In a recent issue of Forbes magazine, a noted grape grower said you could “look at barn owls as free labor that works while you sleep.”
With an almost global population, barn owls will thrive in just about any habitat – except for the desert and polar regions. Feasting almost exclusively on small rodents, barn owls have been used since the 1980s by property owners, ranchers and farmers in places likes Israel and Malaysia for highly effective biological pest control.
More and more people in the U.S. are turning to barn owls for the same reason. The most effective way to do that is to install barn owl boxes.
They Eat How Much?
Studies show that one individual barn owl can cover up to 100 acres per night and eat 25,000 mice per year. With a life expectancy of up to 10 years, that translates to over 250,000 rodents.
In body weight, that’s over twice as much as other predatory birds.
Barn Owl Expert Hand-Crafts Barn Owl Houses for Property Owners, Ranchers and Farmers
For more than 25 years, naturalist and bird of prey expert, Tom Stephan has educated others about the beauty and wonder of birds of prey and barn owls in particular.
“Animal Planet” recently profiled Tom for being recruited by airport officials to use his birds of prey to chase other birds away, and avoid hitting planes.
Devoting his time to teaching others about birds of prey and offering barn owl boxes for sale, Tom has custom-built and installed over 34,000 barn owl boxes for property owners either looking for truly effective pest management or those who simply want to get an up-close look one of nature’s most gentle yet powerful creatures.
Even better news for customers is that the boxes are self-cleaning and maintenance-free, and arrive at your property with a camera that can be used to watch the new barn owl family.
Order Your Barn Owl Box
To learn more about the fascinating story of barn owls, read more about Tom Stephan’s incredible journey, and to select the right barn owl house for you, visit www.barnowlboxes.
Growing up as a falconer, I climbed every hawk nest I could find at a young age. It was therefore a natural that I would become a tree trimmer and later a tree service owner, now former certified arborist (w.e.#3031). This btw, is a certification program which is recognized as an expert witness for the U.S. Judicial system. Whenever I had a sick, infected or infested tree, I would call on an associate to return the vigor and vitality of my clients trees. This he would do with an almost 100% success rate, all without chemical fertilizers.
Take soil compaction for example, a common landscape malady. He would either hand dig or use an auger to drill 2″ diameter holes in the drip line and back fill it with a recipe of fecal fertilizer, worm castings, and Mycorrhizae fungi spores. The worm castings have eggs and larvae in them which hatch when moistened. They feed on the fecal material, grow and spread, conditioning the soil as they do so taking the microbes with them in their gut and on their bodies. These fungi and other microbes live on the net like absorbing root tips called the “rhizome”. The fungi break down coarse minerals to the molecular level what I term “chewing up’ the minerals, just as we use our teeth to process food. These minerals in a rain water solution are now available and absorbed by the plants, helping them grow and compete with the neighboring trees and other plants for sunlight. The plants in turn provide the fungi with a place to live and food in the form of sloughed off dead cells. You will later see the mushroom caps coming up in the compacted soil.
Unfortunately my associate is now no longer with us. I had to perform that function myself. This at a time when I had just heard about an ancient soil fertility component called “Bio Char”. I began developing my own “activated” (inoculated) Bio Char and added to the organic tree health drip line mix. Forests grow up, mature, become over mature and ultimately burn. That is the regeneration cycle. This the “great circle of stuff” that the sage swine ‘Poomba” taught us about. The charred remains of the forest lie on its floor to become soil over and over as the cycle repeats itself. All species of plants and animals are evolved to utilize any and all resources at any stage of the regeneration cycle.
