Acquired: Worked with pet (didn’t own)
Posted Sep 09, 2014
Gizmo was a display bird.
Owls - perhaps the hand-reared birds of prey in general - take on the traits of their trainers, so suffice it to say he was a touch awkward.
I believe he, along with his sister Gadget, had been owned by someone who wasn't quite sure what they were doing initially, however their new and I believe current owner has really managed to turn them both around. Gadget isn't the friendliest of owls - to hold her is to feel her wrath - but Gizmo... Well, I'll just stop fawning over the little fellow now.
Like all owls, barn owls have soft and fluffy feathers that make them look twice the size of their actual skeleton. Their legs are bare due to the areas in which they hunt - long grass, fields, places which could ultimately break their feathers if they had any there. This means when you have anklets on them, you should check them regularly because, depending how tight you have them, as the anklets get wet, they will get harder and eventually begin to rub, leading to sores. You'll love your owl immensely, so you don't want that - especially as they do need to be flown daily and if they've got sores on their feet you need those to heal so it's taking a step back in its training.
It's likely that barn owls are popular since, not only do they have those beautiful heart-shaped faces, but they're very common, adapted to most environments, therefore they're also relatively cheap to buy.
As stated in a previous review, having an owl isn't a walk in the park. There are important things to consider before you take the step into getting an owl. Do you have what it takes to train someone - a member of family or a friend - to look after it if you like your holidays? Do you know a falconer? Perhaps one night, even two nights, are ok when it comes to leaving your featherchild at home with someone who isn't confident with flying it, but a week or two is a little unfair.
Barn owls are possibly the easiest of the owls in temperament - if you want a bird you can fly - due to them having been kept as a captive breed perhaps much longer than any other owl, however they are still wild animals at heart. If you hand-rear it and never train it to hunt, it is ultimately defenceless, but it is never truly domesticated.
Owls in general are notoriously difficult to train to be hunters and there'd be no point in training a barn owl to do this as the biggest thing they'd be able to catch is a mouse, possibly a rat.
If you're not going to train and fly your bird, I suggest getting a huge aviary and more than one of the same gender to prevent it from getting lonely. One of 10x4 possibly won't cut it because they'll need room to exercise themselves. However, I personally don't agree with having a bird of prey and keeping it in a cage, especially not an owl. I don't know about all species, but barn owls like to have a mate, be it human or another barn owl.
In captivity, the life span of a barn owl increases dramatically. A breeder I knew had his first two barn owls for 21 and 22 years, so they are a commitment. For perspective, the average captive European eagle owl can live up to about 80 years old, so your really need some understanding children (and perhaps equally understanding grandchildren). In the wild, largely due to brain capacity, a barn owl in the wild doesn't really have a life expectancy exceeding 6 years old. Reaching 10 is a push.
Diet-wise, the owl is rather simple. Thanks to the existence of reptile owners, you can find the food basics in any pet shop. However, to save money I suggest getting yourself an independent freezer and buying in bulk. For 10 chicks, for example, I would pay £4.69 (give or take). For a box of home-delivered frozen chicks (250 in a box), I was paying £11 + delivery. Of course, don't stop with the chicks - mice and small quails, gerbils and hamsters are fantastic sources of nutrition for your bird - variety is the spice of life - and they aren't overly expensive either. Chances are if you buy your owl's food online the supplier will also stock these.
All-in-all, a barn owl is a fantastic bird to have if you're prepared to give it the dedication and devotion it deserves. However, if you're looking just for something pretty that doesn't require hard work and proper training and care, definitely look elsewhere.