What better way to spend New Years Day than to build and install a Barn Owl Box. Barn Owls are a very effective predator of Mice and Voles. And for people with young trees, Voles are a big problem. They love to eat the roots of young trees and can kill them if not kept in check.
Currently, I have a nice pair of Red Shouldered Hawks who are spending at least part of their day in my pecan orchard. If their percentages are very good, they are catching lots of something. They are very active and make several attempts every hour they are there.
So they are the day crew. We have other Owls in the neighborhood. Great Horned, Barred and Screech owls are common here and I am sure they are all working the night shift in the orchard. They all tend to hunt in the woods or along the edges and while my trees are beginning to provide some habitat they would like, the orchard is still a little too open.
Barn Owls hunt more open areas and the aisles between the rows of trees might just be what they are looking for. But, to have Barn Owls, you need a nesting or roosting place for them. Large hollow trees were their home once but those are harder to find now. Now, they are more commonly using abandoned buildings or isolated barns. Though these offer good roosting habitat, most are lacking in nesting habitat. They need a dry secure place to nest where predators cannot get the young owlets.
Barn Owls are an International Owl. They are found on every continent except Antarctica. And though they are found almost everywhere, they are not common anywhere. The lack of good nesting places makes them quite uncommon. So today, I decided to make a secure nesting place for any Barn Owls who might find their way into my valley
So, what does a Barn Owl need? A large box. Mine is 36″ long, 22″ deep and 24″ tall with a 6″x6″ entrance hole up near the top on one end. It is made from some used plywood I had from another project and I put a few inches of cedar shavings on the floor. They need such a big box to house their potentially large family. They can have up to 6 young per brood. The eggs hatch in the order they were laid so, young owls may be three weeks apart in age in the same nest. Six young owls and two parent will really fill the box. After incubation, the parent will spend most of their time catching mice and voles to feed the young. Each owlet will consume several mice per day as they rapidly grow to fledgling size. They will begin to leave the nest 10 weeks after hatching.
The parent owls will continue to use the nest to roost after the young have fledged continuing to reduce the mouse and vole population. Here is a link to the plans I based my box on Nest Box.