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Project by rdlaurance posted 07-23-2011 04:22 PM 2316 views 2 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Upon reading Martin’s original announcement of the Summer Competition, my initial decision was to forgo the submission of an entry. Already having 10 birdhouses built a few years ago, all presently filled with their respective third broods this summer, by sparrows, great tits and blue tits, I felt no desire to build another. Also as these were simple constructions quickly slapped together for the immediate use of our local feathered natives, they were nothing special that I cared to showcase.

However with the advent of mid-July, I received three clear metaphysical signs, in the same number of days, indicating that I should build a birdhouse for owls. The first sign was when my wife casually mentioned one evening (out-of-the-blue) that she would really like an owl birdhouse made for her birthday (July 23). Owls have always been her favorite bird.

The second sign appeared the following evening. I was exiting the back door on my way out to the studio when I glanced up at the waxing gibbous moon. In the foreground on the gavel end of the barn’s roof, was perched in stark silhouette against the moon’s light, our local ‘kattuggla’ (Tawny Owl- Strix aluco ) that inhabits the little grove of trees nearby. It was such a stereotypical graphic image, I chuckled! Though I had heard the night calls months earlier during the mating/nesting season, I had not seen our little friend since last autumn.

The last mystical sign was the LJ’s e-newletter that MsDebbieP posted the following day (July 14), with one of the first news items stating that two weeks remained for submission of entries to the Summer (bird house) Competition.

OK…. Debbie! ....hit me over the head with a hammer (a soft rubber ball-pien …preferably and need be)... I get the hint(s)!

So after doing a bit of research on the sizes and specifics required by a nesting Tawny Owl, I began construction. All materials were left over scrap from renovating the entire house these last three years (almost finished). The walls, roof and floor are all 1” tongue & grove boards laminated into panels with 1-1/2” battens in all corners for added strength. Additionally, I had discovered an old (antique) packet of 4mm thick larch shakes in the attic, remaining from the original roofing of the house (late 1800’s). From these, I was able to cut small siding shingles for cladding of the exterior walls. This exterior was then stained with an old dark stain (couldn’t read the color label anymore) which gave a better overall appearance.

As baby owls excrete mass quantities of ‘really wet’ poo during their growth, it was necessary to bore many 8mm holes through the bottom floor to aid in drying and air circulation that will cut back on the ammonia stench that can otherwise accumulate. The floor was also sealed with three layers of boat varnish which should aid in cleanout every autumn. For ease of possible future repairs and cleanout, I built a sliding door on one side (disguised as a window), a hinged roof that lifts up and the varnished floor, that can be unlocked and removed from the house.

As any homeowner knows, a roofing gutter system is essential to keep the occasional rain from pouring down one’s back while entering and exiting one’s abode. As such, it is an included amenity.

This house is now ready for immediate occupancy….well… once I hoist it up into the large Ash tree adjoining the garden. Hopefully these future flying critters will keep the voles and mice out of the garden…. just wished they would kill or haul off all the large slimy slugs that tend to congregate there.

After spending 3 hours…. off and on through the day trying to upload four more picture, with no luck (150kb pics using broadband), I’ll try to upload them below (in the Comments section).

-- Rick, south Sweden

19 comments so far

View rdlaurance's profile


367 posts in 3316 days

#1 posted 07-23-2011 04:28 PM

Here are a few more photos of this owl house….

-- Rick, south Sweden

View Skylark53's profile


2661 posts in 3030 days

#2 posted 07-23-2011 04:52 PM

This will surely be enjoyed by WHO WHOMEVER moves in. It sure looks heavy and durable. Very wise of you to plan for easy cleanout-this house could last a couple generations! I especially like the thoughtful gutter.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View lew's profile


12019 posts in 3725 days

#3 posted 07-23-2011 05:11 PM

Cool Story!

Hope you win, the owls already are winners!


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3055 days

#4 posted 07-23-2011 05:23 PM

Just have to ask, are those carved owls, or do you have a contact with the owl models association? We have
a pair of horned owls that visits the birch tree in front of our house in the fall to give us an impromptu concert, but they seem to prefer the river bottom as a habitat, can not really blame them. I can understand why people
like owls, even though we do not see them very much. Very nice idea and thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4370 days

#5 posted 07-23-2011 05:26 PM

Great story and a very nice owl house.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View learnin2do's profile


889 posts in 2821 days

#6 posted 07-23-2011 09:55 PM

how wonderful! – i guess you could not submit a cob brick model!
funny, i am submitting one under coincedence of a birthday request as well! – probably the only reason it will be on time; it is to be finished today – now!! That is so perfectly perfect! – glad you were coaxed to join in the themed gallery! It is a beautiful gift and thank goodness it facilitated your contribution to the birdhouse gallery!

