Despite their decline in the wild, Barn Owls breed very easily in captivity and there is a large population of legitimate captive birds in the UK. This has led to a propensity of owls being offered for sale through the likes of local papers, car boot sales, etc.
However, our basic advice to those who may be considering keeping an owl as a pet is - DON’T. To begin with, owls do not make very good pets. Beautiful, majestic and as awe-inspiring as they may be, in captivity they can be noisy, smelly and dirty and will need a lot of your time, care & attention. They require a regular, specialist diet, and in our opinion to be kept properly they need a large, purpose-built aviary which can be expensive to build and maintain.
Also, it should be considered that owls are predators. They can be quick, powerful and with the sharp talons they use to kill prey, extremely dangerous - especially for children. Even falconers with many years experience of bird handling have lost eyes or been severely scarred by wayward captive raptors.
With the heightened awareness of owls amongst youngsters due to the success of the “Harry Potter” books and films, author J.K. Rowling has made a strong plea to fans not to copy their hero by keeping owls as pets.
She says, “If anybody has been influenced by my books to think an owl would be happiest shut in a small cage and kept in a house, I would like to take this opportunity to say as forcefully as I can: You are wrong.
“The owls in Harry Potter books were never intended to portray the true behavior or preference of real owls. If your owl-mania seeks concrete expression, why not sponsor an owl at a bird sanctuary where you can visit and know that you have secured him or her a happy, healthy life.”
Keeping Owls is really the province of the experts, and you will find that there is plenty of advice and information available about the proper environment and conditions in which owls can be kept available from organisations like the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, who have experienced falconers on hand; have specialised information available on the care & conservation of owls and run courses on the subject.
Click here to find out more about building and siting owl nestboxes