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How-Tuesday: Build a Bat House

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With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve got bats on the brain. After participating in a night mission to monitor bat activity with the Conserve Wildlife Bat Project, I’ve become hooked on the bat cause. Brian Henderson and Ben Wurst, a.k.a. reclaimednj, of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey have compiled instructions on how to make your own bat house. It’s important to help your local mosquito-swilling bats find refuge, as many bat populations are dwindling at an alarming rate. This weekend project is perfect for using up scrap lumber and doing your part for nature conservation.

 

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting New Jersey’s more than 70 endangered and threatened species and the habitats on which these animals depend. Our work is accomplished through biological research, rare wildlife management and habitat restoration, education and outreach.

Bats are getting a lot of attention these days, and it isn’t just because they can eat thousands of mosquito-sized insects each night, providing helpful insect control without the use of pesticides; their numbers are dropping rapidly. This trend isn’t unique to New Jersey, as more than half of America’s bat species are in severe decline. Bats have long suffered the effects of habitat loss and disturbance to their hibernating colonies and summer roosts. The newest threat is a disease called White-Nose Syndrome. First discovered in a New York cave in 2006, White Nose Syndrome has spread further south and west each year and has since devastated populations of cave-dwelling bats in 19 U.S. states.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ is involved in numerous projects to study and protect bats by organizing an annual Summer Bat Count, surveying bat caves and maternity colonies, using car-mounted acoustic bat detectors to “hear” and monitor bat activity statewide and working with landowners to enhance bat habitat on private property.

Many people are concerned about the declining bat populations and want to help. While some threats are out of our control, building and installing bat houses is a simple way to give local bat populations a bit of help by providing them with secure places to rest and raise their young. There are lots of variations on how to build a bat house. This how-to is adapted from instructions from the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s design and will show you how to create a three-chamber bat house that provides a summer roosting habitat for up to 100 bats.

To learn more about Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ or to become involved in any of our volunteer-based projects, visit our website.

Supplies you’ll need:

  • 8 pieces of pre-cut wood (3/4” plywood) — You can use exterior plywood, cedar or pine to build your house, but should avoid using pressure-treated wood.
    • Back = 18” x 24”
    • Front top = 9” x 18”
    • Front bottom = 5 ½” x 18”
    • Roof = 6 ¾”  x 19” (one end of the 19” side to should have a 45° angle)
    • 2 baffles = 14” x 16” — Before assembly, the baffles (vertical pieces of wood that divide the interior of the box and provide increased surface area for the bats to cling to) and other interior surfaces should be roughened and scratched to create textured surfaces for the bats to climb and hold onto. This can be done with the claw-end of a hammer, a table saw, or whatever other method you find convenient. 
    • 2 sides = 21” long 2x4s with ends cut at a 45° angle (short end will be ~15”). Use a router to create two grooves ½” wide and ½” deep to hold the baffles in place.  Grooves should begin 1” and 2 ¼” from the longer (21”) side.
  • Roofing material – approximately 7” x 19”
  • Screening – approximately 5” x 13”
  • 38 screws – 1 ¼”  wood or galvanized drywall screws (1LB)
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Philips Head Screwdriver (or power drill & drill bit)
  • Caulk gun
  • Roofing tar or caulk
  • Liquid Nails
  • Exterior water-based paint. The color will be dependent on your climate. (See step #14 for details)

Directions:

1. Apply a thin strip of Liquid Nails or wood glue to the long side of each 2×4.

2. Lay the side pieces across from one another, making sure the grooves face each other. It can be helpful to place one of the baffles between the side pieces to make sure you have the proper spacing.

3. Place the back piece on top of the side pieces, making sure the edges are aligned on the bottom and sides of the back.

4. Attach the back to the sides using six evenly spaced screws on each side. We recommend pre-drilling each hole using a 1/8″ drill bit. Use an electric drill or Philips head screwdriver to secure each screw.

5. Turn the box over and apply a thin strip of adhesive to the top of each side piece and across the top of the bat house, where the sides and back meet. You can tell the top because the back will extend past the sides, leaving you space to attach the roof.

6. Center the roof over the side and back. The beveled edge of the roof should fit snugly against the back of the box.

7. Secure the roof, using three screws on each side.

8. Center the screening about one inch from the bottom of the box and attach by stapling around the perimeter. This will provide the bats with a good surface to grab onto.

9. Slide the baffles into the grooves on the interior of the bat box. If the fit is tight, you can use a block of wood and hammer to knock them into place. Position them so that they are each at least 1″ from the top and offset from one another.

