Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota

Completed May 26, 2003

Completed May 26, 2003

This was my 2003 memorial day weekend project. I had been wanting to build a bat house for several years, simply due to the novelty of it. After we moved to a new house several years ago, I noticed that in the twilight hours the sky was full of winged mammals. This is probably due to the close proximity of the river. I love sitting on the back deck on a summer evening and watching them flit about. My neighbors all had bird houses, so I decided I'd like to be different and give my new furry friends a nice place to live.

I based the house off of some plans published a couple of years ago in an issue of Woodworker's Journal, although mine is larger than what the plans originally called for. I had to enlarge the house to make it fit better proportion-wise with the post height. It is made out of scraps of "smartwood" siding, OSB plywood and pine that I had remaining from my shed project. It has three inner chambers lined with plastic screen to give the bats a place to "grip". I painted the whole assembly to match the house and my shed.

I erected it in the middle of our garden, because I hear the guano is an excellent fertilizer. Sorry about the distant pictures. Maybe when the snow clears I can get a better shot. I was hanging out of my back door when I took these.

The post is a 14' pressure treated 4X4, held upright by a 30" post spike. This post spike system actually works very well. I drove the spike into the ground, then raised the post and house assembly up and set it into the spike (this must have been a treat for the neighbors to watch me lift this thing up by myself; it's very heavy.) Once I set it in place I tightened the post clamp around the post, then for extra measure sunk some lag bolts through holes in the side of the post spike. The whole thing is surprisingly rigid. My father was convinced it would fall on the first windy day and crush our fence, but it has stood with no problems. During some storms we've had 70+ mph gusts and it only wiggles an inch or two either way.

Given the dimensions of the house, supposedly it will hold about 450 brown bats. I think I have 448 fewer than that actually living in it, but I hear it can take several years for the house to become truly active.

The best part is the reaction from my neighbors. They can't believe I would want bats around, and were astounded when I told them we already had bats and I just wanted to give them a better place to dwell than our attics. After I put the bat house up, one nervously neighbor asked me if I was planning on buying bats to put in the house. He's cool with it now that he's figured out that I didn't turn our neighborhood into Transylvania.

If you'd like to make your own bat house or just want more information about these cool endangered flying friends, check out the Bat Conservation International web site.

Update: In the summer of 2008, a heavy windstorm came through one night. When I arose the next morning, I looked out in the yard to see the house lying face down in the yard. The metal post had rusted through, and with the high winds it was enough to bring it down. Fortunately, it fell forward instead of backwards where it would have destroyed the fence separating our yard from the neighbors. (In the pictures this is a privacy fence. It was replaced with a chain-link fence in 2004.) Unfortunately, it did destroy the garden fence. The garden fence, however, is much easier to repair. I'll bet the bats had an interesting ride on the way down!

I moved the bat house out of the way with the intention of buying a new post and restoring it to its former glory. There it sat for nearly a year on my "get around to it" list. Finally, in May of 2009 it was raised back up and placed back into service. Hopefully it will give the bats a nice home for a few more years.

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This page last updated on 06/28/2018