Cleaning & Maintenance
- For Barn Owl Boxes
Have the Hungry Owl Project clean your Barn Owl boxes or use our instructions to self clean your boxes.
HOP Cleaning Services
The Hungry Owl Project provides cleaning services for the upper half of the Bay Area as well as the Sonoma and Napa Wine Country area. Barn Owl box cleaning season is from October through November ( this is the time that the owls are least likely to be around). If you'd like us to clean your boxes, contact us and we'll add you to the cleaning list for the year. If you'd like to clean your own boxes, just scroll down for our helpful instructions.
HOP Barn Owl Box Cleaning Pricing:
Within Marin County:
$50 per box
$35 per box enrolled in our monitoring program
Outside Marin County:
$75 for 1st box, $50 ea additional
$50 for 1st box, $35 ea additional for monitoring program enrolled boxes
Please note: For the safety of our crew, we cannot clean boxes installed higher than 14' and in some circumstances even lower. For boxes that are too high or have too many access restrictions (such as very steep slopes) we can refer you to 3rd party box cleaners that can hopefully assist you.
For questions and to schedule a cleaning:
firstname.lastname@example.org - 415-454-4587
Box Cleaning Instructions
Click HERE to download a PDF copy of our box cleaning instructions.
Cleaning your owl box is very important for the health and safety of the owls. Barn Owls, as with other owls, regurgitate the undigested bones and fur of the rodents they eat and cough up a 2-3" long pellet. The mother owl will use these pellets, by breaking them up with her beak, to form a soft nest to lay her eggs. The chicks, once hatched, begin regurgitating 1 to 2 pellets a day not too long after they hatch. With up to 5-7 chicks in a clutch and sometimes 2 clutches a year, the build up of pellet material can be enormous. While this pellet material serves as natural bedding material, too much can be detrimental to the wellbeing of your owl family. An excess build up of pellets can leave little room for owls the following year, can contribute to higher heat and poor ventilation inside the box and the extra weight can put additional strain on box mounts. Please clean your boxes annually.
When to Clean
We recommend ONLY cleaning the nest boxes in the fall between late September and late November (think October & November to keep it simple). This is the time of the year when the owls are least likely to be inside the box. However, it is possible for owls to be inside your box at any time of the year, please be very cautious when approaching your box. If you find owls or other occupants inside, try to avoid flushing them out of the box (being out during daytime is very dangerous for Barn Owls). Carefully back away and contact us.
How to Clean
- Crow bar or pry bar
- Gloves & face mask
- Bucket or bag to collect and dispose of materials
Please ALWAYS use gloves and a face mask to help minimize the possible health risks of dealing with non-sterilized owl pellets. In over a decade of cleaning owl boxes, we've yet to have any problems, but it is better to be safe than sorry! We recommend using an orchard ladder to reach your box. Try to never lean a ladder directly against your box.
Step 1: Open the cleaning flat.
HOP Barn Owl boxes have a cleaning flat on the bottom-front of the box. Loosen the two eye-screws to open.
Step 2: Remove material.
The pellet material inside the box can occasionally be very hard. This is where a crow bar or pry bar can come to use. Scoop the material into your bucket or bag. If material is hard, use the crow bar or pry bar to loosen it up. Sometimes it only takes a little pull from the back and the whole thing slides out. Do not use any cleaning or disinfecting products. Tighten the two eye screws and your box should be good to go.
Step 3: Scatter or dispose of material.
The contents of the box can be scattered on the ground, but we recommend doing it far away from your box. Otherwise, just toss your material in the trash.
The October - November cleaning window is also the best time to perform any needed maintenance on or around your box. If you need to do any tree work or any other work that could disturb your owl occupants, take the opportunity in the cleaning window. While cleaning, check for any needed repairs. Does your box need a new coat of paint? A tightening of any screws? If repainting, please use non-toxic exterior paint or stain. Contact HOP for more info or visit our Tree Life Program page for info on wildlife-safe tree work.
Sometimes, you may find some interesting surprises inside your owl box such as Screech Owls, Squirrels, Song Birds, Wasps, Bees, Opossums or other wildlife. If you do, please discontinue cleaning immediately and call HOP for advice. If you find any dead owls in or around your box, please let us know.
HOP Cleaning Services
If you are unable to or do not wish to clean your box, have the Hungry Owl Project clean your box.
For more info, questions and to schedule a cleaning: