Should I install a wren guard?

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  • #2183
    Hugh
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    I’m a first time Bluebird landlord here near Rochester NY. Late this spring I constructed four Gilwood boxes and put them up in mid-May in two paired groupings one near my home and the other a quarter mile down the road. I knew I was late in getting them out but hoped for a 2nd clutch pair in mid-June. Happily, after dealing with house sparrows in the more open location and house wrens wanting to fill boxes with sticks in the location near to woods we have nesting pairs at both sites. I installed a sparrow scarer on the box in the open that had house sparrows nest in it initially and am now wondering if I should install a wren guard on the box near the woods where our female has been patiently incubating 4 eggs for the past 3 days. It’s prime house wren habitat and I’d really hate to end up regretting not having installed a guard but on the other hand worry that it might put the female off her job.

    Should I just go ahead and do it? If so any advice on a specific for a Gilwood box? Mine have the flat roof and slotted entry with metal bar.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Hugh

    #2184
    Deb
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    Hi Hugh – The wren guard seems to be the defacto solution offered by many here but to our dismay, even with a 3″ clearance to the house opening, our EABL female refused to lay eggs until my husband removed it. I think the best thing to do is to try it and see if the female will go in or see if you have another egg the next day. We have a wren that is doing the exact same thing in our other box, so we’ve been keeping him busy by removing the sticks on a daily basis. It’s nerve-racking but seems to keep him preoccupied while we have a group of 7 day old chicks.

    #2185
    Deb
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    The question that we’re debating over is, do we just plug the wren holes now or will that drive them to go after the EABL box then?

    #2186
    Hugh
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    Hi Hugh – The wren guard seems to be the defacto solution offered by many here but to our dismay, even with a 3″ clearance to the house opening, our EABL female refused to lay eggs until my husband removed it. I think the best thing to do is to try it and see if the female will go in or see if you have another egg the next day. We have a wren that is doing the exact same thing in our other box, so we’ve been keeping him busy by removing the sticks on a daily basis. It’s nerve-racking but seems to keep him preoccupied while we have a group of 7 day old chicks.

    Deb thanks for the reply.

    In our specific case the female is done laying and has been incubating for 3 days now. I suspect it would have been smarter to have try installing a guard before she was completely done laying but as they say ” hind sight is 20/20″. I’m worried that stopping incubation may be worse than a sight delay in adding eggs before incubation. It would seem there’s a whole lot of room for second guessing one’s self in this endeavor.

    Hugh

    #2187
    Love my blues!
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    Hi Hugh-

    I don’t have HOWR, but do have HOSP & would hate to know that I could’ve done/tried something if an attack ended up occurring. I would install it & stick around to see if she’s still entering after you install it. What’ve you got to lose in trying? Others that have experience with Wren guards may have more to offer you.

    Deb-

    Again, hopefully someone else will comment, but I’m thinking that you should leave that hole open to keep the wrens busy as you said. I would be afraid that plugging it could lead them to the EABL box since you don’t have the wren guard up. Just my thoughts…

    Nicole

    #2188
    BZ–W Ctrl MO
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    Hugh, on my first nesting of this season time got away from me, and I had 5 eggs before I realized that they were laying any. I immediately put up a wren guard (I had lost 5 eggs to wrens 2 seasons before) and the birds took to it within 20 minutes. HOWEVER, they had not started to incubate yet.
    In your case I don’t know what they would do. I believe I would put one up, watch it continuously for their entry, and if they don’t go in within 30 or 40 minutes, take it back down. But I am NOT an authority as I’ve only been doing this for 3 years.

    BZ

    #2196
    Deb
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    Nicole – Thanks for the suggestion!
    Hugh – One other thing we’ve done with the wrens is play their calls from the University of Cornell (we have their “Merlin” app on our mobile phones) standing nearby one of the houses he’s putting sticks into. It makes the male think there’s a competing male in the territory and seems to keep him sticking very closely to that box.

    Like we said before, it was far less stressful when we stumbled into this as they nested in our decorative box in the front and we had no idea what perils awaited them.

