How To Encourage Robins To Use A Nest Box

A friend gave me a ‘robin teapot nester’ for my birthday a year or two ago. I put in amongst a large Laurel bush in my back garden but never had any success. I have noticed how often a certain robin visits my garden and the feeders. Now I want to find out more about how to encourage robins to nest. Can I get my visitor to stay? I am thinking a nesting box might be better – do robins nest in bird boxes?

Robins do nest in bird boxes. Robins prefer an open fronted nesting box, situated in a location with natural cover. Robins will often make use of other types of nests we make available but from what I have seen, they like a nice wooden box the most. But what about siting and positioning? If you want to know where to put a robin nest box, read on as I am about to go into more detail.

Where Should I Put A Robin Nest Box?

The position of any bird nesting box is quite important. It might even surprise you how low to the ground some birds like to nest.

Find The Right Height

One of the main considerations when putting out your own nesting box is the height. The recommended height for a robin’s nesting box is just a couple of metres off the ground.

While blue tits prefer their nest to be 2 – 4 metres off the ground, a robin goes even lower than this; just 1 – 2 metres high. It sounds quite low when you think about cats and garden predators looking for an easy meal. Two metres is still the height of a tall person and plenty high enough off the ground to be considered safe. Robins have shown us this when building their own nests from scratch.

Natural Cover

Robins look for nest locations that are concealed behind natural cover. Instead of an exposed nesting box on a wall or fence, robins usually prefer to build their nests among natural vegetation, such as ivy and other climbers. If you are putting out a nesting box for a robin, make sure it is tucked away somewhere, securely attached in some foliage.

How Do You Position A Robin Nesting Box?

The positioning of a robin’s nesting box is pretty much similar to any other nesting box – out of direct sunlight and facing away from driving wind and rain. This will mean facing the box between the north and the east.

This is so important because hot sunshine, in the south, directly hitting a nesting box will cause it to heat up. Any young nestlings inside are unlikely to survive if this happens. With a robin’s nest, as already mentioned, the surrounding vegetation will afford it some protection from direct sunlight but we should still face it away from the sun if possible.

The prevailing wind will normally hit us from the west, bringing with it the rain. This is why we not only face nesting boxes to the north but also the east.

It is also a good idea to tilt the nesting box slightly forward when fixing somewhere. The reason for this is to allow any rain that does fall on the box to drain off, instead of trickling inside the box.

How Do You Attract Robins To Nest?

Siting a nesting box is quite easy, as long as you follow the above guide and have a suitable spot in your garden. The big question is – just how do you attract a robins to the nest?

Well, we just have to make the nesting site as usable by them as possible. Getting the correct type of nesting box at the right and in the right place will be pretty much it. The only other thing you can do is to provide their favourite food. If you often see a robin in your garden, they have probably found reason enough to keep returning. So, continue to let them find suet cakes, mealworms and occasionally some good quality seed.

I have found my robin* loves mealworms as well as the fat balls I have used recently. While others say robins aren’t interested in seed, I often see my robin on the sunflower heart feeder.  It is sometimes nice to have a dig over some soil in the borders to expose worms. The blackbirds like those, as do the robins.

* I like to think the robin I see is the same one each time. It might be, who knows?!

What If A Robin Doesn’t Use The Nest Box?

This can be disappointing and a lot of this depends on luck. Bill Oddie has a YouTube channel – here, with loads of great birding advice. One of his videos features a robin nesting box In it Bill reinforces the point that there is no guarantee birds will use your nesting boxes. He has three and the robins that have nested in his garden have done so in the ivy, not in the boxes!

Robins will use man-made objects to nest but many may prefer a more natural environment. Either way, robins like to find places with cover that are tucked away; somewhere with existing structure from which to start their nest.

If you don’t want to use a wooden box to attract robins to nest, something like this might do the trick – the Brushwood Robin Nester. It is natural looking and provides a large entrance.

Will Robins Return To A Nest?

Anything is possible but generally a robin will not return to a used nest. The reasons for this are thought to be due to a few things. Firstly, the nest will have been around for a little while and will now carry a stronger scent which may attract predators.

The fact the nest has been in existence for a time may make it more likely to have been discovered and is no longer considered safe by the robin.

There is another reason a robin (or any bird) may build a new nest as an alternative to visiting a previous one – parasites. After raising a clutch of young over a number of weeks, there are likely to be bacteria and parasites present. Even birds have standards!

My Robin Teapot Nester

Here is a photo of a teapot nester similar to mine. You can see more information here on Amazon. It is reasonably priced and comes with fixings. Robins like this kind of thing as it has a large open front, rather than a small round hole.

Nesting boxes with small hole access are preferred by blue tits, great tits and nuthatches.

The teapot nester comes with drainage holes in the bottom, which you can also use to secure the pot to a branch or fence.

I imagine the ceramic material with remain cool in the hot sun while providing enough shelter from the wind and rain.

 

Below are a couple of well reviewed nesting boxes for robins. They are well made and look nice and natural. I like Gardman as a brand and have a couple of their feeders. The teapot style nest is quirky and may be a hit but I think the open fronted wooden box is the way to go.

Both of these are reasonably priced – click the photos to check the latest prices at Amazon.