Saturday, May 27, 2017

Barn Owls

As I write this, I can hear fledgling Barn Owls outside my window practicing their Halloween screeches and every other weird noise they can try out. They sound like teenaged boys whose voices are breaking. The owls fledged a week ago, but keep coming back to the barn loft to beg or just hang out.

It has been an eventful season for this batch of owlets. First there was the one that tumbled out of the nest box when it was still very young. I carried it back up. Then there was the leg banding fiasco wherein I learned to listen to my instincts in the future... and make sure a bander has a scientific reason for banding and not just so his grandkids can hold baby owls.  The owlets and I were unduly stressed but we all survived.

That was followed two weeks later by a windstorm and one owlet blown off the ledge into the goat field. The baby was apparently unhurt and all five owlets eventually fledged. We had a fledging party for them attended by only three of the fifty plus people who receive my owlet updates throughout the season. They had a good show of baby and adult owls flying around and sitting in the loft opening.

Here is a progression of photos from the first day mama was out of the box after the babies hatched... March 21.

The next time mama left the nest so I could take a photo of the fluffy owlets was on April 14...

On April 29, the two oldest were outgrowing the others and taking up all the room...

By May, 3 of the owlets were coming out on the ledge outside the box at night to beg. This photo of the adventurers was taken on May 2nd.

 On the afternoon of May 4th, one of them was blown off the ledge during a dramatic wind storm and out into the goat yard.

It looked very sleepy and out of place. I carried the light and fluffy, but with a surprising number of feathers under all that fluff, owlet back up the ladder and it hopped right back into the box. A week later, I checked and all five were in the box, so this fluffy, scruffy owlet survived its adventure.

It became difficult soon after that to feed hay to the goats at night because the baby owls that had lost most of their baby fluff were flying about the loft and I worried they would try to fly out before they were ready. By the middle of May they had lost all their baby fluff and were fully feathered. I was only seeing three. As it turned out the oldest two had apparently fledged before we held a fledging party on the evening of May 20.

On May 22, I took this photo at 4:46 p.m. of an adult on the loft branch.

On that same day, May 22, I went back up at 8 p.m. and the adult was gone, replaced by two youngsters.

Since then, sometimes the owlets are in the loft when I go up to feed hay in the morning. If they are I wait to make sure they hop into the box and not out the window. Daytime is dangerous time for Barn Owls. They get mobbed by jays and crows.

As soon as the young owls are no longer returning to the loft, we will burn their old, filthy and tattered, cardboard nest box and give them a new one. Some years, the Barn Owls raise a second clutch. They deserve a clean start.

We love having Barn Owls residing in our loft, catching lots of voles and mice... and the occasional starling that nests up there, too. I even like their other-worldly sounds... even though those sounds set the livestock guardian dog barking... as he is doing non-stop as I type this late at night on the 26th... while the owls ignore him and continue to beg and screech. Ah, quiet night time on the farm...


  1. Oh we need some of these these moon-faced lovelies here at the Wood residence in Seattle. We have some rodents enjoying the vegetable garden and cozy insulation. Dog isn't quick enough.
    Linda, I've been wondering about the llama or alpaca that you used to have (I visited your farm with my parents Dave and Sarah Parker ~2003/4). Someone recently told me that alpacas make good guardians for flocks of sheep and I wonder how they were for you? I remember they were fun to pet, if you could avoid a spit attack. Did they have any notable traits and were they useful or enjoyable as livestock/pets?


  2. Kelsey, write to me at and I'll tell you all about llamas. For your rodents, though, I think you need a different kind of dog. :-)