-- ~christine @ used2btrees

View rdlaurance's profile


367 posts in 3316 days

#7 posted 07-23-2011 11:02 PM

Ha ha ha… yeah Gus… wish I could claim that the owl babies were carved but they weren’t. You were correct with your latter addition, they came from the local owl models association, er… uh… the owl photoshop.

Rick, you noticed that it looks heavy and durable. Most of those I found on the internet are just that. They are generally pulleyed up into the tree (like 20 feet) on a rope and solidly bound at that point, through the support/binding rungs on the back (last picture). I’ve yet to attach the eye bolts to assist in the hoisting and attachment to the tree. Durability… ha ha…. I accidentally knocked it off the table (tight working space) and cringed as it hit the floor on one top edge. Didn’t do anything except impress the corner of the asphalt shingle about 1/8”. So it should definitely last many, many years. The Tawny Owl can live upwards of 20+ years and they are very territorial with about 1/2 square mile territory, so maybe we’ll have the same owl lady staying around for a good while.

Thanks all for your comments!

Oh… Christine, I actually thought about the cob brick model as a possibility, but it would have to be built on site and for the barn swallows, but they were already in the middle of their nesting. Their 2nd brood of babies just started flying early this week. Of course, if I did do the cob-house, Martin wouldn’t let me post it here because of media restrictions…. ha ha. I would have to post it on my ceramics forum website, but then those people aren’t as fun as the LJ’ers, they never have these fun competitions or friendly brouhaha. Look forward to seeing your entry! I know it’ll be good!

-- Rick, south Sweden

View rance's profile


4255 posts in 3130 days

#8 posted 07-23-2011 11:13 PM

Wow, and more top notch competition. Great build.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4130 days

#9 posted 07-25-2011 04:39 AM

(Sorry about the bonk over the head!!) haha

I love that window!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View mafe's profile


11643 posts in 3059 days

#10 posted 07-26-2011 03:59 PM

Impossible not to smile, thank you.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2930 days

#11 posted 07-28-2011 01:09 AM

Great birdhouse! The new residents look real excited over their new home. ;)

View Roger's profile


20923 posts in 2773 days

#12 posted 08-02-2011 08:53 PM

very nifty idea. hope you get commission… :) good luck in the build

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View rdlaurance's profile


367 posts in 3316 days

#13 posted 09-25-2011 10:03 AM

With the advent of Autumn, I finally got the owl house hoisted up (about 6 meters) into the ‘ash’ tree next to the garden….

-- Rick, south Sweden

View mafe's profile


11643 posts in 3059 days

#14 posted 09-25-2011 12:20 PM

Now we will cross our fingers for a owl.
Looking nice.

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View rdlaurance's profile


367 posts in 3316 days

#15 posted 04-25-2012 05:12 PM

So it was last Autumn (Oct. 2011) that I installed the owl’s house so that it would be available and seen by the time the Tawny Owl begins its nesting season (late February-mid March). I was mistaken on my posting above in regards to the variety of tree that the house is installed in… it is a large leafed Linden rather than an ash.

So here it is, the first Spring since installation and we have been very curious in wondering if we do in fact have a nesting owl. As they tend to be much more private than our other regular bird tenants, plus being nocturnal, it makes it a bit harder to witness any comings and goings until after the eggs have hatched and the mother begins hanging out in the neighboring trees during the daytime, watching and guarding her brood.

For two weeks now, we have been picking up slight clues hinting of habitation, ie., more frequent and regular night time ‘hooting’ from these trees (which is rare) and a small feather protruding from one of the bottom vent holes. Yesterday, my wife claims she saw the top of a head through the doorway as she went out to the compost bin. And this evening she claims the same, as she ran into the house all excited and almost hysterical.

I grabbed the binoculars and gazing out from the bathroom window I also witnessed the crown of a head and movement so I can truthfully say that, ‘Yes, we may now have our first brood of owlets happening.’ In about another 6 weeks we should be able to start glimpsing little owls as they pop up on their porch to check out the world. That is really exciting as we think they are really cool birds! I’ll add any verifying photos that I can capture when that possibility occurs.

-- Rick, south Sweden

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