How to Build an Owl’s Nest Box for Your Yard

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If you’re a lover of wildlife, inviting a more varied population of birds into your yard is always a goal. Owls, with their natural pest-control abilities, are an often-overlooked friend to the garden, plus they’re cool and fun to watch. Setting up a safe nesting area for owls can help attract owls to your outdoor space, so here’s what you need to know.Why add an owl’s nest box?Owls can eat up to 12 mice in one night of hunting, making them a practical as well as fun addition to a garden space. If you have issues with pests eating veggies or other plants in your yard, owls are a natural option to help keep your garden safe without the use of traps or poisons.Where to place your owl’s nest boxWhen considering an owl’s nest box for your yard, keep in mind that some species of owl are territorial, especially when they have young, so keeping their nest at a safe distance from entrances and pathways is a good idea. Even generally less territorial species might perform a dive bomb maneuver if they think their nest is threatened.You should aim to hang your owl’s nest box between 12 and 18 feet off the ground, which will provide a secure-feeling nesting spot for most owls.Sizing your owl’s nest boxTo build an owl’s nest box, begin by choosing what size box you need. If the native owls to your area are small, you’ll need an eight- or 10-inch box, but larger owls can require a box as tall as 38 inches to nest. Checking in with your local university extension or Audubon society for recommendations on local sizing is a good step to take before choosing the size of your box.Gather your tools and materialsFor your owl box, you’ll need:Size your entranceOnce you’ve chosen the height, width, and depth of your box, you will also need to create an entrance to the box, just as with any bird house, that will accommodate the largest owl you plan to attract. For larger owls, like barn owls, the opening should be about seven inches square. Smaller owls can use an opening as small as four inches square.Ideal measurements for your owl’s nest boxUsing the example of a barn owl box as a starting point, I’ll describe how to build the box. You can adjust your measurements as needed for smaller owl species, just by scaling everything down accordingly. My finished box measures 38 inches by 18 inches by 12 inches on the inside, with a seven-inch square opening on the front. If you’re handy, you can make a fancier entrance shape using a jigsaw—there’s no rule against it—but for simplicity’s sake, let’s say the opening is square here.Cut your pieces

Credit: Becca Lewis

Begin by cutting the largest side, which will serve as the back panel of your box. For a barn owl, the back panel should measure 38 inches by 18 inches. Cut two sides, measuring 38 inches by 12 inches plus the thickness of the boards. If your board is a half inch thick, the sides will measure 38 inches tall by 12 ½ inches wide. This allows for the overlap of the side pieces with the back panel. Cut your top and bottom pieces at 13 inches by 19 inches so that they overlap with the sides and the front and back panels. Cut a piece for the front that is 38 inches tall by 19 inches wide. On this panel, measure up from the button six inches, then mark out a seven by seven inch square on center at six inches. Use a jigsaw to cut out the hole.Assemble your owl’s nest box

Credit: Becca Lewis

Credit: Becca Lewis

Next, assemble your pieces. In most cases, it will be easier to attach your box if you put together the back, top, bottom, and sides first, then place your box on a sturdy post, up in a tree, or against another sturdy structure, and then attach the front last; this will allow you access to screw or nail the box in place.

Credit: Becca Lewis

If you don’t want to attach the front while the box is in place, you can use hanging hardware instead. You can also opt to use hanging hardware that doesn’t require you to drill through the back of the box at all, though it maybe be less secure over the long run.
How to attract owls to your yardNow you need an owl to actually move into your box. To create an environment that owls will find appealing: Don’t over-prune your trees—they’ll be looking for branches they can comfortably perch on. If you have taller trees, leaving big, horizontal branches in place will allow owls to hang out while they’re hunting for prey.Keep a brush pile that can help attract a source of prey. A brush pile with yard debris like twigs, sticks, grass clipping, and leaves will provide habitat for rodents and smaller animals perfect for an owl’s dinner.Keep outdoor lighting to a minimum at night. If you have outdoor flood lights or other lights near the location of your owl’s nest box is, put them on a timer or shut them off at night to allow owls the cover of darkness while hunting.


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