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Barn Owl Trust

Waterleat, Ashburton Devon, TQ13 7HU Tel: 01364 653026

Email: info@barnowltrust.org.uk

Aviary Design
Reg. Charity No 299 835

This leaflet is a guide for anyone wishing to accommodate permanently captive Barn Owls. It includes information on the design and construction of a suitable aviary.
The law requires that a bird is kept in a space where it is able to spread its wings. However, in order to have any kind of quality of life, a captive bird should be housed in a way which allows it to indulge in as much of its natural behaviour as possible. For a Barn Owl, this means it should have the room to fly well, to be able to bathe, and to roost in a secluded place. There are many ways of housing captive owls and this leaflet is by no means definitive. The design will need to be adapted to suit each situation, e.g. how many birds require housing, whether they are flying or disabled, the location of the aviary, the area available to build the aviary, the existing natural features and the materials available. Owls can be noisy, therefore your neighbours should be considered when deciding upon the position of your aviary.

Standard aviary design

The aviary described here is for holding between one and five captive Barn Owls on a long-term basis. Although the design can be modified to suit a particular site or garden, we recommend that the specifications should generally be matched or exceeded. The aviary is designed for durability, low maintenance and easy cleaning. It should be constructed using preserved timber and galvanised nails. When using a timber preservative always follow the manufacturer's instructions and ensure that it is completely dry before introducing birds. The entire construction should be covered with plastic coated wire or galvanised weldmesh. The positioning of the aviary is most important with regard to prevailing weather conditions. The birds must be provided with some protection from wind and rain. Materials such as wooden fencing panels or corrugated plastic should be used to construct side panels giving shelter against the prevailing wind. Approximately one third of the aviary top should be covered in corrugated plastic sheet or similar. Warning - solid side and roof panels must be fitted in addition to, and not in place of, the wire mesh so that in the event of storm damage the birds will not escape and die. The ideal aviary provides a mixture of shelter and open space. Healthy native owls do not need any artificial heating.

First steps
Anyone thinking of keeping captive Barn Owls should consider the long-term commitment. A captive Barn Owl has a potential life-span of 20 years. Before obtaining live birds please read Considering a Captive Barn Owl (leaflet no. 30). Captive Barn Owls in Britain (leaflet no. 25) also gives a lot of relevant background information.

Width, measured externally Length, measured externally Height to apex of roof Height to eaves of roof 3.2 m 5.7 m 3.0 m 1.8 m (10 5) (18 6) (9 9) (5 10)

Other points to consider

1. Feeding. You need a regular food supply, a freezer for food storage - see Feeding Barn Owls (leaflet no. 13) - and a commitment to nightly feeding and regular aviary cleaning. 2. Location. Is it really suitable for keeping owls? Is your aviary likely to be regularly disturbed, vandalised, or to cause problems for your neighbours? 3. Planning. Will you need planning permission to erect the aviary? Although aviaries are not always viewed as permanent structures, you may need planning consent. 4. Care. Who will look after your birds if you are away? Is there someone reliable who will be able to deal with any problems that may arise?

All timbers treated and secured with galvanised nails Wire above ground to be 25mm (1") plastic-coated wire netting or 25mm x 75mm (1" x 3") galvanised weldmesh Wire below ground to be 12mm (") galvanised wire netting or weldmesh Rafters, tie-bars, ridge boards, and uprights 9cm x 4cm (3" x 1") or 10cm x 5cm (4 x 2) Corner posts 10cm x 10cm (4 x 4) Side panels 150mm x 20mm (6 x 1) feather edge boards (overlapped), wooden fence panels, 12mm

Barn Owl Trust - Conserving the Barn Owl and its Environment

( inch) exterior plywood or corrugated plastic sheet Roof panels - corrugated plastic sheet or similar See Figure 1 opposite




Figure 3: gravel-filled pit

A weather-proof external quality bulkhead light can be provided to assist with feeding during the winter months and to allow easier owl watching. The owls will not be bothered by artificial light but you should be careful to avoid electrocution whist cleaning or maintaining the aviary. This aviary design can also be used for housing permanently captive Tawny Owls and Little Owls. However, in this case, we strongly recommend that weldmesh (swg - standard wire gauge - 16 or thicker) rather than plastic covered wire netting is used.

