New owl box goes up

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The Lambourn Valley Barn Owl Group and volunteers at Sheepdrove Organic Farm have been developing my prototype for a small Barn Owl nestbox this spring. We installed our first of the new models at Bockhampton Down, to replace an old polebox.

Berkshire’s BTO reps, Sarah Priest and Ken White also took a box this week to see if their local Barn Owl pair take to it. Will this design be a success? We just have to let the owls decide…

Sarah, Jason, Ken

Jason (centre) hands over a Barn Owl box to Sarah Priest and Ken White

About the design

After carefully considering the plus-points of various designs, I came up with an outdoor nestbox which is easy to make and install. A lightweight box design is useful for 3 main reasons:

  1. The cost of large nest boxes can be inhibitive to many individuals and Barn Owl conservation groups. (Farmers might be able to get a grant towards an owl box.)
  2. The more good sites you have, the better. Alternative box sites are important, e.g. for 2nd broods; owlets seeking their own home; during winter when owls might stop defending the favourite breeding site; or when competition for boxes is high.
  3. Heavy and bulky boxes are difficult to install. Lightweight boxing is easier!

our new Barn Owl box (click to enlarge)This triangular box has the naturally rain-shedding shape of the larger A-frame designs promoted by Colin Shawyer and Sue Dewar, Iain Taylor, and of course the Hawk and Owl Trust. Key factors considered for this box design are the weather, competitors such as Jackdaw, and the behavioural needs of Barn Owl – especially at breeding time.

With a low extrance, it’s vital to have a baffle to keep chicks inside until they are agile and able to climb. When owlets are ready to begin wing exercises, they are also eager to explore perches, getting out and about. They also want to be first in line for food deliveries! The baffle encloses a ‘main chamber’ which is large enough to fit a family of young owlets. Although it would not be roomy to a large family of fully-grown owlets, after about 5 or 6 weeks of age the eldest will be able to spread out into the hallway.

Jason Ball

More about Barn Owls at the farm…

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