Learning how to attract owls to your property can make a big difference in controlling rodents. While many owls may only be heard at dusk and into the night and are not often seen, you can do many things to make your property more attractive to owls.
While some may feel their nocturnal hooting is eerie, owls are fascinating animals that can yield great benefits to your yard and farm. The truth is that when many people move to the country to start a homestead, they encounter many things that they hadn’t counted on.
Critters like snakes, mice, rats, and voles can be destructive. They can ruin your store of pet food, leave their droppings everywhere, dig up your property, take residence in your home or garage, and gnaw on the wiring in your car, causing thousands of dollars in damages.
Attracting owls to your backyard will help get rid of possums and pests like rabbits and squirrels that may get into your garden, eating small seedlings, and damaging produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, and fruit from your trees.
Rather than putting out dangerous poisons and dealing with traps, one earth-friendly way of handling these pests is by attracting owls to your property. If you are lucky, a family of owls may move in and take care of your pest problems for you.
How to Attract Owls
The great news is there are many easy things you can do to attract owls.
Owls are definitely creatures of the night. While many of us love the dark skies at night on our rural homesteads, others are unnerved by the deep darkness and may install lighting to help them feel safer in a rural area.
Unfortunately, if you have lots of outdoor lighting, owls will not be interested in coming to your yard. They are nocturnal birds and love the deepest, darkest hours of the night.
Their natural hunting instinct is to search for prey under the cover of darkness. Bright lights can even make an owl disoriented. If you have outdoor lights, turn them off after you go inside for the night if you’re serious about attracting owls. Remove solar lights.
If you live in an area where you are worried about potential human intruders after dark, you might want to consider motion-activated lighting. These lights have an infrared sensor. The lights will come on when the sensor detects movement.
You can adjust the sensitivity of the lights so that smaller animals like dogs, cats, and owls will not trip the sensor, while larger pests, like potential burglars, will make the lights come on.
Owls like to sit on perches and survey their hunting grounds with their extraordinarily sharp vision. While these raptors cannot see color, they are amazing at tracking movement and distance. To help encourage owls to use your property for hunting, you should provide sturdy, horizontal perches where they can sit and watch for the movement of prey.
These birds are often quite a bit heavier than the typical songbird. This means they need a heavier tree branch.
If you can, leave large horizontal tree branches where owls can perch in the night when you are trimming your trees. You may want to prune away other branches to create bare places where the owls can sit.
If you mostly have open fields and no trees large enough for an owl to perch in, you can nail cross boards to fence posts or up high on the outside of your barn or outbuilding.
If you live in an area that has frequent high winds, you may want to provide two cross boards at perpendicular angles to one another since owls like to land on the perch against the wind.
Allow Cover for Owl Prey
The best way of attracting owls to your yard is to provide them with a meal. If you want to attract owls, chances are you already have rodents and other animals owls will find appealing.
Owls want live prey like snakes, rabbits, squirrels, and other critters. Biologists agree that releasing pet mice outdoors to become prey for owls is a bad idea. However, you can create spots in your yard where owl prey can thrive.
The typical suburban landscape is designed to keep pests like snakes and mice away. These animals like long grass and the cover of brushy, overgrown areas. The tightly trimmed grass and neatly shaped shrubs of many people’s landscapes provide no cover for these animals. This means, in general, owls don’t care to hunt in these places.
If you really want to attract owls to your homestead, don’t trim your yard like you’re living in town. You can leave the grass a little taller, (this actually is healthier for the grass!) and have a few corners of the yard where you pile brush or just allow the grass and weeds to grow tall.
This will attract the prey animals of the owl. However, you should be aware that snakes will also inhabit these places. Find out what is native to your area, and keep an eye out for the venomous versions of these animals. Watch your small children and pets to keep them safe when walking near brush piles.
Provide Water During the Dry Season
Did you know that owls are not big drinkers? In fact, they receive most of their needed fluids from the bodies of their prey. However, during the really hot and dry parts of the year, owls may start to get a bit thirsty. If you provide a good place for them to drink, you increase the chances that they will stick around. They may even raise a family in your yard.
Owls need a deeper bird bath than many other birds do, so your owl watering station should be at least two inches deep. The basin should have sloping sides because owls actually like to wash up after they have been hunting. The sloped sides allow the owls to ease into the water.
Remove Dangers for the Owls
Do you use netting in your garden or in your yard? If you do, and you plan on attracting owls, you probably should get rid of the netting. Owls can become entangled in netting like the kinds used to protect berry bushes and cherry trees. This netting can be dangerous for owls.
If a bird becomes entangled in netting, they will often injure themselves in their thrashing about, trying to free themselves from the netting.
Even netting used for things like a soccer goal can be a hazard for an owl. Therefore, you may want to take these things down when you are done using them for the day.
Secure Large Dogs
Also, if you have dogs that run free on your homestead, and you want to attract owls, you may want to pen them up at night. If you have large dogs, their barking and roaming will scare the owls away.
Remember Your Pets
If you want to attract owls, remember the pets and livestock you own. If you have small dogs, they could become prey for owls, since owls see small animals like dogs in the same way that they do rabbits and snakes. They see them as a potential dinner.
