Farm Focus: Barn Owl Boxes
At Frog Hollow Farm, we've become hooked on owl boxes. These are wooden homes, built specifically to house the magical and mysterious Barn Owls and their owlets. We are constructing and mounting owl boxes at the farm for two main reasons. The first is in an effort to combat owl habitat reduction and population decline, caused by deforestation and dense human activity. Owl boxes are designed to protect owl families from predators (like raccoons) and place the owlets with ideal feeding and sleeping locations. Once an owl box is occupied, the same female owl has been known to return to the same box for 7-10 consecutive years. The second reason for these boxes is for our own benefit, because owls are very skilled hunters. In our case, they are great at hunting gophers, which are one of our largest pest issues at the farm. Gophers eat and kill young trees, and damage roots on more mature trees. We know that the owl boxes are inhabited, once we see "owl pellets" and gopher skulls, piled on the ground below the box. This photo below some evidence of our newest occupant!
When we started placing our owl boxes, our research taught us that there are a lot of considerations for locations. For example, where and how high the box is placed. Owls are territorial, so each box must be at least 80 square yards apart. We learned that owls will hunt over at least a mile radius. We also learned that the boxes need to be placed higher than the orchard canopy so that owls are able to see over the trees to hunt. Our trees are pruned to a maximum of 16 feet, so we placed our boxes at 19 feet above the ground.
We have had such great luck with these owl boxes, so we are planning to build many more once our work slows down this winter.