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What makes a good home for an animal family? Find out where different types of animals like to live and how they build
special homes for themselves and their families!
Observe an Animal in Its Habitat
One of the best ways to learn what makes a good home for an animal is to
observe animals that have already built their homes. Here are some things
to look for:
- Out in your backyard or in a park, look for homes such as a bird's
nest in tree branches,
a raccoon hole in tree trunks, a rabbit hole in the ground, a spider's web
on bushes, and any other places
you think an animal may be living.
- Without getting too close to this possible home, watch for signs of
activity. Are there any birds flying close to the nest? Do you see a
squirrel looking for food?
- If you see an animal or insect, watch what it is doing and where it is
going. Is it gathering or finding food? Is it making any noise? Is it
cleaning itself? If you watch long enough, you may be able to see where its
- If you know where an animal keeps its home, look around the area at how
good that home is for the animal. Is there plenty of food? Is there a source
of water nearby? Does its home provide shelter from the weather like sun or
rain or snow? Is there enough space for the animal and its babies? How well
does the home protect the animal family from danger?
- Write down the interesting things that you saw and found in a nature
notebook or journal and draw pictures of the animals and their homes.
Make an Insect Habitat
If you observed an insect in the wild, such as a ladybug, a beetle, or an
ant, try making a home for it based on what you learned. Collect the items you
will need as you answer the questions below.
- What was the insect's environment like? Was it in the
grass, on a tree, in a bush? Was it crawling on sticks? Try to include all
these things to help make your bug happy.
- Where did it make its home? Did it bury itself in sand? Was it hiding
under a piece of wood? Include something similar in your habitat.
- What about water? Insects don't need a lot of water, but they probably
prefer the dirt in their habitat to be moist or the wood to be damp.
- Does the insect have food? If you watched it chomping on a particular leaf,
add it to the habitat.
- Does the insect like to hide? Try to make a shelter where it can feel
safe. Use leaves, twigs, sand, or anything you saw the insect using in
- To prepare a home for your bug, find a clean, empty container, such as a
jar or bug habitat. Make sure the container has plenty of air holes that are
smaller than your bug so that it won't climb out. Add the leaves, twigs, dirt, sand, gravel, or anything
else you collected while observing your bug in nature.
- Once the habitat is ready, put your bug in it and watch some more. How is it doing? Is it
acting similar to the way it was when you observed it in nature? (You may have
to let your bug get used to its new environment for a few hours before it
start acting the way it did in nature.)
For an animal to be happy and healthy in its home, it needs food, water,
shelter, and security. Observing an animal in its natural environment is one of
the best ways to learn what an animal needs to survive and for you to make a
home for it. However, animals also need to roam and generally need a larger territory than
you can provide for it in a bug habitat, so it is best to release the bug back to nature after a couple of days.
Make a Bird's Nest
If you found a bird's nest in your neighborhood or park, don't touch it, but
look at it carefully. What is it made of? How do you think a bird made it? To
help get an idea of what great architects birds are, try your own hand at
building a bird's nest, using the same materials birds use!
- Twigs, grass, mud, leaves, pine needles, straw, and anything
else you have seen birds using
- Newspaper or drop cloth
What to Do:
- Spread the newspaper over your work surface to help keep the area clean.
- Use the materials you gathered to build a nest like the nest you found.
Try to make it as strong and as sturdy as possible.
- To test your handiwork, try placing it outside on a tree branch or
someplace where you think a bird would like to have a nest.
- Wait a few days or weeks and watch to see if any birds use your nest as their
Was it hard getting all those materials to stick together and make the shape
of a nest? Imagine building that nest using just a beak and in the branch of a
tree! Isn't it amazing how well birds can build their own homes?
- The largest bird's nest ever found was built by a pair of bald eagles. When it was
measured, the nest was 9 1/2 feet wide, 20 feet deep, and estimated to weigh
2.2 tons - that's over 4,000 pounds!
- The smallest bird's nest is built by the Vervain hummingbird and is about
half the size of a walnut shell.
Why do fish love salt water?
Because pepper makes them sneeze!
What's the nicest thing to say to a frog?
Go jump in a lake!
What do you call a snail on a ship?
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The environment in which an animal lives (its
habitat) must provide water, food, shelter, and space. Its home
must also make the animal feel protected from predators, harsh weather,
and other threats.
Animal homes come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be found from the
deepest depths of the ocean to the very top of a mountain. Some animal homes are easy to see, while others are camouflaged to protect
them from predators. The structure of an
animal's home depends on the type of animal, the environment it lives in, and
what it needs to survive. Some homes are for just one animal or for a mother and
her babies. Other homes are for a large group of animals to all live together.
Animal homes serve a variety of purposes. Many animals design their homes to
trap heat in and keep the cold out, especially
when there are
babies living in the home, since baby animals cannot keep themselves warm
like their parents can. Nests, dens, and burrows are examples of this type of
How to Apply It at Home
If you have a pet, use it as an example to discuss with children what animals
need in order to have a home. Talk about an animal's need for shelter and fresh food and
water. If you use wood shavings or sawdust as bedding for your pet, discuss how
it makes a soft place for him to sleep, keeps him warm, and can be changed to help keep the
pet's home clean.
Types of Animal Homes
There are many different types of animal homes. Here are some of the most
common ones and the animals that use them.
- Barns and Houses - Domesticated animals are ones that live with
humans. You may have a few domesticated animals living with you right now!
The most common animals that live in houses are dogs and cats. Some animals
that live with humans are too big or too messy to live in a house. Animals
like horses, cows, goats, sheep, and pigs can be pets, but they usually live
- Webs - Spiders spin webs to live in. Webs are also perfect traps for
catching insects for spiders to eat.
- Hives - Bees, wasps, and yellow jackets make wax inside their bodies,
then they use the wax to build
homes called hives. These insects like to live together in huge numbers. A
hive makes a good home for a
- Caves - Lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and bats make their homes in
caves. Caves that make good homes are not just found on dry land. Many
animals that live in the water, especially eels, like to live in underwater
caves. Some fish and sharks like to find an underwater cave to catch a quick
- Burrows and Holes - Many animals dig into the ground to make their
homes. Foxes, rabbits, prairie dogs, and ants all live underground. Some
underground homes are very simple with just one large hole and a single exit
while others are quite complex with many rooms, entrances, and exits.
- Shells - Many animals with soft bodies actually carry their homes with
them! These homes are called shells and the hard exterior of the shells
help protect the animals inside. Most animals such as snails, crabs, and
turtles have "built on" shells. Hermit crabs use old shells from other
animals as their homes; they find new shells as they grow.
- Nests - Birds make nests to lay their eggs in. Nests can be built in the
branches of a tree or on the ground, and some city birds build their nests in
the nooks and crannies of buildings.
- Hollow Logs - Animals that live in the woods, such as bobcats, mink,
foxes, otters, skunks, and weasels often like to make their homes in hollow logs.
- Tree Hollows - Squirrels, owls, porcupines, and raccoons all like to make their
homes in the hollow (an empty hole in the trunk) of a tree. Even black bears like to live in tree
Click here to download and print a free worksheet on animal homes.