secure housing particularly at night, to protect the from predators. Since ducks are extremely cold hardy, our structure has large ventilation spaces at the tops of the walls, covered by hardware cloth. This allows maximum air circulation for preventing odor buildup inside the coop. In the coldest parts of winter, we can cover the “windows” with plastic to keep the coop warmer, if necessary.

Do Ducks Need a Perch?

The coop or duck house is low to the ground although we can fit inside to clean it out. There is no need for perches as ducks do not roost on a bar like chickens. Providing straw for nesting and to keep the floor a little drier helps. I pile more straw in the corners to encourage the hens to lay eggs there. This keeps the eggs out of the traffic lanes and keeps the eggs cleaner.

Surrounding our duck house is a large pen. The ducks can be returned to the pen when we are not watching them or if a predator is in the area. At night they are closed in the duck house.

Rouen duck with wings spread at Timber Creek Farm

Water

Water is extremely important to ducks. They need to be able to dip their entire bill into some water. In addition, they love to swim and preen their feathers in the water. You can get away with not having a wading pool or small pond for them to swim in, but they will occasionally need enough water for a bath. When it is too cold for swimming in the pools, our ducks will still stand in the water bowl and splash around. All that being said, I do recommend giving the ducks as much access to a swimming pool or pond  as possible. The ducks will love you for it!

Food

Ducks are excellent foragers and can find a good diet on their own. We do supply additional pellets for them, free choice, to supplement what they find when foraging. When the ducks can’t forage due to weather or other reasons, they will, of course, eat more of the pellets. Ducks naturally do very well on a foraging diet. You can read more about feeding ducklings in this post. While ducklings are usually easy keepers and resistant to disease and illness, another possible, yet rare complication is called Limberneck in ducks. This is a form of botulism usually contracted from infected fly larvae or moldy food. Read more about this syndrome in this post

No Bread!

No matter what age group of ducks you are feeding, restrain yourself from feeding bread to them. The majority of a duck’s diet should be from grasses and plants. Feeding bread doesn’t contribute to their nutritional needs and can cause wing deformity, bone growth issues, and lameness which can lead to a predator being able to catch the duck easier. 

In the growing season, you can throw in chickweed, smart weed, grass clippings, plantain leaves and household or garden salad greens, if the ducks can’t forage for their own greens and bugs. Raising ducks is an excellent way to reduce the insect life in your yard or farm and garden.

Fencing

Many of the domestic duck breeds can not fly well at all. They can fly low across the ground level but rarely take off to any height. Fencing does not need to be high to keep ducks in. The only reason to have a high, covered fenced run would be so you can stand up in the covered fenced run.

In order to protect your ducks from predators, consider higher fencing and covering the duck run with more wire fencing. 

(Here’s an image to save to your pinterest boards for later reading.)

raising ducks

Eggs

Ducks will lay anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs per year depending on the breed of duck. The eggs are edible, and can be used for your breakfast or cooked in any dish calling for eggs. Many people prefer the slightly stronger flavor of duck eggs. Duck eggs are excellent for baking because they have a slightly higher fat content and richness.

I love raising ducks and enjoy the joyful fun they add to our farm. Share you duck raising stories in the comments! We love to hear how you are raising your poultry, too.

rouen duckling

If you enjoyed this post, please consider saving it to your Pin board on Pinterest. Here’s an image I made for this purpose.

best tips for raising ducks

raising ducks

Read my new children’s book. A storybook about two of our ducks here on the farm.

margarita and the beautiful gifts

Additional Reading

 Backyard Poultry Mag.com

Three Tips for Feeding Ducklings




Duck Botulism Treatment – Recovering from Limberneck

duck botulism treatmentI did not think duck botulism treatment would be part of my summer. I spent the later part of the summer performing various duck botulism treatment options so my Rouen hen could recover. Since I had not heard about duck botulism or duck botulism treatment, it was not my first thought when I found Gretyl sitting on the nest for an extended period of time. At first I left her, thinking she just needed extra time and would eventually lay her egg.

Later, I picked her up and found her to be quite floppy. I thought she was hurt, thinking the Drake was too rough with her. I cared for her, cleaned her up and put her in a safe spot with food and fresh water. Gretyl took a drink but was mostly disinterested in anything. I did not think her prognosis was very good.

