Your fields and gardens are under constant threat from rodents and other pests. Rodents are very resilient, and can quickly grow in number if they have enough food. Most people use poisons. However, they’re not very effective and they also pose a threat to other farm animals that might eat them.
Attracting a barn owl to live on your property could be a much better solution than other commercially available products or services. Owls love to eat small rodents such as mice, rats, voles and even moles. When they are nesting and preparing to incubate the eggs, they kill just about anything they can get their claws on. The best part is that they don’t build their own nests. They usually use man-made boxes or natural crevices to roost and nest.
You can find barn owls in North America throughout the year. They usually nest during spring; however there are many exceptions that nest during the year. On average, females lay six eggs per nest. They guard the eggs until they hatch and spend most of the first three months with the newly hatched baby owls. In this time, the male is responsible for gathering food. A brood will usually need around 60-70 pounds of prey during its first three months, which add up to a lot of mice and other small rodents.
Building and mounting the nesting box
Owls need a lot of room for nesting. It would work quicker if you manage to build a larger box. The most important part is the size of the opening. It needs to be big enough so they can see it, but small enough to offer adequate protection against predators. You can easily make an appropriate nesting box from a single sheet of 4X8 ft., ½ in. plywood and the appropriate tools.
Cut the sheet into:
-four sides of 22X18 in.
-a top and bottom of 22×23 in. each
It doesn’t really matter what you use to cut the sheet as long as you get the measures right. In addition to the plywood, you’ll need some nails and glue.
Drill a few drain holes on the bottom sheet.
Pick a side and cut a 4×5 in. opening along its top edge. This will make access easier, while still protecting from predators.
Glue the side pieces together, then the top and bottom. Use nails to make the box more solid. Make sure that you place a layer of wood shavings or something similar in the box. The owls will use it as nesting material.
You can nail the back of the box directly to a wall or use some bent metal straps. Just make sure it will be able to hold between 8 and 12 pounds of weight.
Placing the nesting box
Barn owls prefer to roost in remote, abandoned buildings. The type or location of the building is not important, as long as it’s not frequently disturbed by human activity. If you want to test the idea, place a box on a tree or the exterior of a building. Make sure it’s shielded from prevailing winds and that the owls will have enough room. When setting up a nesting box, make sure that you keep in mind the following factors:
Make sure that your property, or the property which you chose for nesting, is clear of any pest control poison. Also, check with your neighbors to make sure they’re not using any either. You should tell them about your idea to attract owls in the neighborhood. They might help since it would greatly benefit everybody, making pest control cheaper, safer and more efficient.
The traffic in your area is a very important safety concern for your owls. In order to hunt and roost, they need to soar closer to the ground. Placing the nesting box in the wrong place, or facing a busy road will put the owl in danger of getting hit by passing vehicles.
Owls can be very noisy. They might disturb your sleep with their screeching and hooting. Make sure you don’t place the nest too close to where people are sleeping.
Owls need meadows or fields nearby in order to hunt. It would be much easier for you to attract an owl if you place the nest closer to such hunting grounds.
In order to protect the baby owls from raccoons and other predators, owls pick a nest between 8 and 12 feet from the ground. Make sure that you don’t place the nest too high as they might miss it.
#6 Visibility of opening
All an owl needs to get into a building is a 3X3 in. opening. However, they need to see the way into the building before going in. Having an entrance that faces fields will determine the owl to enter the building.
#7 Ease of access
When you pick a spot for the nest, make sure you can still access it afterwards. You’ll want to clean it annually and be able to check on the owl family every now and then. Make sure you can do so without disturbing them.
Since barn owls are rare, you might attract a different type of owl. It doesn’t matter that much, since most owls have similar eating habits and preferences. Right now would be a great time to test the idea, as it won’t be long before spring is here. Get rid of chemical poisons and other more expensive and inefficient means of controlling pests. It will take a little to get used to having some owls around your property, especially at night when they’re most active, but it will certainly be worth your while.
Have you ever encountered an owl? Did you ever see an owl hunt? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.