Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, kitchen, garden, and out fishing. Many of his DIY projects are featured in his yard.
Building the Barn Owls a Home
Barn owls are cavity-nesting birds, raising their young in the natural cavities of old trees, in abandoned woodpeckers holes or even on rocky outcroppings. They are common throughout their range and seen most often around farms, orchards and open fields. Barn owls can be found on every continent except Antarctica,
Barn owl populations are declining due to habitat loss and a lack of suitable nesting sites. Many of the older barns are being torn down, and today's airtight agricultural buildings do not provide the owls with the easy access to the hay lofts and other sheltered areas for nesting offered by the old barns and silos.
Barn owl nest boxes are often set up inside an open-air building such as a barn, shed or an abandoned building, but barn owls will also move into a nest boxes mounted to trees or poles in suitable open areas near fields, woodlands and orchards. If mounted indoors, it is very important that the owls have unrestricted access to the nesting box, flying in and out of the building as they please. Placing the nest box in areas away from human activity is also important for attracting barn owls, and encouraging them to raise their brood.
This barn owl nest box features a large opening for easy access. The entrance hole is raised above the nest box floor to help prevent the baby owlets from falling out and down to the ground -- a common problem for baby barn owls. A divider inside the entrance allows the adult barn owls inside, but restricts larger predators such as raccoons and opossums from entering the nesting box.The nesting box is designed for placement inside of a building or against the side of a tree or pole. The floor lifts out for easy cleaning or as an option, you can hinge the roof to lift open. You can also add a small, covered peephole to check on the nesting box residents.
How To Build A Barn Owl Nest Box
Assemble the Nesting Box
Since 16" wide pine boards are difficult to find (not to mention, very expensive), the front and back panels use two 7-1/4" wide boards (1 x 8), edge-glued together with weather-resistant glue. To create the entrance to the nesting box, refer to the Barn Owl Nesting Box Diagram (below) and position the two front panels side-by-side (part A).
Mark out the openings on to each of the front panel pieces, and then cut out the opening with a jigsaw. Smooth over the rough-cut edges with a rasp and sandpaper. When positioned in place as the front of the nest box, the oval entrance hole should measure 4 " high by 3 " wide.
Use weather-resistant screws or nails to attached one end of a front panel (part A) to the edge of one of the sides (part C), then secure the opposite end of the front panel to other side panel. Run a bead of water-resistant glue along the long edge of the front panel, add the second front panel piece and secure in place with weather-resistant screws or nails.
Repeat the assembly of the back panel (part b), forming a four-sided box measuring 24 inches long, 12 inches wide and 14-1/2 inches high.
Drop in the Floor and Pop on the Top
The plywood floor of the nest box rests on cleats that are secured to the inside, bottom edges of the front, back and side panels. The cleats securely hold the floor in place, yet make it easy to remove a floor section completely for cleaning.
Start by attaching a 24 inch long, 1" x 3/4" cleat along the inside, bottom edge of the front panel with a bead of glue and several short nails or screws. Repeat the process with another 24" long cleat along the inside, bottom edge of the back panel. Then, measure and fit the cleats along the inside, bottom of the two side panels.
Test fit the floor (part E), trimming as needed for a snug fit. The floor should drop into place, yet pop out easily when pushed up from underneath.
To accommodate the divider (part F) yet allow the removal of the nesting box bottom, it is important to cut the floor into two pieces, one 8" long for the entrance area, the other 16" long for the nesting area.
Position and secure the 8" floor section to the front, back and side cleats in the entrance area of the nesting box. Then, attach the divider (part F) to the inside of the front panel, creating an entrance area with an opening into the nesting area.
Fit the 16" section of the floor to the nesting area, but do not secure the floor section to the supporting cleats. To prevent predators from popping up through the floor, carefully measure and then drive a few well-placed screws through the front panel and into the edge of the plywood floor section. Drive another well-placed screw through the side panel, securing the floor in place. When it is time for the annual cleaning, simply back out the screws and remove the floor.
Secure the roof in place with several more screws, positioning the roof so that it overhangs the nesting box evenly on all side. As an option, attach the roof to the back panel with a pair of small hinges, allowing easy access to the nest box by lifting the lid.
