Barn Owls and house or barn renovations

I use this excellent Barn Owl Trust publication and have recommended it to hundreds of people. The authors make the decision-making process very clear for any developer or planning officer trying to figure out what to do about Barn Owl surveys and how to interpret the evidence that a Barn Owl survey presents.

Planning guidance – “Barn Owls and Rural Planning Applications”

Owl Lofts

The last page has a sketch of an ‘owl loft’ which is a neat way to achieve a built-in solution to the challenge of keeping a site permanently available for Barn Owls – and complete the building beautifully.

I’m not sure that I totally approve of the sketch. The drawing portrays a massive space – which is great for owls – but if you’re ever going to need monitoring or maintenance done, consider the accessibility, safety and structural strength (could it take a roofer’s weight?).

I would also advise any architect or builder involved with the project to carefully finish the detail of the entrance. Even with a sloped shape, an occasionally fierce wind might force a bit of rainwater in towards interfaces or unprotected material.

Consider ventilation and drainage for the Barn Owl cavity. I’ve seen an example where the owl loft had its own little vents and drains to allow for the intense activity that a Barn Owl family goes through. Many hundreds of prey items are delivered to the chicks – which means plenty of waste products..!

Helpfully, specialist moths and beetles will slowly break down the pellets which the owls regurgitate, but one day the box might benefit from a winter clearout – and that’s why I highlighted maintenance earlier.

Having mentioned these details, I must say I love owl lofts. Attic spaces for owls have a tradition dating back hundreds of years, and they work equally well as part of a renovation or a new build.

Barn Owl surveys

Many rural buildings with planning proposals need a Barn Owl survey and a bat survey done. My best advice for developers is this: get advice at the soonest opportunity, ideally from somebody who has experience of a similar situation.

I am experienced in Barn Owl conservation and I can carry out your Barn Owl survey (if it’s too far from me I can find a local expert through the Barn Owl Conservation Network or my Natureheads Network). As an experienced owl conservationist and qualified BTO ringer I am able to judge the best methods for survey and if necessary I can inspect the nest during the breeding season.

When it comes to planning authorities and Barn Owls they often like to ‘play on the safe side’ and request a Barn Owl survey for structures which are ‘unlikely’ – but that’s good for the owls! Believe it or not this is good for you too – because a survey and sound advice should help you avoid delays and can conform to the legislation that protects Barn Owls and their nest sites.

One of the easiest sites I have ever surveyed was an agricultural store which was in excellent condition and after a very quick survey session it was obvious that a Barn Owl could not access the building. There was no need for a big survey effort or a complex report. My fee was correspondingly small of course!

If your planning officer requests a survey for Barn Owls please contact and we can source an ecologist with the relevant experience and skills.

Jason Ball BSc (hons) MCMI (DipMan)
m: 07719 225965

Free download: has sourced the guidance from Natural England’s website and here it is – get the Barn Owl guidance for planning authorities approved by Natural England for free.


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One Response to “Barn Owls and house or barn renovations”

  1. Pole Barn Designs – Read This Before Selecting Your Design | Comparisons Reviews Says:

    […] Barn Owls and house or barn renovations « the Natureheads blog […]

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