About this time of year, we begin to get warmer weather, snow begins to melt, turns to ice and mud. We are chomping at the bit to get spring and summer underway. Outdoor projects that are conducted in a more stationery area are wonderful things to distract one from wading hip deep into the mud before the breakup is completely over...dried up and decent to move about in.
For entertainment purposes (April, 08 2008), Rick made me a tree nest for my Mandarins.
I think the tree stump nest (as we refer to it) mimics a "natural" stump nest quite nicely. On the first page of my post on this thread, I have shown a natural tree stump (poplar tree) that was used by the wild population of Wood ducks living here until, well the ROOF rotted off.
Here is a closer view of the disused nest and our inspiration for the STUMP nest for our Mandarins.
Wood duck nest in poplar tree stump now abandoned.
So here goes on how to make yer own TREE STUMP NEST...
Rick took a dead fallen White Spruce log (intended for firewood but stolen for this spring a ding dong project).
From all the data we have researched on proper Mandarin nests, the diameters of the inside of the nest will need to be ten to twelve inches broad, eighteen inches deep from the nest entry/exit hole bottom to the bottom of the nest (allowing for the depth of some clean pine or fir shavings as nesting material and the hen's down feather layer she tears outta her chest for the eggs to be covered with). Overall height of the nest INSIDE including allowances for the nest hole should be around 23 to 26 inches tall.
Dimensions to assist you in choosing your log, on the top opening, rectangular wooden nestboxes for Wood Ducks and Mandies, the overall suggested width is 10 to 12 inches square (so 10/12" by 10/12") outside and 23 inches tall, top to bottom inside dimensions. So roughly the nesting cavity is like 11 inches square by 23 inches tall. Lumber size used is one by planks, so 3/4 inch thick.
Keep in mind, we are not using flat board lumber here, but a roundy round oval shaped tree log. Not going to get into a big discussion about the AREA OF A CIRCLE (though I may break down and have a slice a booberry PI with my cuppa java before this is completed!), so choose yer log with the expectations that the two rounds used for the nest have to be bigger than a foot in diameter and around 23 inches long. Bigger width because the internal dimensions are fairly decent and you want more log wood thickness (Rick decided on 2 1/4 to 1 3/4 inches) around the inside than in a flat board nest. A decent sized log if intended for firewood...at least that's my figuring! We chose Spruce but I see that flat boards are suggested to be from cedar, cypress or redwood lumber. My nests are inside the Taj, so dunna needa worry about really bad conditions that will rot the woods we choose to use in this project. The tree stump nest sits atop the river sand base we have in place for the Taj's pen floor.
The log we chose to use was four feet long with a bottom circumference of 58 inches (rough dimensions across butt is 18 by 15 inches--did not use a ROUND log) and top circumference of 49 inches. So a circumference that decreased by 9 inches over four feet. We lost an inch of height overall because the log is made into four pieces--allowing for the chainsaw cut three times. Nest ends up being 47 inches tall with an entry hole that begins at the 31 inch mark.
Assembled nest; top piece is 10 inches tall, going down-next piece is 10 1/2 inches, 12 inches, and bottom piece of completed nest is 14 1/2 inches tall. The inside dimensions of nest ended up being 22 1/2 tall and roughly 15 1/2 to 16 inches in diameter; an adequate inside cavity area for the nesty hen and future escaping brood of ducklings.
Tools used were chainsaw, straight chisel, mallet, dunna forget the gloves, face shield, and hearing protection (WHAT? Waz that?). Don't be wearing the sandals (not even with socks...blick!) either, this is more a work booty kinda project. Reserve the open toed foot wear for the beach, eh? Not warm enough yet anyhoo.
You will also need a jig saw with wood blade and a drill with a bit sized bigger than your jig saw blade to drill a hole so you can use the jig saw to cut yerself an oval for the nest hole. You will be cutting an entry/exit hole in the side face of one of the rounds so the Mandarin hen may enter (and leave) the nest. Entry/exit hole dimensions are three inches high and four inches wide, a rough oval shape, OY!
