SIX owl chicks have been found in barn owl boxes on farms.

11 barn owl boxes have been installed in trees and barns on Dorset Council farms over the last two years and now 25 per cent of Dorset Council farms have an owl box. When the boxes were checked last month, six chicks were found in four boxes.

Barn owls have additional protection against disturbance while nesting. It is an offence to disturb a barn owl while it is building a nest or is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young. It is also an offence to disturb a barn owl's dependent young.

The Dorset Council barn owl boxes were checked and ringed by volunteers under a British Trust for Ornithology ringing and disturbance license. The information gathered from putting these specially designed rings on birds' legs means the council can understand more about them including their survival and the condition of the birds

Dorset Wildlife Trust's Kingcombe volunteers have made trough floats which have been installed on the farms to prevent owls from drowning when they use the troughs to drink or bathe.

Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment, said: "Our tenant farmers are delighted to have breeding barn owls on their farms. It is important that we look after the natural environment and encourage biodiversity where we can."

Barn owls have a distinctive heart-shaped face and buff back. Female barn owls have darker brown feathers around the rim of the facial disc as well as darker bars on the tail and small black spots on the chest and underside of the wings and wings. Males are lighter in colour with pure white underparts. They are nocturnal and eat mice, voles, shrews and some larger mammals and small birds.

To encourage barn owls onto farms, tenants and landowners can manage the land with barn owls in mind. By keeping areas of grass uncut and rough edges this created good habitats for voles which are their main food source.