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Higgins' Taj Mahal for Aix galericulata (Mandarin Ducks) ~ Mega Photos!!!

Discussion in 'Ornamental Fowl (Swans, etc.)' started by CanuckBock, Feb 21, 2014.

  1. CanuckBock

    CanuckBock THE Village Ijit

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    Oct 25, 2013
    Alberta, Canada
    My Coop
    Heel low:

    My spouse and I have over 90 years in poultry, canines and livestock; lifetimes of fun stuff, married with birds. My hero builds me the buildings which I put critters in. I have over 30 outbuildings, so I guess I have had my work cut out for me all these year in filling 'em up. Such a tedious job, eh? [​IMG]

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    de Coop fer Sure - summer 2008


    I could start at the beginning of the buildings, de Coop fur Sure but I think I will start with the last building he has made us...the Taj Mahal. Yes, by its name it was to be the last one, shining in all its white glory; for my Mandarin Ducks but someone (not me!) had to have Ruddy Shelducks too...so I suppose we are not done like dinner yet in the critter creations. No matter...I will show the building from start to finish for the Mandies.

    My hero doodles on graph paper. He will in the very early mornings, begin putting his ideas to paper. Plan everything out in great detail and then, tada, begin to build. You will note a bird feeder in some of the photos...I told him it needed a chimney...and he walked over to a scratch pad and drew like lightening..."like this?" and I said "Yah" and over to the miter saw to zip zip, zap and there was the crooked chimney to make me laugh--some 25 years later I am still laughing at the chimney every time I see it. [​IMG]

    He is a cabinet maker...so not just a carpenter but makes wooden furniture with box end joints and dovetails...sometimes I even get to add my bits, glass cream etching and stain glass (our first joint project was a lil' porch light with pink rose stain glass displayed inside scroll sawn wooden case which now hangs in the man porch). I love seeing his projects go from an inkling to a structure...then to add the animated living beings, completely delish!


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    Duck barn in middle of photo - 16' by 32'

    So I had asked him to come up with an idea for the Mandies that I had residing in my duck barn. The bevy was growing and we would be importing more ducks to have unrelateds to match up with the new additions we had hatching out and growing up. We don't inbreed the wild ones here.


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    Mandarins bunked out in Duck Barn ​


    I wanted something for the Mandarins that we would place in a less used area...to keep them happy, not bothered too much by constant riff raff of activities. We chose to place them off to the side of the yard. Nestled up amongst the forested side of our property. A place where we could turn our chairs from the view of the waterfall and pond to see them completely at ease and in happy oblivion of the peeping toms watching their every flit, preen and flight.

    Of course it had to be secure...very secure...the teeny tiny size of the Mandarin hatchlings; oh my they are small and quick, zippy and widdle...so their home HAS to be secure and yet allow us to see the duckies at their leisures. We use hardware cloth here pretty much exclusive for the birds; excellent protection and yet fully visible, acting as a soft barrier if hit by a bird. Chicken wire is a huge disappointment, not even good at keeping chickens in let alone the bazillion predators we reside with here in the Alberta Rocky Mountain foothills. If you can think of a North American predator (varmits like weasels & skunks, winged raptors-diurnal & nocturnal, 'yotes, grizzly, and [email protected]), can bet that we have them. Now that does not mean the wild Wood Ducks never thrived here...for on our property is an abandoned wood duck tree.


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    Wood Duck tree on our Property - Rotted out, no "roof" left!​

    We like to live in harmony with Nature, so best plans are a great barrier defence...so it is a given the home would be secure and yet not obvious it is a containment area...may the force fields be invisible...ha ha ha!

    So from his drawings, began the glorious beginnings of the Taj Mahal. The design was unique! No other bird building here quite resembles it and my spouse wanted it to be challenging but do able. Since Mandarin Ducks have a very oriental flavour, my request was for a Oriental theme...not Chinese or Japanese, not quite proper but slightly influenced with a "rice paper wall" and accents that would make one reminisce but not in your face to over power the real reason for the structure...to serve the bird's needs and still allow us to SEE them going about their lives.

