Toads are more than just interesting to observe, they’re also beneficial, consuming thousands of insects a month. So, invite them into your yard!
It’s commonly thought that toads 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 daytime they hide anywhere that promises a cool respite from the sun and safety from predators.
We can provide natural places for toads to hide in, such as wood piles and rock piles, and they’re also willing to stay under porches and sheds, but it’s fun to put out some toad houses, too. Children especially enjoy constructing and decorating toad houses and watching them being used.
Make a flowerpot toad house
There are several ways to transform a flowerpot into a toad house, and it’s simple to do. Try to enlarge the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot to provide an emergency exit for toads to escape predators.
• Lay a large flowerpot on its side and partially bury it.
2. Or, configure a flowerpot in a different way. Use a 7- or 8-inch clay flowerpot. Drill a series of holes in a semicircular pattern above the lip of the pot. Then, tap out the piece with a hammer. This forms the entrance, which should be at least 4 or 5 inches wide and 3 inches high (toads get pretty large.) Make sure the cut edges are smooth.
• Pick a shady spot near water. The water source can be a pond, water feature, or a birdbath or large flowerpot saucer sitting flat on the ground (no pedestal) filled with water. Dig a shallow 4- to 5-inch well slightly smaller in diameter than the flowerpot. Fill it with moist soil or rotted leaves for toads to lie in and set the the pot over it. In dry weather, you can sprinkle some water through the hole in the top of the pot to moisten the bedding.
• Lay a clay flowerpot open-side down on the ground and use stones to prop up part of it, providing an entrance without having to break away part of the pot. If you do this, just make sure nothing can possibly dislodge the props, leaving a toad trapped inside. Prepare the bedding area as described above.
• Coffee cans or other containers can also be used for toad houses, but take care to file off sharp edges. Be sure to the toad house in a shaded area,
Make the toad’s home pretty: Children especially enjoy doing this. Glue decorative tiles or pretty, shiny rocks to it. Or, paint it. You’re limited only by your imagination. Spray painted pieces with two coats of acrylic sealer. Be sure to clean the water saucer from time to time and keep it filled with fresh water.
Make a toad hole
Ideally, toads need two openings in a toad house so they won’t get cornered by an invading predator. A toad hole easily solves this problem. In a shady spot near water, excavate a hole 10 inches square by 10 inches deep. Fill it with soft soil topped with a layer of moist, rotting leaves, for summer bedding and winter hibernation. Build walls and a roof using large, flat stones. Use a 5-inch long by 3-inch diameter PVC pipe for the entrance hole and do the same for an exit hole.
Attracting toad residents
Hang a temporary, soft light a couple of feet above ground and near the entrance of the toad house to attract insects. The insects will draw toads if there are any in your yard.
Look, but don’t touch
Once toads have been attracted to a toad house, they can be nearly irresistible to a child. This presents an opportunity to teach children that wildlife can be unobtrusively observed, but should otherwise be left alone. Too much handling will drive the toads away. Also, if a toad is handled roughly he’ll produce a toxic secretion through his skin that’s an irritant, especially if it gets into the child’s eyes or mouth. It’s a toad’s only defense. Be sure to place toad houses where family pets won’t get to them. 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)