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Wrens, the Tiny Workhorse in the Garden

June 13th, 2009

I’ve read about how great of an asset wrens are in the garden. I hear that they were especially good at catching cabbage worms. So how do you go about attracting these tiny birds to your gardens? It’s as simple as putting up a wren house or two. In fact these little birds prefer man-made nesting boxes to their natural habitat. They also seem to be fairly “tame” not minding human presence, which makes them perfect garden birds.
Wren House
Wrens are small cavity nesting birds, so they like small houses with a certain size entrance hole (1 1/8 inch). We have a few “wren” houses that have larger holes so other birds nest in them, like chickadees. In April you’ll start to hear the male wrens singing their beautiful songs as they look for a place to build a nest. He actually builds several nests, up to 12, and the female selects the one she likes and then finishes it. They lay 4-6 eggs, incubation time last 12-15 days and the young will leave the nest in 16-17 days.
Baby Wren in House
There’s a funny story about this condemned house. While working at the edge of the woods one day we found this tiny house. It was so small and in such bad shape we figured it was once a decorative birdhouse, too small for anything to actually use. We kind of the liked the “rustic-ness” of it so we hung it up in a dogwood tree. Not too long later the wrens moved in. I kind of feel bad for them, having to live in a condemned house. When the little birds leave we’ll be taking it down and reattaching the bottom for them. I keep hoping it won’t fall out when the little ones were in there.
Wren with insect by wren house
Wrens are really wonderful little birds to have around the gardens. They have beautiful songs and they’re constantly flitting and hopping about. They spend a lot of their time on the ground searching under plants for worms and other insects. They have kept my garden cabbage worm free, I occasionally see evidence of cabbage worms or maybe a worm or two, but then I’ll notice the wrens under the plant and the worms are gone.
Wren Feeding Baby
I’ve really enjoyed watching the wrens this year. I’ve been watching the nest and listening to the babies. I waited a long time to get this shot of the mom feeding her babies. They’ll be leaving the nest soon, in fact one of the nests we have they’ve already left. Then they’ll start all over again since wrens will often attempt to raise another brood when the first one fledges.

What do you do to attract beneficial birds to your gardens?

12 Comments to “Wrens, the Tiny Workhorse in the Garden”
  1. Mangochild on June 13, 2009 at 7:05 am

    So interesting that the wrens like the man-made shelters better. I wonder about that – what started it in the first place? I’d think that they’d be naturally able to build a home that meets their exact needs, but I suppose that help is still appreciated in terms of pre-site-ing a location and cutting out the “leg work” :-)
    .-= Mangochild´s last blog ..Pesticides and the Garden…. and What I’m Learning About Alternatives =-.

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  2. Dave on June 13, 2009 at 9:17 am

    We are woefully inadequate when it comes to bird houses. That’s a project on my to-do list but we’ve provided them with food from 4 different feeders and bathing facilities. I haven’t done anything for the bluebirds but they must be happy since they flit by every now and then. I’ve seen a couple of Carolina wrens out and about but maybe I need to give them a home.
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..My Garden’s Assassins (Assassin Bugs: A Beneficial Garden Insect) =-.

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  3. Sande on June 13, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Even when I didn’t have a garden I loved hearing the wrens singing around the house. We have a few houses up and the birds are using them. Not sure which one houses the babies though.
    .-= Sande´s last blog ..Sunday Silence 12 =-.

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  4. KitsapFG on June 13, 2009 at 11:27 am

    The elderly house is beautiful and I sure hope the bottom holds long enough for the young ones to move on! We have bird feeding stations but no working bird houses anywhere. That may be a fun late winter project – making some bird houses to put in place.

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  5. Renee on June 13, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Thanks for the info! If wrens like cabbage worms, we’ll build some homes for them this winter. I’m having trouble with cabbage worms right now.

    Your photos are absolutely amazing. Beautiful bird pictures!
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..The Good, Bad and Very Ugly =-.

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  6. islandgardener on June 13, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    The neighbor has lots of birdhouses, so I hope that their airspace includes my yard! I put out seed, too, to keep them around. I know they will eat insects, too, to round out their diet!
    .-= islandgardener´s last blog ..Red Warty Thing… =-.

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  7. Callum on June 14, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Where i live at the end of my garden theres a tree that over hangs and theres a family of little brown birds that hop around on my fence .I put a birdbox up buts nothings nested in it so hopefully i’ll get something init next year ?

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  8. Freija Fritillary on June 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    That is wonderful! I hadn’t heard about Wrens and their wonderful cabbage worm appetites! We have been meaning to build some birdhouses, and bat houses for around the garden, but building the barns and putting in the garden had to come first. It is such a simple way to bring the birds right into the garden. We keep some fence posts up around the garden, as we have noticed a lot of birds like to perch, mostly the flycatchers and kingbirds, and the robins too. But most of the birds are tucked away in the forests and shrubs with their nests, and not many make their way into the garden this time of year.

    I’m sure glad the bottom didn’t fall out on the little Wrens!

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  9. Holly on July 7, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Wren houses are available for sale at all the big box stores. I highly recommend buying unfinished cedar bird houses. No varnish! If a bird house gets afternoon sun, in a varnished house, the nestlings can suffer off-gassing. No need to turn the babies into literal canaries in a coal mine!

    For more info about wrens, visit the “Profile” and “Home page of my website. Also the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has great wren information:
    .-= Holly´s last blog ..Hand Painted Outdoor/Indoor Birdhouse – Lavender Dutch Toile =-.

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  10. Sarah on March 22, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    I LOVE birds and love your bird houses. We live next to a creek and I was warned if we fed the birds that mice/rats may come. I certainly don’t want that but would love to have some bird houses in our garden. Would they come on their own and take ownership of a house if I didn’t feed them? Thanks again for the wonderful posts & pictures. So enjoyable to read.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Some Rewards Come With Hard Work =-.

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    • Susy on March 22, 2010 at 11:27 pm

      Yes, they would come. We feed the birds and don’t have trouble with mice. If you buy a wren house they would mostly like live in it, wrens prefer man-made houses to natural ones. They’re the cutest little birds and they sing beautifully. They also become fairly tame around you if they see you often in the garden. They’re mean little birds though and don’t like other birds and other wrens in their territory.

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  11. Kimberley on May 1, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Thank you! I love the pics and the information!!! I’m a new homeowner and was so excited to put a couple wren houses up in our yard. We have been blessed to watch them nest! Busy little birds they are!

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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