    Now contrary to the old saying "you build the barn and then paint it," we here build the barn, deconstruct it, paint it and then put it all back together again. Works wonderful to protect the building...all surfaces are covered and protected. Sure a little more work but a good investment. We will never have to mess with the project again in our life times. Build to last and not have to be revisited over and again...tedious work having to do maintenance when you should built it right, right from the beginnings. Funny thing is, I do the same when creating a new colour variety. I will go outside the strain, capture the colour genetics I am striving for and then breed back to get the shape and form I most desire. It is easy peasy to capture the colour genetics, we have enough information at this day and age to know a lot more about the inheritance of the colour pattern, far more than the genetics for shape, longevity, disease resistance, temperament, vigour and production. One can easily grab the colour tints for the new variety in three generations and then spend the rest of our lives in pursuit of perfection within all the other things that can and do go wrong (or right!).

    So it was a given that Rick would build the building for the Mandarins, out on the driveway in front of the house. Nice level gravel pad to erect the structure. Then he would tear her all down, paint her up and affix the hardware cloth on the sides...do the doors up and then move ALL them pieces and sections to the building's final location and put her back up in her final destination.

    What fun to be had.

    He's the head honcho on the building project but my part is to say, "enough already, time to EAT!" He'll work himself into the jitters on a project...so it is my say to say, ENOUGH and that is when we have snacks, coffees, digest the progress and take the photos. Yup, for if we had it his way, the structure would be completed sitting there and not a single pic taken of the journey, just the destination. So, keep in mind, each photo posted usually had the background sounds of complaints about slowing down the building progression but usually it was just sounds of stuffing of gobs and slurping of java...some distracted noises to the ongoing CLICKS of me making the most of the moments before I blinked and he had her finished. Oh yes, and tossed toy for the dawgs. Most important when not holding tools or structures, to hold toys and toss them. I also hold the dumb end, I run for the "drywall stretchers" and "sky hooks." I know the dif between a 1909 Robertson and 1935 patented Phillips but still can't quite figure out what's with the left handed crescent wrench past it rotates the other way?...

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    So here we go...the sequences of making the Taj for the Mandarin Ducks.



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    So here is the beginnings of the Taj

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    Framed up on the driveway.

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    Looks like a building, eh?

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    The cross pieces are meant to resemble Japanese structures, like rice paper walls...here Rick is showing me how the semi transparent tenplast will look in front of the building (used to keep snow and rain, wind and weather outta the building--especially in winter)


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    So the roof of the structure is the most fantastical part...the oval tops, like a dome...very kewl. Rick had the vision of it long before I "got" where this was all going.

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    When the two sections for the roof were made, I finally was on the same page as he was..."Ah Ha! I get it...neato!"

    Then the destruct, the take it all apart and paint her up began. Was almost sinful to see him pull it all apart but I knew it would be for the best...


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    Coat her up good with flat latex for the white, oil stain for the red.


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    The structure was painted and then hardware cloth was affixed to it.

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    Piece by completed piece...the sections were done and moved nearer to the location where the building was going.


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    Pile of pieces grew.


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    And soon, there were more pieces in ready for the final construction than pieces left to paint or stain. YAH!


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    Then out came the handy dandy tractor...to begin the site preparation so the pieces could be all put back together.


    Drainage is always an issue with birds, and especially with waterfowl...so the beginnings were to remove dirt, down to the clay and then buckets of gravel and then river sand. My job helping on the end of a rake and shovel sped up the work and before you could blink...she was ready for the building to begin...yee haw!


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    Ah to look at her now...this photo where she seems to be nothing at all but promising...I see now only that Taj building...how we forget it once was an empty space...no sound of whistles and phhht's...ha ha ha...


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    Having had her all made and then taken apart, painted/stained and then some of the hardware cloth put back on the sections...well she was some QUICK to put up...there's the sand inside there and I can hear Rick saying, "Lay into that shovel Tara! I got walls to put up and your big butt's in the way..." HEY HEY! [​IMG]


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    See...he did not wait on me either...that's boxed in sides around a pile of sand...grrr....


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    You know it's plumb serious when you got the TWO ladders out and in use...


