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Animal Architecture

Posted on July 2, 2012 by ari

Horst’s Mason Bee Village

Animal habitats get smaller and smaller as humans take up more and more space – but we can help make the human world safer and healthier so animals can enjoy it, too. I’ve found some really cool buildings that are built by humans for animals, and I thought I’d share, in case anyone else out there is into that kind of thing. Read on to hear all about dovecotes, mason bee houses, toad houses, possum boxes, goat playgrounds, and other buildings and furniture you maybe never knew existed.

I wish I was cool enough to also have a good collection of images relating to structures built by animals, like squirrels’ nests, beavers’ dams, bower birds’ bowers, termite mounds and beehives and the like, but that’ll have to wait for another post!

Dovecote at Manoir d’Ango, near Dieppe, France

  1. Animal Sanctuary Buildings – I’m putting sanctuary barns on this list, rather than the fancy giraffe barns and housebarns and stables of zoos and farms and racetracks, because those other structures are generally made for containing animals so that they can be economically exploited. Sanctuaries, on the other hand, are more like retirement homes (or free hotels…) where rescued or orphaned animals who for whatever reason can’t live freely in a natural habitat can live out their lives in peace, cared for but not interfered with or used. The sanctuary which is nearest and dearest to my heart is Farm Sanctuary in New York, because my visits there back in college are a big part of why I stayed vegan. Visiting sanctuaries can give an animal lover a great chance to interact with animals and to respectfully check out (or even help clean) their interesting homes and furniture, which include barns and stables, fun things for goats to climb on (a.k.a. goat playgrounds), hay feeders with rain covers, and other rustic structures. This photo is of Liz Longacre of Your Time Travels meeting an elephant at a sanctuary.
  2. Bat Houses make your yard a cozy place for these little furry folk. I just learned that a nursing little brown bat mother can eat more than her body weight nightly (up to 4,500 insects). This photo (by Joe Fisher) is of our friend Lea posing with a bat house at the Dacha in Freeville.
  3. Bee Houses – Mason bees nest in holes in wood. Provide a house for them to keep them from looking for holes in your house to move into, and your garden will benefit from their pollination work.
  4. Bird Houses, Nest Boxes, & Bird Mansions – Did you know many old mosques in Turkey have their own beautiful stone or porcelain bird palaces attached? For more info, read Compassionate architecture: bird houses and sparrow mansions, which is where I found this photo.
  5. Bird Feeders and BathsMake one out of recycled materials and attract birds year-round and you’ll be a major source of support for your feathered neighbors. You can make a simple bird bath by keeping a pie plate or ceramic plant plate filled with water in your yard – we put ours on top of a log to give it some height.
  6. Butterfly SheltersHere’s a butterfly shelter made from sustainably harvested teak, so you can provide a safe space for butterflies to rest and hibernate.
  7. Cat Furniture and Built-Ins, Catios and Cat Enclosures – Since cats like to climb and like good views, spaces can be made much more interesting for them if you think vertically. This photo is of cat furniture by Ree-Yong on Moderncat.
  8. Dog Kennels & Runs & Dog Furniture – Is there anything cuter than dog stairs?
  9. Deer Licks are delicious salty places you can set up to attract deer. They’re used by hunters so unfortunately most of the links out there are geared toward people who want to kill, except for this Christian page with loud music. Hmmm. If you want to make a deer lick, just make sure it’s legal in your area first, and that you’re not negatively impacting deer migration patterns.
  10. Dovecotes are beautiful structures built to attract nesting pigeons. While this is sometimes just a friendly way to get birds to come fertilize your fields with their guano, it can also be used as a way to provide back-door access so humans can steal eggs and birds. Not so nice, humans! But dovecotes can be lovely, hospitable things. The image here is of a doocot at Eglinton Country Park, Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, Scotland.
  11. Frog and Toad Houses Many amphibians are endangered, so it’s nice to provide them with safe, comfortable homes. As a bonus, they’ll eat bugs that bite you, and slugs and other little animals that bite your vegetables. This photo is of a toad house made by a little girl and her mom in their organic garden.
  12. Hen Houses – Being vegan, we wouldn’t want to exploit chickens, but we’ve considered adopting them someday, since sanctuaries often have many rescued chickens in need of comfortable homes. I hear that a good hen house is really important to protect chickens, since they’re very vulnerable to foxes and other animals who can get in and hurt them at night.
  13. Feral Cat Shelters – Help the feral cats in your community survive long, cold winters by providing them with a shelter. (You get bonus points if you then introduce your colony to a Trap-Neuter-Release activist. Click here to check out a video Shira made of our friend Kristin, talking about TNR in the Tompkins County area.) The photo here is of a feral cat shelter being worked on by Girl Scouts.
  14. Possum Houses – I love opossums but our road is too dangerous for them, so I don’t want to attract them. Boo.
  15. Squirrel Houses protect baby squirrels from running off and getting hurt – and they probably give their mothers peace of mind. A bundle of dry leaves has nothing on these sturdy homes made from recycled tires. The photo here is of a wooden squirrel house with a hinged roof at Gooseberry Falls State Park, by Susie K.

I dunno, this guy looks like he could use some exercise

Some health and sustainability tips:

  1. If you buy bird seed or other animal food, try to get it from a local, organic source, to help avoid hurting our earth with pesticides and shipping.
  2. If you make any structures for the animals who live around you, please be sure to use safe, healthy materials – for instance, wood pallets often contain flame retardants, and some paints are toxic.
  3. When buying houses and such, make sure you’re buying from someone cool – look for items that are fair trade or locally made, ideally from recycled materials.
  4. Be aware that by attracting animals you may be leading them over busy roadways or attracting their predators, including human hunters. Consider putting up a “critter crossing” sign and always post “no hunting or fishing” signs to keep people with guns and hooks from hurting your new friends. This photo of a salamander crossing sign is from Critter Crossings, a U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) document that describes highway projects like tortoise underpasses and badger tunnels. (I had no idea this was happening but I like it.)
  5. If you encounter an animal who needs medical attention or who seems to be orphaned, please don’t mess with them before talking to a wildlife rehabilitator, who can give you advice about the best way to help. If you’re in the Ithaca area, try Wild Things Sanctuary. (Click here to watch a short video Shira made to support Wild Things – it features footage of adorable baby animals!) Here’s an article to help you get an idea of what you should and shouldn’t do.
  6. If you find yourself really getting into providing housing and food for local free-living animals, consider getting your yard certified as a wildlife area!

A horse barn at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

You may also dig these posts:

Related posts:

  1. More Animal Architecture: Bridges for Animals
  2. Catios and Cat Enclosures
  3. Nim Chimpsky, humans, and the animal family
  4. This one’s for you, animal family
  5. Cat Furniture and Built-ins


2 Responses to “Animal Architecture”

  1. Cat Furniture and Built-ins | Shirari Industries
    July 2nd, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

    [...] 7/2/12 UPDATE: Click here for a new post about architecture made just for animals! [...]

  2. Animal Architecture: Chabutra | Shirari Industries
    September 18th, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

    [...] just learned about another form of architecture for animals that I missed in my big post! Chabutros or chabutras are structures in India that are built for [...]

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