Blade screw driver for whatever size the screws need on the two pipe clamps. Dunna use the chisel, might need it sharp for the next project, or you might need your fingers UNcut when (not if) it slips and takes out a chunk of yah. Add bandaids and a blood transfusion to the supply listing below if you are too impatient to bring along a slot screw driver or simply tool challenged.
One spruce log (4 feet) with bottom circumference of 58 inches tapering to 49 inches or there abouts...
Two pieces of hardware cloth that are 4 inches by 12 1/2 inches (one piece for inside, one piece for outside) so the hen and then the ducklings have something firm and grippy to use to get out (and for Mah to get in and out of the nest easily). Ensure you trim the sides nicely too, ragged edges have a tendency to rip its pounda flesh outta your fingers/arms over the years of emptying the soiled bedding/down from outta the nest cavity.
Drywall screws with washers that fit neatly over the head and make the screws wider for better holding capacity of the hardware cloth. Total of eight; I'd say bring a dozen but don't be losing drywall screws and washers IN Mandy pens...I think they call the consumption of metal by animals/birds, HARDWARE DISEASE, so keep track of your stuff. Leave only the nest behind...
What I consider to be TWO very long stainless steel screw clamps that are 55 1/2 inches long. These are what I refer to as "pipe clamps" but then, I'm a girl thinking pink and it may not be what boys thinking blue call them...so here's a picture to clarify the pink visions since the ones used on the project are not really very visible (sorta how we wanted it, more OH natural). I have taken a photo today that shows them but just to make sure we are on the same page...
Rick bucked the four foot log into four pieces. The thickest part, the bottom is 10 inches high, the second is 14 1/2 inches, the third is 12 inches long and the last piece, the top of the log is 10.5 inches. The 48 inch log becomes 47 inches from the three cuts with the chainsaw; 10 + 14.5 + 12 + 10.5.
Now as the tree grows, we are going to take the bottom and widest part of the log and use that for the nest top (yes, bare with me here), the next largest part of the log would be the bottom of the nest (yeh...2nd from bottom is bottom) and then the 3rd from the bottom and the 4th (the TOP) would then be the middle of the Mandarin nest. Got that...we are leaving the bottom for the top AND the next from the bottom as the bottom. So leave those two BOTTOM grown rounds alone! Can you HEAR me...leave the bottom and second from the bottom alone! No touchy, no cutty...LEAVE 'EM!
Rick then takes the top and 3rd from the bottom (or second from the top, whichever way you wanna look at it, same round) and will split both the rounds in half.
HY YAH!!! Round split neatly in half...
OK, in the real world, Rick is my hero but no Ninja...so he uses one of the chainsaws to cut them in half. Never EVER use the chainsaw over the head...
Gentlemen and Ladies (yes, all those rotary type cutty machine operating/inclined females of which I am not ONE!)...one of the more common Emergency Room excuses or tales often begins with the simple statement..."I was holding the chainsaw OVER my head when....."
Here Rick is cutting the top of the log in half. Note it is at waist level (not wasted abuse to yer back bending over trying to do a job that can be WAY more comfy) and this top (and smallest round) is sitting atop the next biggest round (3rd round from the bottom) on a quickly fabricated few chunks of waste wood. No sense dulling the chain on the saw or risking it BOUNCING up and greeting yer face. Do this safe peoples...we want you in one piece AND all the equipment in decent order after play time here. Hee hee....
Next after top round is split neatly in half WITH chainsaw....Rick makes several strategic cuts into the halved round so that he can remove the unwanted inside section out. He leaves about 1 3/4 to 2 inch thickness.
Now I don't particularly LIKE this manoeuvre too much because I see it as dangerous...the half is round!
Will it rock? Will it roll? Will it flip and cause all sorts of mayhem? I jest dunno...
Well I trust Rick to know what he is doing and capable of, so I bite my lip, take clicks, applaud when required, "go fer" as needed, and watch the magic. IF this is dangerous then please do it carefully or if you are not capable of doing it safely, maybe just chisel the pieces out instead of using the chainsaw to trim it out quicker. Slower is better especially if you have all your digits left in place AFTER the fact.
So what I don't know, usually lets me sleep better at night...so onwards we go on the project.
