Friday, October 18, 2013

Darryl's Corner (of the world) - Brush Piles

In an attempt to provide habitat for wildlife, I have been building and maintaining brush piles for
a number of years. There is no right or wrong way. This is just the approach I follow.
1. Pick a site that has easy access and is bounded by woods on at least one side. Easy access is
critical if you plan on maintaining the site over several years. Although there may be sufficient
material to build the original site, yearly supplements usually require material being brought in.
2. Most critical for site preparation is to cut any trees or brush that will be on or near the
immediate site. These items hang up brush being thrown into the site and make for poor brush
piles and much frustration for the builder.
3. The base of the stack is where access for rabbits (rabbitat) and other small animals is built.
Logs around 6" or larger in diameter fit the bill nicely. The idea is to line them up parallel, with
gaps between them, so that animals can get in for protection from weather and predators. A
couple of right angle turns are good to add for further protection or possibly a backdoor exit.
Keep in mind that if you make the gap between the logs too large predators can get in.
4. On top of the logs add 1" to 2" branches (locust is best for durability) to make a "top" that will
help keep decaying brush from dropping into logs and blocking access.
5. Add brush evenly across the pile trying not to block the bottom access holes. Always throw the
most brushy end to the far side of the pile away from you. This allows for tighter stacking and
fewer branches in your face blocking a good throw.
6. I like to add a pretty heavy layer of evergreen, such as pine, to help with rain and snow
protection. It's amazing how many years it will last. I used Holly branches from a trimmed yard
tree on the pile in the picture.
7. Keep adding until the pile is around 5 feet tall and add each year as decay takes place. The
animals usually take care of keeping the bottom gaps open and it's pretty common to see the
openings they frequent.
I added a couple of pictures which show a new site and a few of the steps--chainsaw and tractor
added for scaling. The last picture is a site I have maintained for probably 20+ years. The site is
about 25 to 30 feet long, about 5 feet high and 10 feet or more deep. I add lots to it each each
A great place to build bird habitat is in a gully or wash area. Put the brush pointed up the gully,
against the direction of water flow, to help catch debris coming down the gully. I don't use logs in
these piles, for rabbits, because of the water. However the birds seem to like them since they
tend to be more protected. Dual purpose habitat like this allows for birds and helps the land with
healing. I only do this in areas that will not be washed away in the event of a large rain.
If a large hole opens up in the pile you may have something like a Coyote living there. If you
have doubts about allowing larger stuff to inhabit just throw a couple of large logs in the way.
Depending on how much they like the home, you may have to do it several times.
Always add new brush from the same side of your brush pile. After many years of doing this I
can tell you that it just makes life easier. Also try to NOT let the "add side" grow in boundary.
Tripping over thin brush pile edges is not fun as it tends to bang up your shins. If you want to add
depth just throw stuff over the pile.

Piles tend to be rather loose at the beginning but pack nicely over the years. Just give it time and
throw on a big piece now and then to mash it down.
Don't get carried away with building multiple sites. It takes work if you want to keep them viable.


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