Owls are beautiful creatures and we’d sure love to have one nesting in our yard, but can we put up an owl box to encourage them to move in?
You are allowed to put an owl box up in your garden, provided there are no homeowners’ association rules that say you can’t. If you live in a rental property and want to put an owl box in your yard, then you should get permission from your landlord first.
Let’s dive down into the subject of putting up owl boxes in more detail, and discover whether we’re allowed to put one up, where they should be located, how big they should be, and how to do it.
This should be a hoot! (Editor: easy on the bad puns please!)…
Am I Allowed To Put An Owl Box In My Yard?
Yes, you can put an owl box in your yard, and many people really appreciate sharing their garden with these nocturnal residents.
Why would you want to encourage owls to take up residence? Well, if you’re looking for a natural way to keep down a rodent population, an owl is the perfect solution. Provided they have a safe and comfy home, like an owl box, and a reliable source of prey, an owl will happily share your yard for years.
If your house falls under homeowners’ association rules or you live in a rental property, you may need permission before attaching an owl box to a structure or installing a box on a tall post.
Where Should I Put An Owl Box In The Garden?
Owls like seclusion and darkness, so the patio is not the place! The best location is away from the home and any lighting, so the bottom of the garden is a favorite place.
Owls prefer dense, more mature trees for shade and shelter. Bare branches are good for roosting, and dead trees make perfect nesting sites.
Owls need darkness, so make sure that your chosen area isn’t illuminated by security lights, your house lights, or the neighbors’ homes. Again, the farthest corner of your yard can be a good spot.
This feels counter-intuitive if you’re trying to keep down the local rodent population, but make your designated owl zone as mouse-friendly as you can bear. Keep the grass long and encourage leaf litter.
Owls don’t drink much as they get most of the liquid they need from chowing down on juicy mice (nice). However, in a warmer climate or in the summer, they will appreciate some water for a top-up drink or a refreshing bath. A birdbath in a secluded spot can help to attract owls.
Having chosen the area, you then need to decide how to fix it. This could be to the side of an outhouse (or even inside an old building, provided there’s easy access for the owl), or attached to a tree. If you don’t have a suitable place already, you can fix an owl box to a tall post: just remember that most owls like to be at least ten feet off the ground when they’re roosting.
Which Way Should My Owl Box Face?
Owls seem to prefer facing east: the sun warms the nest gently in the morning, but doesn’t get too hot in the heat of the day. For this reason, never position an owl box facing south.
Make sure the box won’t be buffeted by the prevailing winds, although some commercially available owl boxes do have rain guards to protect the opening from the worst of the weather. Hopefully, you’ve also chosen a nice, sheltered spot anyway, so the owl has a nice, secluded home.
Useful tip: when you’re trying to attract an owl to your bird box, make sure the potential new resident can see it. An owl seeking a home will be looking out for gaping holes in trees, and needs to be able to spot the box.
How Big Should My Owl Box Be?
Well, this depends on how big the owls are! Let’s take the barn owl as a useful medium-sized owl. If you want to attract a potential mated pair, a 38” x 38” x 12” owl box should be big enough for the pair and their young.
Not sure which species of owls live in your area? Here’s a guide to the types of owls that live in the United States. That should give you an idea of the size of owl you’re most likely to attract.
You can buy some excellent ready-made owl boxes, or you could have a go at building your own. If you’re thinking of going down the DIY route, take a look at this film by Doug Linker, which takes you through how to build and install an owl box.
How Do I Keep Squirrels Out Of My Owl Box?
Squirrels and cute and appealing little animals, but when it comes to bird boxes and bird feeders, theft can be real pests. They love to take up residence in a vacant owl box, making it harder for you to attract owls.
There’s no easy way to deter squirrels, unfortunately. The main method that seems to work is being vigilant, looking into the box daily, and acting immediately if you see a squirrel checking out the box.
If you have an owl box camera set up, ready to capture any future baby owls, this will make your job easier. But what do you do when you spot a sneaky squirrel starting to make itself at home? You’ll need to scare it away by making a noise (such as a sharp bash on the box with a tall pole) then remove any nesting material. It’ll get the hint after one or two rounds of this.
Another method is to install a fake owl nearby. This will work for a bit, but be prepared to keep moving it around, as squirrels aren’t stupid!
If your nesting box is up a post, you can try installing a baffle. This is a smooth, metal cone that goes around the post and makes it impossible for the squirrel to climb up. This won’t work if your box is within leaping distance of a nearby tree or outbuilding.
In this case, you could also try adding a sheet of slippy metal to the roof, which the squirrel won’t be able to hold onto. But, the shiny metal may put off the owl, so it’s not necessarily a solution.
Do Owls Even Use Nesting Boxes?
Owls don’t build nests, so they’re always on the lookout for ready-made homes. In the wild, they nest in places such as hollow tree trunks, and in more built-up areas, they’ll choose old, abandoned structures such as barns or derelict houses.
So, yes, a house-hunting owl will definitely use a nesting box, provided it meets certain criteria: it’s high up, it’s in a secluded spot, it’s big enough, and you’ve managed to keep it free from squirrels and other pests. You’ll also need to install the box by January, as owls nest earlier than most birds.
How Do I Encourage Owls Into My Garden? (Including Small Owls)
Shy and nocturnal, owls aren’t always the easiest birds to attract to your garden. However, there are a few helpful things you can do to bring the owls to your yard…
- Install a large, empty nesting box in a secluded part of the garden
- Make sure the nesting box is at least ten feet off the ground and ideally faces east. There should also be trees nearby for roosting and shelter
- Create a rodent-friendly area in your yard by letting the grass grow and having piles of leaves
- Keep at least part of your yard dark
- Have a source of water, like a bird bath
- Shut your pets indoors at night: an owl won’t want to compete with your cat for prey
- This is more of a safety point. Tiidy away any nets at night (such as basketball hoops and soccer goals) so the owl can’t become tangled in them
Seeing an owl in flight at dusk is like watching a silent ghost glide across the countryside, so if we could encourage an owl to move into our garden then the whole family would be delighted.
We all love these beautiful birds so it would be fantastic if one took up residence.
|t looks like I’ll definitely be building that owl box this weekend. 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry James founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >