The Owl Box. Attracting Screech Owls to Your Yard.

Hoooooooo, me?  I’m just sitting here still waiting for an owl to roost as one does.  This year I’m becoming serious about attracting screech owls to my owl box.

Two years ago I hung this owl box in my yard. I have been owlless ever since. THIS year is going to be the year I attract an owl! And I’m starting my “Hey Owl, come live at my house” campaign RIGHT NOW.

Screech owl breeding season starts in March so if you want to get them living in your yard you have to get an owl house up now for the male to pick out as a nursery for his birdie mama.

This owl box was sent to me by a reader who thought I’d like it.  She knows my weakness;  animals with feathers that eat mice.  Owls are excellent rodent control but if you have serious mouse issues in your house, my mouse control post is probably going to be more helpful.) Owls even have the added distinction of barfing up tiny bones after their dinner so they’re pest control and Halloween decoration providers all rolled into one.  Not even goats can claim that.

When I first got the owl box two things stopped me from hanging it.  Thinking it was going to be difficult to hang and thinking I liked how it looked right here in my house. Like maybe it’d make a nice salt cellar.

Dry leaves go into the bottom of the box.

Ultimately I decided putting it up was the only way I was going to attract a Screech Owl. In my particular area of Southern Ontario,  Screech Owls start looking for nests from February to April.  Owls are always looking for possible nesting places, but making sure you have one up during mating increases your chances of getting an owl in your box on account of the fact that they prefer home births.  And therefore need a comfy home.

So let me answer a few questions you probably already have.

  1. Aren’t you afraid the screech owls will eat your chickens?  No. Screech owls are tiny owls.  They’re the same height as a starling, but way fatter.  I mean rotunder.  If anything, the screech owl should be afraid of my miserable chicken Baby.
  2. Won’t the screeching become annoying? You know, cause Screech Owls screech.  No. Oddly, they don’t really screech.  The noise Screech owls make sounds more like a horse whinny.
  3. I LOVE THIS! I WANT ONE! ARE SCREECH OWLS IN MY AREA?  Probably.  They breed around most of North America.
  4. What’s with the handful of leaves?  That’s the one and only thing you have to do to prep your owl box.  Put a few inches of dry leaves or pine shavings in the bottom of the box.  Then you hang it. Screech owls don’t bring nesting material into their nest. They nest on what’s there.

As it turns out, hanging an owl house is simple.  If you order a pre-made one like this it’ll come with the screws you need.  Mine even included a couple of brackets to make it extra secure if I wanted. I’m not sure what about this I thought was going to be hard.

Hang the owl house from 10 – 30 feet high.  I have NO idea how you’d get it 30 feet high but that’s an option for you if say, your legs are 20 feet long.

 

To hang the box, I propped the ladder against my maple tree and rested the Owl house on the top rung while I screwed the first screw in. That way I didn’t have to worry about holding the box up and I could keep one hand on the ladder while I attached it.

 

If your tree is old and gnarly like mine you might have to make a few adjustments while you hang the house.  Bark was in the way so I had to bang some of it off for the box to lay flatter against the trunk.  And because of the way the trunk is shaped only the very top and the very bottom of the box are against the tree.  Because of this I wasn’t able to screw the middle screw deep into the tree (as you can see above).  So I put the bracket I got with the owl box on the bottom of it to keep the house sturdy on the tree.

Hanging the owl house isn’t hard and  you can hang it high enough with a regular 12′ ladder.

Tips for Hanging an Owl Box

  • Hang the box from 10 – 30 feet high.
  • The box can hang facing any direction except North.
  • Make sure nothing is blocking the flight path into the box like a nearby building or branches.
  • Stuff a couple of handfuls of dry leaves or pine shavings into the bottom of the box before hanging it.
  • If you don’t have a tree you can hang it on a pole.
  • Make sure the box is hanging level or tipped forward a tiny bit from the top. That way when it rains, water won’t get into the box.
  • At the end of each season or early in the new year, place another handful of leaves into the nesting box as new nesting material for the owls. :)

You can build your own Screech Owl house, or you can just buy one already made and finished.  Owl Reach who sent me mine sells 3 finishes, whitewashed (like mine), blue washed, and natural.  It’s a small company owned by a woman and the boxes are all handmade and finished in Texas. Nope. This isn’t a sponsored post. I just love my Owl Box.

