It’s been said that the glut of barn conversions into homes is one of the reasons for the demise of the Barn Owl. Traditionally, Barn Owls on farms often roosted in barns and nested in them if there was a suitable box or ledge.
In the halcyon days of the 40s and 50s before modern farming methods took hold of the countryside, there was lots of good habitat, trees and hedgerows; Barn Owls were on every farm and prey was so plentiful that they even nested communally in barns and lofts.
But the needs of a growing population required changes in farming including bigger fields, thousands of miles of hedgerows disappeared and a lot of the good habitat disappeared causing the crash in the Barn Owl population that we are now working hard to recover!
I would never criticise a farmer for allowing his disused barns to be converted for housing, some farmers are having a hard time and selling off a barn for conversion gives the business a good injection of cash. Planning regulations demand that all barn conversion proposals have to be surveyed to see if there’s signs of use by Barn Owls and Bats.
Bats can be a big problem as they’re more difficult to rehouse than Barn Owls which can be lured away from a draughty old barn by the provision of a couple of cosy new boxes in the close vicinity of the barn.
Some time ago, I had a call from a man who had just received planning permission for a barn conversion on condition that he had a couple of boxes erected nearby. I met him at the premises and it was easy to see that Barn Owls had been roosting in the barn; there were owl pellets and whitewash beneath several perches. A problem was though that there are no suitable trees close by. My advice was that they plant 2 telephone poles on land behind the barn and once they were in place, then we would fix boxes to the poles.