How to Encourage Robins Nesting

Robins have been living alongside humans for hundreds of years. Our gardens can provide an ideal habitat for them To encourage robins nesting in your garden:

  • Provide an open-fronted nesting box, put it in a sheltered position, well hidden, 3-4 feet above the ground.
  • Put plenty of extra food on the ground feeder or bird table. Fat balls and mealworms are good.
  • Don’t disturb robins by looking for their nests.

Robins are one of our best-loved garden birds. They brighten up our winters with their song and star on our Christmas cards.

So it’s lovely to get a pair of nesting in your garden. In this article, we are going to look at robins nesting and breeding habits and how to make your garden the perfect place for them to raise a family.

How to Encourage Robins Nesting

There are things you can do to encourage and help robins at each stage of the nesting and breeding season. Let’s take a look at each step.

When do Robins Nest?

Robins start to choose partners for breeding and look for nesting sites in January.

Nest building starts in March and will take around 4 days.

But this is just the first round of the year. Robins generally have 2 or 3 broods in a year and will build a fresh nest for each one. So nesting can go on into early July.

Encourage them by making sure your nesting boxes are cleaned out and ready to go by Christmas. It’s illegal to clean out a nest box in the summer months in the UK, so your box will only be used once each year.

Where do Robins Nest?

Robins prefer a nesting site on or close to the ground; on a bank, in tree roots or hedges and climbing plants. 

They like to be out of direct sunlight and rain, and well hidden from predators.

Around humans, they can choose all sorts of strange sites like watering cans, old boots and even the wheel-arches of cars.

Don’t place your nesting box too high up, robins prefer to nest close to the ground.

They do not like to be disturbed. If they think a nest has been discovered they will easily abandon it and start the whole process again.

Encourage robins nesting by making sure your nesting boxes are placed in quite low sites. 3 or 4 feet off the ground is ideal, 6 feet is the highest a robin will be comfortable. Place boxes in amongst climbing plants hedges. 

Be sure your boxes are out of direct sunlight and face north or east to be protected from our wet westerly winds. Try to mount the boxes so they are angled slightly forward. This way any rain that does get in can run out and keep the nest dry.

If you think robins are nesting in your garden stay away as much as you can and leave them in peace to build.

What is a Robin’s Nest Like?

The female builds the nest with the male bringing her extra food whilst she’s working.

The nest is cup-shaped, at least 4 inches across. It is generally made with leaves and moss and lined with hair and maybe a couple of feathers.

Encourage robins nesting by helping with nesting materials. Save the hairs from your own brush, or your pets brush and leave them in the garden. Choose the right nesting box. An open fronted wooden box is right for robins.

If you would like to make your own, then traditionally teapots (without the lid!) hung from a bush by the handle, spout down, have been put out for robins to nest in. It’s not such a bad design: the lid opening is the right size and the spout offers drainage to keep the nest dry.

When Do Robins Lay Their Eggs?

Robins start to lay their eggs in April. 

The female lays one egg each day, in the mornings. There are usually 5 or 6 eggs in a clutch. 

The male keeps feeding the female as she is laying. The extra food is essential as an average clutch of eggs will weigh almost as much as the bird that produces them. Making all that egg takes up an awful lot of energy.

Encourage robins nesting by making sure you offer plenty of extra food at this time. Fat balls and suet products, live mealworms and high-quality seed mix are all welcome. Remember, robins will rarely take food from a hanging feeder, so feed them on the ground or the bird table.

When Do Robins’ Eggs Hatch?

A female robin will sit on eggs for around 13 days before they hatch. The first clutch of the year usually hatches in early May.

The female rarely leaves the nest during this time. So continuing to offer extra food will help them.

What do Baby Robins Eat?

Baby robins are born with no feathers and blind. They open their eyes after about 5 days and feathers start to appear after about a week. They are fully feathered and ready to “fledge” or leave the nest, after 14 days.

Both parents feed the baby birds in the nest and may up to 100 feeding trips in one day. For the first few days, the chicks eat regurgitated food that the adults have already partly digested. Then they will move on to broken bits of insects and worms, and finally will be offered whole worms or insects.

A robin chick can eat up to 14 feet of worms whilst still in the nest. So the parents are kept very busy.

The chicks are ready to leave the nest at 2 weeks old. But that’s not the end of the parents responsibilities. They will continue to feed and look after the chicks for up to 3 weeks more.  With the female eventually going off to build a new nest and leaving the chicks in the care of the male.

This is a very vulnerable time for the chicks. They still don’t fly very well and they haven’t learnt much about the dangers of their world and how to avoid them.

Encourage robins nesting at this stage by digging over your garden to turn up some tasty worms.  Robins and especially chicks, feed on the ground, so when you are putting food out for them be sure to put it a good 2 metres away from undergrowth, so they can keep a watch for predators.

If you have a cat, keep a close eye on it and consider fitting its collar with a bell, at least for the mating season.

Conclusion: Making a Home for Robins in Your Garden

Robins have lived alongside humans for many hundreds of years. Our gardens provide a habitat that is familiar to them and can offer them everything they need to survive and thrive.