So now Rick begins to chisel out the inside of the round...straight grained and dry, the pieces come out nicely AND make great kindling...waste not, want not! He left the rounds with a thickness of 1 3/4 to 2 inches on the edges or rim.
Next, he does the same process to the other round (second round from the top of the original log).
In this pic you can see the finished top round and Rick working on the second from the top round.
Next, Rick removes the bark off the upper round. Dry wood and it was slippy, so we just removed it. Sure it could be left on if it was attached nicely, do whatever you like and what flows with the process.
Rick cuts the oval entry/exit hole in the center of the face of the top section of the nest. The hole (4 inches wide by 3 1/2 inches high) is in the ten and a half inch tall piece. Hole top is 2 inches from the top, (3 1/2 inch tall hole) and 5 inches from the bottom of the round.
Bottom of the hole ends up being 31 1/2 inches from the ground. Again our dimensions were 4 inches wide and 3 1/2 inches high. Bottom of the hole ends up being 31 1/2 inches from the ground and top of hole is twelve inches from the very top of the nest or 35 inches from the ground.
Assemble both halves in the non-holed round and place pipe clamp around (roughly in the middle of bottom one) and tighten.
Place the round with entry/exit hole like in the photo above. Fastened just under the nest hole (and helping to hold the two halves--bottom and top, together) the one piece of the hardware cloth on the INSIDE of the nesting cavity. Located the strip of hardware cloth just under the hole. Use four drywall screws with washers to fasten cloth in each corner to the wood face.
Now you can put the other side of the round together with the half that has the entry/exit hole. Use the pipe clamp to hold it all together. Clamp goes on the bottom 1/3 of the round, allowing for the hole not to be obstructed by the band of metal.
Now fasten the other piece of hardware cloth on the outside of the nest, just under the entry/exit hole See how the cloth lays OVER the band of clamp metal? Again use four drywall screws with washers, one in each corner of the hardware cloth as shown in the above photo.
There we be...Inspector dog girl Fixins...aka Vanna White...waggy tailed in approval.
"Yup, this will surely do for my duck a lucks. Nice job...is it lunch time or at least SECOND breakfast time?"
So after lunch, brunch, 2nd B, or whatever it was we stopped to do...
Put the top on the nest and took a click of it. Think Fixins ate too much, she is still laying down on the job thar..."GET UP...do your job dog...oh well."
So into the Taj Mahal goes the stump nest. There is a box nest already in there, but having two choices is always good for the ducks. Waterfowl hens are SUPER picky about their nests...real risks involved in nesting sites. You can almost lay a full clutch and WHAM...a predator pops by and cleans out your eggs or worst than even that... the HEN is on the nest and eggs & Mom get predated...not good.
So for whatever reasons, the hen chooses what she feels is THE nest of all nests to build a clutch and incubate her brood in.
For Woody or Mandy "natural tree nests," this has been discovered about the most successful nesting choice places:
- Close to fresh water is GREAT but never more than a mile from water.
- Bottom of nest is from 3 to 4 feet up to 15 to 20 feet high. Balancing act as low situated nests can be easier to predate, but the higher nests being safer but harder for us humans to install, inspect, and remove soiled nesting materials after the hatch from.
- Location of nesting hole should be visible from the nearest water, obstructions like branches and such should not obscure entry and exit of the nesting hole, AND morning sunlight (morning is when the duck hen will most likely be laying her eggs) should not shine where it lights up the interior of the nest cavity. The darker inside the nest, the better the hen feels about being safe and more positive that her nest is well hidden. Nests with holes that sunlight can shine in will also make a hen feel less favourable towards using. DARK interior is a SAFE nest!
The location we chose to put the stump nest was chosen because we already had a box nest in the pen. That nest's hole faces North.
See the Mommy Mandarin in the opposite pen coming out after depositing an egg in her chosen nest.
New Stump Nest located in pen.
With the stump nest in the pen...now the only thing to ponder...
Will them widdle girly Mandarin duckies LIKE the new nest...well will they?
I'd say YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Stump nest is met with full duck hen approval.
Doggone & Chicken UP!
Tara Lee Higgins
Higgins Rat Ranch Conservation Farm, Alberta, Canada