The Valley Wildlfe Tawny Owl Nestbox
David Berry* and Ian Waddington have a Lancashire-based business making a range of nestboxes, and when they saw the dutch letterbox design on this website they decided to give it a shot. I don’t think they'd made boxes for tawnies before, but now I’ve seen their design I’m full of admiration for just how excellent and ingenious it is. It also goes some way to getting over a problem one has with all large, heavy nestboxes — which is getting them up in the darned tree!
(*David retired from the business in Autumn 2010.)
This is done by having a separate back bar. Basically you bolt the back bar to the tree and then hang the box on to the bar. You do need a cordless power tool to do this as large screw-bolts need to be driven into the trunk, and most trees are too tough to do this by hand. Technically these “bolts” are known as carriage bolts; they’re a very large screw with the head of a bolt.
So, what’s so good about these boxes?
The first thing to emphasize is that they are not like your £30-35 box from a garden centre. These bargain-basement boxes are usually just four simple panels, plus a roof and a floor, pinned together with slender, non-rust-proof nails. At that price the manufacturer couldn’t afford to make them any different. What that means is that after 4-5 years out in all weathers they could become a very unsafe place indeed for your owls to roost or breed.
Professional design and construction
The Valley Wildlife boxes are much more strongly made and have an ingenious modular design. The first point about them is that they’re built on a frame of sturdy inner battens, and the side and back panels are screwed, not nailed, into these. This immediately makes for a much stronger box with a useful life that’s measurable in decades rather than years. While fixing ours I managed to drop it 20 feet to the ground, which it hit with a back corner of the roof. There was no damage at all!
Lots of room for an owl
The the inner dimensions are perfect for a Tawny Owl. The outer side dimensions of 14" x 11" give an inner diagonal of over 16", which is quite enough for an owl to lie comfortably. The battens of course occupy some of this diagonal length, but having inspected the box I can assure you that there is plenty of space.
That all-important safety feature — a ledge
Another feature I really like about this box is that no compromise has been made on the ledge. A good ledge contributes hugely to the safety of the chicks when they first emerge. Many owl boxes come without a ledge because it makes an awkward shape for packing and transport, but Ian and David have got round this problem by having a detachable ledge that’s shipped inside the nestbox.
Cleaning the box on the tree is made easy by having a removable lower front panel and a floor that slips out, meaning that you can take it away for a thorough clean-up in a sink or bucket if necessary. And necessary it may be from time to time as owlets are very messy creatures indeed. These removable panels (the roof is removable too) mean that the box itself does not have to be taken down for routine maintenance.
The nestbox is weatherproofed with several coats of a Cuprinol wood preserver.
Top row, left: The assembled box. Middle: Back view, with solid timber back bar to right. The base of the nestbox sits on the L-shaped “ledge” near the bottom. Right: Interior showing the sturdy batten construction and floor drainage. It’s details like this that make all the difference.
Left: “Exploded” view showing the modular construction. The bottom panel on the front also unscrews for cleaning. With this panel off, the floor slides out, as shown at lower left.
Lower middle: View of the base showing the slats holding the floor.
Lower right: The detachable door panel has a good-sized ledge with sturdy support. These detachable front panels allow for easy cleaning of the box with no need to remove the main frame from the tree.
External dimensions: 24" (height at back) x 14" wide x 11" deep
Internal floor area: 10" x 14" (giving internal diagonal of just over 16")
Ledge: 14" x 5"
Weight: 17 kg
Removable panels: Roof, door panel + ledge, lower front panel, and floor.
Construction is from 12 mm (0.6 in) exterior ply fixed on to a frame of 2" x 1" battens using stainless-steel screws and weatherproof glue. Sides and back come pre-assembled. Removable panels are fixed with decking screws as these are easier to remove after long periods exposed to humidity. All internal and external surfaces are weatherproofed with Cuprinol Garden Wood Preserver.
Price: £98.00 plus carriage of £15. Delivery 28 days from date of order.
A fully self-assembled, flat-packed version may be available in the future at a slightly lower cost.
Valley Wildlife staff will securely install the nest box if required within 25 miles of their base for a fee of £75.00. Call to discuss prices for installations beyond this distance.
Valley Bird Boxes
5 Hambledon View
Lancashire BB12 7PD
Telephone: 07973 114 432
powered by owls
A sturdy and well-designed
Dutch letterbox from
Our Valley Wildlife nestbox going up in March 2009 — late, but better late than never!