Like I mentioned in the notes above, you should add a new handful of dry leaves or shavings into the nesting box once a year prior to nesting season to get the box ready for the next (or first!) owl. I just did that today, plus I inspected the ground under the nesting box to see if I could see any evidence of owls there, like whitewashing (white poop stuff) or a little welcome mat. Neither were under the tree.

So now I watch and  hope. The maternity ward is ready and waiting.

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The Owl Box. Attracting Screech Owls to Your Yard.

59 Comments

  1. Jean says:

    Hi Karen
    Love the post about screech owls. I love all your posts actually. Trying screen printing is on my to-do list. We have a small city backyard. Two beehives, soon to have 2 chickens. And two crazy small dogs. We also feed and water the song birds. I will size up my trees for a suitable place to put up a screech owl house.
    Love your hair by the way. Very stylish. Would you by any chances be will to share details on on colour cut etc? If I may be so cheeky to ask.
    Thanks

  2. Karin says:

    Guessing from the comments that this was originally posted in 2018. Do you still have the box up and if so did you ever attract an owl?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Karin, the post did originally go up in 2018, but I just updated it this week. NO I still haven’t got an owl, lol. I’ve put new leaves in it and am hoping for a change of luck this year. :) ~ karen!

      • Jennifer Page says:

        Have faith! We put an owl box up on a pine tree 10 years ago. I gave up. The squirrels moved in and I forgot about it. Last year in March we spotted a pair of owls in the trees around the box and realized they finally moved in. They successfully raised at least one baby. My fingers are crossed they will come back.

        • Karen says:

          LOL!! Wow! That’s great. I heard something owlish outside this morning actually and went to the window right away! But nothing. ~ karen!

  3. Shelagh Ryan says:

    Admittedly, I am not a cat person…don’t mind them but as I am severely allergic will never have one…but my love for my dogs would never allow them to run wild and kill other animals…and run the risk of being eaten in turn.
    The age old question…why is it ok for a cat to run loose outside when dogs have to be leashed or fenced in ? It’s far safer and healthier for beloved cat pets to be indoor cats and have supervised outdoor time in a controlled environment. My two cents.

    We live in the country and have whip poor wills that nest on the ground in late May/ June….many a night I have drifted off to sleep listening to their repetitive calls….we don’t allow the dogs out of the yard until nesting is finished. The poor threatened birds have enough issues with foxes, coyotes, etc…they don’t need to have to contend with our dogs as well.

    We have barred owls and screech owls…hear them all the time…and a really weird sounding one that I’m pretty sure is a saw-whet owl…YouTube has awesome videos

    • Laura Lee says:

      Just a note on cats, they kill 2.4 billion song birds each year in the US and have put many on the endangered species list. Only a small % was because they were hungry. This might be another reason to put them on a leash.

      • Tatsiana says:

        Birds cleaned out my persimmon tree with some 70 fruits on it in one day. I am sure they were singing pretty songs while doing that.

  4. Anne says:

    Warning. DO NOT install a screech owl nest in your yard if you own a hunting dog. Upon first reading of this article, I thought OMG…. I don’t know anyone who has a screech owl. It was about 2am and I couldn’t sleep. So there I sat with my mug of warm milk reading the article. Second thought was why would someone pay $75 for a screech owl nest when you could make one. Third thought was…. I wonder what they sound like and hit that tiny button that said “Learn more”. My house was immediately filled with a screech owl -over and over – while I fumbled for my readers so that I could find the mute button. My pointer, who sleeps on our bed at the far end of the house, woke with a jangle of her collar and launched off the bed like a scud missile which propelled the bed with my husband on it across the bedroom. When the bed moved, the pointer crashed into the wall before spending the next 4 hours hunting for the screech owl. Not to admit my sins of waking the household…. at breakfast I asked if anyone heard an owl last night…. never to be heard again in this household. A word of caution.

