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Our Owl Nesting Box is the result of a unique partnership between RCD and Willows High School Woodshop students / Future Farmers of America. Another project in RCD Connects with Kids! Local students have carefully constructed our Owl Nesting Box. By purchasing and installing one of our Owl Nesting Boxes, we may, together, promote owl populations for the benefit of our natural resources and your operation, or home, while providing an educational opportunity for students to learn how to handcraft a nesting box. Students learn how to read design specifications, build a product, perform Quality Control using a specialized form for this product, as well as earn some money while doing so!
The Barn Owl is one of our best kept secrets for natural resources! The benefits of owls go far and beyond what we know today and this is why our Owl Nesting Box is our most sought after product. Barn Owls are permanent residents and may nest at any season. Their clutch of five to ten white eggs will produce a varying number of young, depending on availability of prey. Incubation requires three weeks. The young, which vary in size due to their hatching dates, fly at about seven weeks of age. Barn Owls often nest in the same site repeatedly!
Barn Owls are considered to be our most beneficial owl, owing to their appetite for animal pests. For example, one Barn Owl was observed delivering 16 mice, 3 gophers, a rat and a squirrel to a nest within 25 minutes. The Barn Owl is also found worldwide, nesting almost totally in buildings in the Old World and in hollow trees and burrows in much of the western United States. Throughout much of its range, the Barn Owl’s numbers are thought to be limited by the availability of suitable nesting sites. Therefore, your interest in purchasing and installing our Owl Nesting Box may increase this necessary habitat to grow populations of this important predator.
- A single pair of barn owls may consume up to 2,000 rodents a year. When feeding babies that number drastically increases!
- They are much safer than rat poison.
- Barn owls do not attack large mammals… so they leave people alone.
- Their talons and beaks are especially suited to capture and kill their prey, which is small pest-sized mammals including rats and gophers.
Several options are given below for installing your owl box. Some research suggests that barn owls prefer to nest in buildings, so if this is your location of choice, boxes should be installed high enough to lessen human disturbance and the dangers of predation from snakes, raccoons and cats.
The most productive site for an owl box is where owls have been seen. Due to the species’ rarity, the possibility of attracting them in other areas is remote but worth a try. The best localities are rural. Areas where there are open grasslands and crop fields and where grain spillage results in high mouse populations are especially suitable for nesting owls. An important note to remember is vehicles (large trucks and trains) are the number one killer of owls since the flight path of owls is low. Therefore, box placement should not be near busy roads or train tracks that have significant night-time traffic.
Three common mountings are flat surfaces (buildings or rectangular wooden poles), large trees, or metal poles. As discussed below, metal poles have advantages in reducing predation. If the box is to be mounted on a surface which will extend above the top of the owl box, such as a building, a power pole, or a tree, you need to ensure that the operation of the top door is unimpeded by friction with the surface. This can be done either by trimming ¼” off the side of the top door or by using spacers or backing boards to increase the box’s distance from the mounting surface. The use of spacers may also be necessary to level the box.
Metal poles offer an advantage in predator control. Although raccoons can climb metal poles, their access can be minimized by using a piece of stove pipe as a predator guard. Use a 24” length of stove pipe with a diameter of 8”. Place the stove pipe around the mounting pole; attach it loosely with wires to the bottom of the box. The bottom of the stove pipe is unconnected, and this wobbly structure restricts the upward mobility of raccoons. When mounting on metal pipe, pipe clamps (pipe grip ties) can be used.
A significant finding by Steve Simmons, the designer of our box, is that he experienced success with mounting the boxes such that the top of the box is as low as 8’ above the ground. This finding is in marked contrast with many reports suggesting mounting heights of 12’ to 20’. Simmons mounts most of his owl boxes on a 2” diameter steel pipe about 10’ long. The pole is set in concrete with about 8’ extending above the ground. Mounting at this height affords rather simple access to the box using an 8’ orchard ladder. If the box needs to be mounted out of harm’s way (perhaps to prevent disturbance of the box in public areas), then it can be mounted 11’ or 12’ high.
As noted earlier, mounting the box on a barn or other building is a possibility, but there is evidence that given a choice owls prefer the sites with the least human activity. Barn owls will nest in boxes mounted on a tree, but a clear approach path to the box is needed.
Whatever method is used, remember that human access to the box is needed to monitor it often and to clean it out once a year. Before mounting, remember to add a ¾” layer of wood chips or wood mulch to the bottom of the box. Owls bring in no nest material, so the chips prevent the eggs from rolling around. Also remember that the box should be level when mounted.
The Owl Nesting Box we offer was developed by Steve Simmons of Merced, California, and has been in extensive use since 1995 in the region near Merced in the northern end of the Central Valley of California.
Simmons’ Barn Owl Nesting Box has many advantages. It provides optimized protection from predators such as Great Horned Owls and raccoons. This is achieved by use of an ellipse-based entrance hole of unique shape and size and by an interior divider that separates the box into two compartments. The divider provides a safe living area away from the entrance. Should a predator gain access to the entrance hole, it is unlikely that it will fit completely through the hole, and the divider further prevents the predator from reaching around the divider to access the occupants. Additionally, the placement of the entrance hole is such that younger owlets who congregate near the hole waiting to be fed will not be pushed out of the box by older and larger siblings lunging for food from behind.
The design omits perches or platforms in front of the entrance hole which would enable predators to perch during their attempt to snatch the box’s occupants. Owlets likewise cannot perch outside the box and thus be exposed to predation. Grooves (grip grooves) below the entrance hole assist adults entering the box. The design includes two doors: an end clean-out door and a top door which provides access to the interior during clean-out and monitoring activities. The box weighs about 23 lbs, much less than most other owl boxes to make for easier mounting.
The box will provide many years of use without painting. If the decision is made to paint the box, apply either a white exterior latex based paint or a linseed oil finish. Apply paint or linseed oil to the exterior of the box only.