If mice, voles, or spiders are threatening your garden, then seek the assistance of a nocturnal friend –- the owl. They’re one of the most natural alternatives to chemical pest control when you want to rid your garden of pests. Other wildlife you may want to consider attracting are hummingbirds, which help pollinate plants.
There are about 216 species of owls that inhabit the world and there are things that you can do to lure them.
• Installing a nesting box
• Turning off exterior lights at night
• Maintain a large bird bath
• Allow the grass to grow
Installing A Nesting Box
Owls don’t build nests. Instead they seek out nesting habitats during the early winter and they nest from mid-February through mid- to late July. Barn and barred owls favor rotted hollows of trees or nests vacated by squirrels and hawks. Screech owls favor nesting in manmade boxes.
If you’re interested in enticing screech owls, then purchase a pre built or a ready-to-build kit box. They are available online and from home and garden centers. The price runs at about $40. If you feel energetic and wish to construct a nesting box yourself, then gather together plywood or cedar panels and construct a fully enclosed box with a roof, a 10-inch by 18-inch floor and a 5- to 6-inch wide square or round entrance opening on the front-facing panel.
Attach either the roof or one side of the box with hinges so that the box can open easily so you can clean it out when the owls migrate usually starting in late October to early December. You don’t necessarily have to paint the box, but you should apply oil-based wood sealer to prevent water damage. Drill a few quarter-inch to half-inch holes near the roof for air circulation and seven to nine more holes in the floor to permit water to drain. Lay wood chips or sawdust on the floor to serve as bedding for the owl.
Hang the box from a tree branch in the backyard, mount it on top of a pole, or nail the back of the box high up on a shed or barn at least 10 to 20 feet from the ground.
Turn Off Exterior Lights At Night
Since most owls are nocturnal and hunt in darkness, they are less likely to house in an area where there are bight lights. To make your home attractive to owls, turn off exterior lights after dark or set a timer that will automatically shut off the lights after twilight.
If you fear that an intruder might enter your property in the darkness, install a weatherproof passive infrared motion detector on the exterior of your home. These sensors can distinguish between moving human and smaller animals, so they are less likely to trigger due to the presence of an owl.
Maintain A Large Bird Bath
Since owls get most of the fluid they need from the food they eat, they don’t drink. Still, large do-it-yourself bird baths or a store bought bird bath, which can be purchased from a home and garden center and cost about $30, do appeal to them. The owls will bath in them after hunting for prey.
The bird bath should be made of metal and include a basin that is at least 2-inches deep and a sloping edge so that the owl can easily enter. It is advised that the birdbath be placed in a secluded corner of your property that people don’t often frequent.
Allow The Grass To Grow
Some species of owl hunt on grasslands, marshes, mature woodlands, and agricultural fields. If you desire an owl to frequent your property to threaten field mice or voles, then consider mimicking these rustic features and let your grass grow somewhat longer than usual. Don’t mow for a week or so, allow the shrubs, low-hanging tree branches and weeds to grow a little longer before pruning, and allow dead leaves, twigs and flowers to pile up.
When Not To Invite Owls On Your Property
If you own small pets like a guinea pig or farm animals including chickens, then you probably don’t want an owl frequenting your property. Not only will the owl injure or kill these animals, they may scare off the rodents that attract the owls in the first place.