A Rough Road of Healing Begins

I was surprised she survived to the next morning. And continued to survive. Gretyl couldn’t move. She tried but her body was limp and paralyzed. When I picked her up she would release a large amount of diarrhea. While her neck wasn’t twisted, it was being held at an odd position. She could not preen or reach her oil glands. After I would help her get a bath, I needed to dry her with a towel because she had no oil on her feathers anymore and was quite wet and chilled. If the food was placed right in front of her, she would eat and drink water. 

duck botulism treatment

Not knowing what was going on that first day, I treated her symptoms and tried to keep her dry, clean and comfortable. It was warm weather so unless she was wet, I didn’t need to worry about her getting chilled.

Duck Botulism Symptoms

I searched on line for her symptoms. The symptoms closely matched the effects from avian botulism toxin.

The toxin produced from botulism causes paralysis in the wings, legs, third eyelid, neck and more. The duck will be floppy when picked up and may have diarrhea from the toxins. The twisting in the neck can be mild or severe. When the neck paralysis is severe the duck often dies from drowning. 

I started a progress record and made notes about the duck botulism treatment we gave Gretyl. Slowly she began to regain some body functions and strength. Once or twice a day I would help her get clean in a small pool of water. She couldn’t be left alone as she still leaned far to the right and had no strength to sit upright in the water. After drying her off with a towel, I would move her legs and try to hold her up to stand. Gradually, she would stand for a few seconds. The standing time gradually increased.

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 8/23

The prognosis is good since Gretyl has survived a few days now. Her left wing is as strong as the right wing now and she’s very alert. Continuing with supportive care and hoping she makes a full recovery. We almost put her down to stop her from suffering!  I moved Gretyl and the most docile drake we have into a separate area. Gretyl does better when Milo is around.  8/23

Duck Botulism is also known as Limberneck because of the way the neck muscles contract and bend. The duck’s neck can be held bent and rigid or be very limp. In Gretyl’s case, it was good that she had a more rigid neck because she could eat and drink if the bowls were positioned just right. It was necessary to clean her nostrils if they became blocked since she wasn’t bobbing her head in water. Her eyes also became crusty because she wasn’t cleaning her face in the water. We used a colloidal silver solution, at a few drops, twice a day, alternating with Veterycin Antiseptic Eye Gel. Eventually Gretyl’s eyes stayed clear and were moist without the drops.

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 8/25

After water time and duck physical therapy, Gretyl enjoys the thick spa towel and a short nap. Her friend, Milo looks out for her while she rests. Her prognosis is good. Every day there are noticeable improvements to her wings and legs. She still can’t support herself but it has only been one week. I read that thirty days is the norm for botulism recovery. Gretyl and Milo have moved in with Jake and his chickens. There is a private room in that coop for situations. 8/25

duck botulism treatment

What Causes Botulism Illness in Ducks?

The Clostridium Botulinum toxin, types C and E, blocks the nerves in the victim and leads to respiratory and muscle paralysis. Ducks, along with other avian species can ingest the toxin or eat some intermediate host such as the fly larvae and maggots. In addition, spoiled food, and dying (decomposing) plants can harbor botulism toxin. Botulism bacteria need warm temperatures, protein (the invertebrate host), and lack of oxygen (anaerobic) to produce the toxin that leads to illness. The larvae or other host does not die from the toxin. The duck can get sick after eating just a few larvae. 

While unsanitary conditions can be the perfect setting for growing C. Botulinum, certain other conditions can also be hospitable to an outbreak. Standing, stagnant water, and an over population of flies in the wet conditions can also be the right setting. And yes, ducks love any water, so that can be a challenge during rainy weather. When you have ducks free ranging it can be hard to monitor all the areas they visit.

This past summer was very wet, humid, and steamy hot. It was difficult to keep the pens dry and fly blooms were common, despite our best efforts. Of course, it could also have been found in rotting, decomposing plants as not all plants thrive in wet conditions. As ducks roam and forage they can come in contact with the toxin.

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 8/29

Progress report on Gretyl. This week is not as encouraging because I have to look harder for the progress. But it is there. And she’s gotten really good at projectile pooping on me when I pick her up. She’s able to sit up straight now without listing to one side like the photos from a couple days back. During therapy, both feet have some strength although the left is less than the right. She eats well and drinks a lot.

One eye is still frothy but the Veterycin eye gel and colloidal silver water are doing a great job treating that. Yesterday Gretyl sounded a little raspy so I gave her a couple drops of VetRX too. My concern is that she still can’t groom herself well. It’s super hot this week so she’s not getting chilled. But if the temps start to drop she needs to be dry. 8/29

duck botulism treatment

Is Botulism Contagious to Humans and Other Animals?