  5. Tim Thompson says:

    This design very well may successfully attract Screech Owls ~ but it’s not created with the years of data in mind from Ornithologist and enthusiasts who make boxes for research.
    Check designs approved by AUDUBON and you’ll see a 3” diameter opening.
    This is optimal because the Owls can easily fit but predators can not!
    Because Bluejays and other birds will always hassle Screech Owls trying to drive them out.
    The floor should be a minimum of 8”X 8” … smaller and it can be too crowded forcing Babies to fledge before they are ready decreasing their survival.
    Ventilation holes are important too- if it’s a few degrees too hot; eggs can overheat.
    Just some design pointers !
    Again, this may work as Screech Owls are flexible to a degree !

  6. Robert says:

    Not hard? I’ve been trying to hang mine for three days now, and it’s still not done! Admittedly it’s a bit bigger than yours, but it’s not like it’s a five bedroom apartment. The first day I almost had it up, but had to go get a couple more screws. When I was climbing back up to finish the job, it fell on my head. Then it nearly knocked me off my ladder a couple of times, and once I almost drilled a hole in my leg. And of course now I have splinters a-go-go. The problem is that contrary to popular belief, tree trunks are not perfectly vertical, square cross section poles. And that bark stuff; what a pain in the…well, in every joint and muscle in my body at this stage. I tell you what: when I’m finally done, the wee beasties had better be grateful. And they’d come live in it and show me some respect and appreciation for nearly killing myself in order to give them a home!

    • Karen says:

      I have a hunch it would have been easier for you to just climb up the tree yourself, hold on tight and open your mouth so the screech owls had somewhere to land. But that’s just a hunch, lol. ~ karen!

  7. Jim says:

    Hi, we have had 2 owl boxes in our backyard for years and watched screech owls fledge their young. This year I rigged a webcam inside one – and alas starlings moved in. Sigh. Perhaps camera shy? Hopefully a screech will nest next year…

    • Karen says:

      Oh dear. It’s strange they’d move into something like an owl box. I still don’t have an owl so I might reposition it next year. Fingers crossed they arrive one day. ~ karen!

  8. Shawna R. says:

    how do you keep the starlings and other nuisance birds from moving in?

    • Karen says:

      The hole is way above the bottom of the box so a starling or other bird wouldn’t be interested in it. It would be like nesting in a very narrow bucket. Squirrels are the only thing I think might be a problem but so far they’ve ignored it as well. ~ karen!

      • Shawna says:

        Awesome thanks! Almost ready to put up the bat box and will look I look this one next! Thank you!

      • Jules says:

        Mine attracted squirrels right away so I put my box on a 15’ telescoping pole with a squirrel guard around the pole. So far no owls but I keep hoping, 🤞🏼

  9. Katie C. says:

    The owl box is great, but I love that hooded sweater!! Do a post about that. ;)

  10. Cyd says:

    The owl box is so cool! I don’t want to be a buzz kill, but you can only do this if you/your neighbors don’t use poison to kill mice around your home. You don’t want to live out that really sad owl story going around FB. :(

  11. Kristina says:

    We had an owl box on our barn cupola for years, which every year housed a family of (fittingly) barn owls. In the summer, it was sort of neat to go outside at dusk and watch the teenaged owlets get flying lessons from their parents, back and forth to the tree by our house. The abundant pellets were cool for Girl Scout or school science projects. Alas, new food safety regs in the US have led to us taking it down, as it’s by our walnut huller. We still have them around in our orchard, and also great horned owls (holy Harry Potter, Batman, those giant suckers will deliver your mail and take your chickens in payment!). You’re in for some fun, Karen.

  12. Robyn says:

    We have barred owls that nest in box that my son built. The momma is sitting on eggs now. In Ohio, that usually happens in February. It is fun to watch all their goings on and hear their calls at night. We also have lots of owl pellets on the ground beneath the big white pines that they roost in. You can definite tell from the pellets what they have been feasting on. Looking forward to hearing how it works out for you and your screech owl box. I wish you happiness and a successful nesting season!