10. Measure approximately 5 inches from the top of the box and put one screw in each baffle (two on each side) to hold them in place. Do this on both sides.

11. Apply a thin strip of adhesive to the top edge of each side. Place the top (larger) front piece so that the beveled edge is snug with the roof. Secure it in place with three screws on each side.

12. Do the same for the bottom front piece, making sure to leave a gap of at least 1/2″ between the top and bottom boards. This space helps prevent the box from overheating on hot days. Secure in place using two screws on each side.

13. Seal all the edges and screw holes with caulk to protect from rain and poor weather.

14. When your bat house is complete, paint all exterior surface with an exterior grade water based paint. Where you live will determine what color you should paint your bat house. Where average high temperatures in July are less than 85° F, black paint should be used; where temperatures are 85° to 95°, dark brown or dark grey colors should be used; where temps are 95° to 100°, medium colors should be used, and where temps exceed 100° in July, white or light colors should be used. A lot depends on the amount of sun exposure; use a darker color if sun exposure is weak. The bat house needs to retain heat, which is important for the bats and their young pups.

15. Lightly cover the top of roof with adhesive and place roofing material flush against the back. The roofing will overhang on the front and sides; staple around the perimeter in order to secure it to the roof. Staples should be covered with roofing cement before hanging.

16. Install your finished bat house! Proper site selection is the key a successful bat house. Your house should be placed at least 12 feet above the ground in an open area where it will receive at least 7 hours of direct sun each day, preferably facing south-southwest.  It should also be within about ¼ mile of a reliable drinking source such as a stream or pond, and within 100 feet of a tree line to provide cover from aerial predators.

The best place to hang your box is on a pole or building in a spot where “people traffic” is low.  Placing it on a tree is not recommended because they are often too shaded and are also more accessible to predators. If a tree is your best option, place a metal predator guard around the tree below your bat house.

Bat houses can be built and installed at any time of the year, but are more likely to be used their first summer if installed before spring. When using bat houses in conjunction with excluding bats from a building, install the bat house at least a few weeks before the eviction is performed.

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  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie says:

    Great post for Halloween! Better than in your attic! =)

    3 years ago

  • RossLab

    RossLab says:

    A bat house? This might look like the "keep it weird" weekly blog, but bats are helpful and deserve to be protected, so thanks for sharing this interesting article. I'll build one if they promise not to cross my path :-)

    3 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    VERY interesting! Bats are creepy, but in the cutest way possible!

    3 years ago

  • minouette

    minouette says:

    Great topic! There is a large park across the street with several bat houses. We enjoy going for a walk in the evening to watch them. I'm always so impressed to see bats in the city despite White Noise Syndrome. They are fabulous creatures and help keep the misquitoes at bay.

    3 years ago

  • CathleenOU

    CathleenOU says:

    I fear keeping bats around due to rabies.

    3 years ago

  • ToosDetectiveAgency

    ToosDetectiveAgency says:

    I think bats are so cute! I'd love to have one of these in my yard, but does anyone know if there are concerns about attracting more bats into the city? Are my neighbors going to complain?

    3 years ago

  • elegantjewelz

    elegantjewelz says:

    the University of florida had one and when it starts to get down people would gather to watch the bats come out,it was the collest thing ever...

    3 years ago

  • DBEAUTIFULMIND

    DBEAUTIFULMIND says:

    Our patio is glass inclosed... we have a little bat that lives in a small opening in the ceiling of the patio. He left last month. He returns every year!

    3 years ago

  • DBEAUTIFULMIND

    DBEAUTIFULMIND says:

    spellcheck- enclosed lol

    3 years ago

  • DBEAUTIFULMIND

    DBEAUTIFULMIND says:

    thanks for the info... maybe we will build him a house next year. We were wondering if he left early... maybe he knows something about what kind od winter we are going to have!

    3 years ago

  • auntjanecan

    auntjanecan says:

    Wonderful!!!! I love bats!

    3 years ago

  • RivalryTime

    RivalryTime says:

    Hmmmm. I love bats.....from afar. I may have to skip this one :)

    3 years ago

  • RubyChicBoutique

    RubyChicBoutique says:

    Thanks, Julie, for the great story. I'm happy to see Etsy spreading awareness and education while helping to support another beautiful cause. -Crystal

    3 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat says:

    Bats rock! We have them in our trees & spend hours watching them hunting over the pond & around the trees. Occasionally in summer evenings they accidentally come indoors & flutter around for a while before finding the door again! :-)

    3 years ago

  • vianegativa420

    vianegativa420 says:

    ah, the myth of bats and rabies...your neighbor's cat is more likely to spread rabies than bats, and the bats will keep away the bugs that spread West Nile virus, which unfortunately, is not just a once-off illness as they'd like you to believe. I contracted in 2002 and have never made what I would call a full recovery, and the medical profession has thus far failed to recognize that some of the victims never fully clear this virus from our bodies. Great project.

