Barn Owl Neighborly Box — animal habitat installation

Barn owl box mounted to pole alongside the author’s driveway.

Barn owl box mounted to pole alongside the author’s driveway.   Note (bottom to top) the 2” (2 inch) outer sleeve pipe, its coupling with holding pin, and the short extension above the coupling.   The 15 foot inner riser pipe is 1.5 inches thick and is secured to the back of the box with a mounting board, brackets, and pipe clamps.   Once the holding pin is removed, the box can be lowered seven feet for servicing.

Why a barn owl box?

My family and I have decided to grow more food.  We want fruit and vegetables all year long.  Our gardens are becoming increasingly laden with such abundance, including grape, fig, apples, peach, currant, pineapple guava, huckleberry, Chilean guava, leafy greens, and typical annual vegetables.

More food grown = more food we might not harvest in time OR more food taken by those scoundrel, good-for-nothing (other than being precious wildlife) critters.  As much as we want to foster wildlife in our gardens, we also do not want to create a “rodent problem”.  Rats and mice, there, I said it.  Yes, we love our garden and want to share, but rodents seem to go overboard.

No thank you, we will keep the rat population down.

Barn owls (Tyto alba) to the rescue.  No need (or desire!) to use poison to kill rodents when barn owls will keep the population of rats and mice down for you, and for relatively little maintenance of their box.  These prolific breeders will feed a clutch of owlets approximately 3000 rats or mice before the clutch has fledged.  That’s a lot of rodents!  And to imagine all those rodents that don’t get to breed, and so on.  The owls eat so many rodents that that’s also how they build a nest; read on.

Barn owls typically attract a mate and are looking for shelter in early winter, December to January.  The pair then builds their nest from daily fecal matter (poop!).  “Honey, do we want a New York City terrace twin or a California king?”  By spring, the nest is made and eggs are laid on the nest of poop.  Who am I to judge?

Barn owl.

A Barn Owl at British Wildlife Centre, Surrey, England.   © Peter Trimming.

The barn owl box.

Barn owl boxes are big, and heavy.  The box you see in this post was built for me by two friends, using plans from The Hungry Owl Project.  I varnished the house using low VOC varnish, to minimize that new house smell, and hung the box in the garage to dry/air out for a couple of weeks.

Barn owl box before varnish and being installed on a pole.

Barn owl box is introduced to its future home along the driveway. A new coat of varnish, a pole, and up it goes.

Getting the ground pole ready.

The ground pole is secured into a bench vise and teeth are cut into its end to help shred/dig the adobe clay and small stones away.  At the same time, hose water pressure will escape through the pipe’s teeth and drive muddy/clay-filled water to the surface, allowing the pipe to be dug deeper and deeper.  Hydraulic drilling!


water canon plans

Water canon plans. Note how the pipe system is water-tight except for the bottom of the ground pipe, which has teeth for digging into the soil.  Video 2.

Barn Owl Neighborly Box 2 of 6 for Tony in his shop making the water canon.

Getting the riser pole ready.

The 1.5″ riser pole is 15 feet long.  When pinned in the up position, the top of the pole holds the bottom brackets of the barn owl box 15 feet above the driveway.  When the holding pin is pulled out, the riser pole can be lower 7 feet below the driveway surface.  The holding pin is a 1/2 inch stainless steel bolt.

holding pin through 1.5" riser pipe

holding pin through 1.5″ riser pipe.

ater canon with hose attached

water canon with hose attached.

1/2 inch hole drilled through 2" coupling

1/2 inch hole drilled through 2″ coupling.

Securing the box to the riser pipe.

Owl bow mounting hardware

Owl box mounting hardware, complete with mounting board, angle irons, pipe section, coupling, flange, and pipe straps.  Video 5.


Because the box weighs so much, I wanted to make sure that the hardware strength was more than needed.  First, a mounting board was used to distribute the force on the back of the box.  Without the mounting board, the entire front of the box might rip away.  Not a very cozy shelter!  A pipe flange was used to receive the vertical weight of the box; the flange catches and stops the box from sliding down the pole.

 Safety First.

Using water buckets to ballast ladders

Using water buckets to ballast ladders.  The ladders are tied together also.

One goal I had during installation of this barn owl box was for NOBODY TO GET HURT.  Challenging when working with such large and sometimes powerful materials.  And now that we are ready to hoist the pole, with box attached, safety measures are in order.  Ballast, ballast, and more ballast at the base of the ladders will help me feel responsibly safe.  Note in the video how I use water to create ballast.

The riser pole and attatched box are in the ground pipe, at maintenance height.

Wood shavings are added to the nest box floor.

Wood shavings are added to the nest box floor.

All the way up!  The box becomes a penthouse suite.

Once all the shavings are in place, the lid is screwed shut for the breeding season.  Good luck mating owls.  Fair play on the home front (after all you only have these four walls to live together in) and happy, productive hunting for your brood of owlets.  We in the neighborhood are indebted to your service.

Done!  Time to pack up and envision a pair of barn owls calling this box home for the breeding season.

Barn Owl Neighborly Box has been installed.

Barn Owl Neighborly Box has been installed.  Note how high above the top of the tallest ladders the box sits now that the holding pin is in place.  Video 7.

I am very happy with this barn owl box installation.  All went fairly smoothly.  AND, I have the parts to a water canon to reuse.

Rumi said there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the Earth.  I say there are a hundred ways to climb a ladder and install an owl box.

Enjoy your animal habitat creations — Habitat It and They Will Come!!!


© 2013, Tony McGuigan. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. […] 121. Barn Owl Neighborly Box — animal habitat installation: Why a barn owl box? My family and I have decided to grow more food.  We want fruit and vegetables all year long. Yes, we love our garden and want to share, but rodents seem to go overboard. No thank you, we will keep the rat population down. Barn owls to the rescue… ~Tony McGuigan […]

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