Barn Owl nest box project

Barn Owls are beautiful creatures that also provide great rodent control.  Traditional farmers have known for centuries that Barn Owls are a farmer's best friend.  In recent years, wine producers in California and elsewhere have embraced large-scale Barn Owl nest box projects for chemical-free rodent control around vineyards.

Barn Owl populations in South Carolina and elsewhere have declined sharply in recent times.  This decline is due to habitat loss from development, changing agricultural practices (including pesticide use and rodent poisons), loss of nesting sites and other factors.

Therefore, in order to encourage sustainable agriculture and help preserve this noble raptor, CRBO is promoting the installation of Barn Owl nest boxes for Lowcountry farmers and landowners.

If you have woodworking skills and tools, please consider using the plans on this web page to build Barn Owl nest boxes.  CRBO will collect the boxes from you and match the boxes to farmers and landowners who need them.  If you have the skills and tools for building Barn Owl boxes, but are on a tight budget - contact us and CRBO will pay for nest box materials.

If you are a farmer or landowner with suitable habitat and you pledge not to use rodenticide or too many pesticides, CRBO will provide and in some cases install Barn Owl boxes and the poles necessary for mounting them.

Suitable habitat for Barn Owls consists of a fairly open nesting area with nearby foraging areas. The best foraging areas are open or low-growth habitats with plenty of rodents. A few examples of such places are: grassy fields, pecan orchards, blueberry farms, vineyards, cattle farms, plus freshwater and salt marshes. Coastal scrub and salt marsh habitats provide Barn Owls with prey such as Meadow Voles, Cotton Rats, Rice Rats and various mice.

As with all nest boxes, place the Barn Owl box facing south and away from prevailing winds if possible. Southeast and soouthwest are fine, east and west less so. One should never place nest box holes pointing north.

Great Horned Owls prey on Barn Owls, so do not put Barn Owl nest boxes beside deep woods or large trees.

To find out more about this project, or for advice regarding optimum nest box location/orientation, email :

Using the following nest box plan, Barn Owl boxes are easy to assemble and inexpensive to build.

We recommend using exterior screws (not nails) with this nest box design.  Two layers of paint are also necessary for the nest box to last several years.  Use a light color of paint such as tan, light gray or off-white.:

Please do not use treated plywood or lumber to build Barn Owl nest boxes!

The photos below show progressive stages of nest box construction.

After assembling the nest boxes, apply two layers of nontoxic outdoor paint.

Our thanks go to William Way Fick for perfecting the design and assembly of the original MD DNR design.

If you wish to free-mount the Barn Owl nest boxes, we recommend using two 16 foot long 4"x4" round poles, buried 4.5 to 5 feet deep.  Use quick-mix concrete around the base of the poles if necessary.  For predator guards, use a sheet of flexible aluminum flashing tightly wrapped around each pole.  The aluminum flashing should be 2-3 feet tall and can be attached using finishing nails (use lots of nails, close together at the top and bottom of the strip of flashing).