    3 years ago

  • reclaimednj

    reclaimednj says:

    Thanks for the post about building a bat house and our work to protect bats in NJ! @ToosDetectiveAgency - You should be able to place a bat house anywhere you want, no matter if you live in the city or not. Just make sure you where you want to mount it has good S-SW exposure to late-day sunlight.

    3 years ago

  • SoftForest

    SoftForest says:

    I think my house is a natural bat house, they live in the chimney all summer, sometimes they get into the house and fly around at night, very disconcerting to wake up to! Then the fun is getting them to fly out the door. Good post!

    3 years ago

  • PattiTrostle

    PattiTrostle says:

    Great instructions!

    3 years ago

  • norajane

    norajane says:

    yeah, bats are just great until they get in your hair. this is good idea to keep them out of there.

    3 years ago

  • volkerwandering

    volkerwandering says:

    What a fantastic idea! I had no idea our lovely bug eating bat friends were in trouble! Thanks Etsy! Thanks Julie!

    3 years ago

  • MissTessaMelissa

    MissTessaMelissa says:

    Here in Austin, Texas, we are all about bat habitats! Around the end of summer, you can see bats come out as a big black cloud from under the highway overpasses at dusk. Since we've had the drought this summer, many are worried about the effect it has had on our bat population. Habitats in safe, bug filled, backyards might be really helpful here. Great article!

    3 years ago

  • ninetrial

    ninetrial says:

    Bats are so fascinating! It's such fun watching them dart about - especially when they swoop within inches of you; they have such precision. And who can complain about a creature that keeps those pesky mosquitoes at bay? I can't wait to have some property to fill with bats. Are there any rules about how far apart to place multiple houses? Or would I just build a GIANT bat house? :) Thanks for the great article and instructions!

    3 years ago

  • galstudio

    galstudio says:

    Love Bats! dislike mosquitos!

    3 years ago

  • iloveyoujewels

    iloveyoujewels says:

    Nice idea :-)

    3 years ago

  • steamshovel

    steamshovel says:

    I built a bat house 10 years ago and not one bat, they are still laughing at what a fine job I didn't do. I still have the bats but they live in a better house somewhere. I also have swallows by day and they eat a lot of mosquitos also. I will use your plans and up grade my nightly friends housing project. Keep up the good work and thanks for the plans.

    3 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    I love bats we have them in our neighbourhood, great tutorial maybe I can make a new home for them!

    3 years ago

  • KMalinka

    KMalinka says:

    Great idea!

    3 years ago

  • Slowshirts

    Slowshirts says:

    There is a man on our island who has his entire lawn filled with bat-houses mounted on tall poles. We of course call him batman Bruce. When i first moved here i painted his little houses and didn't know until later they were for bats & not birds. http://www.flickr.com/photos/i_love_the_slow_loris/405513218/in/set-447986/

    3 years ago

  • fspirit

    fspirit says:

    I put one up last year in the correct manner as stated above and I have not had one bat yet!!!!!

    3 years ago

  • ShilohWinterJewelry

    ShilohWinterJewelry says:

    Hey---that bat in the first pic is channelling Elvis! LOL Interesting article! :) I know a lady who does bat rescue.

    3 years ago

  • DrChameleon

    DrChameleon says:

    LOVE LOVE IT

    3 years ago

  • drellajones

    drellajones says:

    So much fun...

    3 years ago

  • juliepappas

    juliepappas says:

    Such a great idea! Thanks :)

    3 years ago

  • theoldewoodstove

    theoldewoodstove says:

    Awesome post! I love bats, and love making bat houses... glad to see I'm not the only one!

    3 years ago

  • rabbitdance

    rabbitdance says:

    I love bats! ^_^ A bat house is on our list of home improvements this fall/winter. Building one (or three) should keep the winter blahs away.

    3 years ago

  • gothicreations

    gothicreations says:

    very cool. I have been meaning to build one for years. They'd probably still prefer the barns and old buildings in my neighborhood though.