The U.S. government spy satellites in the late 1960’s were showing blocks of South American jungle which were greener and taller that the surrounding forest canopies. Because these blocks were in geometric patterns, the intelligence officers knew they were man made. However there were no humans to be found there. These sites were hundreds, sometimes thousands of years old. Ergo, these were primitive man sites so they alerted the archeologists. The one thing the workers found to be common to all the sites of lush, green forest patches was that the dirt was black. The natives called it “Terra Preta” which in Portuguese (some of the first Europeans to sail there) means “Black Earth”. Tested, this soil had an unusually high carbon content. They surmised that these sites were once Mezzo American dump sites as it was also where they excavated terra cotta pottery shards, animal bones and other organic materials. They natives corrected them “No, these were their farms”.
These large cities of hunter -gatherer- farmers were masters at coaxing food from the surrounding jungle, they growing vegetables such as corn that was 10″ high, squash on the corn stalks and other vegetables between the rows that fed millions of citizens, all from the poorest soils on the planet. Without Bio Char this would not be possible. Their modern Indian descendants showed the professors the ancient method of making Terra Preta. First the natives would slash down a block of jungle. Then they would pile the wood and add their waste mineral products like dirt, bones for calcium and phosphorus, terra cota for iron, copper, zinc etc. on the brush piles and log decks. Then they burned it all slowly in pits, controlling the burn so that it thoroughly charred the wood but not completely burnt it to ash. The charcoal produced was now in a raw state and needed to be inoculated with soil microbes or “activated”. They partially buried the coal with fish offal, corn husks, fecal material and any and all refuse. The charcoal absorbs minerals and the beneficial fungi spores. Most of what plants need to grow are in the charcoal, the microbes release those nutrients slowly over time to make a layer of top soil nutrients called the “A horizon”.
Activating Bio Char first before use is key. If raw char is used, it will deplete the soil of nutrients by absorption for a few years. The cells that make up the charcoal are open ended from the burn. This is where all the elements that will make soil fertile are infused into the cells where they live and reproduce, what I call “tenement apartments”. They persist there for many centuries feeding as the wood slowly decays. There is a cottage industry of workers that search the jungles for these ancient growing grounds. They dig it up and sell it as fertilizer.
A few years ago, I began fertilizing my house plants the same way. I purchased some red worms in a little tub sold for fishing bait. I added- dumped the entire contents, one in each potted plant. I added bio char and then some kitchen scraps now and then. If you find a little milk at the bottom of the glass, in it goes, as does a little cooking grease, eggshells, coffee grinds etc. Even two or three dry dog food kibbles when the worms are hungry. The worms come up to feed and in turn condition the soil by making little tunnels that are laced with worm castings, nature’s fertilizer These tunnels are perfect for roots to grow in. This indoor agronomy worked surprisingly well. One drawback, sometimes house pets are interested in the potting soil, so it may not be for everyone.
Staring in thought last spring, I did not want to tear up my lawn to build a vegetable garden. I looked at the wooden fence, it was getting full sun. I thought of hanging terra cotta pots with vegetables in them but the sun heats up the soil and roots of the plants producing inferior harvests. So I built 2″ think pine boxes which I charred and inoculated inside. I charred the outside and wire brushed it for aesthetics, raising the lignin grain. Tomatoes were planted out holes drilled in the bottom of the box and added potting soil. I then hung them on the fence using a 16p nail in the sun. I added a charred lid to match with kitchen scraps on the potting soil and earthworms. Potato peelings, watermelon husks, coffee grinds, egg shells, any and all kitchen waste was introduced to the awaiting worms. I sold one to a fellow crafter. A few weeks they complained that “Its all grey inside with fungus!” I explained that this condition was exactly as I and nature had intended it to be. I call this invention the “Bio Box”. I believe it to be the first composting planter box. If you would like to see a photo of this creation please visit my site at www.BarnOwlBoxes.com
I wish to tell you now another story. This story is of a little boy who dreamed of getting an agronomy degree at a prestigious school in Guatemala. This so he could return to teach his clan to farm profitably, thereby raising them all out of abject poverty. This came to pass. He realized after he got his degree in Guatemala and then a business degree at the U. of Minn. that industrial farming was unsustainable because it robs the soil of life and pollutes it with glyphosphate herbicides, insecticides and other “cides”. So he took the ancient Indigenous way of farming and added the best of American industrial farming and scaled this new concept up. He called it “Regenerative Agriculture”. What I call “ReGenAg” for short. This first project was / is called Finca Mirasol, and is still at his place in Northfield, Minnesota. I copied the plan verbatim and won a first place ribbon at the Southern California Agricultural Exposition, aka ‘The Del Mar Fair” for “Most Innovative Farming Method”.