The type of botulism toxin that affects birds is species specific and does not affect humans. However, once you have a sick bird from botulism toxicity, cleanliness is extremely important or others may get sick too. The duck should be moved to a dry, draft free location. Give food and water and clean up any food spills promptly. Wipe the eyes and bill clean, especially if the duck cannot dunk it’s head to get clean. 

Clean up the area, removing any feces, spoiled or spilled food, and stagnant water. If you don’t do this, you risk further cases of duck botulism in your flock.

Sometimes, botulism toxin enters a wound. This may require veterinary treatment and even surgery. 

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 9/2

Gretyl invited some friends (the chickens) to stop by for lunch. She had second thoughts once she realized they would be eating her food. Gretyl’s recovery continues. She is regaining strength in her legs and can stand for a few seconds. She really wants to move around now and is struggling to get moving. It’s been two weeks since we found her weak and unable to move. Her eyes remain clear now and her voice is returning. Both wings can flap! 9/2/2018

What are the Causes of Death from Botulism Toxin

Helping a duck recover from botulism toxin illness was not a simple process. Many body systems were affected that required special care. We used a child’s wading pool for strengthening Gretyl’s legs. At first, we had to watch her closely in the water because she would flop over to one side. She couldn’t make a lot of noise so we could have easily missed her drowning in the shallow water. It seemed that paddling in the water was easier than trying to walk because the water floated her body, allowing the legs to move freely. 

Lack of food and drinking water can cause death after an infection with the toxin. Gretyl could not move at all the first couple of weeks so food and water had to be placed near her.

Predators would have an easy meal with a duck suffering from Botulism toxin illness. Domestic ducks don’t fly well anyway and when sick with botulism they can’t run for cover either. 

In severe cases, death from respiratory failure is a possibility.

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 9/5

The chickens love their self appointed job as Gretyl’s nurse. I also think they likes the fact that Gretyl receives more frequent feeding and water refills during the day  9/5

duck botulism treatment

Preventing Duck Botulism Illness

While an antitoxin does exist it is not readily available to many. Veterinarians may have it or they may have to order it from the Center for Disease Control. The antitoxin needs to be administered early in the course of the disease. Usually by the time you realize what you are dealing with, the duck is on the road to recovery, or has died.

The best plan is to control the fly population, and take care of stagnant water sources. Parasitic wasps may be a good way to control fly populations. Also, have a good plan for manure handling. We use both diatomaceous earth and animal safe lime products to help control flies and keep our coops and stalls sanitary. 

duck botulism treatment

the left foot still was not supporting any weight so standing on her own was not possible

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 9/8

Showing that she really wants to get moving again. Gretyl is using both feet but not in the usual way. She’s trying to move around which is a great sign. Last night she quacked a few times and her neck muscles are beginning to relax more. Hope she can groom herself soon. 9/8

duck botulism treatment

The following notes are the last two entries in my record of duck botulism treatment. Gretyl’s recovery was completely textbook progress. The length of her recovery seems to be longer, although she can eat and drink, and does attempt to keep up with Milo and her new housemate LuLu. 

Gretyl and Milo spent the last couple days in a large pen by themselves. It seems a chicken or two decided to be mean to Gretyl and picked at her wings. She’s getting along pretty well but can only manage a few steps at a time before she reverts to scooting around using her wings. She is maintaining her weight, and eating and drinking. The progress is still there, just small steps. Milo enjoys having a pool again. They return to the safety of the coop at night. 9/27

Gretyl is still making progress in her recovery from botulism toxin. Her neck has loosened up quite a bit. She can take several steps on her feet before returning to scooting on her belly. Milo is a perfect companion. I was so glad to see her bob her head under water normally although she wouldn’t do it on the video. Still making progress! 
Oct 6

Today

Gretyl continues to make baby steps of progress. I wonder sometimes if she will ever make a full recovery. Recently, a duck needed to be re-homed and we added LuLu to our farm. She fit in nicely with Milo and Gretyl and the three of them have bonded well. Even though Gretyl cannot keep up with them during free range, I do see them circle back to check on her and call to her while they run about the open area. Duck botulism and the resulting illness from the toxin took us by surprise. It could happen to anyone and I hope that this duck botulism treatment plan can help someone else’s duck to a full recovery. 