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    Thank heavens...the dang it all dawg crew showed up and broke up all the serious work bee...that's ol' girl dog Makins in the middle chewing off bushes..."Stop that...stop it....we got it all cleared now for building on...stop it!" [​IMG]


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    I am truly not sure how the Taj would have ever gotten built without that tractor...so handy and so not sure how the roof sections coulda been lifted up (tie birds to it and ask them to FLAP?) ...no matter, that tractor was a real helper fer sure!



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    Roof's on, sections sliding together...almost like he had a plan, eh? [​IMG]

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    Now for the hardware cloth to be wired on the roof. Completely enclosed...no chance that even baseball hail damage will make the roof an exit spot for them Mandies...wired and tenplasted over. Safe and secure!


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    On goes the tenplast over the wire on the roof...so close so close....


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    During the seasons...open for nice weather and closed up tight for winter prep.

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    Inside are the two box nests and the one tree stump nest. Do they work...well, let's see...here's some proof...lookit those webbers, on a mission...going all sorts of places! That brood.


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    From the baby ducks to...



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    The adults...perched like tree ducks do...

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    Even pool side.

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    All seem very happy....very...ever so happy...with the Taj Mahal. [​IMG]


    All happy except the dawgs...time to go throw toys...enough on the duck ducks...dog dog play time.. [​IMG]


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    "Toss the toy...TOSS IT!" ​


    Doggone & Chicken UP!

    Tara Lee Higgins
    Higgins Rat Ranch Conservation Farm, Alberta, Canada
     
  2. chicken-herder

    chicken-herder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 15, 2014
    Cape Town, South Africa
    Wow, you are a lucky lady and just beautiful animal companions :yiipchick
     
  3. CanuckBock

    CanuckBock THE Village Ijit

    1,343
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    Oct 25, 2013
    Alberta, Canada
    My Coop
    Thank you...

    Because the Mandarins are timid by nature, we really do enjoy being able to "not disturb" them too much and yet be able to observe them through the large open fronts; taken off when the weather is nicer.

    We will be permanently installing cameras in the house. We had one set up this summer and were amazed at just how active they are at dawn and dusk feeding. They are suppose to be a nocturnal duck and we would have to agree on that! They all seem to like to top up before and after the night.

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    I often get to see them eating their watermelon slices though...right after I put them in, the drakes cannot help themselves. The males are molting right now and the colour pigments in the melon (carotenoids) really help them express the best feather colours. Sorta the reason why Flamingos that eat lots of shrimp have nice PINK plumage. [​IMG]


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    This is a watermelon rind (a "pelt") left over after the ducks have ATTACKED. Makes me grin every time...those little roundy bills make short work of it. Like billed piranha! [​IMG]

    Remind me never to fall down in one of the pens...

    Doggone & Chicken UP!

    Tara Lee Higgins
    Higgins Rat Ranch Conservation Farm, Alberta, Canada
     
  4. chicken-herder

    chicken-herder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 15, 2014
    Cape Town, South Africa
    They are really beautiful! Here in Cape Town, South Africa it has been really hot lately- my Sussex Lights have also been tucking into the watermelon! :yiipchick They love it! Here are some picks of my coop, I had to make it myself as my man does not like woodwork, but I had loads of fun doing it! [​IMG]
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  5. CanuckBock

    CanuckBock THE Village Ijit

    1,343
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    Oct 25, 2013
    Alberta, Canada
    My Coop
    Absolutely gorgeous design and construct. Hats off to your handiness and thank you for sharing photos!

    I am a waster of good building materials (Homer Simpson builds better bird houses than I do!) and am banished from painting (admittedly, I get more paint on me than the project!)...but I can turn out a good crop of birds each season! [​IMG]

    Very inspiring and luxurious. Nice job indeed! I luv the little accents and scroll work. [​IMG]

    Devine and now I get to say YOU are lucky to have such talents

    Tara
     
  6. chicken-herder

    chicken-herder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 15, 2014
    Cape Town, South Africa
    Dear Tara, (you are going to laugh my name is Cara) Thanks you for the kind words :weee I am new at chicken rearing- only have 3 little guys but I am going to take on more projects with time and hopefully one day I will have my own chicken Taj Mahal! Your setup is just fantastic- both beautiful and professional and most importantly your birds look super healthy and relaxed in such a nice environment. Your husband is a craftsman of note! My regards to your fabulous flock and your super sweet looking dog! Cara
     
  7. 3BirdGirlz

    3BirdGirlz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 18, 2013
    Montana
    You have an amazing place and story! It's nice when husbands support and spoil their wives:)
     
  8. CanuckBock

    CanuckBock THE Village Ijit

    1,343
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    Oct 25, 2013
    Alberta, Canada
    My Coop
    Heel low:
    Thank you.