Water bowl
Although owls rarely drink, they do require clean water for bathing. A plastic household washing-up bowl is ideal for this purpose. Because owls are susceptible to drowning, care must be taken to ensure that the depth of water is not too great, 75 to 100mm (3 to 4) is ideal for Barn Owls and Tawny Owls. Care should be taken to avoid placing the water bowl below any perches. Under normal circumstances you should not use detergents or any other cleaning agents to clean the bowl or any other part of the aviary - just use clean water (and effort!).

The floor of the aviary

The base should be constructed to prevent rodent infestation. This can be achieved by providing a 12mm () wire covering, the netting being continuous with that on the wall panels and laid under a turf covering and under any gravel or stepping stones. The wire netting used for underwiring need not be plastic covered. See Figure 2.

Roosting box
A roosting box should be provided as most Barn Owls will choose to roost out of sight during the day. This should be constructed using treated 9mm (") softwood ply and roofing felt and should be completely weatherproof. We would recommend that separate roosting boxes are provided for each owl and that they are erected as high as possible above the gravel pit(s). See Figure 4 below.

150 x 20mm timber side panls 25mm netting


entrance hole size 100mm x 200mm (4'' x 8'')

turf finish to aviary floor 25mm netting under turf 30mm overlap

Figure 2: aviary floor Owls produce lots of droppings and pellets. In order to facilitate easy cleaning of the aviary, we recommend that in the area below roosting boxes and perches gravel filled pits are constructed. Use treated 150mm (6) wide timber boards sunk 100mm (4) into the surface soil and fill the pits with 150mm (6) of clean 20mm (") aggregate. These areas can then be washed down with a hose-pipe and raked as and when required. See Figure 3.

Barn Owl Trust - Conserving the Barn Owl and its Environment

50 mm
600mm (24'') 500mm (20'')

300m m (12'')
internal perch

Figure 4: roosting box


Figure 1







10cm x 10cm timber corner posts water bowl 15cm x 2cm timber planks to min height of 35 cm above ground

gravel filled pit

9cm x 4cm intermediate timber uprights feeding table

paving slabs or stepping stones, giving access to feeding table 25mm plastic coated wire netting or 25 x 75mm galvanised weldmesh

Barn Owl Trust - Conserving the Barn Owl and its Environment

access door fitted with clasp and padlock externally and sliding bolt internally

timber threshold to avoid rodent entry



Feeding table
The feeding table should be constructed using a 100mm (4) wide plank for the platform and treated timber uprights for the supports. The table should be about a metre high and positioned securely a minimum of 500mm (20) from the sides of the aviary. See Figure 5 below. Ensure that there are no perches above the feeding table that could cause soiling of the food and that the owls have a clear flight to and from the table. Disabled birds may need perches up to the table to enable them to reach their food. For your convenience, paving slabs or stepping stones can be provided from the aviary door to the feeding table - see Figure 1 overleaf.

Captive breeding
It is most unlikely that Barn Owls will attempt to breed in an aviary built to this design. The roosting boxes are bottomless to prevent nesting. Ensure that there is nothing on the aviary floor which the birds can get under or behind. The absence of ground cover will restrict the likelihood of owls nesting on the ground. Should you wish to breed Barn Owls, we would urge you to seek further advice and to read our leaflets on the subject before installing a nestbox. See Captive Barn Owls in Britain (leaflet no. 25) and Captive Breeding Control (leaflet no. 29). More useful information can be found in Indoor Nestboxes (leaflet no. 3) and Rings and Ringing (leaflet no. 15). See also our Information leaflet. If you have any questions regarding the adaptation of this design for your own purposes, please contact us and we will endeavour to help. Our thanks go to Chris Prowse, architectural design consultant, for his assistance with the drawings in this leaflet.
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Barn Owl Trust 1989 latest revision 2010

Figure 5: feeding table

Providing a varied selection of surfaces on which to perch will help keep the birds' feet in good health. Placing some stone perches (rocks) on the floor of the aviary will also help to keep their talons from overgrowing. The use of tree branches will add to the aesthetic value. The various perches should be securely fixed and, to avoid soiling, should not be positioned over the feeding table or the water bowl. Perches should be positioned at each corner of the aviary to encourage the owls to make maximum use of the available flight space. They should not be attached to the aviary wire and should be at least 500mm (20) from the wire to avoid feather breakage. Disabled birds will require extra perches to enable them to reach roosts and feeding tables.