Another duck ailment occurred in my friend Laurie’s flock. One of their much loved pet runner ducks developed ascites or water belly. Once a death sentence, we now know that there are measures that can be taken to relieve the pressure and often put the duck on the road to a full recovery. Read more about Ascites in ducks here




Free Range Ducks Pros and Cons

Free range ducksFree range ducks are happy ducks! When we first started raising ducks, we didn’t let the ducks roam the farm. We didn’t feel that the property was set up for free range ducks. The poultry area backs up to woods. Woods, where raccoon, fox and an occasional coyote make their homes. Eventually we gradually began letting the ducks and chickens out of their pens for free ranging. Other property modifications were made to add safety for the free range ducks

 Free Range Ducks

I started raising ducks years ago, for eggs and to hopefully hatch some ducklings! We have been fairly successful on both goals. The hens are very reliable layers and although our broody hen failed to set long enough to hatch out the ducklings, we did hatch four in the incubator. Ducks get along well together even though I do notice some inner cliques among the ducks we had first.

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

Our ducks live in a rather large duck complex with a large building with two attached covered runs, two pools and all you can eat buffet of duck food and bugs. I brought in grass, weeds, vegetables and meal worms regularly to supplement. All was well, but after visiting a friend’s home and seeing her ducks free ranging during the day, I had a strong urge to let the ducks taste some freedom.

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

 

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

Three of the four ducklings hatched in the incubator

 

Free Range Ducks

Psst. that’s not the way out!

Being surrounded by woods and woodland creatures, I was still hesitant to let them roam too freely. I set up a large perimeter using a mesh poultry fence. It’s a pretty classy set up, but they were just having too much fun in the fall leaves to notice the boundaries. At first, our dog was concerned that I may have lost my mind. He tried to tell me that the ducks were out roaming around!

Our Free Range Ducks Today

So, yes, the ducks have had the opportunity to free range the poultry area. The area is large and the ducks respected the mesh fencing. The mesh fencing won’t keep out predators but it will slow the predator down, giving us more time to react. In addition, when I leave the farm, the ducks must return to their duck house and duck runs. I don’t think I will ever become comfortable with them free ranging the property while I am not watching out for predators.

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

Why Let Them Be Free Range Ducks?

There’s no arguing with the evidence that free range ducks are happy ducks. What other benefits are there in free ranging ducks? 

Ducks Need Protein

Bugs and grasses are the ideal food for ducks. Duck pellets are a nutritiously balanced diet, however, ducks allowed to free range, choose the balance of protein, minerals, and vitamins. Free range ducks have low incidence of abnormal wing and bone development such as Angel Wing. 

Ducks Need Exercise  

Letting the ducks out to roam lets them move around more than they will in the pen. Doing so will decrease duck obesity. Did you even know that was an issue? Domestic breeds of ducks were intended to be used for meat. They gain weight quickly which is optimal if you are raising meat for your family or market. However, many of us also keep domestic ducks for pets and for egg production. Obesity will lead to other health problems in your duck. Foraging and free ranging for food is a healthy option. Calories are burned as the duck enjoys the found morsels. Always supplement with a high quality duck ration when the ducks are in their coop and pen. Ducks that are laying will need the extra nutrition and calcium. 

free range ducks

Insect Control

Ducks are great at clearing out pesky larvae, grubs and beetles. Insects are a protein packed snack and apparently very tasty. Letting the ducks free range around the garden will  help with the pesky insect damage. Of course, they will also help themselves to your tasty vegetables if you don’t take precautions or supervise the free ranging in the garden.

Damage to Lawn and Grass is Much Less

There is less lawn damage when the ducks are free ranging. When we put up the pens around the duck house, the area was grassy. Not long after, the area was a mud pit when it rained. Having nowhere to roam, the ducks just continued to dig for insects in the same spot and eat every bit of green vegetation. Since we started letting them free range for a good portion of the day, they rarely make a mess except close to the swimming pools. 

 

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

 

Free Range Ducks

Not a bad life!

When I leave the farm, the ducks must go back into the enclosed runs. We just have too many hawks, racoons and foxes around to leave them out in the open. For now they will have to be content with this step. It may be all I can bring myself to do in our setting. I realize a lot of people have totally free range ducks but I think its important to remember that everyone has a different comfort level on the topic of free ranging poultry. Each farm or homestead has a different set up, too. For now, I am happy that the ducks can have some free ranging time.

 

free range ducks

 

free range ducks




Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed!

The day I brought home the first two chicks, I  went against all the advice I give to people thinking about getting chickens. We had a farm but had no chicken coop or really any plan to build one. But two chicks followed me home from work at a feed store and the future was changed forever. Not long after, twelve more chicks arrived to keep the first two chicks company. We now had fourteen baby chicks growing up in our house but they could not stay there forever. It was very clear that in the near future we were going to need a chicken coop on the farm. 

