Barn owl tyto alba, hunting across a field, Northumberland

Barn owl nest boxes

Barn owls are sensitive to disturbance so it's best to place boxes in quiet locations.

Where barn owls nest

The barn owl is the classic 'white owl' of the countryside. It hunts small mammals, especially voles, over rough grassland.

It uses quiet barns and cavities in trees for nesting and roosting where its presence is often given away by pellets and droppings.

Since barn owls are sensitive to disturbance, it's best to place boxes in quiet locations. You can provide a box inside barns, or on trees or the outside of buildings.

Please note that it is against the law to disturb a wild barn owl when nesting.

The barn owl box at Grange Farm

Exterior barn owl boxes

Exterior barn owl nestboxes can be fixed to trees or to the outside of buildings.

Where possible, they should face onto grassland and be reasonably conspicuous with an open flight path to them. They should not face into the prevailing wind.

Although barn owl nests are usually well spaced out, placing boxes in pairs, from twenty to a few hundred metres apart, will provide a pair with roosting as well as nesting sites. The male and female roost separately, and some pairs use different boxes in those good years when they can have two broods.

Since many barn owls are killed by road traffic, it is best not to put up owl boxes close to motorways and main roads.

Barn owls are specially protected by law, and so it is illegal to disturb them close to their nest. Occupied nests - even your box - should only be visited by someone who holds a licence.

Make an exterior nestbox

As you make up the A-frame box, attach a 200 x 485mm piece of rough-sawn timber to the inside of the back panel. The fixing to the tree will go through this reinforcement. Don’t attach the front panel until the box is hung up.

You can print a plan for an external barn owl nestbox here.

Barn owl Tyto alba, perched on fence post, Norfolk

Interior barn owl boxes

An interior box can be made out of a tea chest or a packing case, or purpose built to the illustrated design. Interior boxes can be fixed on beams or on walls by brackets.

The barn should be free from regular disturbance and the box should be set somewhat back from the entrance. The front ledge reduces the risk of the young falling when they explore their surroundings before they can fly properly. 

It is vital that there is a permanently open door or window so the owls are not trapped inside the building or shut out from their young.

Make an interior nestbox

You can print the plan for an internal barn owl nestbox here.

Barn owl perched in a window, United Kingdom