    3 years ago

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ says:

    Interesting! I'm not sure if I would want a bat house on my house, but I think its a really neat idea :)

    3 years ago

  • VeiledIntensity

    VeiledIntensity says:

    I've always thought bats were cute. That picture, however, is not. haha

    3 years ago

  • littleshopofphotos

    littleshopofphotos says:

    Great project!! We have a bat house and it's great!

    3 years ago

  • ArtigianoJewelBox

    ArtigianoJewelBox says:

    I've been following the news of the white-nose syndrome disaster for the last few years... thanks for this great post. I've had a bat house on my project list and this how-to is perfect.

    3 years ago

  • justbuyin

    justbuyin says:

    We have a bat colony living nearby and I enjoy watching them in the summer. I have never worried about rabies- at least not from bats. Racoons maybe, or opossums. Besides, I'm all for giving them an alternative to my attic.

    3 years ago

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection says:

    This is so cool. Actually I bought an old bird house at an estate sale this summer. I hung it on my fence in the back yard and guess who moved in? Yes 2 bats, I could not believe it. I also have hummingbird feeders, bird feeders and nuts for the squirrels and now have resident bats hanging around! They eat all the "prehistoric size mosquitoes" down here on the Gulf. Cool story!

    3 years ago

  • theenchantedcabbage

    theenchantedcabbage says:

    If you have bats in the chimney, definitely consider installing some bat houses on your property and put something over the chimney to prevent fly-ins. I learned this the hard way. A bat flew down my chimney, into the basement, and roosted in my washing machine this summer. The poor guy went through a wash cycle and when I reached in to throw the clothes in the dryer, it bit me. I had to bring the bat in for testing and get rabies shots. Not fun for me and the poor thing had to die.

    3 years ago

  • mooshoopork

    mooshoopork says:

    oh my!! i love this!! ive been wanting to get a bat house for forever now. now ill just go make my own! :) yay thanks for sharing

    3 years ago

  • farandtwee

    farandtwee says:

    that scary little bat pic is pretty cute

    3 years ago

  • mwest0425

    mwest0425 says:

    how not to ick, but cool I grew up with them out on the lake in the woods. fun and errrry.

    3 years ago

  • AntiGenre

    AntiGenre says:

    Great idea! I woke up at 2am the other day with a good-sized (10" wingspan) bat swooping around in my living room. It got out safely, but I was worried that our building had a colony. Fortunately not the case, but a bat house nearby would be great to help prevent a colony from springing up!

    3 years ago

  • Iammie

    Iammie says:

    Good idea!

    3 years ago

  • MindfulCrafts

    MindfulCrafts says:

    I love it! What a great way to reach out to our dark furry friends in the sky. I love the idea of providing bats with a warm, cozy, handcrafted cavern. :) Well done guys.

    3 years ago

  • WitchHollowPrims

    WitchHollowPrims says:

    I have bats that come every night around dusk. I love watching them, but they are fast! This is a great project thank you for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • ShellBeach

    ShellBeach says:

    awesome post. I love bats and they circle our house all summer. I just might try making a home for them

    3 years ago

  • kathyjohnson3

    kathyjohnson3 says:

    We have bats that come out earling evening to keep down the bug population, they are fun to watch!

    3 years ago

  • tensirk

    tensirk says:

    I had no idea bat houses were out there. Interesting idea. Although I am not sure about having one. Bats are freeky. I do like having a natural mosquito killer. But not all bats are so bad. Fruit bats are kind of cute. The look like small foxes in the face.

    3 years ago

  • route17west

    route17west says:

    wonderful article and instructions. I have always wanted a bat house, now maybe I can make my own. Thanks Debbie

    3 years ago

  • FreakyPeas

    FreakyPeas says:

    thanks for sharing...It seems like some people may need more information on why bats are good!

    3 years ago

  • biophiliadesigns

    biophiliadesigns says:

    Release the Bats!!!! (fantastic, thanks for sharing!! bats are our friends in out battle agains non-beneficial insects)

    3 years ago

  • TheRiCharmedLife

    TheRiCharmedLife says:

    I've had bat boxes for years. I love watching them and the guano makes great fertilizer!

    3 years ago

  • Rewoodtoys

    Rewoodtoys says:

    Awesome idea! This was on our list of to dos.

    3 years ago

  • PixieDust

    PixieDust says:

    We have a family of bats that live in a chimney we no longer use. Love sitting out at night in the summer watching them fly around eating bugs near our pole light. Beautiful little creatures!

