Toads are really good to have around — a single toad can eat up to 1,000 insects, slugs, spiders and other pests a day! Or, make that per night, because they’re mainly nocturnal animals. Toads want moist, dark places in the daytime to hide in.
If your yard is wildlife friendly, it already has plenty of places for them, such as a woodpile or rock pile. They may even hide under your porch or shed. Still, why not have some fun and offer them a “classy” place? Readymade houses are available in stores and online. But making one is a lot of fun, and it’s cheaper, too! Children, especially, enjoy decorating toad houses and watching them being used.
Toads are more than just interesting to observe; they’re also beneficial — they consume thousands of insects a month. It’s commonly thought they spend most of their time in water, but, unlike frogs, they stay on land, except during their mating season. At night they forage, and in the daytime, they hide anywhere that promises a cool respite from the sun and safety from predators.
Make a flowerpot toad house
There are several ways to transform a flowerpot into a toad house, and it’s simple to do.
Drill a series of holes in a semicircular pattern above the lip of a flowerpot pot. Then, tap out the piece with a hammer. That forms the entrance, which should be at least 4 or 5 inches wide and 3 inches high (10 to 12 cm) because toads get pretty large. Make sure the cut edges are smooth. Do the same to create an exit hole on the opposite side of the lip.
If you plan to lay the pot on its side, then just enlarge the drainage hole on the bottom as an exit. If you lay it on its side, then partially bury it so the toad can lie on moist, cool soil.
Or, configure a flowerpot differently. Pick a shady spot near water. The water source can be a pond, water feature, birdbath or large flowerpot saucer setting flat on the ground (no pedestal) filled with water.
Dig a shallow well 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cm) deep and slightly smaller in diameter than the flowerpot. Fill it with moist soil or rotted leaves for toads to lie in, and set the pot over it. The pot should surround the well, not set down in it. In dry weather, you can sprinkle some water through the hole in the top of the pot to moisten the bedding. Replace the bedding from time to time to keep it fresh, when the toad is not in residence.
Coffee cans or other metal containers can be used for toad houses, but file off sharp edges and make sure to place them in heavy shade.
Make the toad’s home pretty. Glue decorative tiles, little ceramic toads, attractive rocks or anything else that pleases your eye. Or, paint it. You’re limited only by your imagination. Spray painted pieces with two coats of acrylic sealer (don’t spray the interior.)
Make a toad hole
Ideally, toads need two openings in a toad house so they won’t get cornered by an invading predator. A stone toad hole readily solves this problem. In a shady spot near water, excavate a hole 10 inches square by 10 inches deep (24 cm). Fill it with soft soil topped with a layer of moist, rotting leaves, for summer bedding and winter hibernation.
Build walls and a roof over it using several large, flat stones. Leave an opening in the front and back for entry and exit. Jass the stones up by painting them, or use decorative types of stones.
If you’re into ceramics, create a novel design for an “upscale” hidey hole.
Attracting toad residents
Hang a temporary, soft light a couple of feet (60 cm) above the ground and near the entrance to the toad house to attract insects. The insects will draw toads if there are any in your yard.
Look, but don’t touch
Once a toad is using the toad house, it may be nearly irresistible to children. That presents an opportunity to teach children that wildlife can be unobtrusively observed, but should otherwise be left alone. Too much handling will drive the toad away!
Also, if handled roughly a toad will produce a toxic secretion through its skin that’s an irritant, especially if it gets into a person’s eyes or mouth. It’s a toad’s only way of protecting itself. Be sure to place toad houses where family pets won’t get to them, either — this isn’t so much for the protection of the toads, but for your pets. You’ll want to spare them the extremely unpleasant result of tasting a toad! What to do if your pet bites a toad
*Top photo: Toad house. (4wphoto / Pixabay; PD)