If you follow the steps above you should be able to encourage robins to nest in your garden.  Be patient though: don’t expect them to move in straight away. It may take a year or two for them to choose your garden as a nesting site.

For more information on British birds visit the RSPB website. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this post. If you have any questions or suggestions we would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment below.

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19 Responses

  1. I found this very helpful as ì wanted to get a Robin to nest in my garden as he has been very busy feeding between mine and my neighbours garden for about a year so he will have been nesting somewhere close I presume
    Thank you

  2. I work in a primary school and have an area where we keep rabbits. Today we noticed a nest in a tube that we put on top of the rabbits cage. It was only put on there to keep it out of the way. Does anyone think it may be a Robins nest? We have been leaving food in a box next to for about 3 weeks and have had a Robin who likes watching us from the fence for about 2 years. It doesn’t seem fazed that we are in there and often just sits and watches us as we sort out the rabbits. Would love advice please.

  3. Great information. I was looking up where robins like to nest as I have seen a pair in my garden this week and am hoping they have a nest. Didn’t realise they were happy nesting on the ground. I have a ceramic vase laying on it’s side in a wild part of my garden, I haven’t touched it in years and is covered in ivy, all but the small opening at the front. I am hoping they might be here. I Will keep an eye out from a safe distance. I originally put the vase there hoping it would be shelter for hibernating hedgehogs or frogs but any wildlife will do 🙂

  4. I’ve got a Robin’s nest in my garden for the 1st time it’s in my garden house pipe. I’m going to make some nest boxes know and hopefully encourage more .

  5. I was given a bird box kit from my daughter a three years ago after losing both my dogs quite close together. I got a lot of comfort from seeing Robbins at this time. I started to feed the birds a few months after losing my first one. This year I have noticed for the first time Robbins using the box. Any extra help on how to look after them will be appreciated. Its a shame they only use the box once a year, I will have to make the most of the next two months.

  6. I have a pair of robins nesting in an old strawberry grow bag. I have had a quick peek just to check and 5 little chicks.

  7. Hi I have a very friendly Robin who’s been with me in the garden all winter. Been nesting in the ivy the last couple weeks, in and out all the time very busy, he feeds from my hand now. I’ve noticed he is now the other side of my house on and out of some conifers and the ivy is now quiet, I didn’t realise they nested a few times and assuming it’s my little Robin as he’s still feeding from my hand 😁

  8. Thank you so much, this was really great and helpful, I resently made friends with a little robin in my garden and it was great to get some tips on how I can help him and his little family. The little fella actually chirped for my attention as I was reading this outside with a cup of tea. I’m hoping to get a bird box for his next nest and would have had no idea about having it lower.

  9. I had some Robins start to nest in one of my cupboards in the garden, that was about 2 weeks ago now, I’ve not seen them go into the cupboard for the last 2-days. I was wondering whether or not it’s ok to use the cupboard now and move the nest

  10. My neighbours have a robins nest in a tall plant pot filled with tulips. The nest is at the back of the pot and cannot easily be seen. I am looking after their pots whilst they are away for a few day and today I’ve noticed 2 eggs but no sign of the parents. Would this mean they have been abandoned? There were no eggs there 2 days ago.

  11. Robins are trying to build a nest on my front porch directly above where I sit all the time, sometimes with company. They seem to be very aggressive in trying to place it right in the way. Then they don’t want me on my porch. So I am trying to discourage them by knocking it down before mom lays her eggs. I am surprised at where they want their nest. Just a little above my head and about a foot in front of me. I feel wrong removing it but they fly right at me when I come out on my porch which is everyday several times a day. I have 2 small dogs who like to come out a lot. (So do I) I placed an obstical there so they moved to a corner nearby. What should I do?

    1. Hi Ellen,

      This sounds wierd!

      I hope you manage to move them on before they lay. I am guessing you have other suitable nesting places nearby?

      Best

      Clare

  12. We have robins nesting right now in a peg bag hanging on our garage wall . They seem very happy with there chosen spot and come as close as 2 feet to me and my wife. Wonderful

  13. I need some help! I have two cats and there are cats around. They are not house cats so come and go during the day but sleep mostly during the day in the house. I have notices two robins busily building a nest at the top of our garden. What do I do? No eggs and they are in early stages of the build. It is a dense bay tree in a woden pot and it is low. Do I distrub the Robins before they lay or do I let them take their chances. Even if we keep our cats in there are others around.
    Thanks

  14. I have a Robins nest on my front porch in a grapevine wreath. There are now 2 blue eggs in it and a third, smaller light gray mottled egg. Is the third egg from a different species? Do I leave it, or remove it?

    1. Hi Rita,

      How exciting! The egg might be from a different species. but still, you definitely leave it be. If you touch the nest the robin might abandon the whole lot.

      Best

      Clare

  15. I have found a robin nest hidden away in the corner of my garden shed. The robin seems to gain access through a gap just below the roof eves. There are 3 eggs and through the window I sometimes see her nesting. The problem is that all my tools and lawnmower are in the shed and I am keen gardener!
    I try to be as unobtrusive as possible and she seems to have accepted my as infrequently as possible visits, but it would be shame if she was frightened away. I wonder if she would like a fat ball, put there when she is away, to entice her to stay?

    Sheila

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