The Barn Owl Trust is a registered charity dedicated to the conservation of the Barn Owl and its environment. You can become a Friend of the Barn Owl Trust and support our work by making a regular donation. Friends receive our biannual magazine Feedback, our Annual Report and an enamel pin badge. The Trust provides a wide range of free leaflets on Barn Owl related matters. For details of these and further information about the Trust and its work, please write including a large SAE to: Barn Owl Trust Waterleat Ashburton Devon TQ13 7HU Tel: 01364 653026 Email: info@barnowltrust.org.uk Web: www.barnowltrust.org.uk

Barn Owl Trust - Conserving the Barn Owl and its Environment


Restoring the Balance

Weve lived side-by-side with Barn Owls for centuries. But in modern times wild Barn Owls have become increasingly rare - and the reasons are all man-made. The Barn Owl is a symbol of our relationship with the countryside: the decline of this beautiful bird reflects our attitude towards the environment. No species can prosper in isolation - not even human beings. All things are connected and if we lived in balance with nature then Barn Owls, and so much other wildlife, could thrive.

How you can help

You can help to conserve the Barn Owl by Becoming a Friend of the Trust and making an annual or monthly donation to support our work. If you are a UK tax payer and complete a simple Gift Aid declaration the Trust can reclaim the tax paid on your donation and significantly increase the value of your gift at no extra cost to you. Standing order and Gift Aid forms are provided below. Please consider paying by Standing Order as this greatly reduces our administration time and costs.

UK Friends: Individual 20; Family (same address) 25 Overseas Friends: Individual 25 (sterling); Family (same address) 30 (sterling) Owlets: UK 20; Overseas 25. Owlets are JuniorFriends. They receive a personal ID card, Feedback and goody bag. (If children are under 16, please state ages. One or more children from the same family at one address can be Owlets.) Name(s) ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Address ___________________________________________________________ Postcode___________________________ Daytime telephone no_______________________________________ Email address_________________________________

I would like to become a Friend of the Trust and receive my Friends pack - I enclose
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*UK taxpayers please complete Gift Aid decl aration below.

* (see above) *

Sorry, donations of under 5 are not acknowledged without an SAE.

The contact details you submit on this form will be held by the Barn Owl Trust on a secure computer system and may be used by the Trust in pursuit of its aims. Please let us know if you object to this.


If you are a UK tax payer completing this Gift Aid form will enable the Trust to reclaim the tax paid on your donation, thereby increasing the value of your gift at no extra cos to yourself. t

Full name_____________________________________________________________________________________________ Address__________________________________________________________ Postcode____________________________

I want the Barn Owl Trust to treat all donations I make on or after the date of this declaration as Gift Aid donations until I notify you otherwise .

My signature _____________________________________________________ Date_________________________________

Note: Please remember to tell us if you no longer pay an amount of income or capital gains tax equal to the tax we reclaim on your donations. Please contact our office if you have any queries.


Name __________________________________________________________ Date_________________________________ Address_________________________________________________________ Postcode_______________________ _______ Please pay on the first day of each month*/year* (* delete one) starting in the month of _____________

and a like sum on the same date each month*/year* until further notice to the account of the Barn Owl Trust (a/c no. 1027812) at Lloyds Bank (sort code 30-98-69) 31 Fore Street, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 5HH My signature _____________________________________________________ Account Number________________________ To the manager___________________________________________________ Bank_________________________________ Bank Address ____________________________________________________ Postcode_____________________________

Please fill in and sign the appropriate parts of this form and post it to:

Barn Owl Trust, Waterleat, Ashburton, Devon, TQ13 7HU

If youd like to receive information by post, please tick the boxes below and enclose a large stamped addressed envelope:
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