 

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

We had two garden sheds in our yard. Downsizing was in order because having two sheds just meant that you saved and held onto twice as much “stuff”. We would use one of the sheds for a coop but first it needed to be emptied and then moved to the barn area. 

Getting Things Started

chicken coop timbercreekfarmer.com

The first step in converting the shed into a coop happens before the shed even arrives. Level the ground and get materials for elevating the coop off the ground several inches. You could use 6 x 6  timbers or cinder blocks. We opted to go with the treated lumber 6 x 6 timbers to raise the coop up from ground level. 

There are two main reasons to do this, one is to allow drainage and air flow under the coop and prohibit rotting. The second reason is to deter predators and pests from chewing into the coop from the ground. 

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Inside the coop we spread a layer of cement and let it cure for a couple of days to dry completely. This also deterred rodents from chewing into the coop from the ground level. 

Once that prep work is complete it is time to retrofit the shed and turn it into a coop. Some things you will need to add are listed below.

What to Add To a Chicken Coop

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Roosting bar /Roosting area– Many people use a 2 x 4 board as a roost. This should be turned so that the 4 inch side is flat for the chickens to perch on and comfortably cover their own feet with their feathers during cold weather. 

Add A Place for Eggs

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Nesting Boxes–  There are many formulas on calculating how many nest boxes for the number of hens in the coop. I will tell you that no matter how many nest boxes you have, all the hens will wait in line for the same box. Sometimes a few will crowd into one nest area. I recommend having a few nest boxes in the coop but don’t be surprised if one nest  box becomes the popular nest. Be careful to secure the nest box somehow. Nest boxes that are lightweight can tip over, trapping a chicken underneath. 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Windows– Our shed did not  have any windows in it. Before we could use it for a coop we added four windows in the back and two windows in the door. This allowed  cross ventilation, and daylight to enter the coop. Since chicken wire will not keep predators out, be sure to securely fasten quarter inch hardware cloth to any windows or ventilation  holes you cut into the coop.

 

Safety Concerns

Exterior latches–  We added a couple extra latches in addition to the door handle. We have a wooded property and the racoons are literally everywhere. Racoons have a lot of dexterity in their paws and can open doors and latches. So we have a secure lock down situation for our chickens!

A fan– Hanging a box fan will keep the chickens more comfortable and help with air circulation during the hot humid summer days and nights. We hang ours from the ceiling pointing towards the back windows. It makes a big difference. Be sure to keep the fan clean because dust will build up quickly from being used in the coop, which can become a fire hazard.

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Don’t Forget Regular Upkeep Inspections!

After building the perfect chicken coop from a garden shed, remember that upkeep is needed. Doing routine inspections, and repairs as outlined here, will help you get many years of wear out of the coop.

Necessary Coop Furnishings

Droppings board–  When this coop was first used, I didn’t know the importance of a dropping board under the roost bar. Stinky droppings accumulated under where the birds roosted at night, attracted flies and the chickens walked in the droppings! Ick!

The dropping board was very easily added and made a huge difference in keeping the coop clean and free of flies. You can read more specifically about our coop dropping boards in this post. Basically, the board is installed under the roost bar and is removed to clean the droppings off of it. If the board is attached you would use something like a garden trowel or cat litter scoop to clean up the droppings and remove them to the compost pile.

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Coop Extras

Our coop is not fancy. No frilly curtains, or interior paint. While all of that is fun, your flock will not feel less important if you don’t totally pinterest up the coop. (did you know pinterest could be a verb?) I did paint the one nesting box in a very cute pattern and added lettering that stated “Farm Eggs”. The girls still pooped all over it and decided to peck the lettering off of the top. I still think it would be fun to paint the inside and add some wall art. I’ll add that to this Spring’s To Do List!

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Before the nest box was added to the coop

 

 

 

DSC_0168

after the nest box was used

 I hope you enjoy this short video tour of our chicken coop!

I poured a lot of Do it Yourself Information and detailed step by step projects into my book, 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens (skyhorse publishing 2018)  You can grab a copy through local bookstores, Tractor Supply stores, Other garden and farm supply stores, and through my website.

For more on building your own chicken coop take a look at these  posts –

Pallet Project – Build A Cheap Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop Expansion

How Much Space Does a Chicken Need Anyway

Coop Raising Day

Raising Chickens on a Budget