  13. Lois Baron says:

    Love your owl house.

    My head is kinda exploding from wondering whether how well bats and owls share territory and what I could do to keep the jerk squirrels out and how to protect them from the #$% neighbors’ outside cat that regularly leaves bird carcasses on doorsteps.

    I think I’m just going to see how yours goes. PLEASE post photos when you get adorable owls in there. I live so much of my life through you.

  14. Jody says:

    Do you have to clean out the owl house every year or do the smart owls do their own housekeeping?

    Also love the sap seeping down the bark. Gotta love it when the sap is running.

    • Karen says:

      I’ve read conflicting reports about housecleaning. Some say no, you don’t have to clean it out and some say to take it down once a year to clean it. I’m inclined to think leaving it is best. There are drainage holes in the bottom in case any moisture gets in it etc. And yes. Stupid sap! I felt bad for my tree. It already has 2 taps on it. None of which are producing like the sap from the screw holes of the owl house. ~ karen!

  15. Sandra Dowkes says:

    We think a great horned owl got our cat (a white manx) – we found her collar and tufts of fur across the street and the suspect sat on the light pole in front of our house a couple of days later. I tried to comfort my daughter by saying Freedom died like a warrior, but she indignantly yelled, but she was a DOMESTIC CAT! I couldn’t argue.

  16. Barb says:

    OMG! Great post! I love owls (and bats) and I need to do this! We went to a raptor event at our local arboretum and they had a screech owl that they brought around and I got a really close look. Very small and very adorable. And the barn owl was also cute. The big ones were awesome too but I wouldn’t want to leave my animals unattended around say, a great horned owl. They are massive! But also adorable in their own “grumpy cat” looking way.

  17. Heather says:

    The box is lovely to look at and it’ll be even sweeter once your owl family moves in. Can’t wait!

  18. Sandra D says:

    I’ll give this a try at our campsite NE of Sundre, AB. We do have owls there, although I don’t recognize this bird sound. If the squirrels like the house, so be it. We have big owls in Calgary; shortly after our pure white stubby tailed cat went missing ( her collar and fluffs of fur were found across the street ), one was seen sitting on the street light pole outside our house.

    I tried to tell my daughter that Freedom died like a warrior, but was indignantly told that she was a DOMESTIC CAT.

    • Lois Baron says:

      I’m sad your daughter was so unsupportive!! Who knows what she’ll say when the owl carries you off?!!!

      • Sandra D says:

        I think she was the one who felt unsupported. Freedom was her cat. :)

        Nice image (I should make an ATC showing an owl carrying off a person), but the owl would have a lot of difficulty carrying me off, lol. Freedom weighed maybe 3 pounds, and I don’t want to tell you how many pounds you’d have to add to get to my weight!

  19. E says:

    So, would you come over and hang the bat house that has been, um, “decorating” my screen porch/tool shed/laundry room for about [deleted due to acute embarrassment] years?

    (please?)

  20. Sarah Engels says:

    Got super stoked about this when I first read the article, but I too have chickens. However, aren’t owls nocturnal or do some of them hunt during the day? I would love to have an owl box and my chickens are securely locked up at night and even though I don’t let them out to free range in a very large fenced area unless I am home, there is no way I can watch them every second and would never be fast enough to catch an owl. =)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sarah. I mentioned in the post that these screech owls are only the size of a pint glass. They’re only tiny and would have no interest in trying to take down a chicken. Mice? Yes. Chickens? No. So don’t let having chickens stop you. :) ~ karen!

      • Sarah Engels says:

        Thank you. I wasn’t sure if any other type of owl would try to take the box but my guess is the other owls are too big and therefore are not a problem. Thank you for the clarification. =) Love your blog BTW.
        Sarah

        • Karen says:

          Yup the other owls wouldn’t have any interest in this cute little box. :) And thank! ~ karen

  21. Yes! Just checked and we have Eastern screech owls here! Yaay! (It’s the little things…)

  22. I occasionally hear a hoot owl in nearby woods. We live in SE Tennessee, which is far more southern than northern. I’ll have to google to make sure screech owls are in my area; meanwhile, do you think you’ll have a problem with other birds (like yucky starlings) taking up residence in your cool owl home?