    3 years ago

  • TheLittleHappyGoose

    TheLittleHappyGoose says:

    I saved a little bat that was stuck in a stairwell two years ago... it was so adorable! I do not know how anyone could be afraid of them! <3 Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • BurkeHareCo

    BurkeHareCo says:

    loveLoveLOVE

    3 years ago

  • demozthenes

    demozthenes says:

    Bats are the #1 rabies vector in the US. Put these far away from your homes, kids, and pets. I'd install them in nearby woods instead!

    3 years ago

  • rozzie

    rozzie says:

    Informative and educational! I didn't know that much about bats.

    3 years ago

  • Arie204

    Arie204 says:

    That's a great idea! I think people often forget -- we have bird houses, bird baths, squirrel feeders, etc -- this is a great way to include them to! Thanks!

    3 years ago

  • AyeCHIHUAHUA

    AyeCHIHUAHUA says:

    Oh oh! I have wanted to do this for some time! Thank you; great read!!

    3 years ago

  • thevelvetheart

    thevelvetheart says:

    Wow, interesting. In our rural area, there are lots of bats in attics, lol. But it's interesting to know that they are on the decline in many parts and that there is something people can do about it....

    3 years ago

  • wmalexalvarez

    wmalexalvarez says:

    I just put mine up! :)

    3 years ago

  • strawberryluna

    strawberryluna says:

    eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!! I'm so excited by this project, yay! Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • nicilaskin

    nicilaskin says:

    oh i love bats they are one of my favorite animals, we had them under the roof in our old house and they would sleep there during the day and go out at night, no bugs in out garden,

    3 years ago

  • nicilaskin

    nicilaskin says:

    i love bats

    3 years ago

  • GoingTribal

    GoingTribal says:

    love bats!! don't know if I have the wherewithall to build one, but a farm store nearby sells them!! we also live close to a huge colony of bats over at Alabaster Caverns.

    3 years ago

  • AliceFlynn

    AliceFlynn says:

    I illustrated an article in Mother Earth News on bat houses... image here http://my.montana.net/aliceflynn/paper.html

    3 years ago

  • TheNightjar

    TheNightjar says:

    great article! thanks for sharing this! bats are really great (as well as misunderstood )creatures

    3 years ago

  • ile1974

    ile1974 says:

    House for bats it's a great idea! I love bats, they are so useful! more bats and fewer mosquitoes^_^

    3 years ago

  • ENAfinedesigns

    ENAfinedesigns says:

    Its an excellent project to do with kids. Hands on and they learn about the environment and the importance of bats. Nice idea.

    3 years ago

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies says:

    I pray I never lock eyes with a bat. blarg...

    3 years ago

  • samsstuff

    samsstuff says:

    Great idea! Thank you for sharing this tutorial with us

    3 years ago

  • shinesobeautifully

    shinesobeautifully says:

    Really great idea. I love bats!

    3 years ago

  • gayretro

    gayretro says:

    I love bats. x

    3 years ago

  • bmiller3

    bmiller3 says:

    def. going to build one for my school! too many get trapped inside :(

    3 years ago

  • greenanemone

    greenanemone says:

    Does anyone know if the bat house style is specific to a bat species? I know some bird houses attract specific bird species, so I wanted to make sure that this NJ bat house style would be appropriate for west coast bats?

    3 years ago

  • julieincharge Admin

    julieincharge says:

    Hi greenanemone -- I checked with the Conserve Wildlife NJ folks, and yes, the design is fairly universal. Some species stick to trees or caves, but according to Bat Conservation International "Almost any bat that will roost in buildings or under bridges is a candidate for a bat house." Here's a link with more information on what species are likely to use bat boxes in the US: http://www.batcon.org/pdfs/bathouses/BatHouseBats.pdf

    3 years ago

  • katchith

    katchith says:

    genius....... I love bats.

    3 years ago

  • Verofancy

    Verofancy says:

    CCCCCOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    3 years ago

  • OurDecay

    OurDecay says:

    done! now all i need to do is wait for the bats to notice!

    3 years ago

  • mlaufenberg

    Megan Laufenberg says:

    Is there any way to attract bats to their new bat house?

    3 years ago

  • reclaimednj

    Ben Wurst from reclaimednj says:

    Megan - Just make sure it's installed properly and that a small pond, lake or pool is nearby by and you're all set. The bats will find it on their own. - Ben

    3 years ago

  • brianbeckmann

    BRian Beckmann says:

    Anyone have any experience with bat house placement in urban environs? I'm concerned that activity/noise may prevent bats using the structure. Also, what about any droppings? Do they accumulate below the bat house and if so, is that potentially a bad thing?

    2 years ago