Information & Downloads
How to make and erect a Barn Owl nestbox
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There are three main types of Barn Owl nestbox, those for use in buildings, those for use on trees and those that are erected on large telegraph-type poles. There are a variety of designs on the market, but the ones described here are the ones recommended by the Barn Owl Trust because of the benefits that they have over other designs. For information on building-in a small nesting space in a barn conversion, please refer to our guidance "Barn Owls and Rural Planning Applications - a Guide". Pole boxes are the least-preferred option and should only be considered where there are no suitable buildings or trees.
The page "Getting the best Barn Owl nestbox for your site" will help you choose between a box in a building, on a tree, or on a pole.
The page "How to choose the best nestbox design" will allow you judge the suitability of any Barn Owl nestbox. It gives you specific min/max dimensions and details the design features to look for.
Remember, Barn Owls are not the least bit interested in boxes but they're very interested in holes. If you provide a box in a building make sure the hole is visible to the owl as it enters. If you are making a hole into a building, select the end of the building that's most visible - the end that overlooks the most suitable open ground. For tree boxes you need a tree with an exposed trunk so that the hole into the box is visible to an owl that may be passing by chance.
Nestboxes for use in buildings
These are usually put up in traditional and modern agricultural buildings, but are suitable for use in almost any tall rural building. We make ours out of 9mm CDX (softwood) ply and 50mm x 25mm (2" x 1") rough sawn batten, which is available at most DIY stores and timber yards. If you simply ask for "plywood" you'll generally be sold hardwood ply. For environmental reasons, please do not use any hardwood ply unless it is stamped ‘FSC Approved'. The design is fairly simple to make for those with basic carpentry skills, and can be modified to fit most situations. Please use the links on the right. Design details and dimensions can be found in our PDF leaflet ‘Nestboxes for use in barns and other buildings'. Nestbox assembly is featured in the slideshow ‘Pictures of the construction of Barn Owl nestboxes for erecting in buildings'.
Guides to erecting your nestbox can be found using the links to our PDF leaflet ‘ Erecting your nestbox', and the slideshows ‘Pictures of Barn Owl nestboxes being erected in buildings' and ‘Pictures of Barn Owl nestboxes in buildings'.
Nestboxes for use on trees
The boxes we use on trees have a lot in common with our indoor boxes. They are both designed to help prevent owlets falling from the box (a common problem). This outdoor version can not only be attached to the majority of vertical surfaces, including tree trunks, but can also be placed within the branches of trees if necessary. Please note that fixing boxes on any vertical surface that an owl cannot climb (such as the side of a house) is much less suitable than fixing it on a rough-barked tree.
The Trust uses 9 and 12mm tanalised ply and 50mm x 25mm (2" x 1") tanalised baton to make the boxes and 2" x 2" (50mm x 50mm) tanalised timber for attaching to trees. Full details of how to construct and erect these boxes are given in our ‘Leaflet No. 2 - Nestboxes for use on trees', and in the slideshows ‘Pictures of the construction of Barn Owl nestboxes for erecting on trees', ‘Pictures of a tree nestbox being erected' and ‘Choosing the right tree for erecting a nestbox'.
Nestboxes for erection on very large poles
Pole boxes are usually only erected where there are no buildings or trees that are suitable for a nestbox. Nestboxes should never be erected on operational telegraph or electricity poles so you will need to purchase a pole and probably get a contractor to erect it for you. If you decide to pursue this option you should aim to fix the box on the pole before the pole is erected. Getting a pole box up onto a previously erected pole is not an easy task! Pole boxes involve a lot more work and expense than other types of Barn Owl nestbox. If you wish to pursue the idea please read our "Pole-box design" leaflet (see link>)
Even if you have not seen Barn Owls in your area, as long as you live in a rural area and over 1km from the nearest major road, it may be worth putting up a nestbox somewhere - you never know when they might turn up!
If you're thinking of building-in a space for Barn Owls within the apex of a roof (such as a barn conversion) rather than erecting a pre-made box, check out other pages on the website >
There's a huge amount of information on making provision for Barn Owls in the Barn Owl Conservation Handbook
The Trust also produces leaflets enabling the creation and placement of nestboxes for other species including Tawny Owls, Little Owls and hedgehogs. See the links opposite.