Likewise, other animals like chickens, rabbits, or cats need to be secured at night to avoid becoming a meal for an opportunistic owl.
Learn Their Habitat
Different types of owls will seek out different habitats. For example, a barn owl will seek out nest boxes and will nest in manmade structures such as old buildings, silos, sheds, garages and barns.
- Great horned owl prefers shrublands and open forests. This species likes clearings. They nest in old nests from hawks, crows and herons.
- A barred owl habitat is mature hardwood forests. It will nest in hollow trees, oftentimes near water.
- Screech owls prefer dense forests. They are small owls and will nest in former woodpecker nests.
Provide Nesting Places
While many suggestions for attracting owls are general, when you start providing nesting places for owls, you may need to get a bit more specific. After all, many owls like the same foods and have similar needs as far as food, water, and cover.
However, when owls start building nests and raising their young, they begin expressing their own breed individuality. Cavity-nesting owls will seek holes in trees, fallen logs, deserted buildings and more. Some will use an existing cavity as a nest while other owls will build their own.
Other owl species will seek out other types of spaces.
Large, mature trees are assets to your property for many reasons. One of the big reasons is that owls love them. Inspect your property for natural cavities in trees and other hollow spaces. Make the areas surrounding these trees attractive to owls. Also be sure to leave dead trees and bare branches if possible for perching and roosting.
Consider installing owl boxes which are also called owl houses. You can buy an owl box from home improvement stores and hardware stores. You can find owl boxes for screech owls and other types.
It’s important to keep nest boxes sealed until the start of the breeding season. This will help you attract owls and not other birds and mammals.
How to Attract Barn Owls
If you want to attract barn owls, you can do a few things to help them feel welcome on your place. Barn owls often like to nest in cavities like in hollow trees. When they can’t find spots like this, they may roost in a man-made structure, like a barn or a grain silo.
You can provide nesting boxes for barn owls to encourage them to raise a family on your farm. They like nest boxes that are 10 to 12 feet off of the ground in quiet areas that are hidden from view.
You can find online instructions for creating your own barn owl nest box. Mount your barn owl box to your barn or another outbuilding. You can mount it to a tree, but it might be at risk from raids by raccoons, opossums or snakes if it is in a tree.
How to Attract Horned Owls
Horned owls have dramatic feathering on their heads that gives them the appearance of having horns. Their voices, with their deep dramatic hooting, are the classic owl call.
Great Horned owls like to reuse the abandoned nests of hawks and crows. You may also see them nesting in naturally occurring crevices or in old farm buildings.
To draw nesting Great Horned owls, you can create a cone-shaped nest that mimics the nests of hawks and crows. You can find instructions online to help you.
You’ll make a cone shape from chicken wire and fill it with sticks, pine cones, and straw, weaving these materials together to make a nest. You should mount this securely in a tall tree, and maybe you’ll get lucky and attract a horned owl.
You can also create platforms in trees where they may like to nest. The platform should be about 2 feet square with sides that are about 8 inches high. Mount your nests at least 15 feet from the ground or maybe even higher.
Chances are you have some pests on your property already. Owls are raptors and can eat insects, chickens, rodents and more. Many people think of owls as rodent control but they are also excellent at preying on snakes and insects.
- Great horned owls eat rabbits, mice, other birds, squirrels.
- Barn owls eat rats, mice, and voles.
- Screech owls eat chipmunks, frogs, mice, and insects.
- Barred owls eat turtles, frogs, snakes, and smaller mammals.
Reasons to Attract Owls to Your Property
Whether or not you have a rodent problem, attracting owls will help keep the population down. There are many reasons to want to attract owls to a backyard, farm, or property.
- Natural pest control: Owls are efficient hunters and primarily eat rodents like mice, voles, and rats, including packrats. By attracting owls, the owls will naturally decrease rodent populations without the need for toxic chemicals or traps.
- Ecological balance and biodiversity: Encouraging a diverse ecosystem is beneficial for the health of your environment. Owls can be an important part of that system, helping to maintain the balance of species.
- Conservation support: Many owl species are under threat due to habitat destruction. By making your property owl-friendly, you’re helping to conserve owl species.
- Photography and birdwatching: It’s hard not to be excited about seeing or hearing an owl at dusk or in the night. If you spot a nest with owlets or fledglings, it can be really fun and exciting to watch as they grow and eventually leave their nest.
Use these easy tips for how to attract owls. Attracting owls to your backyard is an earth-friendly way to control rodents and other pests. The benefit to not using poisons is that they make their way up the food chain. Imagine feeding rat poison to ground squirrels. Then the bobcats eat the infected rodent. This can cause mange and other issues.
Owls are nature’s way of limiting rodent and snake populations. It’s an asset to have nesting owls on your property. You’ll just have to take care to secure chickens, guinea fowl, ducks, dogs, cats, and other potential sources of owl food. If you keep animals, you may want to learn how to keep owls away.
There are about 20 different breeds of owls in the United States, and each one has its own preferred climate and nesting style.
Whether you want to attract screech owls, barn owls, or want to attract great horned owls, do some research to find out which kinds of owls are common in your area. You can make your backyard and property attractive to owls. You can also build an owl box or owl nest for them to encourage them to come to your place.
Featured image credit: SteveAllenPhoto, Yay Images