The boy turned farmer, professor, entrepreneur, organizer, is the famous Reginaldo Haslett Maroquim, a founding member and steering committee member at “Regeneration International” and founder and CEO of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance. I have recently designed and am working with a University on a loosely but improved rendition of his original design. This small farm will greatly reduce a farm’s acreage or “footprint”, while producing intense amounts of organic food. Through the use of Bio Char and fecal material provided by chickens and other livestock in blocks or “panels”, it will grow annuals, perennials with fruit and nut trees in infinity, totally without the need of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. I call it the “Food Forever Project.” This new sustainable method of agriculture will derive all its irrigation from the atmosphere. Meant as a future humanitarian project, my vision is for all of the world to have healthy food and freedom for his or her family with profits from the sale of any surplus food.
Cheers to you! Tom Stephan.
The second series of rodent control about rats.
So I thought about them wanting the bait in the trap but that they were well aware that it was a trap. I imagined them approaching the trap but staying well clear of the jaw mechanism. They would push the trap off its ledge till it snaps shut after hitting the ground, then they would eat the bait, which explained why the trap was not where I had set it at and sprung, sans the bait.
So to solve this problem I thought the answer would be to drill a couple of holes in the rat trap and shoot it down onto a scrap piece of 2X4 with dry wall screws with a drill and screw driver bit. No go. They were too cagey that next night. If they couldn’t push it and snap the trap, they wouldn’t play the game and eat the bait. My favorite rat bait is smoked salmon skin that I would get at the Del Mar Fish House. I would rubber band it on to the bait peddle. Then leave a few of the the tiniest of skin scraps smeared on the board and trap. Not enough for them to get the smallest of a meal but enough to taste how good it is.
Then I remembered the insight I learned with tame rats. Whenever a mother discovered one of her young that had died, they would fuss over it, by gently rolling it around bopping it back and forth and push on it, lift it up, drop it etc. They would do this for about a minute and a half, then, like as it were a mechanical switch in her head, nature would tell her that it was more important to safeguard her living babies than one that was obviously dead and she would just drop it and leave, never to return. But I remembered how strong the instinct to is ‘box” the baby rat around to try and revive it. They were driven to do this. This was going to happen so I might as well use it to my advantage.
I was falconer and since I still had most of her babies frozen in my freezer, marked “Hawk Food”, that I’d use one of them as bait. But imagining the mother approaching the dead baby rat at night in the stock trap, she would pull it off part way before setting off the trap and she would get away. This is called a “bad set” in trapping parlance. It would educate the female completely and she would never get trapped, being forever “trap shy” from that night forward. I had to figure a way to make sure she walked over the bait pedal first before she dragged the dead baby rat away to box it.
So I thought I’d build a little plywood box to put the trap in, which I later built but the first box trap was just an old shoe box. The dimensions were perfect allowing for full travel of the trap’s killing jaw inside the box. So I glued the shoe box to a flat board a little wider and longer than the shoe box. I shot the trap down with the screws inside the shoe box with about 2″ of a gap between the set side of the trap ( not the bait side) and the right wall of the box. This was just enough of a space to place the dead baby bait. I applied a bit of super glue to the baby to make the mother struggle with it as she would rather try to revive it away from the scary trap. I figured she would be pulling on it while bracing her legs into the bait pedal end of story for Mrs.Monsewerrat.