Barn Owl Nest Box Plans
Hanging the Nest Box
Proper placement is critical to encouraging the owls to move into a new nesting box. Mount the nest box inside the open-air building as high as possible, away from disturbances and out of the reach of predators. The nest box entrance should face towards the inside of the building (not towards a wall) so that an owl flying into the building to investigate can see the nest box opening. After all, an owl has to find the nesting box before it can use it to raise its young.
Add a thick layer of pine shavings to the nest box. Owls do not bring nesting materials to their nests, and will use the 1" to 2" deep layer of pine shavings for laying their eggs. The thick layer of shavings stops the eggs from rolling around the nesting box and helps to protect the eggs during incubation. Do not use fine sawdust or cedar shavings, which can cause respiratory problems for the young owlets.
Don't get discouraged if a barn owl doesn't move into your new nesting box right away. It can take a year or more before an owl finds the new nesting box and calls it home to raise a family.
Barn Owl Facts
Did You Know?
- Barn owls are the most widely distributed species of owl and they are found across Europe, North America and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. They can live up to ten years (longer in captivity), though the average life span is less than five years in the wild.
- Depending on the sub-species, a barn owl's wingspan can exceed 40 inches across.
- Female barn owls typically lay clutches of five to seven eggs, which hatch after 30 to 34 days.
- Baby owls are called owlets.
- Barn owls are nocturnal hunters with excellent vision in low light, preying on mice and other small rodents. They have exceptional hearing, and can locate a mouse using sound. Small prey is swallowed whole, while larger meals are torn into smaller pieces.
- Owls expel two or more 'owl pellets' each day, consisting of indigestible bits of bone, teeth and fur. Even if you do not see or hear the owls, finding a pile of owl pellets is a good indication that the nest box is occupied.
- A family of owls can capture and eat over 1,000 rodents during the nesting season.
A Few Favorite Owl Links
- The Barn Owl Trust
Conserving the Barn Owl and its environment
- The Owl Pages
Owls have always fascinated man. To some cultures they are symbols of wisdom, while to others they are harbingers of doom. Here, The Owl Pages sheds some light on these mysterious creatures...
- The World Owl Trust
Leading the world in Owl Conservation
- The Barn Owl Centre of Gloucestershire
A Centre dedicated to community education, conservation and welfare of Owls and other birds
- Conservation Northwest: The Northern Spotted Owl
An Icon of the Old Growth Forest: Perhaps no other animal in the Northwest symbolizes both the plight and the fecundity of old-growth forests better than the northern spotted owl.
- Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC
A site dedicated to re-establishing a healthy population of Burrowing owls.
- Threats to Owls: About.com / Wild Birding
Owls face many serious threats, however, and birders who are aware of those hazards can take appropriate steps to help create a more owl-friendly world.
- National Wildlife Federation: Barn Owl
An excerpt from: National Widlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America
- The Hawk and Owl Trust
The Hawk and Owl Trust is a national UK charity that is dedicated to conserving owls and other birds of prey in the wild - and increasing knowledge and understanding of them.
Feisty Baby Barn Owls
Vacancy: Owls Wanted
© 2012 Anthony Altorenna
Tell Us About the Owls in Your Neck of the Woods
Krisdunphy on September 26, 2019:
I live in Alaska. & we have many different types of owls here. But i have only seen one type last winter.
RTalloni on March 13, 2017:
Oh how I want to make these! We need owls in our neighborhood. We need as many as the area can handle. We NEED owls and this is now on my to do list.
anonymous on January 14, 2013:
"Owls Wanted", I like that and once again Anthony you have created excellence....not only in your DIY but all the information you supply on Barn Owls along the way. I love how you explain the special nest box features and how they benefit the birds....sure wouldn't want the little ones tumbling out. The secondary entrance to block predators is such a great idea. I didn't know Barn Owls are protected but then I couldn't imagine anyone harming this beautiful bird. I can understand how they can be killed by cars, one of my childhood memories is one we say almost hit our windshield one night. Fortunately Dad was going slow and the Barn Owl was able to veer off just in time....that was my closest view of one, it was majestice!