Creating a toad habitat is ideal if you have toads already in your yard or know that they are nearby. It does not take much to make toads happy, but your habitat should be usable year-round. Toads are territorial and do not adjust to new areas well so you should never transport them from one area to another. Predators are another concern: cats in particular, but also snakes and birds pose a threat to toads.
To start there are 3 things to keep in mind: shade, shallow water and shelter. Materials you will need: (2-4) 6in. clay pots, clay saucer-16in. diameter, (2-4) 4in. pvc pipe cut into 14 in. sections, small bag of sand, and dried leaves
1) Shade-Toads unlike frogs prefer a shady moist environment like that found in forests and woodland areas. If you have a shady area in your yard you are already off to a good start. Your location may have a few hours of light sun or dappled shade but is best if it is cool most of the day. Under a tree or a grove of trees is ideal, but a shady area with both tall and low-growing plants is also suitable.
2) Shallow water-All animals need water to survive, but keep in mind that toads can drown. That is why we are going to use your saucer as the watering hole. Make a slight depression in the dirt and place your saucer-be sure the lip is level to the surrounding gound. Planting some ferns or mint plants around part of the saucer will give your toads some privacy and protection from predators. Fill the saucer with water just to the inside of the rim and be sure to check the water level often, especially during hot weather. Remove and clean as needed with a brush and water.
This saucer is for the toads to drink and to keep themselves moist-not for laying eggs. If you would like to provide a hatching area you may find a container or small pond liner that is no more than 6 inches deep. It must have sloped sides for ease of getting in and out. A flat rock or two in the center is also a nice idea.
If you decide to go this route you can eliminate the need for the saucer. Because you will not be using a fountain of any kind, mosquitos can become an issue-to avoid this use mosquito dunks. These can be purchased at most nurseries or garden centers and are not harmful to any animals and will help to keep your water clean.
3) Shelter- Toads need a quiet and safe place to call home so choose a location in your yard away from high traffic areas. During the warmer months of the year, your clay pots will serve as huts. You may hollow out a depression in the dirt and set the the pot on its side, filling with a small amount of dirt. The huts should be concealed from above and on two sides, being turned so that the openings face north and are hidden from obvious view as this aids in protection from predators.
Place your huts near but not next to the water. In the colder months your toads will need a place to hibernate which your pvc pipes will provide. They may be placed between the huts or if you have a larger area, may be slightly further away. Dig a trench 12in. long and at a 30 degree angle. Lay your pipe in the trench and cover with dirt, allowing 2in. of the pipe to remain visible above ground.
Fill the pipe halfway with sand and then backfill loosely with dried leaves, ending where the pipe protrudes. After the first frost, cover the opening of the pipe with dried leaves to help keep the toad warm.
Remove the waterdish; clean and store until spring. In spring replace and fill the waterdish, then remove the leaves from the opening of the pipe. A month later you will need to cover the entrance of the pipe with saran and a rubber band to keep snakes or mice from deciding to use it as their home. If you are using a hatching area, simply allow the water to evaporate and wipe out, being sure to also clean any rocks as well. This too can be covered with plastic and a board to keep clean until spring.
IMPORTANT – All chemicals and pesticides are readily absorbed in a toad’s skin and therefore are extremely dangerous to them as well as killing off any potential food sources they will need. Look for non-chemical alternatives to treat any issues that may arise in your yard and gardens. The water you use should not contain flouride or chlorine-rain water is best and can be collected easily, however if this is not practical for you, then fill several gallon jugs from the tap and leave the caps off for 24 hours. The chemicals will dissipate and it will be safe to use. Be sure to do several gallons at a time so you have usable water readily available.
- “After” -the huts are located in between the hostas. By next year the plants will be full and completely seclude the huts.
There will be many benefits to your yard, garden and personal health as you make a few simple changes, and soon you will see more wildlife coming to your area for you to enjoy. It may take up to 3 years for the toads to find your habitat and until you see one you may not be sure they are there-but once they call your yard home, you will have a guest for life.