That night I started to make the set by rubber banding a .5″ piece of salmon skin to the pedal just for good measure. Then I cut out a round hole for an entrance door on the left end and set the trap. Then I put the lid on (now the front wall) and electrical taped it in down in place. Next I set the board and trap affair up where the rats were feeding (called “foraging”) as I don’t like to show my hand by placing the trap in their runways, spooking them. That buffet area being the attic crawl space above my bedroom. They would bring dog food and citrus fruit and eat it up their. Then they would fight it out over the food, making quite a racket.
About 2:00 a.m. the next morning, I heard the trap go off and I smiled, but went back into REM. I didn’t check it til the next day (I think rats know about human sleep habits and do their foraging when everyone one is deeply asleep). “GOT HER!” I bellowed like Chekoff on the original STAR TREK TV series upon hitting a Clingon battle cruiser with a photon torpedo. A big fat rat there before me dead in the trap never looked so good! I felt exhilaration, gratification and pride all because I had outfoxed a rodent. What a brainiac.
So the next order of business was to catch the the big boar/ bull male rat, the one sporting the big cajones. If I can get him, I can assuredly break the rat production cycle completely and utterly, once and for all ( or until the next family of rats move in).
I thought if I caught the mother rat with a baby, why couldn’t I catch the bull with the dead female? Now I made an enlarging adjustment to the bait area to accommodate the larger than a baby mother rat in the right hand space by moving the trap to the left another inch, and glued her down there on the right. Just like the mother after the baby, he would try to revive her and drag her away to do it, thereby setting off the trap. I made the “set” and hit the hay.
In the middle of the night about three nights later ( I had been taking her down every morning and re-freezing her to keep her fresh) came WACK! I smiled and thought that I’d just leisurely check it the next morning, and went back to sleep- but I got distracted as we were preparing for my next birthday party. One distraction led to another and another.
Six weeks later I was laying in bed when my eyes drifted over to the crawl space lid. “The rat!!! (duhhhh!) OH s@#t! — It was now August and it must have been 120`s up there in the day. I opened up the crawl space lid to behold one of the grossest things on God’s green earth, a rotten rat. It was green.
But it was at one time a big male boar rat, one I had trapped. He was the smartest of the family and the most trap shy of the lot and I was a bit proud but thoroughly disgusted.
I buried it in the garden as rotten rats are delicacies in certain parts of the yard by trees and shrubs.
End of Part Two
Keeping Rats Out Of Your Yard
The first series of rodent control will be about rats.
Rats are far more destructive than any other rodent species. This is because of the amount of human deaths that have occurred do to their presence. Bubonic plague or “Black Death,” a bacteria is vectored to human from fleas which had bitten infected rats. This pathogen has decimated Europeans in a number of plagues, causing millions of deaths. Today the rat’s chewing of power wires cause hundreds of structure fires which kill people and cause millions of dollars worth in property damage around the globe.
The eradication of an established population of rats within a neighborhood is a daunting task. far better and easier to prevent them than to get rid of them. Eradication involves trapping as many rats as possible, plugging up their entrance holes in buildings and altering their habitat to deny them food, water and cover and to expose them when foraging so barn owls can pounce on them.
Installing owl boxes is the best way to kill rats, the numbers never lie. Of course one would expect me to say this as I install barn owl nesting boxes for a living. But no other method kills more rodents than barn owls do. One would have to employ a dozen barn cats to effect a rat population as much as one pair of barn owls do. Government studies have proved one pair of breeding barn owls can consume as many as 3,000 gophers, rats, mice and voles per year, plus insects.
Installing Owl Boxes
So the first order of business is to install two owl boxes, his and hers, within a hundred yards of each other. People often ask me “What is the best time of year to install owl boxes?” What time of year the box is put up matters not, as this is a long term solution. The answer I give them is “at least one year before you see the first evidence of rodents”. If you don’t have them up already, then have it done asap.
