Owl project

CS Vet Owl Project

Supported by MSD Animal Health

Coordinated by Dr Andrew Tucker

Our aim is to encourage an environmentally friendly option of controlling rodents on farms and urban industrial premises. The pig industry has taken a leading role in this environmentally conscious effort to control rodents, setting an example for other industries to follow. The three main goals for the project are:

  • To educate users on correct use of rodenticides

Promote the use of a rodenticide that is effective but with limited threat to predators. RacuminĀ® products which are multi-feed rodenticide products pose a much lower risk to the owl that eats a poisoned rat. Using the correct products in the correct programme decreases the risk of negatively affecting the ecosystem. Allowing the Barn Owl population to control the rodent population together with strategically placed rodenticides, a well balanced eco system is created. It is advised that an environment is also created which is less suitable for rodents, which includes identifying potential rodent breeding areas and clearing them so that rodents have fewer places to breed and hide. An integrated rodent control plan is established.

  • Establish suitable breeding sites for Barn Owls.

Placing nesting boxes in the environment will encourage greater Barn Owl presence in the area. Improved rodent control is established, which will in turn minimize the need to use of rodenticides.

  • Collect data on the movements and breeding of Barn Owls.

Data will be collected on breeding pairs, chicks hatched and numbers fledged. Chicks will be ringed where possible before fledging and data will be sent to SAFRING. The information will add additional data on Barn Owl movements and longevity.

What has been achieved so far

We launched the CSVC Owl Project in October 2007. Four years down the line we have tasted some success and are now more enthusiastic than ever to keep pushing the project and expanding it to something that can make the pig industry proud.

We had a surprising level of interest to start with. Most farmers aware of the project have been interested and keen to take part. There are currently about 350 boxes up in place and attracting owls.

We have had great success on some farms with one particular farm having eight breeding pairs and an estimated 200 chicks already fledged from the boxes. About 20 of this farms neighbours are now also taking part in the project so we have a whole area protected. Farms like these are reporting very well controlled rodent populations with the effective hunters being ever present. Many pig buildings are bird proof and hence we are using Racumin in key areas to aid with the rodent control plan.

We have made some inroads into the pest control industry with some pest control companies offering the owl project as part of their armoury. We also have some retailers using owls in vegetable packing facilities. The example the pig industry has and is setting will hopefully continue to encourage others to do the same. With MSD’s support we look forward to continuing to expand by supplying more and more boxes on farms that want to take part.

FAQs / Handy tips:

Where to place the box? Boxes should be placed in a protected area where they will not be exposed to direct sun or rain. The direction they face does not matter.

How high should the box be? Try to mount boxes at least 2.5m from the ground. The owls need to feel secure from cats or other terrestrial predators that may try to raid the nest.
Some tried and tested spots. Boxes can be mounted on the side of a building under the eaves. Boxes can be mounted in the rafters of an open shed. Under a water tank works well or even on a pole in the open so long as provision is made for a roof over the box.
In which area? Owls are not too worried by humans, noise or movement so long as the box is placed sufficiently high (at least 2m above ground level)). Try to place to box near an area known to have a rodent problem.
When not to fiddle with the box? In general the box should not be tampered with especially when there are eggs present. Once the chicks have hatched however the adults will not scare off very easily as they fend for their chicks.
Maintenance of the box. The box gets quite messy inside with all the owl pellets and dead rodents that build up inside. After the chicks have fledged it is a good idea to go up and clean out the box.
What do I do when Bees makes nest in the box? Bees do like the boxes and may move in from time to time. By simply removing the lid of the box the bees will move off. A handful of flea powder in the box to start off with is a good deterrent for bees.
What time of the year do the chicks fledge? The owls will breed right through the year often with 3-4 broods/year if there are enough rodents around.
At what stage do the chicks fledge? The chicks will stay in the box and be fed by the parents for about 6 weeks before they fledge to find a territory of their own.

Get Involved

How do I get involved?

If you are interested or have any questions please feel free to contact us on the office number. We will arrange complimentary owl boxes for you and help with deciding on where to place them and how best to implement a complete rodent control system on your farm.