    #2198
    Hugh
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    Hugh, on my first nesting of this season time got away from me, and I had 5 eggs before I realized that they were laying any. I immediately put up a wren guard (I had lost 5 eggs to wrens 2 seasons before) and the birds took to it within 20 minutes. HOWEVER, they had not started to incubate yet.
    In your case I don’t know what they would do. I believe I would put one up, watch it continuously for their entry, and if they don’t go in within 30 or 40 minutes, take it back down. But I am NOT an authority as I’ve only been doing this for 3 years.

    BZ

    Well I made a hinged guard and the female gave me an earful while installing it. When I checked back 45 minutes later she hadn’t returned yet or was out feeding. Since I hinged the unit I flipped it up and am waiting to see if she returns now with it out of the way. Hopefully I haven’t screwed up the works. On a more positive note, my other box is up to three eggs since the first one appeared 3 days ago.

    Hugh

    Hugh

    #2202
    Love my blues!
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    Wouldn’t think it messed anything up, Hugh. Sure hope not!

    Nicole

    #2204
    Hugh
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    Wouldn’t think it messed anything up, Hugh. Sure hope not!

    Nicole

    I finally pulled the guard off this evening. the female never entered the box with the guard down. After hinging it up I found her in it once. I put it in a horizontal position thinking that this might begin to get her use to it but she wouldn’t enter with it in this position even after an hour. So now I’ve taken it off and am just hoping for the best. Next go round I’ll get a guard on before egg laying is done.

    Thanks for the good wishes,

    Hugh

    #2206
    Carol – Mid-Mo.
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    Hugh, yes I believe you need to try to get her to accept the wren guard; however, as you said it would have been better to install it after the 1st or 2nd egg was laid, prior to incubation. Since you put a hinged guard on the Gilwood box (which is exactly what we did at first – then made it a top opener as well as a front opener later) I would give her a little time. Catch her some time when she is taking a break from incubating & try putting it down. If she doesn’t accept it after she is back at the nest for 10-15 minutes, then put it back up. I have never had a female refuse the spooker or wren guard, but then I always have them up prior to incubation. Good luck – let us know how this plays out. REMINDER – there needs to be a minimum of 2 1/2″ (3″ is better) between the actual hole & the guard to allow for an easy swoop into the box. Do you have spooker & guard up at the other box which has 3 eggs? Just because you don’t see these predators doesn’t mean there are not around – it’s up to us landlords to protect the nest, since we invited the birds in.

    #2212
    Hugh
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    Carol,

    I reinstalled the guard again this morning and set it so it juts straight out parallel to the roof with the plan to slowly lower it incrementally over the course of the day. The hinge is tight enough to do this. She was sitting the nest this morning just before I reinstalled the guard.

    My other nest now also has 4 eggs this morning. That one has a sparrow spooker on it as it’s located in a significant sparrow area. I’ll go ahead and install one on the box in nearer the woods that I’m trying to get the guard installed on. I’ll try to put a wren guard on the other box today.

    Thanks for all the excellent advice. This whole endeavor puts the old saying “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” in a new light.

    Hugh

    #2260
    dogsandbirds
    Moderator
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    Hugh, I don’t know how many years I have been using wren guards on boxes. Some females take longer than others to adjust; some males never do. Ultimately, all females will figure out a way to enter the box if there are eggs inside.

    Yes, the ideal time to install a guard is within a few hours of the first egg. That gives her the rest of that day to figure things out. However, with wrens around you can’t be too careful and I would still try to help her make the adjustment.

    This is 3 days later. Did she deal with the gradual lowering of the guard?

    Gin
    Atlanta, GA

    #2268
    Hugh
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    Gin,

    Thanks so much for asking. The guard is now all the way down at 90* to the flat roof and I just watched her exit. A problem I appear to have been having in checking on her was that she seems to exit way earlier now than she did without the guard……. as in before the box is usually in sight to me. Perhaps she feels more “trapped” with the guard there. I believe the was leaving me with a false impression that she wasn’t getting into the box. The male had not been on the top of the box at all but is found most of the time ~15 feet up on a tree 30 feet in front the the box opening. I don’t have side “blinders” on the guard but probably will add them soon. Things will get even more exciting in a few days when hatching is scheduled to occur.

    This is way too much fun.

    Hugh

    #2312
    dogsandbirds
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    I think sides are important but with a skittish bird like this one you did the right thing not starting with them. Just so you know, I leave guards on until day 10 because I don’t trust HOWR.

    Gin
    Atlanta, GA

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