Once the nest boxes are professionally installed, there needs to be a trapping regimen. Ordinary “Victor” rat traps work but need to be enhanced. How to enhance Victor traps will be discussed in a future blog.The County of San Diego used to give out black boxes that look like bait stations but had a rat trap inside, no poison. This is an excellent design as rats are uneasy about being exposed when foraging and will scurry away before they have a chance to settle down and be trapped. When using the traps inside the black plastic boxes, they seek cover inside the box, relax and linger longer, getting trapped more effectively. One must do more than just set a trap however. The trapper must envision the behavior of the rats actions after the person goes to sleep. This is called “getting inside their head,”or “thinking like a rat.” I have known quite a few people that I would expect this type of thinking would be a natural—
I had tame rats as pets when I was adolescent. Decades later, I had wild rats living in my crawl space. I set an ordinary “Victor” rat trap. I caught four 3/4 grown juveniles. I knew from my experience at raising tame rats that I had at least one female, the mother (already on a new litter by now) and a dominant male I called a “bull” lurking somewhere on the property. Time and again I would set the trap, only to find it sprung in the morning, no rats trapped and no bait left. So I must have caught all the young in that litter, so it must one or both the adults parents that are now spooked as the trap snapping shut scares them, making them wary.
This was bad news as now the mother rat had an education. One they know they are being set up, it becomes orders of magnitude harder to catch them.If they are not caught, they will breed and educate their young in behavior. The trapper has to get a head of their learning curve, so the next attempt to trap them is critical or, they will learn a second lesson and will never be trapped.
To learn what I did to catch the mother and ultimately the male “bull” rat, please visit my website and blog to be posted soon.
Before investing in a quality barn owl nesting box from Barn Owl Boxes, it is important for you to consider all possibilities. What if your job takes you to another part of the country in the next few years? Can you move your barn owl box to another location?
The great thing about barn owls is that they are present almost everywhere, so a move to another location does not mean you will lose the ability to enjoy barn owl nesting wherever you go. While barn owls live primarily in temperate climates, they live in both colder and warmer areas as well. In fact, barn owls are found on every continent including on islands. Barn owls tend to avoid deserts, mountainous areas and tropical rain forests. Read More
Setting up a barn owl nesting box from Barn Owl Boxes is a great way to enjoy nature, but how do you know if the owls have taken over your box and are actually using it? If you choose a barn owl box that has an infrared camera, you can see for yourself the miracle of a barn owl life cycle. However, if you simply have a wooden barn owl box with no camera, you may not know if the family has taken up residence. You may also want to know if there are other barn owls in the vicinity of your property. Read More
What makes owls such wonderful predators? Most people think it is their eyesight, but their wing design has a great deal to do with it as well.
Owls are able to fly in a hushed and almost eerie silence, swooping down on their prey noiselessly. They are able to do this from relatively great heights, thanks to their aerodynamically designed wings and feathers. Barn Owl Boxes, a company that makes custom, quality barn own nesting boxes, shares some information about the owl’s wing design so that you can better understand how these fascinating creatures have become such successful hunters. Read More
Most people choose to install a barn owl box for three reasons. First, they want to help protect this noble and beautiful species. Second, they want free and environmentally sound rodent control around their homes. Third, they want to witness for themselves the miracle of the barn owl life cycle from birth to adulthood.
In order to see barn owls roosting or nesting, it is important that you choose the right barn owl box. Barn Owl Boxes offers several models, some of which include infrared cameras so that you can feed the images directly to your computer and your whole family can enjoy watching the barn owls in action! Read More
We all know that man’s erosion of wildlife habitat has had a direct impact on some species. However, did you know that barn owls can also be endangered by climate change? Recent articles published in Great Britain’s wildlife journals indicate a fear that the unseasonably cold winters and wet springs the nation has experienced for the past several years may decimate native barn owl populations in that area of the world. It is not a stretch to believe it could happen here as well. Read More
Many people are amazed when they learn how easy natural rodent control can be with a pair of barn owls on their property. They may be even more amazed when they learn just how simple it is to install Barn Owl Boxes for free, permanent rodent control without pesticides or chemicals! Read More