  23. Nancy says:

    wow! we must live in a parallel universe! My father and brother made me a screech owl box a few months ago and it too is sitting in my dining room , collecting dust and curious looks from the cat, waiting to be hung outside. We are waiting for the snow to be gone before we can put up a ladder in the yard. Do keep us posted on your screech house!

  24. Ev Wilcox says:

    Thanks for the birdsongs! I will look into getting a box soon. And I don’t care if the squirrels take over-I feed them, and the Cardinals and Blue jays that like unsalted Peanuts as well!

  25. Kathy Bond says:

    That’s exciting!! We had a screech owl living nearby, never saw it but they do sound like a horse! So they are around. Good luck!

  26. Monica says:

    This is great! I had no idea that the screech owls were so small! I’ll have to look into this for my yard. Thanks for the links.

  27. Carrie says:

    How do you keep squirrels from nesting in it? My boyfriend built me an owl box last year, currently being used by a jerk squirrel.

  28. Mary W says:

    Congrats on your coming arrivals – owls are wonderful and useful to have hanging around. One time when I was young and very foolish (now I’m a 50 years older but still—-), an owl mother brought her three babies to our telephone pole in the back yard to teach them how to get bugs. We had a light installed on it so we could see at night into the backyard – plenty of bugs. Anyway, we also had cats (outside cats that were fierce). I woke up to find them playing with two of the owls but one was still ok. I ran and got it before the inevitable happened. I put the baby into an old bird cage and set it in a back room next to an open window hoping it would feel more at home. I tried giving it tiny bits of raw hamburger but it was scared to death. It’s eyes were open wide as I came towards it slowly with the bit-o-meat stuck to the end of a popsicle stick. Must have looks like a snake slowly coming in for lunch. Baby just leaned backward until it fell of the bar and landed on its back with feet up, eyes wide open. Even though that was funny and still makes me smile, he had to eat. That happened several times until I discovered if I came at him from the back and touched his head, he would lift his head with his mouth open to get the meat. I kept it alive for a few days until one night I heard a screech. The Mom had found it and was hanging on our screen with a lizard in her mouth trying to give it to her baby. I was so excited. I got my husband to crawl up onto the roof of our deserted chicken coop and set the baby which was still inside the bird cage but we ripped the top off so Mom could feed it, keep it safe from falling and have a happy ending. Mom did find it, got it to fly out and brought it to the light pole where my cats then enjoyed another late night snack. It was horrible and fifty years have not erased the sad memory of my feeble attempts to mess with mother nature. Good luck!

    • Therese says:

      oh that was terrible. Truth is sometimes unkind. Life is sometimes unkind. I am glad you shared all of that though.

      Still, I would have done the same. And, have other versions of your story…..

      Thank you for sharing real life. And death.

      Tew

  29. Debbie says:

    Always something new! I love it! Now I want one!

  30. Sabina says:

    Love this! And I listened to the owl calls and they’re lovely! I want to put one up at the beachhouse. I don’t have any yard trees at the ‘burb house and I’d probably have to get permission from the town to put one in my street tree…which is a maple that I’d also like to tap next year…but we’ll do that at the beachhouse too…Thanks Karen

  31. Lisa says:

    Looking forward to the pics too. Typical for Aus – we have an owl called a Powerful Owl – will take cats, small dogs and very large possums and probably even a “Drop Bear”. I like the smaller owls (although powerful owls are magnificent) and the “not really owls” – Tawny Frogmouths – these keep the rats out – and also keep the snakes under control. Love owls. Jealous of your owl box. :-)

  32. I can’t wait for the photos of baby owls that are going to follow!

    We have very big owls here in Texas. They carry away my chickens and cats. It’s rather annoying. I’d love to get a chubby Sparrow sized owl instead!

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