    It works both ways in marriage regarding supporting each other...I have my "ducks" (amongst others) and he has his "trucks." We like to see each other happy and you gotta Iaugh because we both enable each other. Not such a smart thing if we are suppose to be behaving now? Nobody to put the full stop on things. Dangerous predicament... [​IMG]


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    I like hunting for vintage vehicle "bring out yer junk, & watch us buy it" parts, so it's all an adventure for the both of us. I usually find as many new old parts to buy as he does, by sheer luck though. I do the technical crap, the more tedious things like keeping track of the measurements, contacting leads with followups, and typing out the boring stuff...he knows the mechanic's aspect which always blows my mind. I can take things apart just fine, putting them back together...ha ha ha!

    I break it, he fixes it...great team, eh?

    It all works. Last 1936 Chev Maple Leaf (we have six...basically you need three to make one good one when they are THAT old), I made him go get because I have visions of us rigging out two units to run and then blocking traffic, racing each other to town to see who buys the ice cream cones...him or I. Flat out at 50 and annoying the rest of the world. My partner in crime causing chaos. [​IMG]

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    Here are three of the six we own...the other three, my Blue which is now under cover as is his White (will be repainted to original red with black belt as per the paint codes) and we have one that is a bonafied "parts" truck that needs to be taken apart...taking it apart sounds like a job I could tackle...bwa ha ha...maybe not?


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    Here's mine...powder coated the rims navy blue (as per the original colour--some left on the door panel to match the shade with) and swanky new rubber all round. Six wheels, so was a fair chunk of change to outfit her in tires. She came from one family, original owners. Nicely cared for.


    As I said, we enable each other...went to an auction on Father's Day some years back and only encouraged him to buy a '28 one ton Chev that was in the movie Bye Bye Blues...next thing I know, we have two and a few more as parts trucks. Make up excuses like it's "for his birthday" and rip down to Southern Alberta and trailer one chassis home.


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    This second one (pictured above with old girl Makins) is just as good as the first...so another two we can do up and race to town...only these ones I expect won't even make it to fifty...ha ha ha...wooden wheels (never dreamed we'd have trucks with wooden wheels) and bakelite (basically plastic resin) which was the new thing--all the rage in 1928, so the dash knobs are that (a stinky plastic--woo...what's wrong with chrome??)...I'm old but maybe not that old...

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    So my spouse, he likes the dependents and wants everyone "happy/happy!" so it seems to work. What's that saying, "if Mom's happy, everyone's happy?" and since happiness is right behind your eyes...I think we're living the dream pretty well. A little outta control, but when is giddy bad on the funny farm?

    Glad to amuse y'all!

    Doggone & Chicken UP!

    Tara Lee Higgins
    Higgins Rat Ranch Conservation Farm, Alberta, Canada
     
  9. 3BirdGirlz

    3BirdGirlz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 18, 2013
    Montana
    It's wonderful you and him! Me and mine are going on a wee 14 yrs of marriage....but he's my best friend and helps my addictions too :)
    He's from the city and I'm not (mine are ranchers, farmers, and my dad changed careers when I was a kid to become an airplane mechanic and pilot). My family has helped teach him over the years and now he can fix just about anything. He is learning all the animal stuff right along with our girls. As I teach them he learns too. My girls are in 4H now, so this past year we've really gotten some nice birds for showing. We raised a colt from birth and my husband says that is his horse. I'm glad he got to raise him from the ground up...or did the colt raise my husband? ;)
    We love our life on our piece of heaven. Looking forward to as many years together as you guys!
     
  10. chicken-herder

    chicken-herder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 15, 2014
    Cape Town, South Africa
    Wow, those trucks are gorgeous and little Makins too! Happy trails- you sound like a great- if a bit naughty (all that drag racing ;) ) team! All the best :) C
     

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