Introduction: How to Build and Owl Nest Box (VIDEO)

VIDEO: How to Build and Owl Box (90 seconds)

Most residential and rural dwellers don’t enjoy rats, mice and ground squirrels setting up shop on their property, so they often resort to poisons to control the rodent populations. While those products succeed in getting the job done, they can also be deadly for birds that prey on rodents.

When a rodent eats a poison such as a second-generation rodenticide, it can still survive for several days before it succumbs. In its compromised state, the rodent becomes even more vulnerable to sharp-eyed raptors like barn owls. The owl eats the poisoned rodent and in short order becomes poisoned itself, leading to debilitating illness or death. Hibbert Lumber in Davis, CA, who donated the wood used in this video, was honored in 2015 after they removed second-generation rodenticides from their store shelves completely.

An owl box is a great alternative to poisons because it draws barn owls into your neighborhood and puts them in charge of your pest control. Not only are you not harming raptors; you’re actively supplying them food! The box is divided into two chambers so that babies can be nurtured on one side without risk of falling out of the tree. The other side has an entry/exit hole for the grown owl. There’s a hatch on the babies’ side so that the box can be cleaned out during the season when owls are least likely to be there — usually around October and November in Northern California, where the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s California Raptor Center is located.

Build your own owl box!

Visit the California Raptor Center for more information.

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

4' x 8' plywood (3/4" thick)



2 C-clamps

Contractor square


Tape measure

Table saw (preferred) or skill saw



Step 2: Cut Wood Pieces

Start with a 4’ x 8’ sheet of ¾” plywood and cut it to the following using a table saw (or skill saw if that's all you have):

top: 26 x 21

bottom: 24 x 19

front: 24 x 20

back: 24 x 17

sides: 17 x 17 & 20 (3-inch pitch)

interior divider: 17” x 17” & 5” (Most of the interior divider spans from top to bottom, but about ¼ of it drops to 5” high so that babies can’t cross from one side to the other, but a grown owl can.

Step 3: Cut the Main Hole

It can be circle or square, but it should be at least 6" wide and 6" inches tall. A bit bigger is fine.

We used a plunge router with a circle jig to cut the circle. You could cut a square by drilling holes in four corners and cutting with a jigsaw. (See instructions for cutting the hatch).

Step 4: Nail the Pieces Together

Begin nailing the pieces together as shown in the video. All pieces except the top.

Note that the branch is largely decorative and not required.

Step 5: Cut and Install the Hatch

Cut out the side hatch with a drill and a jigsaw. Drill holes in each corner and cut out the hatch with the saw. Screw a hinge into the hatch door and add a small latch or hook to keep it closed.

Step 6: Drill Air Holes

Use a very thick drill bit to cut air holes into the side of the box with the hatch. (Opposite side of as the main hole). That's the side where the babies will nest.

Step 7: Add the Top

Now that you've put al pieces together and added air holes and a hatch, you can seal the box by nailing on the top.

Step 8: Mount the Owl Nest Box to a Tree or Post

For mounting instructions, visit the Hungry Owl Project: